Bull Run is off to the races 53 years later

Kim Connor grew up listening to her father, Jim Connor, and his bandmates rehearse, and as she got older he shared his frustration with her about getting attention for his original music.

Those memories made holding a vinyl copy of “Bull Run” last week a surreal experience for her.

“It was very overwhelming,” she said. “I sat there with the vinyl sitting on my lap. I very meticulously took the plastic off it — it’s a vinyl, you have to respect it. I just touched the album’s cover and realized it was my dad’s stuff …. Finally, some of these people are getting some respect and acknowledgment.”

Bull Run was a short-lived Youngstown heavy rock band in the early ’70s featuring Connor, drums, acoustic guitar, organ and lead vocals; Craig Davis, lead guitar and backing vocals; and Frank Zoccole, bass and backing vocals. The self-titled album, which never was released until now, was recorded in 1971. Some of it probably was recorded at Peppermint Recording Studio (legend has it Connor helped build the drum booth at Peppermint in exchange for some studio time but those more than 50-year-old memories are a bit foggy). Some of it was done at GS Productions in Youngstown, and most of it was recorded in Connor’s primitive home studio.

“Bull Run” is the latest release of Peppermint Presents, the project of musicians Dean Anshutz (Red Wanting Blue), Anthony LaMarca (The War on Drugs) and polka legend Del Sinchak along with Peppermint Recording Studio owner Gary Rhamy to uncover and re-release vintage recordings that showcase the Mahoning Valley’s rich musical legacy.

Anshutz said he became aware of Bull Run because Kim Connor frequently posted about her dad’s music in the “Youngstownsrockn

rollhistory” Facebook group.

“She would post pictures of him playing a Rogers drum kit and looking like a real rock guy,” Anshutz said. “What is this?”

Jim Connor died in 2019 at age 76, and posting about him on social media was a way to keep his music alive.

“I’d be very remiss if I didn’t do something with his music,” she said. “That was his greatest passion.”

Anshutz reached out to Connor when Peppermint Presents was working on its release of early Glass Harp material. Connor had posted that she had some early photos of the band. When she brought her scrapbooks, she asked if he wanted to hear her father’s music.

“I listened to a really rough transfer off of a cassette on my laptop,” Anshutz said “Within seconds I was completely blown away. This is what record collectors and music folk are always looking for, really raw and edgy. I don’t think I made it through the first song before I said, ‘Kim, this is amazing. We’d absolutely love to put this out if we could find the (original) tapes.”

Connor had the tapes and a wealth of other material.

“She essentially handed over on a platter everything you could ever want to put out a record,” Anshutz said.

Bull Run played out with such popular local acts as Biggie Rat (a precursor to Poobah) and Morley Grey, and the band played shows from New Jersey to Chicago. But its heavy sound wasn’t commercial. It wasn’t the kind of music that would fill clubs with young people who wanted to drink and dance.

Jim Connor kept detailed records – where they played, how much they got paid, how much they spent on gasoline to get there. He also saved the rejection letter from Columbia Records that encouraged the band to “get into a top 40 bag” and the note from a club owner that said, “Nobody’s dancing. Did you notice? Play some of the top 40 (if you know how)”

Anshutz described Bull Run’s sound as Black Sabbath with Lemmy of Motorhead on lead vocals.

“Other bands were making heavy music for sure,” Anshutz said. “They were pushing the envelope further. They were creating a whole record. You needed to listen in entirety to get the whole picture.”

That proto-metal style has a loyal cult following. While earlier Peppermint Presents releases like

Glass Harp’s “Where Did My World Come From?” and the local music compilation “Rat Race” attracted a lot of local/regional attention, Anshutz said the Bull Run release already is generating some national and international interest.

“This was a big one for us,” Anshutz said. “It’s cool stuff and people are interested.”

Kim Connor sees the response as a way of honoring not only her father, but also Davis (who died in fire in Niles in 1979) and Zoccole (who lives in Nevada)

“The appreciation for Bull Run has really been phenomenal,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s out there, and I’m a happy camper. I hope a lot of people get really turned on by that music and maybe it resurrects an appreciation of the type of music that was being made at that time from Youngstown.”

“Bull Run” – which has been released on “Molten Steel” red vinyl, “Leper’s Castle Wall” marbled grey vinyl and traditional black vinyl – currently is available for purchase and download at bandcamp.com, and it is available at Cycle Breaker Records and Tapes (which Anshutz co-owns) in Youngstown and will be available at other area music stores in the coming weeks.


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