Left End is Ready to Rock Once More
WARREN, Ohio – The excitement that greeted the announcement of the Left End reunion concert surprised drummer Pat Palombo.
So did the ease with which the band got back into the groove after a decade-long layoff.
Left End was the king of the scene during Youngstown’s rock ’n’ roll heyday in the 1970s. On Saturday, March 11, the band will give its first live show since 2014. The 8 p.m. show will be at Packard Music Hall.
After the date was set, Palombo invited his bandmates – Dave Lemasters, Tom Figinsky, Jim Puhalla, Roy Guerrieri – to his home in Las Vegas to rehearse.
“They all flew out here. We did some sessions, and everything fell into place,” Palombo said in a phone interview. “We were surprised that it did. It had been a long time, but when we got together and started playing, it was still there.”
Interest in the Packard concert has been running high ever since it was announced in December.
“It was a surprise that we can still do it, and we are blown away by the interest,” Palombo said, noting that every original member of the band is at least 70 years old.
“Our Facebook page in the last seven days had 38,000 hits, and we’ve been getting tons of messages from people who see [the upcoming show] as a reunion,” Palombo said. “They were part of that culture back in those days. It was a community.”
One message from a woman spoke of meeting her husband at a Left End show at the old Agora in downtown Youngstown.
In the early ’70s, Left End played on a regular basis at local venues and bars, including The Apartment on Midlothian Boulevard, The Agora, The Gazebo in Austintown and the Zebra Club and Packard Music Hall in Warren. Although they did not tour heavily, they opened shows for many major acts at the Agora, including Ted Nugent, Steppenwolf, Slade, Trapeze, Cheap Trick and Michael Stanley.
“On their first tour, the Eagles opened for us in Youngstown,” Palombo said. “We were hanging backstage with Don Henley and Glenn Frey. After they went on, we didn’t want to be on next – they were so good.”
Funkadelic opened for Left End at a show in Detroit.
The Youngstowners also performed with J. Geils, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Golden Earring and Rush.
Then there was the time they shared a bill in Youngstown with a young John Mellencamp, who was then known as John Cougar.
“We were backstage with him, and he told us that his label might drop him because he was changing his name,” Palombo said.
Youngstown was thriving in those days, and local radio stations shaped and supported the rock scene.
“We got a lot of airplay,” Palombo said.
Left End had a cargo truck and a crew of six. The band members traveled to shows in an extended limousine with their name engraved on the window.
The band signed a record deal with Polydor in 1973 and released its “Spoiled Rotten” album, which was recorded in Cleveland. Other Left End albums were recorded at Youngstown’s Peppermint Records.
The band last reunited in 2014 for the Youngstown Music Awards. Before that, the band’s previous show was in 2004.
Palombo tells the story in his 2014 book, “Tenacity: The Left End Story.”
While Figinsky, Puhalla and Guerrieri still live in the Youngstown area, Palombo moved to Vegas two years ago, and Lemasters has been living in Los Angeles for about 20 years.
The idea for the reunion concert came about last year when Ray Timlin, who worked for the band back in the day, and Figinsky started kicking the idea around.
Because original singer Dennis T. Menass (real name: Dennis Sesonsky), died in 2014, they had to find a replacement. They settled on Michael Lawrence, a 31-year-old professional singer in Las Vegas.
“There will never be another Dennis,” Palombo said. But he sent his bandmates a tape of Lawrence singing Left End songs, and they were impressed.
Also lending her voice at the Packard show will be Youngstown’s Leanne Binder, who will sing backup.
Binder said Left End was one of her earliest influences.
“I idolized them,” she said. “They were the closest thing to rock stars making it out of the Valley that there ever was.”
Binder was in middle school when Left End was in its heyday, but she later sang in a band called 14K that included members of the band.
“I was honored when they asked me to sing with them” at the Packard show,” she said.
The March 11 concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and $25. Click HERE.
Pictured at top: Left End is (top) Pat Palombo; (middle, from left) Tom Figinsky, Jim Puhalla and Roy Guerrieri; and (insets) Dave Lemasters and Michael Lawrence.
Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.