Johnny Fay & The Bel-Aires
Johnny Fay and the Blazers is a name known internationally to fans and collectors of early rock & roll. Here is the story of Bedford, Ohio native John Furino and his teenage band the Bel-Aires.
John and friends formed the band while students at Bedford High School in the late 1950s, after witnessing a Cleveland Arena concert by Elvis, Scotty & Bill (with D.J. Fontana on drums). Johnny and The Bel-Aires played local dances and record hops, and after graduating in 1961, John kept the group together with various members.
In 1962, The Bel-Aires were approached by the newly formed Dani Records, a venture started by two Cleveland businessmen. A single was recorded by pairing two Bel-Aires originals, “Cindy” and “Sweet Linda Brown”. These highly charged rockers were released under the name Johnny Fay and The Blazers, an identity concocted by the Dani label owners, which John disliked. The record never had a chance as the fledgling record company soon ground to a halt amid a dispute between the two owners.
John didn’t think much more about the music business, relocating to Kent, Ohio in 1968. He and a partner opened a barbershop.
Over the years, the rare Dani label single became a favorite of European rockabilly collectors, with both sides appearing on several compilations of rare and coveted 45rpms.
In 2011, Matt Baker, an archeologist of Ohio’s rock & roll past, located John and discovered that there were several unissued Bel-Aires demos recorded prior to the Johnny Fay single. While all uptempo rockers, these songs feature some different aspects of the Bel-Aires sound: from John’s wailing sax on “Bel-Aire Rock”, the Dion & the Belmonts style of “Charlotte”, the accordion-led “Crazy Love”, to the Elvis rockabilly of “Hey Pretty Baby”.
Matt brought John’s attention to a youtube video featuring a modern rockabilly group from France, The Megatons, playing a live version of “Sweet Linda Brown”. John wrote to the group to compliment their version and was promptly invited to Paris for a month of festival performances and recording with the Megatons in May 2012.
Since 2012, Johnny Fay has toured Europe twice. He has also played various venues in and around Cleveland during the past 6 years. Johnny Fay completed a US tour with the Megatons (from France) on their “Rockabilly Ball North USA Tour 2015” with dates in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and ending up at the “Rebel Nights” in New York City.