The Badlees Story

Badlees Logo

Roman Numeral Two

Hazleton, PA resident and local WAZL disc jockey Mike Naydock was reading his copy of The Hazleton Standard Speaker one morning when a particular article caught his eye. It was about a native of nearby McAdoo who had just finished a professional album with a band called Bad Lee White. Naydock was intrigued because he had written several songs independently and wanted to find a vessel to promote his music. The article mentioned that the band was promoted by Terry Selders who worked for a small label out of New York. Mike decided to contact him and see if this was a good fit for his music. Terry invited Mike to meet with him in an office just off Times Square, where they listened to and discussed some of Mikeís song ideas. Terry was impressed and introduced Mike to Bad Lee Whiteís primary songwriter, Jeff Feltenberger to begin work on new songs.

However, there was another shift within the band as it morphed from Bad Lee White to The Badlees. This was the emergence of Bret Alexander as chief songwriter and music director. Bret began to take the reins in forging the new Badlees sound, scheduling rehearsals, setting performance agendas, and eventually producing and/or engineering all of their albums.

As far as composing new songs, Bret found an ideal songwriting counterpart when Mike Naydock entered the scene. Bret's expertise was in creating chord structures, melodies, and catchy song hooks, while Mike was talented at the intricacies of lyric writing. Starting with the first Badlees EP, It Ainít For You in 1990, the role of Alexander as the prime mover behind the band's sound would persist throughout the band's career and the songwriting partnership of Alexander/Naydock would produce some of their most famous songs.

While Bret's areas of expertise were fast becoming the studio and rehearsal room, the domain of new singer Pete Palladino would definitely be the stage. Pete admits that he had a lot of nervous energy when he started with The Badlees, so jumping on tables or swinging from chandeliers was not a thought out, deliberate plan. But as the crowd reacted more and more positively to these stage antics and word began to spread of the wild shows the Badlees put on, Pete's climbing, jumping, posturing, and hanging upside down while singing, soon became part of the draw. Of course, his appearance didnít hurt, and soon The Badlees were drawing a large demographic that Bad Lee White never quite did Ė women. And a club with a large number of young women was sure to attract an even larger number of young men, so the crowd sizes swelled.

These crowd sizes were instrumental to the early success of the Badlees since they were dedicated to performing mostly original material. The covers they did perform were usually their own interpretations of unorthodox songs for a rock band, such as the traditional "Battle of New Orleans", the soulful James Brown hit "I Got You (I Feel Good)", or a frantic version of the spiritual "Kumbaya". This approach was a tough sell to many club owners in rural Pennsylvania at the time, when cover bands playing top 40 hits were the only consistent money makers. Many clubs would not even entertain the idea of booking an original band. But with the Badlees ever growing crowds, they could not be denied an exception to many of these policies and it wasnít long before they were regularly playing their unique act out four or five nights per week.

The Badlees debut EP was recorded in Harrisburg, Pa. and Hoboken, NJ and mixed by Bret Alexander back at Susquehanna Sound. It was Bret's debut as a producer and it featured four, well-crafted, catchy, and energetic songs, each of which could stand alone well as a bar room anthem, especially the closing number, a country-rock-ish, she-done-me-wrong song entitled "The Best Damn Things In Live Are Free".

On October 10, 1990, the Badlees released the EP, which carried the deceptive title of It Ainít For You. Put in context, the title was actually derived from the more meaningful elder-to-younger monologue of the opening song of the same name; "ÖItís too late for me, but it ainít for you". This song starts with a driving acoustic riff by Jeff Feltenberger and gradually builds with Alexander's layered guitars and the precision rhythm of drummer Simasek and interim bass player Ric Stehman, filling in for Steve Feltenberger, who was now in the Marines. The first song also contains an excellent coda crescendo with vocal interplay between lead-singer Palladino and Jeff Feltenberger's background high harmonies. "Last Great Act of Defiance", co-written by Alexander and Naydock, is perhaps the album's best song. It has an eighties-era Springsteen quality about it with a strong, storytelling lyric and precise, rockin' guitar riffs.

Terry Selders, still officially at Bassment Records, acted as the defacto manager of the band from afar and put out It Ain't For You on his newly-formed independent label, Rite-Off Records. The cover of the album, taken by Ron Simasek, was a shot of an abandoned lot across the street from Terry's apartment building on Christopher Columbus Drive in Jersey City, NJ. The band began asking Terry to come back to Pennsylvania and manage them full time, as they became more and more popular on the club scene. A series of events following the release of the EP would convince him that there was something special here and he would take them up on their offer.

First, there was positive press, mainly in local media, but also with national publications. Just like with the Bad Lee White EP, Billboard magazine once again gave them a review but on this occasion gave It Ain't For You it's famed "Critics' Choice" award.

Next, The Album Network, a weekly, well-respected music industry trade paper, invited the Badlees, as an unsigned band, to participate in their CD series called Tune Up, which was free to radio stations across the country and had the reputation of containing cutting-edge music that may be prioritized by record companies in the coming month. This inclusion gave the Badlees much credibility with rock radio programmers, and assured that there was a good chance that many of these programmers would have already been somewhat familiar with their music before ever being approached by Terry.

A third, fortuitous event was when the Badlees landed a gig opening for the band Firehouse at the Metron in Harrisburg. By the night of the show on February 19, 1991, Firehouse was at the absolute peak of their brief super-stardom as their power ballad "Love of a Lifetime" was near the top of the mainstream charts. Although the Badlees and Firehouse were quite different stylistically, the owner of the Metron felt they would be a good fit to open for the band. This conclusion was drawn when he heard those first, opening, strumming chords of "It Ainít For You" and it reminded him of a Firehouse song he had heard. So the Badlees had the opportunity to perform before a crowd of well over a thousand, much larger than any other up until that point and they would not disappoint. After this show, the Metron became an important venue where the Badlees would regularly perform as headliners.

So Terry Selders left his position at Bassment records and returned to central Pennsylvania to be manager of the Badlees full time. He would eventually move into a place in Selinsgrove that had plenty of room to park the vans, as well as space for rehearsal and extra room for band members to stay full or part time. This became the "band house" where Bret would conduct rehearsals and Terry would conduct meetings. He set up the Badlees as a corporation, with all members of the band and crew drawing a modest salary and using the proceeds from their shows for re-investment in the band and its future projects and initiatives.

Despite being intense and "hands on" when it came to management and promotion issues, Terry admits today that he never once intervened when it came to the music itself. "Bret always had my back", he said, adding that he was always confident that he was pushing top-notch, quality music.

Armed with a dynamic young singer, an ever-expanding fan base, a new sound forged by talented songwriters, a successful debut recording, and now a dedicated, full-time manager, The Badlees were poised to move mountains on the rock scene. Despite their early success, the band remained hard-working, disciplined, and thrifty. There were little-to-no rock star excesses nor any prima donna attitudes. They knew that there was still much work ahead to get where they wanted to be and there was still one piece of the puzzle that needed to be completed.

Related Articles

Full Disclosure
By Ric Albano
The Music Business, Yesterday & Today
By Terry Selders
The Backbone of the Band
By J.D. Cook
The Badlees & Corporate Entanglement
By Leah Della Croce
Karl Marx, Canadian Whiskey,
and Kermit the Frog
By Sinclair Soul

Badlees Logo

Key Rock Review

Classic Rock Review

Modern Rock Review's mission is to provide an online resource with honest, in-depth articles about talented and influential artists, past and present, and from the perspective of not only our writers but also critical music listeners and artists themselves.