“We were playing a gig at a college in New York, for a black crowd. They were chanting ‘We don’t want your music,’ and they set up a stereo in front of the band, while we were still playing! Because of that we went home and rehearsed some James Brown stuff, and some really funky stuff, and found it went over really good at the shore. Nobody else was doing it, and pretty soon we started having lines around the block.”
So explains Joe Bellia, one of the founding members of one of the biggest Jersey bands of the ‘70s, Father Fox. It turned out that the disastrous gig in New York led to the group’s evolution into the premier dance and funk band of their day.
Joining Joe in Father Fox were bassist Rob Reusille, piano player Nicky Russo, sax player Phil Scaduto, and guitarist Ricky Eldridge. Later members included Keyboardists Drew Reusille and Bob Finesca, and guitarist Mike Peccatiello.
The band started as an all-original band, in a style similar to the Jeff Beck group’s early albums. “It was funky rock and roll,” recalls Joe. “But definitely more rock and roll, that kind of vibe. Funk rock, with hard edged guitar.”
The group had a development deal with United Artists Records, and spent every Wednesday at a top New York recording studio, where the label gave the band free rein to record whatever they came up with. Meanwhile their gigs at the Jersey shore started to gain some popularity for the band.
“We used to make up flyers,” remembers Joe. “We’d circulate them around the college down there saying ‘Saturday, Open House Party.’ Phil used to live in a huge house, and we used to set up in the cellar, buy some kegs of beer, and we would get four floors of people. When we thought it was crowded enough, we would start playing, and that’s how we developed a following for local gigs.”
But it was the infamous New York college show that turned things completely around. It was the beginning of the disco era, and the dance music becoming the rage, Father Fox lucked into being the first band on the scene with the new, funky dance music. The success eventually led to the group becoming a disco band, but the whole thing eventually fell apart. Joe credits the slow-moving recording deal with playing a large part in the demise of the band. “Sometimes people lose their heart too early, if it doesn’t come as easy as you think it will,” he says.
Nicky went on to join his father’s construction business, while Phil has become a major clothing buyer in New York City, working with several major chains. Rob joined his father’s antique business in Red Bank, and Bob got into computers, although he occasionally still plays with local bands.
Mike went on to join the popular circuit band Holme, and then formed Hard Road, which became a succesful North Jersey band, and contained future Southside Johnny drummer, Steve Becker. Mike moved to California in 1979 where he joined the popular Hollywood-circuit Power Pop band, “The Toasters”.
Joe, meanwhile has continued his musical career to this day. After almost joining Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes after the break up of Father Fox, he played with carious club circuit bands, including Joey and The Works. He then hooked up with classic rock superstar Dave Mason, and did a number of tours with him. He also worked on some albums, including Cyndi Lauper’s A Night To Remember LP. Today he is often seen with Jukes guitarist Bobby Bandiera.
Joe has fond memories of the days of Father Fox. “It was really great times,” he says. “It was not a problem to work five nights a week. Musically it was real growth for me. I felt it was really happening. It was a really, really cool time to be playing.”
Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.