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    The Excellents - Coney Island Baby


    par Fabrizio

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    The original members of the Excellents were classmates at Christopher Columbus High School in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx. John Kuse, along with his younger brother George, Phil Sanchez, Joel Feldman, Denis Kestenbaum and Chuck Epstein (who actually went to DeWitt Clinton High School) met up in 1960 and started singing together - all six of them. Chuck Epstein believes the group got its name from a time when they were all eating a White Castle enjoying a few "murder burgers." Epstein commented that the burgers were "really excellent." John Kuse apparently replied: "you know, we're excellent!" And the name stuck.

    Later in January 1962 the group returned to the studio planning on recording a version of the Cleftones' You Baby You. The group had a nice arrangement of the song with standard bass part by Chuck Epstein along with an usual baritone/bass that floated around on the number. However, Catalano and Alonzo also gave the group a song they had written entitled Coney Island Baby. Coney was to actually be the B side to You Baby You. "We took the song out to the hallway, where we had the echo, heard the way they wanted it done and in ten minutes came back and sang it for them. They loved that idea," recalls John Kuse. Sinclair released the two-sider in April 1962 on a subsidiary entitled Blast and gave it major promotion including contests at Coney Island itself to see who could "win the Coney Island Baby." Of course, Coney Island Baby became a big hit with the flip side getting some play also. Even Murray the K picked it up as a boss record of the week. John recalls performing for about 3-4 months off of the success of the record but "not has heavy as we would have liked to" including a peformance at the Steel Pier of Atlantic City.