PostHeaderIcon A Feature Story

By Terez Howard

I wrote the feature story, “Gus Monezis reflects on musical past,” in The Weirton Daily Times in an August 2006 edition. (Sorry, I don’t have the exact date available). Gus, past drummer for the 006’s, managed Wild Cherry and the B.E. Taylor Group.

A hometown baker once blended tunes with a popular band and sweetened the works of highly acclaimed rock bands.

Gus Monezis, owner of Gus’s Goodies in Weirton, started his music career in 1962 with the rock and roll band, the 006’s.

“We were pretty popular in this area – real popular,” the Weirton resident said.

The band’s seven-year run met with a few surprises. One came when a Steubenville friend introduced the group to Paul “Skinny” D’Amato, who ran Atlantic City’s 500 Club, the place that guided the careers of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra.

“I went never thinking this man would ever take us,” said Monezis, drummer.

D’Amato did take the 006’s, a band featuring comedy skits along with music, for a Friday and Saturday show.

“We were third,” the Weir High graduate remembered. “We went and proceeded to do our show, and we got booed.”

But the crowd’s opinion did not reflect D’Amato’s outlook. He “thought we were good” and encouraged the band to throw out all the comedy, except the Tiny Tim act. The young musicians took the stage the following day after their humiliating performance.

“We killed them,” Monezis said, with the audience clapping for encores.

After that show-stopping routine, D’Amato offered to take over the 006’s, with a $100 per week per man salary as well as room and board. They would spend part of the year in Atlantic City and the rest in Las Vegas. But Monezis and lead singer Robert Gaynor wanted to go home.

“I went there to (perform) and have fun.”

Monezis had to care for a wife and child back in Weirton.

“When I quit playing, (then 006’s guitarist Bobby Parissi) approached me in regards to managing Wild Cherry,” a position Monezis accepted.

The rock band signed a contract with Terry Knight, manager of Grand Funk Railroad, who started his own label, Brown Bag Records. Unfortunately, the company fell apart before Wild Cherry’s first record was released.

Monezis said Wild Cherry continued playing, even with the performers’ internal struggles. “I was trying to keep it together.”

However, Parissi, not only the band’s lead singer but also writer, left, and Monezis followed suit.

Parissi went on to compose “Play That Funky Music” and reformed Wild Cherry in 1970.

On the other hand, Monezis started managing B.E. Taylor as a solo act in 1976.

“(Record companies) all said probably I should keep trying, but nothing I had interested them. But probably it would be better if we had a group.”

Therefore, Monezis and Taylor formed the B.E. Taylor Group with three players. After a couple unfruitful years, the group made a transformation to include locals who were in New York at the time making but not selling any records. Crack the Sky members Joe Macre, bassist; Rick Witkowski, guitarist; and Joey DiAmico, drummer, joined, with Keyboardist Mat Kerr added later.

The B.E. Taylor Group signed two record deals with MCA Records.

“The first album didn’t do much,” Monezis said.

But the song, “Vitamin L,” made it to 67 on the charts in the early 1980s.

Monezis personally traveled to every radio station in the area to get the song on the air, even managing to have “Vitamin L” played on 106.7 WAMO, a primarily black station. He said it was hard to get a white group on WAMO but because people liked it so much, the station played the song.

Since the tune included a mention of GNC in its opening line, Monezis asked the Pittsburgh company to create Vitamin L. GNC agreed and sold bottled chewable calcium called Vitamin L at the group’s performances.

“That was one of my best promotions,” he said.

The band played in Pittsburgh and New York showcases and opened for Boy George, Donnie Iris and other big name acts.

The group even made a $25,000 “Vitamin L” music video on MTV in 1983.

“I don’t think they played it longer than two week.”

The turntable hit, Monezis described as a tune people don’t buy but radio stations like, did not launch their career, and MCA dumped the group. Not long after, Epic Records picked up the B.E. Taylor Group.

“There was a lot of optimism… We were a strong group,” Monezis said.

Yet, the men got little play. During the last year, the band replaced Macre, who relocated to Texas, with Jimmy Spears.

“We had the group. We had the lead singer. But we didn’t have that big album.”

Thus, the band called it quits in 1985.

“I came back to the bakery. I had a wife and kids.”

Monezis said he and all the members of the B.E. Taylor Group remain close friends.

“We still get together and tell a lot of stories.”

Originals Taylor and Witkowski along with new members continue producing music.

“They are very successful,” Monezis said.

He, married to Aggie for 43 years, grinned at his musical past with no regrets.

He said, “Because of the way it ended, no, I don’t miss it.”

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