Born Noel Wagner, Billy Storm started singing in church choir at age 7. He continued singing in various choral groups through high school. “I was raised by a single mother and she gave me my first guitar for Christmas after I begged her for months” Noel formed The Tempests in 1961 in Baltimore, Maryland, at the age of 18. He took the name Billy Storm in 1965 to add more relevance to the Tempests name. The original line-up included him (singer and guitar), Tom Cancannon (bass), Jeremiah Stermer (drums), Tim Boone (piano), Jim Meredith (alto sax), Jerry Thompson (tenor sax) and John Meredith (trombone). They added two trumpets later on. The all-white band had the vision of further promoting the “Blue Eyed Soul” sound being established in the Baltimore region. “We played many different gigs including teen centres, Catholic CYOs, college/high school dances and nightclubs. One of our regular nightclub gigs was called Hollywood Park.” They occasionally played out of the state like West Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania for example.
The Tempests’ only 45RPM single “Apologize”/ ”Common Sense” was recorded in 1966 at Edgewood Recording Studios in Washington, DC. It was mastered at Virtue Studios in Philadelphia, PA. By the time they recorded the songs, there were several new players in the Band: Greg Mash (tenor sax), Walter Preston (alto sax) Alan Eberwein and Chuck Volpe (trumpet), Dennis Welch (trombone) and Jake Welch (piano). “These were the members that were the most tenured”, Billy remembers. Both songs were released on the Band’s own LeMans Label. Billy does not remember how many copies were made but it was distributed locally only. “I don’t recall any airplay other than maybe some college campus radio stations.” The Tempests disbanded in 1968 after the British Invasion, which rendered the horn bands obsolete. Billy Storm formed a few new bands through the 70s until the early 980s and has written and recorded 29 original sings with musician friends from years past.
Above: The Acetate which was given to the band after the recording session handouted by the Edgewood Recording Studio Inc.
The drummer of The Tempests, Jeremiah ‘Buzzy’ Stermer also remembers: “I was playing drums on those two songs “Apologize” and the Flip side, “Common Sense”. The beats in the songs was all called 'fatback', a black soul rhythm I learned from the 60's soul drummers locally and on records. I got known for my 'buzz roll' - two hands pressing the sticks down on the snare - in addition to being a white guy playing black beats. I wasn't the greatest, but I played the songs with the right feel."
Below, left: A Young Curtis Mayfield & Billy Storm.
L-R: Jake Welsh, Tom Concannon, Denny Welsh & Joe Breiker
"My influences were the James Brown drummers. But one drummer in particular, Ray Lucas. The other was Leo Morris the drummer who played with The Impressions when they were here at Hollywood Park in Baltimore. My brother, who played in The Admirals and who backed up many soul band acts back then, always looked out for me and introduced me to so many fabulous musical things. He always asked me to fill in when their drummer was out. That's how I got to back up The Platters with The Admirals. Two shows a night, we were the dance band between sets, and I did 14 nights straight like this at 17 years old. I was doing high school at the time. The Platters liked my playing because (not being able to read) listened to all their records and mimicked them well. They wanted me to play with them on their tour of Germany and Japan. I was still in high school and didn't go. "I still jam with the bass player these days from the Tempests. I organized a reunion of the band in '92 and we played a few gigs together. The chemistry was still there. Billy Storm lives here in Baltimore. He wrote the songs along with one other member of the band, I'm not sure just who. He started the band, and we played mostly James Brown, but we played much of the 'Memphis Soul' songs at teen centres and school dances. We recorded the 2 songs for the record at Edgewood Studios in Washington DC..."
*Liner Notes with help from Noel 'Billy Storm' Wagner and Jeremiah 'Buzzy' Stermer