Billy, left, and Bobby Alessi will perform with Barnaby Bye...

Billy, left, and Bobby Alessi will perform with Barnaby Bye at My Father's Place in Roslyn on June 29. Credit: Susan Alessi

Twins Billy and Bobby Alessi began their singing career on the steps of a relative’s home during Thanksgiving in 1960 where they harmonized on the folk song “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” by the Everly Brothers. Inspired by The Beatles' 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the brothers then learned a cover of the Fab Four’s “Michelle.”

By the time they went to West Hempstead High School, the duo was playing in talent shows and at dances. Hearing a tip about open auditions for the original Broadway production of “Hair,” the Alessi brothers both scored roles in the cast where they remained for over two years — and seeds for the band Barnaby Bye were planted.

Guitarist/vocalist Bobby and keyboardist/vocalist Billy Alessi, of Lattingtown and Huntington respectively, spoke with Newsday’s David J. Criblez ahead of their June 29 gig at My Father’s Place in Roslyn. They collectively discussed the origin of Barnaby Bye, their career writing advertisement jingles and how they landed a song on the soundtrack to “Ghostbusters.”

How did Barnaby Bye initially form?

Billy: Peppy Castro [bassist/vocalist] was in the cast of “Hair” and he’d bring his guitar to play in the dressing room. One day Bobby picked up his guitar and joined in with him.

Bobby: We knew drummer Mike Ricciardella from the Illusion and that band was breaking up, so he came over to us.

Billy: The next thing you know we started recording with Peppy and he asked us to do a gig. We did two to three as an opening act at Kenny’s Castaways, where Ahmet Ertegun from Atlantic Records showed and snatched us up in 1971.

How long was your run?

Bobby: About four years. We were playing six nights a week and filling every place we played, such as Samantha’s in Hewlett, My Father’s Place in Roslyn and Ungano’s in Manhattan. The first record, “Room to Grow,” we did it ourselves with Ahmet Ertegun and engineer Gene Paul. The second album, “Touch,” which we did with producer Jack Richardson, was better and sold more.

Why did you guys break up?

Billy: For the third album, the record label was supposed to give us over $100,000. But since we didn’t become a hit yet they weren’t going to pick up the third album unless we let them off the hook for the advance. Peppy was angry at us about this and we kind of broke up. Meanwhile there was a guy waiting in the wings to bring Bobby and I to the West Coast to meet Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss from A&M Records. They signed us as a duo.

Bobby: All of a sudden, we had a song called “Can’t Live This Way” from our second Barnaby Bye album that made it onto the disco charts and Atlantic Records president Jerry Greenberg called us up to tell us they are going to pick us up for our third album and give us the advance. But we already got signed to A&M Records.

You went on to be Alessi, then later called the Alessi Brothers, where you had a career as a duo. How did that go?

Bobby: We did four albums for A&M [“Alessi” in 1976, “All for a Reason” in 1977, “Driftin’ ” in 1978 and “Words & Music” in 1979] and toured the world together. Our biggest gig was opening for Andy Gibb on his “Shadow Dancing Tour” in 1978.

How did you guys end up writing advertising jingles?

Bobby: We moved back to New York and started getting into the advertising business through record producer David Lucas. He would say, “Can you guys do a Beach Boys version of a jingle for Contac cold medicine?” We started to realize that end of the business was a lot more lucrative. We made more money living at home doing jingles than living in hotels performing on the road.

What was your most famous jingle?

Billy: We did “Just for the taste of it … DIET COKE!” in 1982. There were also versions featuring Elton John and Whitney Houston.

How did you end up with a song, “Savin’ the Day,” on the 1984 “Ghostbusters” soundtrack?

Bobby: Producer Phil Ramone loved our music and when director Ivan Reitman went to Phil asking him for some songs, he immediately called us. They used our song when the councilman was trying to get the Ghostbusters locked up and the judge at City Hall said, “Go get’em!” Then Bill Murray runs some red lights on Fifth Avenue and our song kicks in.

About 20 years ago, Barnaby Bye reunited. What brought that on?

Billy: The Downtown in Farmingdale asked us to do a show in 2005 so we called up Peppy and Mike. We ended up making a third Barnaby Bye album, “Thrice Upon a Time” in 2008. Now we play a few gigs each year together. Our draw is strong and we have a good time.

What’s it like playing My Father’s Place over 50 years later from when you originally filled it?

Bobby: It’s a labor of love. I used to go there when I was young to see Todd Rundgren and the Raspberries. I could have never imagined playing there but here we are.


WHEN/WHERE 8 p.m., June 29, My Father’s Place, 1221 Old Northern Blvd, Roslyn

COST $75

MORE INFO 516-580-0887,

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