Swallow was an 11-piece Boston based band featuring George Leh (lead vocals), Vern Miller (leader/bass guitar/vocals-also bassist for The Remains), Phil Greene (guitar/vocals), Parker Wheeler (harmonica/vocals), Bob Camacho (organ/vocals), Mario “Mick” Aranda (Drums),Dave Woodford (tenor sax/flute/vocals), Kerry Blount (alto sax), Jay DeWald (trumpet), Lenny Witham (trumpet) and Gordon Kennedy (trombone). While Vern and George put the band together based somewhat on the concept of bands like The Electric Flag, Swallow, with its tight rhythm section and 5-piece blistering horn section was known for its “huge wall of sound,” musical expertise and vibrant stage shows that featured blues/R & B based material mostly penned by George Leh and Vern Miller with horn arrangements by Dave Woodford. Many of Swallow’s band members were graduates of well-known Boston area music schools. In fact, Larry and Alma Berk (founders of Berklee School of Music) helped Vern and George hand-pick the horn section from among Berklee’s best players at the time.
Between 1969 and 1974, Swallow extensively toured colleges and festivals throughout the U.S. and Canada sharing the stage with such greats as The J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, Sly and The Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Iggy Pop, The Beach Boys, B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, Charles Mingus, The Allman Brothers, Janis Joplin, Traffic, The Supremes and many more. The band recorded two LPs on Warner Brother’s Records, the 2nd of which was produced by Buddie Buie of Atlanta Rhythm Section fame. By the second LP, which was recorded in The Atlanta Rhythm Section’s studio in Doraville, GA, Charlie Sorrento had joined the group on keyboards/vocals, Andy Harp on trumpet, and J.D. Smith on trombone. Swallow garnered a New England regional hit with their single, “Yes, I’ll Say It.”
The group lived together in the “big red house” on the corner of Commonwealth Ave and Center Street in Newton for several years where they wrote and rehearsed on a daily basis when not on the road. “The Swallow House” buzzed with music and became a hub for local musicians. It wasn’t unusual for Boston based musical icons like James Montgomery or Jeff Baxter to drop by at 2 a.m. to hang out and jam.
The group disbanded in 1974 and several of its members went on to further professional careers in music as performers, producers, audio engineers, songwriters, composers and music educators. To this day, George Leh is an iconic figure on the New England Blues circuit.
Published on March 11, 2017