It has been quite the year – eminently frustrating for certain – but the Philadelphia group, The Oxfords, saw the rebirth of their sound, and it has been one for the record books.
A half century after their initial success in 1965, they’re winding up the year with the No. 1 release on the “Pop Oldies” chart on Amazon. Their album, The Oxfords: Classic Philly ’60s Band remained in the No. 1 spot for 5 straight weeks.
The Oxfords consist of Steve “Bell” Silver, Steve “Fontz” Gelfand, Ivan “Van” Taub, Gary “Crainers” Stanley, Joel “Thumper” Naselow and Byron “Fingers” Blau.
These six local Philly guys found each other and formed their band in 1964. The New York Independent caught up with The Oxfords via Zoom for this interview:
NYI: How’d the band get together?
Bell: “It seemed like every kid in America wanted to be in a band who saw ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ that Sunday night in February, when four guys from Liverpool changed the world. We certainly did and the Oxfords were formed shortly thereafter. We were only 16-ish but our passion for the music was palpable. Although we were a ‘cover’ band, Ivan and Gary started writing original material almost immediately.”
NYI: Two regional hits followed, correct?
Joel: “‘It Serves You Right’ and a cover of Ben E. King’s ‘Don’t Play That Song’ (on the indie-label Grand Records), and, a cover of the Beatles’ ‘You Won’t See Me’ (ABC-Paramount).
NYI:: Did you play all the clubs at the time down in Philly?
Ivan: “We played ‘live’ at myriad clubs, functions and parties in the tristate area, culminating with the designation of becoming the house band at the nationally known Hullabaloo Club (a string of teen clubs across the country associated with the Hullabaloo TV show). We had a full-page article written about us in the National Hullabaloo magazine and were mentioned in a Newsweek article about the club.”
NYI: The band went their separate ways, until a phone call from Gear-Fab Records in August of this year, tell us about that?
Gary: “Ivan received a phone call from Gear Fab Records, who were interested in releasing a collectible CD of our old music. These songs had never been released together in album form and we were ecstatic. Ivan tracked us all down which resulted in a reunion via a six-way Zoom chat that we’ve continued on a weekly basis. It was fortunate that Joel had kept copies of all of the master tapes from the studios allowing the CD to have enough tracks for a complete album.”
NYI: Gear Fab released the 14-song CD on Oct.16 and it shot to the top of the ‘pop oldies’ on Amazon chart within two weeks. It was the highest pre-order sale for Gear-Fab in their history. It has remained at No. 1 since then. How’s that feel?
Joel: “It’s been great. However, our keyboard man (Byron Blau) who has a daughter, Jodi, who had fashioned a successful career for herself as a social media specialist and influencer, helped us immensely in the release of our CD. Under her direction, a national social-media campaign was initiated. Unbeknownst to us, Jodi’s father, Byron, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He chose not to tell us as he wanted to be treated as ‘one of the guys’ and keep the focus on the happy times about all of us and our music. Jodi finally let us know what was happening and that he probably wouldn’t make it to see the release of the CD. Byron passed a month before the CD was released. We all decided to make Jodi the ‘6th Oxford,’ sharing equally with her in any success we may achieve.”
Check out the video below and see The Oxfords, then and now.