Statens

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Though they never made any impression on any sales chart, the Statens cut some beautiful and beguiling doo wop-style rock & roll during their eight years or so of existence, in addition to delighting…
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Though they never made any impression on any sales chart, the Statens cut some beautiful and beguiling doo wop-style rock & roll during their eight years or so of existence, in addition to delighting almost everyone who ever got to hear them perform live. They hailed from New York City's smallest borough, Staten Island, where lead singer Frank Toscano got together with Joe Ferrentino, Santo Rizzo, and Anton Pietrafesa in 1958 -- their main influence seems to have been the Elegants, who were riding the charts with "Little Star" at the time. In those days (and for the next couple of years), they called themselves the Fortunes, and it initially seemed like fortune did indeed smile on them -- they proved popular at clubs in their home borough and in Brooklyn, and a gig at a local nightclub in 1960 got them a demo session at a studio in New York, where they cut six original tunes, itself a significant feat at the time.

By this time, they had a very strong self-contained sound, with accompaniment ranging from solo guitar on up, similar to that of Jay & the Americans. They eventually fell into the orbit of producer/manager Jim Gribble, which resulted in a record called "Summertime Is Time for Love"; it was cut as a demo and impressed no less a figure than George Goldner, the man behind such record labels as Rama and Gee Records in the 1950s. Goldner agreed to finance a new recording -- backed by an orchestra -- for his Mark-X label, and it was released just in time for the summer of 1960. In the process, Goldner rechristened the group the Statens, named for their borough of origin. Alas, the single fizzled, and in the wake of that failure, they parted company with Gribble and also lost Pietrafesa from their lineup, and the continued interest of Goldner.

In 1963 they cut another series of demos, and eventually got signed to Mercury. In the guise of the Cyclone 3 on Philips, they released a car-surf combo single, very much in a Beach Boys/Jan & Dean mode, of "You've Got a Bomb" b/w "Surfananny." It didn't chart, but they kept working and even had a shot at a movie soundtrack appearance, doing their own rendition of "Sidewalk Surfin'" -- but then the military draft beckoned, and Joe Ferrentino's resulting absence killed the deal. The group finally called it quits around 1966-1967.

That was the last that anyone heard of the Statens in any form until the mid-'80s, when producer Ed Engel purchased a tape library that had a number of masters by the Statens -- he actually issued one, and eventually matters were sorted out in terms of who did what and which songs he had. The trio actually got back together for a time, and an LP entitled Time & Again was issued, comprised of most of the recordings, demos and finished tracks alike, that they'd ever done. In 2000 it was remastered and expanded to a 30-song CD running over an hour in length.