Born 29 December 1941, Ithaca, New York
Bobby Comstock had a lot more going for him than his four minor hits would suggest. Born in Ithaca, NY, he began singing and playing the mandolin at the age of five. Two years later he started appearing regularly on a kids show on radio WHCV and later on country music radio in Sayre, Pennsylvania. After hearing music by artists such as Chuck Berry, B.B. King and Bo Diddley on WLAC in Nashville, Bobby switched from country to rock and roll.
In 1958, after high school graduation, he formed his own six-piece band, Bobby Comstock and the Counts, in which he sang and played guitar. That same year they made their first record , “Tra La La”/“Too Young”, for the Marlee label in Trumansburg, New York. This release was soon followed by “Cellar Stomp”/“Three Signs of Love” on the Count label, probably his rarest single ; “Cellar Stomp”, an instrumental, has not been reissued on CD. These two singles, both credited to Bobby and the Counts, had only local distribution, but soon the group was signed to a national record deal by producer Herb Abramson, who had left Atlantic and invested his capital into several grandly named labels : Blaze, Triumph and Festival. “Jealous Fool”/“Zig Zag" came out on Triumph in February 1959, featuring two good rockers, on which the Counts were joined by two top New York session men, King Curtis on tenor sax and Everett Barksdale on guitar. In September this single was followed in by a moderately rocked-up version of the Patti Page hit “Tennessee Waltz” on Blaze. It had the makings of a smash hit, but stalled at # 52 due to stiff competition from a rival version by Jerry Fuller, which copied the arrangement of the Comstock single note for note. As a result of this success, the group appeared on several package shows promoted by Alan Freed and Dick Clark and they toured nationally with some of the big stars of the era.
A one-off single for Atlantic (“Jambalaya”) went to # 90 in 1960 ; subsequent singles for Jubilee, Mohawk and Festival met with little success and Comstock seemed to be an artist permanently on the verge of a breakthrough. Then, in the summer of 1962, he met the song- writing team of Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer (the later Strangeloves, of “I Want Candy” fame), who had taken over from Frank Slay and Bob Crewe the task of producing Freddy Cannon for Swan Records. Comstock and the Counts began working for the trio as a cut-price session unit and appeared on Cannon’s “If You Were A Rock ’n’ Roll Record” and “Patty Baby” and also laid down the backing track for the Angels’ # 1 smash “My Boyfriend’s Back”. The Feldman-Goldstein-Gottehrer team wrote two raucous songs for Comstock, “Let’s Stomp” and “I Want To Do It”, which were coupled for release in December 1962 on the Lawn label, a Swan subsidiary. Only Comstock and his bass player Chuck Ciaschi played on the date ; the other musicians were Buddy Lucas on sax, Horace Silver on organ and Herb Lovelle on drums. “Let’s Stomp” was as tough a record as they came in 1963 and peaked at # 57 in March. Six more Lawn singles would follow in quick succession during 1963-64, but only “Your Boyfriend’s Back” (an answer song to “My Boyfriend’s Back”) entered the Billboard Hot 100 (# 98), Bobby’s final chart entry. Many American acts faced a tough time during the British Invasion years and Comstock’s four singles for the Ascot label (1964-66) went largely unnoticed. He also recorded a solo album for Ascot in 1966, “Out Of Sight”, produced by Gerry Granahan.
In 1968 Comstock formed a short-lived band, The Zebra, who recorded for Philips and Atlantic. The next year he organized another band, Comstock Ltd, which had several single releases on Bell between 1969 and 1971. As far as I know, these were his last recordings. Then he established himself as a regular member of rock and roll revival tours. especially as part of Dick Clark’s “Caravan of Stars”, where he performed with Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson, Bo Diddley, the Coasters, the Shirelles and many others. Comstock continued to perform on such tours, both with his own band and as a backing musician, until 1989. Since then he has kept a low profile. His older recordings have been reissued several times, first in 1981 on a Mohawk LP, later on four CDs with a large overlap.
Interview : http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/bobby_comstock.htm
CDs : None of the four CDs mentioned above is currently easy to get. From a rock & roll point of view the most interesting compilation is “Hits and Rarities” (1994) on the Canadian Teen Sound label.
Acknowledgements : Rob Finnis, Wikipedia.
Dik, July 2017
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