Geneva’s Wilmer and the Dukes are headed to the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. The popular 1960’s R&B band was one of five inductees announced yesterday for the fourth class of hall of fame.
The others to be inducted on April 26th are Jazz bassist Ron Carter, Gibson Guitar Corporation Chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, jazz keyboardist Gap Mangione, and bass-baritone William Warfield.
Wilmer and the Dukes (originally Wilmer Alexander Junior and the Dukes) were a United States R&B band in upstate New York in the 1960s. Though they produced only a handful of singles and one album, they performed regularly, and had a dedicated following. One reviewer said, “In Geneva, there were two kinds of kids. Those who went to ‘Wilmer’ and those who didn’t.” They are fondly remembered by many of the college alumni from that area, and their music continues to be played today. They were also an influence on other rising musicians such as Eric Bloom, the lead singer of Blue Öyster Cult, and they may have been the inspiration for “Otis Day and the Knights”, the 1960s fictional band in the 1978 movie Animal House.
The band originated in 1957 in Geneva, New York, formed by Wilmer Alexander Jr. (born c. 1943), Ronnie Alberts, and Ralph Gillotte. Except for Alexander, all of the members were white, which made the band stand out even more in some of the all-black clubs that they first played in. The Alexanders lived on 90 Wadsworth Street in Geneva, and the band used to practice at one of the garages owned by the Felice Trucking Company on Kirkwood Ave.
Alexander sang and played saxophone, and the band was managed by Ebo (Owl) Alberts, the father of the drummer, Ronnie Alberts, and the bassist, Bob Egan. The guitarist, Doug Brown, was from the South and played Stevie Cropper-style. Doug Brown wrote their big hit “Give Me One More Chance”. Ralph “Duke” Gillotte was the keyboardist and additional vocalist.
The group disbanded in 1974, but came back together for some benefit concerts in 1988. With several personnel changes, the band stayed together and played for the next 24 years as The Legendary Dukes until breaking up in early 2012.