LaFlavour began humbly in Massillon, Ohio in 1967. Twin brothers Pete and Steve Nervo (guitar and drums) joined with schoolmates Craig DeBock(guitar and sax) and Gino Milchak (bass guitar) to form the core of what would actually become several bands. Instead of following the path set by the British Invasion, the boys began playing soul tunes and early Motown, eventually getting gigs at local dances and sockhops.This early version of the band first called themselves "The Noblemen", then "The Blues Soul".
By the mid-1970s,the boys had progressed into one of the hottest dance bands in the area, and eventually began traveling as the show band"Ragweed". Thanks to notable Akron club owner Arnie "Red" Shapiro, they came to the attention of top entertainment booking agent John Sansone from Buffalo, NY,who took over the booking for the band and decided to re-name them "Flavour". The Boys became "LaFlavour" with the release of the album "Mandolay" in 1980, which was written and produced by Mark Avsec (of Donnie Iris and Wild Cherry fame), as well as a great composition (Rollershake) by Chris Wintrip & George Payne, and dance favorite "When The Whistle Blows", co-written by Pete Nervo and Mark Avsec. Two singles from the album made the Billboard charts, with Mandolay reaching #7 on the Club Dance/Disco chart, and "Only The Lonely" cracking the Hot 100 as a pop single. With certified success under their belts, La Flavour was signed to MCA records, who thought it wise to separate their "show" image from their"recording" image.
In 1981 MCA changed the band's name to"Fair Warning", and the boys and Mark Avsec recorded a second album, this time of catchy pop/rock tunes. "Fair Warning" included a sure-fire hit single written by Avsec titled "She Don't Know Me". However, an upcoming band from New Jersey called Bon Jovi were recording their first album for Mercury Records at this time and needed a strong debut single, so "She Don't Know Me" was selected for them. This effectively ruined the chances of the song being pushed as a single for Fair Warning. Additionally, 1981 also saw the recording and release of a new album by Van Halen coincidentally titled "Fair Warning". This created even more problems with regard to the LaFlavour name and format change. MCA eventually shelved the "Fair Warning" album and it was never properly released beyond the initial "promo copies" which are rare and considred valuable collectibles today.
Meanwhile, the show group LaFlavour was taking the country by storm in the big showrooms - the nightclubs and hotels across the country using live entertainment to do big business in the '80s. Since dance music was essential to the atmosphere in these rooms, LaFlavour proved to be the perfect act to insure a full house. Since they were now internationally famous for their hit "Mandolay", having LaFlavour on the bill was an even bigger draw. Plus, by this time The Boys had developed to perfection a novelty in their act which proved to be their crowning jewel: the comedy-oriented floor shows featuring two simple muppet-style puppets, Franklin and Nick.
Franklin and Nick were actually two store-bought puppets operated by Pete Nervo. Gino became the voice of Franklin, and perched himself on Craig's left shoulder. With DeBock serving as the host/straight man, Franklin began each puppet show cracking funny lines and telling jokes while Craig led him through a variety of subjects. Eventually, they would summon Franklin's brother Nick (voiced by Pete), who would grumble as he appeared on Craig's right shoulder - always slightly intoxicated and grumpy. The puppets provided the boys with the vehicle to say almost anything on stage, and audiences roared with laughter - since the material was being delivered by two puppets rather than stand-up comedians. Of all the great music LaFlavour performed over the years, they are probably best remembered for those floor shows featuring Franklin and Nick. Today, the "infamous"LaFlavour puppets are enjoying their retirement hanging prominently on the wall of a band member's family home, but the memories of all the fabulous comedy routines are still cherished by LaFlavour fans.
As LaFlavour entered the 1990's,the showrooms were beginning to fade. With the arrival of electronic multi-media, and entertainment outlets such as MTV and VH-1, Las Vegas-style shows were not impressing people the same any more. Also, the comedy material that was the cornerstone of the band's puppet shows began to collide with the country's changing political climate. While most didn't find it offensive hearing comedy delivered by two cute puppets in the '80s, the 1990's brought on a whole different attitude toward "political correctness". Comedy began to disappear from the mainstream nightclub scene and became locked inside new "Comedy Club" venues which still exist today. LaFlavour needed a new direction to survive.
The 90's saw LaFlavour returning to a high-energy dance format, where they once again found success, as well as an audience from a new generation eager to experience "retro" dance music from the 70's & 80's, an era they missed but craved with a passion. With LaFlavour, they found the "genuine article", a band with a worldwide Top-10 dance hit to their credit, capable of performing popular music from any contemporary era including the latest dance hits of the 1990's.
Although the modern club audiences had lost interest in "show" bands and became obsessed with packed dance floors, there emerged an audience outside the club scene still wanting to be entertained. At the dawn of the New Millennium, LaFlavour suddenly found themselves in demand to deliver concert performances, particularly during the summer months. Thanks to energetic local concert promoters like Bill Curtain and the late Walt English, The Boys began filling their summer months with appearances at Community Concert Series events, headlining to thousands of fans of all ages who weren't necessarily "regulars" at their club dates. Performing a wide variety of popular music, LaFlavour became an annual favorite on this exciting new circuit, enabling them once again to show off the range of their stage prowess.
While Craig, Pete, and Gino have remained with the band for more than 40 years, original drummer/vocalist Steve Nervo retired in 1996 for health reasons. However, when he's able, Steve makes guest appearances with the band during the Summer Concert Series, most notably performing his remarkable lead vocals on the hit song "Mandolay." Along with LaFlavour veterans John Casey(guitar/vocals/keyboards), beloved LaFlavour keyboard wizard Rick Dotin, who came out of retirement for the 2006 Summer Series and has remained at his familiar post ever since, and Vince Scarpitti (drums/vocals) who was handed the unenviable task of filling Steve's role in 1996, The Boys are still bringing to audiences the highest quality live entertainment available anywhere, filled with the same incredible music, fun, and antics they've become famous for during a remarkable career spanning nearly 45 years!
LaFlavour's 30th Anniversary in 1998
(pictured left to right) Dave Zuppert, Craig DeBock, Pete Nervo, Frank Pellino, Rick Dotin, Rusty Bretz, John Casey, Steve Nervo, Gino Milchak, Jimmy Comedy, Terry Fairfax, Vince Scarpitti
The LaFlavour History Page is emotionally dedicated to Jimmy "Puppy" Comedy, the band's Stage Manager/Lighting Technician during the road years. Jimmy was able to return to his familiar post behind the LaFlavour spotlight one more time, at Akron's Tangier in February of 2008. He passed away in April 2009, leaving behind scores of loving family and friends who miss him and think of him often. "Cheers, Pup".