Tony and the Rock Cats, Metros, Hot Rocks, HMS (Guitar, accordion, vocals)
Probably one of Grand Rapids first pop/rock entertainers, around the same time frame as Bob and the Bandits, c. 1957-1958.
Mario was born in 1942 and attended Ottawa Hills High School. Mario was from Texas and from a family of 10. When he was 14 he traveled to NYC and recorded a single called “Ooh-Woo-Wee” and “When We’re Together.” (Wig Wag 101). This recording company saw him performing on Bop Hop on WOOD-TV. He went on a 9-month tour of Pennsylvania to promote this recording.
He was in a band with his father Tony and his siblings called Tony and the Rock Cats, playing at VFW’s. Mario played accordion and guitar.
This information is based on an interview with Mario conducted by Tom Shannon. Thanks to Tom for sharing!
Notes from a 2012 interview with Mario Duron with Kim Rush:
Mario’s mother was an Aztec Indian.
Mario was born in Crystal City Texas on 6.6.1942. Mario’s family moved to Holland, Michigan when he was 6 months old. He was the only child in his family out of 10 who was born in Texas. He lived and worked on a farm until he was 13 years old. He also picked potatoes and pickles in Bay City, Michigan to earn money. His family moved to Grand Rapids when Mario was 7 years old.
Mario attended Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids Michigan.
Albert Meyer of Grand Rapids taught Mario the songs he was to sing on the Wig Wag single. Buddy Balbo played sax on the record and Joe Biscoe sang backup vocals.
Mario’s folks had to sign for him to leave high school to go to New York City and Greenburg, Pennsylvania by himself on the bus. Matt Furin met him at the bus station. He lived at Matt Furin’s house while in Pennsylvania. Mario claims that he was on a 9-month performance tour based out of Pennsylvania at the time of the Wig Wag single. Matt Furin supplied the band, and Mario sang. They played at a big hall in Pittsburgh. The single was recorded in June and he toured during July. He never returned to New York City with his sister Irma to record with her, as stated in a 1958 Grand Rapids Herald newspaper article.
Mario recorded with Al Green in Grand Rapids before Al did Back Up Train. He grew up with Al near Bemis and Baxter streets in southeast Grand Rapids.
Mario’s father played music in the bars around Grand Rapids.
Mario played with an African American blues band in Grand Rapids called Little Wolf and the Gullyjumpers when he was around 18-19 years old. Mario also played piano with Otis Green, a singer and sax player, in a band called the Solitudes.
Mario played clubs in Grand Rapids named the Canopy, the Log Cabin and the Elbow Room, and many others.
Left to Right: Mark Wygmans, Al Bischoff, in the rear is Joe Thompson and Mario Duron on the far right