The Stratfords Formed in early 1963 by friends from Dulaney, Archbishop Curley, and Patterson Park High Schools. The group consisted of vocalists Jim Kelly, Richard Croucher and Sandy Mead, along with Chet Dembeck (lead guitar), Wade Randall (bass), Joe Blizzard (drums), David Hatcher (trombone), Bill Jeise (trumpet, arranger) and Gene Lubrecki (sax). Earl Mummert and Ernie Berger were also members. The new group performed in a Buddy Dean-sponsored Battle of the Bands which featured the Lafayettes, Flintsones, Pastels, and many others.
Their first song "Never Leave Me" was written by Kelly and Croucher, although Crousher had left the band before its release. The group persuaded Jim's father Eugene Kelly to foot the bill for their demo recording, appointing him as the Stratfords' agent. After shopping the tape around to area DJs they traveled to New York and had a disc cut. With the demo it was still not enough to persuade local radio stations to play it. They still required that the record have a label and be commercially distributed. This led to the birth of O'Dell records. Within the first two months of the release the record had sold 19,000 copies in the Baltimore area, climbing to number 4 on the local Top 40 popularity charts. The record was rated a "breakthrough" by Billboard, and charted in individual markets around the country. The Stratfords traveled in support of the single, appearing in many cities including Hartford, CT where they opened for Freddie Cannon, and Pittsburgh opening for Skeeter Davis. The group opened shows for many top acts, including the Four Seasons, Chiffons, Angels and many others.
By early 1964 the Stratfords were producing their second single and had secured underwriting and distribution for O'Dell by Herald-Ember Records. Unfortunately by this time Herald-Ember was on the decline, and never afforded the Stratfords the backing they needed for a hit record. Randall was eventually replaced with Larry Cox on bass, who was later replaced with Bill Whitney. A 1965 lineup featured Kelly (vocals), Dembeck (lead guitar), Eddie Wockenfus (rhythm guitar ex-Statics), Whitney (bass), and Blizzard (drums). With guidance from Alan Field and Paul Rodgers the group made trips to Virtue Studios in Philadelphia, where they recorded songs including the Field composition "Throw Stones." The Stratfords played teen centers, school dances and local clubs including Bob Leonard's Satyr House on Perring Parkway. They traveled to Wildwood, NJ with DJ Steve Wade where they opened for the Shangra-Las.
In 1968 they were the house band at the Keystone Inn. Kelly went on to join A New Day. Whitney later joined the Scottsman and Better Half. Dembeck played briefly with the Epics. Randall joined the Esquires, while Wockenfuss went on to play keyboards for Inner Cyrkle.. Joe Vaccarino's book Baltimore Sounds
Records released by The Stratfords:
1963 O'Dell 100 Never Leave Me / Enaj
1964 O'Dell 101 Two Lovers / Crosstown
1964 O'Dell 104 Really Need Your Love / Night Train
1965 O'Dell 112 A Fool and His Girl / Tossin' and Turnin'
1965 O'Dell 114 Throw Stones / Where is She Now