Nevada Proud: The Gaylords

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Updated: 11/14/2013 12:03 am


Nevada Proud features the Gaylords

By: Elias Johson

When the Gaylords formed back in 1949 Burt Holiday and Ronnie Gaylord were two young guys in Detroit with dreams of making it big in show business, but stopped in the Silver Sate en route to Los Angeles.  For sixty-five years they’ve entertained audiences all over the world and kept a home base right here in Reno.  Two surviving members of the group to talked to News 4 about how they overcame being split up by war and unexpectedly stumbled upon hit after hit.

There's something about the sound of an old vinyl as it makes rounds on a turntable that takes a person back.  Back to a time when the good 'ol days played out to soundtracks composed by talented musicians - like the Gaylords

"When you think of the Gaylord's, as a vocal group, we had hit records, but when you think if the Gaylord's think two, in terms of Gaylord and Holiday, Ronnie and Bert in addition to being singers they did comedy, and Ronnie is the most talented man I've ever met, he wrote comedy, preformed comedy along with Bert.  He wrote songs and I don't mean writing, he would visualize with no musical training, he would arrange a musical arrangement in his head,” said Don Rea, Gaylords member.

When Ronald Fredianelli and Bonaldo Bonaldi formed the group in 1949, the music scene, at the time was dominated by names like Perry Como, Bing Crosby and Guy Lombardo - the pair quickly learned getting noticed wasn't easy.

"I was playing drums and Ron was playing violin and that did quite hack in," said Gaylords member Bert Bonaldi.

The two found success singing English renditions of Italian songs, but they still needed one more piece to complete their three part harmony and found it in Don Rea, who also played piano.

Don: "I couldn't believe it and I thought these guys are great.  You know he old saying grab a tiger by the tail as hold on? That's what I did."

The three played together for two years, before landing an opportunity to record in Motown.  A session that would prove to be the Gaylords’ unexpected big break.

Bert: "After doing a recording session in which the main song was to be 'Cuban Love Song' believe it or not, 30 takes on that and they decided they needed something on the other side so Bert said, why don't we do 'Tell Me Your Mine,' maybe my mom can sell some records in her store.  So, we did it, one take and it became a million seller.  Really a big song.

“At that time it wasn't top 40 or 100, they had the top 10 and it was on the top 10 hit parade for about 3 months in 1953,” said Don.

Bert: “Me and Ronnie are walking down Broadway and as we walking, all the stores are playing 'Tell Me Your Mine.'  I said, Ronnie, we really made it now.”

The success however was short lived as the U.S. entered WWII.  Fredianelli was drafted into the special services division, forcing Rea and Bonaldi to find a replacement.

Bert: “When Ronnie got drafted, we didn't know what to do.  Don and I were at a club called the Falcon Showbar and Buddy Greco was appearing there.  He introduces us, The Gaylord's are here wit there big hit called Tell Me Your Mine, after he gets done he sits down and says what are you doing, we said I don't know what I do, so he talked us into using him.”

The new look Gaylords pressed on, recording several more hits - but at the time, hit records didn't necessarily result in big money.

Don: “We had hit records but you didn't necessarily work 52 weeks a year.”

Ron: “That's when we started working Nevada in the lounges and that started a new career for us.”

Don: “We were able to work for Harrah's and do 12,14 weeks a year in Reno and 12,14 weeks at the lake which is like a career and treated royally incidentally, oh yeah Harrah's was number one.”

After the war was over, Fredianelli continued with a solo career for a short time before rejoining the group after Buddy Greco's decision to pursue a music career in Las Vegas.

Bert: “We were working the Thunderbird, Don? Was it '55?  We got 1750 dollars a week having to pay for our own hotel here we are the number one song in the country and working 7 days a week.  Now that wouldn't happen today but hats how times were different in those days.”

The group continued playing together until 2002, when Ron Fredianelli passed away at his home in Reno at the age of 74. But just as they did over 50 years ago, the Gaylords, now a duet, picked up where they left off - and never missed a beat. Burt still tours and plays outside Nevada, while Don prefers to stay local.  On occasion, the two will play with Fredianelli’s son, Ron Jr. who is better known as a guitarist for the Rock Group ‘Third Eye Blind’.

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JRJohns - 11/14/2013 12:56 PM
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What a great success story from a bygone era. " We Were Treated like Royalty" in reference to Bill Harrah.... boy there's a phrase you never hear in the entertainment business anymore. I had the distinct privileged of having Don Rea as our musical director @ Circus Circus for decades. His talent and insight when it came to playing for other performers was nothing short of brilliant. Certainly tells of a musician who mastered his craft in all respects. As for Elias Johnson and how you handled this piece on these 2 amazing entertainers... I applaud you as well!

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