UGHA - United Group Harmony Association
The first UGHA meeting show was held on December 3, 1976 at the American Legion Hall in East Rutherford, NJ. Stan's insight into vocal groups, show productions for over a decade, and the music business is what Stan brought to the table. By February 1977, the meetings were moved around the corner to the now "mythical" Mercury Club for the next six meeting shows. Due to the continuous growth of the organization, the meetings were moved once again to St Joseph's Church Auditorium in East Rutherford. This would be home to UGHA for the next two years.
Wayne Stierle. Gus Gossert, Stan R. Krause
However, growing pains prompted another move, this time to a banquet hall named Scheutzen Park which is located in North Bergen, NJ. The first meeting held in Scheutzen Park was on May 31st, 1980 and continued until 2003 where shows alternate between St. Jospeh's Church in East Rutherford, NJ and the Lodi Boys and Girls Club in Lodi, NJ.
UGHA existed for 32 years and achieved a reputation unequaled in it's many accomplishments to date. The foremost being the preservation of our beloved music and the continuing efforts to pay tribute to the pioneer R&B artists all but forgotten by the rest of the world. responsible for the revival of groups like the Solitaires, Teenagers, Cadillac's, Lillian Leach and the Mellows, Moonglows, Nutmegs, Chantels and many, many more over the years. Over 1000 groups have graced the UGHA stage.
There are too many UGHA highlights to cover adequately within this space but there are several that must be noted on this page. Perhaps the most significant occurred at the second annual UGHA Hall of Fame on March 9, 1992. Rudy West was reunited with the other original Five Keys, as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Rudy left the group in the late 1950's and has been performing with a different set of backup singers all these years. Rudy, along with Maryland Pierce, Ripley Ingram, Bernie West and Dickie Smith performed "Close Your Eyes" that night and brought the house to it's feet accompanied with a thunderous ovation. That would be the last time this legendary group would perform with the original lineup. Ripley Ingram and Rudy West have since passed away.
Another milestone in UGHA achievement has to be the induction of the Golden Gate Quartet at the fourth annual Hall of Fame ceremony in 1994. The Golden Gate left the shore's of America in the early 1950's and found fame and fortune in Europe. They were based in Paris, France but performed throughout the world, except for America. It seems our musical tastes change all too quickly and as a consequence talented performers here either leave the business or leave America.
Upon hearing that the Golden Gate Quartet were coming back to America, the Smithsonian Institute invited them to attend a ceremony in Washington, DC. The Gates declined that invitation because they felt it would detract from the real reason they came back to America which was to be honored by UGHA. Orlandus Wilson, spokesman for the 'Gate made note that UGHA was the only organization in over 40 years that remembered the Golden Gate Quartet. They in turn honored UGHA by performing at a meeting show the evening before the Hall of Fame. It was easy to see why they still play before sold out concerts around the world.
UGHA also played a prominent role in a documentary film produced by National Geographics and aired on national television. The film, "Yesterdays Memories", was written, directed and filmed by Tom Spain. It focused on several 1950's vocal groups that attended Morris High School in New York City's Morrisania" section of the Bronx. The film is a bittersweet look at how these youngsters shot to fame but never attained the fortune they were promised. The final segment of the film features a Special concert at UGHA featuring the Mellows, Chords, Wrens and Crickets who were the principal groups in the film. These were just a few of the groups that were given another chance to perform largely through the efforts of UGHA.
UGHA is also a "family" of individuals who share a love of the music and show their support by attending the many wonderful events held throughout the year. It is also evident that many close and lasting friendships have taken place over the years which adds to the "family" atmosphere at UGHA shows. Many performers are also UGHA members and it's very common to see them at the shows even when they are not performing. Paul Simon is a member and has attended UGHA concerts. Willie Winfield of the Harptones is the official UGHA "Ambassador of Goodwill" and visits the shows quite often.
2002 - Website Home Page
The United in Group Harmony Association was formed in 1976 by it's founder and president, Ronnie Italiano. UGHA is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that is truly dedicated to the preservation, exposure and education of authentic vocal group harmony music (R&B, Pop, Spiritual, Jazz Vocal and Acappella). UGHA provides the opportunity to see the groups and hear the music that is seldom or never heard on commercial radio.
UGHA has become a family of devoted supporters in the New York City metropolitan area and appreciative members across the country and the world. Meetings are held at the Scheutzen Park Banquet Hall located in North Bergen, New Jersey.
The monthly meeting/shows and other UGHA sponsored shows have been videotaped over the past 18 years and include a "who's who" collection of classic performances by some of the greatest Rhythm and Blues performers. These videos are only available to UGHA members which is a great reason to join the organization.
We depend upon our membership and guests as the sole source of revenue to continue the long standing tradition of providing the opportunity to see and hear vintage vocal groups at our meetings. Although UGHA currently exceeds 2000 people, we are always looking to increase our membership.
So, take a look at the UGHA website and you will get a good sense what the organization is all about and what it has achieved over the past 26 years thanks to it's members and founder and president.
The Very Beginning - UGHA President - Ronnie Italiano - 2001
It was in the late summer of 1976 when I attended the R&B Society of Ct. for their 5th and last show, when the idea of UGHA formed in my mind. As I drove home with George Lavatelli, I kept talking about the shortcomings of the R&B Society and how an organization dedicated to group music could succeed in the NYC area using proper criteria. With my radio program serving as the principal media, I proceeded on a membership drive for 2 months. Benefiting from help of some friends, I was able to bring my dream to fruition as the United In Group Harmony Association was officially born at the VFW in East Rutherford, NJ (across the street from where I was born). On Saturday night, Dec. 4th 1976. UGHA #1 was attended by approximately 100 people (90% men), with 50 being card bearing members. Our special guests were 2 veteran acappella groups, Remaining Few and The Bonaires.
To these friends who helped me at UGHA’s humble beginnings, if I didn't thank you then, I'd like to now: Stan Krause, Trina. Mancini, George Lavatelli, Sal Passantino, Mike Caldarulo, Bobby Lezsczak, K.J. O'Doherty, Bill Swanke, Linda Sartor, Paul Ressler, Ken Seltzer, John Callandriello, Sammy Marrone, and Joe Orlando.
The past 25 years saw UGHA make 4 moves. Meeting/ show #2 was held 2 blocks from #1 in East Rutherford at the Mercury Club for 6 times in 1977, and we outgrew it. The next move was to St. Joseph's In East Rutherford (Enough can't be said about loyalty to your home town!). We spent 2 1 / 2 years at St. Joseph's, our most extensive crowd drawing years. The admission donation charge was $1 for non-members, and free for members. We were able to sell our own soda, beer, and mixed drinks by obtaining a monthly non-profit liquor license for $75. The groups drank free and one of my fondest recollections was of Clarence Quick (Del Vikings bass) drinking a quart of gin ... straight! We paid $100 for the rental at St. Joseph's and $150 to a cleanup service (Imagine picking up 50 cases of empty beer cans every month). Our St. Joe's days came to an abrupt end in Feb. of 1980 when the fire dept. couldn't understand how and why we could cramp 1,000 people into a hall with a 500 occupancy limit.
Next stop, Hoboken, NJ in March of 1980 at the Union Hall, then on to Tom’s Restaurant (which burned down soon after) in Newark in April of 1980. In May of 1980 we moved to our present location, Schuetzen Park in North Bergen, NJ. 224 meeting/ shows and over 21 years later, the present ... to the future.
I feel comfortable, contented, and optimistic after 25 years. The friendships that have been formed through UGHA are precious and a very important part of my life. My wife Sandra, who I met through UGHA, is my tower of strength, my inspiration, my motivation, and my serenity. The last 6 1 / 2 years, of our marriage, have been the best years of my life. Although she is much younger than I, in many ways she is more mature than I am. I'm 60 years old but I still can be a boy, her boy, and enjoy my music, sports, and classic cars as I did when I was a teenager. I can produce the finest group harmony CDs putting so much work and time into these projects with the full support of my wife. She makes me feel young ... young enough to continue searching for obscure groups to continue the quest to preserve and expose vocal group harmony music through our monthly meeting/ shows and special events! Life is good!
I can't promise you another 25 years but, as long as I'm physically and mentally able, I can promise I will continue in my usual manner.
Special thanks to my two right hand men the last 20 years, Joe Loud and D. Vail. If loyalty was measured monetarily, these guys would make me a millionaire. More thanks are due to Frank Bartholomew, David Rockir, and Mike Marshowsky, our video and sound men for their patience with me and their professional work. Thanks also to Phil & Sue Finke, Carl & Robin Robbert, Ron & Loretta Lowther, Patrick Gaynor, Tony Oetjen, Linda & Hank Bower, Bill Olb, and Marty Schein ... my loyal staff and beloved friends.