Hokis Pokis – Band Biography
All natives of Nassau County, Hokis Pokis formed in 1970 from the ashes of two local bands; one band included Joe Scarola, Steve DiGirolamo and Rob “Pudgy” Davies while Joey DiGirolamo came from the other band. They began as a high concept group with two drummers with the addition of Billt Pena. In 1973, they slimmed down to the four-piece band that recorded “Nowhere”. Inspired by the emerging disco sound, their sets incorporated the best of Philly and Motown plus their own unique Soul/ R&B of their own original songs. It created a perfect cocktail for early ‘70s New York club scene, where scores of bands plied their trade. Hokis Pokis played them all; Barney Google in Manhattan, Rum Runner, Copperfields, Speak Easy on Long Island and The Rusty Nail in Flushing and many clubs along the east coast.
The Hokis Pokis debut single ‘Can’t Wait for Love” b/w ‘Nowhere’ was originally written in 1969 but recorded in 1975. Having shopped the tunes without any luck, the boys decided to press it up on their own Black Magic label. DJs swiftly picked up on the B-side, ‘Nowhere’. The band soon received a call from Downstairs Records in Manhattan requesting an initial order of 500 copies. The following day they requested another 500 copies.
“Once the DJs got a hold of it then the recording companies came after us”, says Joey. “It was leading up to Christmas and no one could handle the pressing that quickly. The record was hot in New York and Boston. The only company that could actually do it was TK Records and they had the record out on the market in two weeks.” Released on TK subsidiary Shield, ‘Nowhere’ did well in a number of urban areas, among them were, Pittsburgh, where it was a staple on 96.1, plus Boston and New York where it was broken by none other than the Chief Rocker himself Frankie Crocker. “’Nowhere’ was recorded at Mastersound Studio in Franklin Square, NY on an eight track, says Joey, before adding proudly, “Almost everything was done on the first or second take.”
‘Nowhere’ is the missing link between the psych excursions of the late 1960s and the outer reaches of Patrick Adams mind. Its Mamas & The Papas harmonies fusing perfectly with the woozy organ line and synth hook. Its perfect successor was ‘Swing’ seemingly hewn from the same hunk of cross pollinated music as ‘Nowhere’. Unsurprisingly, it was another smash at Blackpool Mecca in England, but was also a big tune at mythical Italian club Baia Degli Angeli, where the crepuscular DJs Bob and Tom presided in the mid 70s.
Despite these successes, the band maintained their double lives as working guys. It ranged from selling surgical supplies to running an alarm business. The band was suppose to be part-time but with rehearsals twice a week, writing and creating jingles then playing from Wednesday through Sunday it was about 40 hours a week. This commitment to the cause was unstinting. Joe Scarola recalls, “My wife was pregnant and her water broke at the club one Friday night, so I told my sister-in-law "You better take her to the hospital, I can’t leave right now because we have to go on!” The show must go on, and it did until the late 1970s, when it was suddenly decreed that “Disco Sucked”. Times got hard for Hokis Pokis. Their original keyboard player Pudgy left and was replaced by Nick Spano. With Spano as new musical director, they moved to the swanky Music Palace, where they recorded ‘City Rhythm’.
When the work dried up they had a stark choice, hang up their bow ties or tough it out. “We wanted to keep playing so we decided to break into the wedding market. We went to a hall to do a showcase with nine bands on the bill. We went on at 10:50pm to play for 400 people. They were already punch-drunk from listening to so many groups. We went on and gave them some of our showmanship and BOOM! We booked about 65 weddings that day.”
In the great story of disco, Hokis Pokis were a part of the rich mosaic of music that makes New York the greatest musical city on earth. After Entering their 50th year, Hokis Pokis is still performing and making music. “This is a business but we are friends first. Amen to that.” says Joey.
Hokis Pokis special thanks and credits: The real magic that lies behind the music of Hokis Pokis is all our friends, families and fans that have always believed and encouraged us to follow our hearts and dreams with our music. Without their support the road we’ve traveled would have been an easy one to exit. A very special thank you goes out to Mamma Jennie DiGirolamo who gave us the use of her home to rehearse and write music for the past 49 years.