While the Ramones, Patti Smith, Television, and the Dead Boys were the biggest names to emerge from the first wave of New York's punk rock explosion in the mid- to late '70s, dozens of other bands were also making the scene at CBGB's and Max's Kansas City at the time, and Tuff Darts were among the first to make their mark. Playing tough-minded rock with pop hooks, hard rock riffs, and more than a little retro style, Tuff Darts first began making a noise on the New York club scene in the early '70s, where their punchy sound and suit-and-tie image earned them gigs opening for the New York Dolls. The band's original lineup was Robert Gordon on vocals, Jeffrey Salen and Bob Butant on guitars, John DeSalvo on bass, and James Morrison on drums; this edition of the band made its recording debut with three tracks on the 1976 compilation album Live at CBGB's, though before long Gordon would move on to a well-respected solo career as a rockabilly revivalist. Gordon's departure was soon followed by drummer Morrison, who was replaced by percussionist John Morelli; Morelli in turn recruited a new singer for the group, Tommy Frenzy. With Frenzy at the helm, Tuff Darts scored a deal with Sire Records and released their self-titled debut album in 1978, which was produced by Bob Clearmountain and Tony Bongiovi and featured guest appearances from Ian Hunter and Eric Weissberg. A nationwide tour followed the album's release, but after returning to New York, Frenzy announced he was leaving Tuff Darts to form his own band, Big Spender, and it wasn't long before Tuff Darts broke up. The band's sole album, Tuff Darts!, was reissued on CD in 2002, and Frenzy, Salen, DeSalvo, and Morrison celebrated the occasion by reuniting for a handful of shows; Frenzy continues to perform with this Tuff Darts lineup, as well as recording and gigging as a solo act. ~ Mark Deming
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