The Combonaires

(Combonaires history from Marty Thompson)

The Combonaires were formed in 1957 by Joe Wojtysiak on accordion and included Sal Danna on drums, Ray Kmoch on bass, John Moscato on guitar, and Tim Nadrowski on Tenor Sax and Clarinet, and a short time later, Charlie Prietz joined the group on alto sax. Sal and Ray attended Patterson Park High School , Tim Nadrowski attended St. Joseph High School and, Joe and John attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

The early focus was playing for various East Baltimore and Dundalk Catholic Youth organizations including Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Michael, St. Rita and St. Patrick to name a few. Teen Centers included Hamilton Recreation Center and Glen Burnie Armory. The band also played for weddings, sororities, fraternities, and various other affairs.

A local disc jockey, Jack Gale heard the band and had the Combonaires record two records of their own (“Wicked” and “Hey Mrs. Jones”) and (“Topaz” with the flip side being an instrumental version of “In the Still of the Night”). The band was also the backup band for several singers and groups. During this period the band played at the USO club and entertained children at the Kernan Children’s Hospital with the nationally known female recording artists the “Pony Tails”.

The Battle of the Bands was popular at the time and was promoted by Lou Karpouzi at Unity Hall and Jerry Manowski at the Polish Home hall. Bands included the Van Dykes, Swingtones, Rhythm-Aires, Crystals and, of course the Combonaires.

Another Poly student, Gary Loomis, tenor sax later joined the group. Through Gary, his friend, Marty Thompson also joined the Combonaires as the lead singer. And to round out the desired sound, Don Bartos, a Patterson Park High School student joined and played trombone with the Combonaires.

The band temporarily folded for about six months in 1963, while Joe completed basic training with the Air National Guard. The five original Combonaires, Joe, Sal, Tim, Ray, and John, re-grouped as the Jesters. Joe left the group at the end of 1968 and was replaced by Butch Easton on keyboards and vocals.  John Moscato became the new leader and the band continued playing until sometime in 1979 or 1980. 

The Combonaires



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