I forget what Mass it was at old St. Michael’s Church. I think it was a Sunday early-morning one like 7:00 or 8:00 AM but it could have been a weekday. What I do remember was that my older brother Matt and his good friend and today’s Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant, Bobby Belive were serving as altar boys and I believe St. Michael’s Cuban priest at the time, Father Mauro was the celebrant. Back then priests in the Roman Catholic Church said Mass with their backs to the congregation at the ornate elevated original altars that served as the ceremonial focal point of every Catholic house of worship. At one point during the mass, the two altar boys had to stand up from their kneeling position on each side of the first stair of the altar, meet in the middle, genuflect, go up each side of the altar, grab the priests chalice and the huge book known as the Missal and then carry them back down the steps, meet in the middle and then put the two items they had just retrieved back up on the altar but on opposite sides of where they had been.
Well during this maneuver, Bobby Belive somehow dropped that huge red book and the gold stand it sat on, making an enormous crash and causing both Bobby and my brother to start laughing. My brother was laughing so hard that his eyes must have closed because on his way back to his position in front of the altar he kicked over the set of hand bells that altar boys rang during special parts of the Mass, making another enormous racket and causing the two of them to laugh so hard that you could actually see their bodies tremor. Meanwhile, Father Mauro is trying to go on with the Mass, but now most of the thirty or so folks in the pews are laughing like crazy as well. It was “holy bedlam” on Grove Street that morning for about five minutes. It was one of the funniest moments of my childhood and also the last time the nun who used to schedule which altar boys would serve which mass ever put the names “Bob Belive” and “Matt Cinquanti” together.
In addition to being good friends and altar boys, my brother and Bobby were also two of the very best musicians in the city’s history. Matt was a gifted pianist and Bobby was one of the best drummers this town ever produced. I happened to play the trumpet when I was a kid and was in the Amsterdam High School concert band as a sophomore. Robert Kent Kyler was the very talented director of that group but it was Bobby Belive who controlled the beat. During concerts and sometimes even during band practices, Kyler used to call on Bobby to play the drummer’s classic song “Wipeout.” Nobody and I mean nobody could play it any better than this guy could.
He had this amazing ability to play exactly what a song or event needed. It was Belive who created what I consider to be one of Amsterdam’s most famous sounds, the original drum cadence that propelled the Amsterdam High School Marching Rams to their first championship in a national competition. I will never forget the night in 1969 when the band returned from winning their first national competition at the Indianapolis Speedway. The first thing folks lined up on Main Street heard was the Bobby Belive-led drummers beating that cadence and as it grew louder and louder, the band suddenly appeared, marching over the crest of the river bridge and the crowd started roaring. It was the moment in time that the Marching Rams were transformed into the pride of this city and it was Bobby Belive’s classic and creative beat that defined it.
He was also the drummer for a local band called “the Dynamics.” They used to play dances at the old Columbian Center on East Main Street.and that place would be jammed with folks who loved listening to Bobby. I lost touch with him after high school and later learned he had completely given up playing the drums. But I could still visualize him with a pair of drumsticks in his hands. He was incredible.
Fast forward to January of 2019. The Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation is trying to come up with a summer full of Saturday evening concert ideas and one of them is to celebrate the glorious history of local Amsterdam bands by reuniting some of the old groups our community used to dance to for a reunion concert on Riverlink Park’s outdoor stage. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when my phone rang a few weeks later and the voice on the other end said “Hi Mike, this is Bobby Belive.”
To make a long story short, on July 27th, 2019, Bobby and the 21st Century version of the “Dynamics” will be back in Amsterdam, NY for the Rockin River Reunion at Riverlink Park. Three simple words of advice; Don’t miss it!