Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Eilat Duo - Behind the Music

Behind the Music – The Eilat Duo Story

Before Matisyahu. Before Schweky. Before Eli Gerstner, Mordechai Ben David and Avrohom Fried, there was the Eilat Duo, a two man band that toured across the United States, performing at NCSY events and Bar Mitzvahs. For the better part of the 60s, Richie Starr and Stuie Bilauer were the kings of Jewish Music.

Their album, the green Eilat Duo album, was one of the hottest selling Jewish records of all time, and their music, a mix of cover songs and original material, influenced a generation of Jewish Rockers.

Richie and Stuie met on the hard streets of New York City, in the days before the depression. They were Newsies, running through the streets shouting extry extry read all about it, pitching papes for a penny. They went on strike with the other Newsies when Arthur Pulitzer tried to increase Newsies costs, and emerged victorious against the legendary newspaper giant.

It was during this time when they started to flex their musical muscle. Richie would pull out his battered old accordion, and Stuie would bang sticks on the pavement. They were hard times, but a kid with a good voice could make some serious money singing and playing on the streets back in the day.

At 17, they left the Newsies business, and began rehearsing in Richie’s father’s pizza shop on 17th and 5th in Manhattan. They seemingly had it all. Free pizza, and a growing reputation as the bad boys of the nascent Jewish Rock scene. They left a string of broken hearts in the pizza shop, and were soon courted by NCSY to start performing at their Shabbatons.

“Richie and Stuie and great. They were hard drinking, skirt chasing guys all Shabbos long, but come Saturday night, those cats could play.”

And play they did. West Virginia, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cleveland, and of course, their native New York all hosted the boys, who were known only as Richie and Stuie.

“One day we were supposed to play in Philly, at some Israeli cabaret event. There was some local press, and they wanted to know who was playing. Danny White, who ran the Philly region, told the paper that we didn’t have a name, and he made up Eilat Duo. We walked in to play, and we see this sign, that the Eilat Duo was performing, and me and Stuie just figured there was more than one band that night.”

But there wasn’t. And the band that would break 1,000 hearts finally had a name.

“I would play the drums, and Richie would be singing, and these kids would just go crazy. It was a different time, a great scene.

“There was this one time when we were flying into Louisville on a Friday afternoon for a Saturday night gig, and the plane is about to touch ground in Louisville, when all of the sudden the pilot pulls up and takes us to Lexington. When we land in Lexington, he tells the broad in charge to start pouring drinks for everyone, because he saw a tornado on the runway in Louisville.

Anyway, she starts pouring drinks for everyone, and we’re getting hammered, when Richie says we gotta get to Louisville before Shabbos. I’ll never forget it. So we stumble outside, and we were drunk and freezing, and their was 14 inches of snow on the ground, and we rent a car and fly to Louisville, and we get there just before Shabbos. It was off the hook.”

In the summer of 1967, Stuie and Richie hit the recording studio to turn out their only record, the green album, and their popularity soared.

“They were the Beatles and Elvis all rolled into one.”

But something terrible was about to happen.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. Richie comes stumbling downstairs after a set, and he is just hammered. And there is this babydoll sitting there with her friends, and Richie goes over there. She blew him off, but then he kept on pursuing her, and then she acquiesced.

What killed the Eilat Duo is Richie got himself domesticated. And I thought Oy, that band is GeHakta Tzarus. And they were never the same.”

Richie and Stuie kept on playing, but it was never the same. They each married, had kids, and stopped touring.

“Dey would play at the Homowack, but wittout da kids dere, dose crazy NCSYers, it was never the same. Dose broads kilt da band.”

Disclaimer - Not everything in this Behind the Music is cold, hard fact. Some creative license may have been taken in the telling of this story.


Blogger Krunk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

February 22, 2006 1:43 PM  
Blogger Krunk said...

How exactly did they get a car and FLY to Louisville?Unless of course they were picked up by that tornado.

February 22, 2006 1:54 PM  
Blogger Air Time said...

they drove very quickly

February 22, 2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger swiftthinker said...

I like that Mrs Star... playin hart to get.

February 22, 2006 2:27 PM  
Blogger The Zwicker said...

I assume that there was no meat for them in Louisville.

February 22, 2006 7:06 PM  
Blogger Veev said...

-Some creative license may have been taken in the telling of this story.

Understatement of the year!!

February 22, 2006 10:35 PM  
Anonymous brooklyn skeptik said...

They must be a midwest thing.
The Eilat duo would never fly in NY

February 24, 2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

Eilat Duo were the NCSY band of the 60s, performing primarily throughout the NY/NJ regions and the Central East region

February 24, 2006 11:06 AM  
Blogger Veev said...

My mother read this. She said to just call her "Yoko"

March 01, 2006 5:51 PM  
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March 06, 2007 6:26 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

I just came across this post, and even though I know there are some slight *exaggerations* in the post, I need to correct one "fact":

The famous "green album" was actually recorded in 1972 at a live concert at the Hillel at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. I know this for a fact, that's my father's voice (Phil Fink) introducing them at the start of "Romimu/HaTov" and the record label is named for me, "Shawn Records".

We've been trying to get those 2 back in the studio for close to 40 years, and its impossible, their demands are insane!

Shawn Fink

November 12, 2008 4:42 PM  
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February 04, 2009 3:27 PM  
Blogger shoshana said...

I remember them. They played at my wedding many years ago.

February 23, 2010 7:29 AM  
Blogger Small Fry said...

I have heard them play tens of tmes and they were amazing!

May 25, 2012 1:12 AM  

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