By ‘Bob The Record Guy’ Paxon
In the Fifties there was a division between Teen music and Rock’ N’ Roll. Our young people have come to believe that all Fifties youngsters were Rock ‘n’ Rollers, thanks to “Happy Days” and “Grease!”. In reality, Fifties Teen music could be R&R but it could also be straight-ahead Pop.
R&R was considered the music of hoods, delinquents and Frats (at least earlier-on). And Pop was for the Squeaks (as in Squeaky-clean).
There’s no doubt where these Professors fit in. They majored in Pop, and their dissertation – “Our Teenage Love” – was pure Corn!
In any case, they were apparently good students all the way around. Lou Mastor, Dick Fagan, Tom Sheeder and Frank Pullano were all students at Fredonia State Teachers College (today’s SUNY Fredonia). Tom and Lou were from Fredonia, Frank was from Niagara Falls. Dick was from Sherburne. While at the school in the mid-1950s they formed The Four Dukes. As such they didn’t record but they appeared on a Rochester TV program.
Eventually they took on a residency at Buffalo’s McVan’s night club where their smooth style probably went over real well. It would be some years before McVan’s became a R&R club.
By the end of the 1950s they were calling themselves The Professors. Somehow they were able to cut a single. I believe Famas Records was a one-off label, created exclusively for this release. Pullano wrote the top side and Mastor sang lead backed by the others. It’s a Teen sound, but with little trace of R&R influence.
Subsequently they made an album which seems to be rare but also seems to not be in high demand! Maybe the few who would care are simply unaware of it? Their vocal influences on the 45 are the pop vocal groups of the day (the Four Lads, Four Coins, Hilltoppers) but on the LP they to toward a more interesting sound; the Four Freshman, that is. And it’s revealed that they are indeed a band, playing all their own instruments with a fair amount of talent.
They seem to have gone their separate ways after this. Lou became a member of Pop hit-makers The Hilltoppers, the local (Lockport/Niagara Falls) group who had worked a similar non-R&R sound in the R&R age. In the Hilltoppers case they had made it work. They were virtually superstars, at least as far as record sales. But those days were far behind by the time Lou joined them. Now ALL the kids were listening to R&R. Pop groups were dead in the water. Or should I say- they had flunked out?
No word on whether any of The Professors became actual professors later on. If so, they were probably forever chagrined to be on the spelling-impaired ‘FAMAS’ label.