The Racket Squad

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1964-66) as The Fenways

- Bob "Hop" Ainsworth -- lead guitar

- Alan Bills -- drums, percussion

Sonny DiNunzio (RIP 1978) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, horn

- Ronnie George -- bass, sax


  line up 2 (1967-67)

- Bob "Hop" Ainsworth -- lead guitar

NEW - Joey Covington (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Alan Bills)

Sonny DiNunzio (RIP 1978) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, horn

- Ronnie George -- bass, sax

- Gene Molinaro (RIP 2009) -- drums, percussion


  line up 3 (1967-70)  as The Racket Squad

- Bob "Hop" Ainsworth -- lead guitar

Sonny DiNunzio (RIP 1978) -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, horn

- Ronnie George -- bass, sax

NEW - Gene Molinaro (RIP 2009) -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Joey Covington)





- The Afterglow (Ronnie George)

- The Chaps (Sonny DiNunzio)

- Joey Covington (solo efforts)

- Joe E. Covington's Fat Fandango,

- Sonny DiNuzio (solo efforts)

- The Fenways

- The Four Chaps

- Hot Tuna (Joey Covington)

- The Jefferson Airplane (Joey Covington)

- Tawny Sims

- The Thundermen

- Sebastian (Sonny DiNunzio)

- Vibra-Sonics (Joey Covington)





Genre: psych

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Corners of Your Mind

Company: Jubilee

Catalog: JGS 8026

Year: 1969

Country/State: Apollo, Pennsylvania

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor cover wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5130

Price: $60.00


Co-produced by Mike Lewis (who wrote most of the material) and Stuart Wiener, 1969's "Corners of Your Mind" found the quartet shifting away from the debut album's pop sound to a distinctive hard rock and psych influenced sound.  On the surface that type of calculated move would seem to have spelled artistic disaster, but somehow that wasn't the case this time around.  Whereas the self-titled debut album sounded calculated, this time out Sonny DiNunzio and company seemed much more inspired and engaged. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact DiNunzio's blue-eyed soul voice proved  well suited for tougher material like the opening rocker 'Ain't Nobody Gonna Love You', 'Sweet Little Smoke' (so much for lyrical subtlety), and the amphetamine powered garage rocker 'Suburban Life'.  Sure, this was just as calculated as the rest of their catalog, but you had to smile hearing DiNunzio singing about 'marshmallow seas' and 'forbidden fruits'.  My goodness the '60s were a different time.  With the exception of the needless 'Get Out My Life Woman' Reprise where DiNunzio sounded like a heavily dosed Popeye (I originally compared the sound to Bugs Bunny, but was corrected), the entire album demonstrated an attractive blend of commerciality and lysergic influences.  Other highlights included the trippy LP closer 'The Minstrel' and an unexpected cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Little Wing' which gave guitarist Ainsworth an opportunity to shine.  There are hundreds of 'Little Wing' covers so I'm not sure why this performance strikes such a chord with me - it's one of the album's standout performances.  In summary, it's a fun album from start to finish.


"Corners of Your Mind" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Ain't Nobody Gonna Love You (Mike Lewis) - 3:02 rating: **** stars

Opening up with some tasty Bob Ainsworth fuzz guitar and DiNunzio's patented '60s organ washes, Ain't Nobody Gonna Love You' was one of those rare tunes that managed to span the gap between commercial pop and harder rock. As mentioned above, DiNunzio's blue-eyed soul vocals also transitioned well to the band's harder rock attack. Always wondered why this wasn't tapped as a single?  Was it too commercial for rock fans and too rock-oriented for pop fans?  Shame.

2.) Sweet Little Smoke (Mike Lewis) - 6:48 rating: **** stars

Hum, wonder what this one was about ...  'Sweet Little Smoke' was simply one of the most lysergic tunes I've ever heard.  Not advocating for any of these activities, but the  combination of studio effects, including DiNunzio's heavily treated vocals and the hysterically naive lyrics just make me smile..  

3.) Get Out My Life Woman (Alan (sic) Toussaint) - 3:28 rating: *** stars

Powered by Ainsworth thick guitar chords, their cover of the classic 'Get Out My Life Woman' wasn't a major departure from other versions I've heard.  Nice enough, but I'd rather hear the bluesy Lee Dorsey version.  The writing credit managed to misspell Toussaint's first name.

4.) Suburban Life (Mike Lewis) - 3:06 rating: **** stars

Showcasing some crashing DiNunzio organ solos and Gene Molinaro's frenetic drumming, the crazed 'Suburban Life' sounded like it had been recorded after a night of heavy drinking.  A rollicking and raw slice of garage rock, the hysterically funny lyrics make it one of my favorite performances.  I will say it probably wasn't the track I would have tapped as the single.  


The black and white video and sound quality aren't very good, but YouTube has a clip of the band lip-synching the tune for a 1968 appearance on the Terry Lee hosted Pittsburgh-based Come Alive television show: Racket Squad - Suburban Life (1968) TV Appearance (  Loved the go-go dancers, though I'm not sure what kind of a statement Ainsworth was trying to make with the sombrero.


- 1969's  'Suburban Life' b/w 'The Loser' as a single (Jubilee catalog number 45-5638. 




5.) Get Out My Life Woman (reprise) (Alan (sic) Toussaint) - 0:42 rating: ** stars

Well, at least it was short and mildly funny with DiNunzio trotting out his best Popeye and Olive Oyl impressions.


(side 2)
1.) Corners of Your Mind (Mike Lewis) - 4:12 rating: *** stars

The song title had me expecting a complete lysergic meltdown.  Instead the title track ballad offered up a pretty and conventional melody.  Admittedly the backing singers' treated vocals and Ainsworth guitar did inject some acid effects and the  lyrics were pretty out there.  (I saw an online post where the band played this at somebody's prom - best that sent the school staff into a tizzy ...)

2.) You Turn Me On (Mike Lewis) - 5:28 rating: *** stars

The ballad 'You Turn Me On' found the band returning to their blue-eyed soul roots.  Very Felix Cavaliere and the Rascals flavor.  Always loved Ainsworth's lead guitar on this one.

3.) Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix) - 3:06 rating: **** stars

So if you don't want to be seen as a commercial sellout, what can you do?  Well recording a sweet cover of a classic Hendrix tune's not a bad move.  A showcase moment for Ainsworth, though DiNunzio also shined.

4.) The Minstrel (Gary Hill) - 3:48 rating: **** stars

It took awhile for the song to find it's way and when it did you were initially left to wonder why these guys had decided to dip their toes into a medieval folk feel.  Gawd it was a goofy way to end and album.  Once you paid attention to it the tragic lyric (bad Minstrel), you discovered it was something that would have fit well on a Fairport Convention album.  And then around the halfway point the fun began with tune going off into heavy-duty psychedelic territory, complete with DiNunzio's treated organ and lots of studio effects.  Cool performance to hear on a good stereo, or with a quality set of headphones.





Over the next year the band released a series of five non-LP singles:


- 1968's 'That's How Much I Love My Baby' b/w Movin' In' (Jubilee catalog number 45-5628)

- 1968's 'The Loser' b/w 'No Fair at All' (Jubilee catalog number 45-5613)

- 1969's 'I'll Never Forget Your Love' b/w 'Maybe Tomorrow' (Jubilee catalog number 45- 5657)

- 1969's 'In Your Arms' b/w 'Coal Town' (Jubilee catalog number 45-5682)

- 1970's 'Coal Town' b/w 'Roller Coaster Ride' (Jubilee catalog number 45-5694)





Frustrated by their inability to break through the band subsequently called it quits with DiNunzio going on to record some demo material under the name 'Sebastian.'  


He also recruited some friends to form the band Sebastian which started playing Pittsburgh clubs.  Sadly he was killed in an October 1978 car crash.  DiNunzio's cousin/Pittsburgh DJ subsequently oversaw the release of a posthumous album on the Pennsylvania-based Keystone Record company - 1979's "Sebastian" (Keystone catalog number K111541-37).



The other members scattered across various enterprises.  To me the most interesting follow-on project was bassist Ronnie George's reappearance as a member of The Afterglow.










Forecast: Sonny. Good day for a walk. Bad day for puns, apparently. Without Sonny DiNunzio, however, there never would have been "Walk," which trudged its way up his hometown Pittsburgh charts. Nor would The Vogues have gotten off to such a rousing start. Nor, ultimately, would there have been The Racket Squad. Sebastian DiNunzio wasn't a Pittsburgher, per se. He came from a little way to the northeast, in the Kiski Valley. While attending Apollo High School in 1959, he linked with a group then known as The Three Chaps (George Esposito, Joe Cesario and Bob Savastano). Sonny brought buddy Ron Fulton aboard, and the newly rechristened and numberless Chaps jumped into the record hop grind. Break came when Sonny's sister told her record-producing boss Nick Cenci about the group. Cenci thought a couple of DiNunzio originals had potential, so he had them cut "One Lovely Yesterday / Perfect Night for Love," which were released on Brent records out of New York. The single made some noise back home, got them on TV and into the ears of dominant deejays. Searching around for another backer, they went to Lennie Martin, whose string arrangement for The Skyliners hit "Since I Don't Have You" was a rock and roll first. Another DiNunzio composition passed Martin's muster, "Heaven Must Have Run Out of Angels," to be backed with "They'll Never Be." There was a twist this time: high parts of the song were to be handled by another young guy just beginning his career, one Lou Christie, who would be launched to stardom via Cenci's Co & Ce label with "Two Faces Have I" and "The Gypsy Cried." Released on Matador, "Heaven Must Have Run Out of Angels" ran out of oomph, and The Chaps called it quits. For a while, Joe, George and Bob headed for West Coast employment, but day jobs got old pretty quick. Summoning Sonny, they became The Four Chaps. Terry Melcher at Capitol Records gave them a listen and gave them a pass, but Bob Keene, whose Del-Fi label produced Richie Valens, liked what he heard. Securing a manager, The Four Chaps began playing around Los Angeles Meanwhile, Keene learned a new TV show was being put together, something called Shindig. The quartet auditioned for producer Jack Good, who cast them in the pilot starring Jackie DeShannon, P.J. Proby and Dionne Warwick. The red-jacketed Chaps sang "Lonesome Traveler," with guitar support from Glen Campbell. Good was considering making The Four Chaps regulars, but Sonny was called back to Pennsylvania, and their 15 minutes of fame ticked away. So, too, went potential work with Phil Spector. That was far from the end of the groove. Back home, Sonny returned to lead vocalist duties with The Townsmen (including Ronnie George, Alan Bills and Bob Ainsworth), who became The Fenways and churned out a lengthier discography, one that continues to feed oldies radio. Beginning with titles like "The Number One Song in the Country," which was more than just wishful thinking, The Fenways drew solid response to "Nothing to Offer You," "Humpty Dumpty," "Be Careful Little Girl" and especially "Walk," a gem of a 1966 pop rocker that bubbled under the national rankings. Deejays laid on them, especially Sonny's cousin Terry Lee On WMCK / WIXZ, one of the major players on the Pittsburgh scene. Though The Fenways never got to No.1 on their own, they hit the top through teamwork. Part of their studio time was spent under the Co & Ce banner. Cenci had signed a vocal group called The Vogues, who needed a backup band. The Fenways were around and they cut the track for the monster "You're the One," so maybe "The Number One Song in the Country," or at least in a number of markets, wasn't so far off after all. By the following year, with changes in society inspiring changes in their hair and clothing styles, The Fenways needed a new identity. They becameThe Racket Squad and did what their former selves never did: issued albums. Two of them, and both on the national Jubilee label: an eponymous platter and Corners of Your Mind. Check out "Hung Up," their take on "Romeo and Juliet," and especially their nod to The Skyliners with that group's "The Loser." Good stuff, but not enough to assure longevity. Various personnel logged time with the band: Bill Cotton, Gene Molanero, Joey Covington (who later flew with the Jefferson Airplane)