Formed in 1973 in New York City, USA, the Dictators predated by two years the punk rock of bands such as the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, yet they exhibited many of that genres hallmarks from their inception. Purveying loud, three-chord rock without long solos, and drawing their lyrical inspiration and visual images from such disparate facets of popular culture as fast food, professional wrestling, cult movies and late-night television, the Dictators established a devoted fanbase in their home town and selected hip pockets in the USA and Europe. However, they were unable to succeed commercially and are rarely acknowledged for their pioneering efforts in helping to establish the new rock n roll of the 70s and 80s.
Protégés of music journalist Richard Meltzer, the Dictators originally comprised guitarists Scott Top Ten Kempner and Ross The Boss Funicello (Ross Friedman, New York City, New York, USA), bass player and vocalist Andy (sometimes Adny) Shernoff and drummer Stu Boy King. Vocalist Handsome Dick Manitoba (b. Richard Blum, 29 January 1954, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA) guested on the bands debut album and subsequently joined. The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! featured original songs by Shernoff with titles such as Teengenerate, (I Live For) Cars And Girls and a cover version of Sonny And Chers I Got You Babe. It was released on Epic Records, who dropped the band when the album failed to attract interest. King left after the release of the album and was replaced by Ritchie Teeter, and bass player Mark The Animal Mendoza (b. Mark Glickman, 13 July 1955, Long Island, New York, USA) also joined at that time, allowing Shernoff to switch to keyboards. The Dictators signed to Asylum Records in late 1976 and released the relatively mainstream Manifest Destiny, their only album to chart. Before they recorded their third and final album, Bloodbrothers, in 1978, Mendoza left to join heavy metal outfit Twisted Sister. When the third album failed, they were dropped by Elektra and disbanded.
The Dictators reunited several times for single concert dates, one of which was recorded and released as a cassette-only album in 1981, Fuck Em If They Cant Take A Joke. During the 80s Kempner went on to form the Del-Lords, another straight-ahead rock act popular in New York. Ross Funicello joined the short-lived Shakin Street, before forming heavy metal unit Manowar. Manitoba and Shernoff formed the quasi-metal band Manitobas Wild Kingdom in the mid-80s, and were joined by Funicello for their 1990 MCA Records debut ... And You? When Kempner joined the group during a club tour the Dictators were effectively reborn. One of their most notable gigs during this period was in December 1993 at the 20th anniversary celebrations for CBGBs. A more permanent reunion in the late 90s led to the recording of the first Dictators studio album in over 20 years, D.F.F.D. , with Wild Kingdoms J.P. Patterson behind the drum kit. Kempner left the band following its release but the remaining members have continued to tour.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.