NEW BRUNSWICK—State Theatre will present a Golden Oldies Spectacular featuring Lou Christie, Kenny Vance and the Planotones, The Duprees, Shirley Alston Reeves, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, and The Yesterdaze on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $35-85.
“Lightning” Lou Christie, who still possesses his incredible three octave vocal range and amazing on-stage charisma, was one of the first teen idols to write his own songs (with collaboration from Twyla Herbert who was 20 years his senior). He had two gold records, “The Gypsy Cried” and “Two Faces Have I” in 1963 before his 2 ½ year stint in the army.
After serving, he came back strong with his biggest hit, “Lightning Strikes,” which hit #1 on the charts on his 23rd birthday. His next hit, “Rhapsody in the Rain,” was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” and was banned from many stations due to suggestive lyrics. Christie was a frequent performer on Dick Clark’s Cavalcade of Stars tours and performed often on TV shows such as American Bandstand and Where the Action Is. His final hit of the 1960s was a top ten smash: “I’m Gonna Make You Mine,” which also went to #2 in the UK. In most of his hits, the verses were sung in normal registers and shifted dramatically to his soaring falsetto on the choruses.
In the early 1970s, Christie spent most of his time in London where Elton John was his piano player. He married UK beauty queen Francesca Winfield and wrote and sang “Beyond the Blue Horizon” for the movie Monte Carlo, and the song was also used prominently in the hit movie Rain Man.
Brooklyn-born Kenny Vance founded the band Harbor Lites at age 15 and recorded two singles with them in 1959. He then founded Jay and the Americans who went on the record 15 albums and 12 top 10 hits, starting with “She Cried” in 1962. Vance spent most of his time at the Brill Building, Manhattan’s music mecca, where Leiber and Stoller signed Jay and the Americans to United Artists Records. They were the opening act on the first American performances of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Vance is the renaissance man of rock-n-roll: singer, songwriter, musical producer, actor, and manager. In fact, he became manager of the songwriting duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who joined Jay and the Americans and later formed one of the best-selling and critically acclaimed bands of the 1970s—Steely Dan.
A lot of Vance’s most recognizable work was in movies for which he wrote the music, including Hairspray, Eddie and the Cruisers (album went triple platinum), Animal House (platinum album), and American Hot Wax, for which he wrote the score, produced the soundtrack album (which went top 40), and appeared in the movie as Professor La Plano, leading his fictional band, “The Planotones.” In 1999, he wrote the entire soundtrack for the film Looking for an Echo and was the actual singing voice of Armand Assante in the movie. He was also musical director of Saturday Night Live in 1980-81. In 1992, Vance formed a real Kenny Vance and The Planotones. While continuing to write and record, their mission is to “keep the music alive,” and their incredible stage show has made Kenny Vance and the Planotones one of the most in demand acts on the oldies circuit.
New Jersey’s own, The Duprees, are known throughout the world for their unmistakable vocal harmonies and romantic interpretations of the most beautiful love songs ever written. Their sound brings back memories of Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. Their version of Jo Stafford’s ballad “You Belong to Me” was their first million-seller in 1962, followed by such hits as “Why Don’t You Believe Me,” “Have You Heard,” “I’m Yours,” and “Exodus.” Mark Baron, the band’s musical director, wrote the music for the Broadway show Frankenstein the Musical. The Duprees were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2006.
Lead singer Shirley Alston Reeves formed the Shirelles while attending Passaic High School in New Jersey. They were still in high school when they wrote and recorded their first hit, “I Met Him on a Sunday.” The Shirelles’ sound bridged doowop and uptown New York soul. Their songs were a beguiling mixture of tenderness and innocence that was grounded in R&B as much as in pop/rock. The group had seven top 10 singles, many of them written by Shirley, including “Mama Said,”“ Tonight’s the Night”, “Baby It’s You” (written by Burt Bacharach), “Dedicated to the One I Love,” “Foolish Little Girl,” “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” (written by Carole King, the first “girl group” song to go to #1 on the charts – 1960) and “Soldier Boy” (also a #1 hit). Many artists, from the Mamas and Papas, Dusty Springfield, Roberta Flack, Manfred Mann, and even The Beatles (“Baby It’s You” and “Boys”) covered songs made famous by the Shirelles. Reeves also appeared in many TV commercials, including the first rock-n-roll Coke commercial, Wendy’s, and Pepto-Bismol. Reeves was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, a Massachusetts native, was a fan of rhythm and blues and learned to play guitar at an early age. Inspired by his father, a trumpet player who sang in a local band and his mother who helped him write songs, Freddy, at age 16, was the guitar player on the G-Clefs hit “Ka-Ding Dong.” In 1958, he was a regular on the Boston Ballroom TV show and was managed by Boston dj Jack McDermott. His first hit, “Tallahassee Lassie,” peaked at #6 on the charts and was the first of his 22 songs to hit the Billboard charts. His next hit, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans,” reached #3 on both the U.S. and UK charts. His album, The Explosive Freddy Cannon, was the first American rock and roll album to top the British album charts.
Starting in 1959, Cannon made a record-breaking 110 appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and joined the Cavalcade of Stars tours. Other hits included “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” “Palisades Park,” (#3 hit written by Chuck Barris who hosted TV’s Gong Show), “Transistor Sister,” “Abigail Beacher,” and “Action” (theme song of the TV show Where the Action Is). Cannon also appeared in various movies, including the UK produced Just for Fun and Village of the Giants, which featured a young Beau Bridges and Ron Howard. He also appeared on the TV soap opera Never Too Young.
Opening the show are The Yesterdaze, New Jersey’s premier oldies band.
For tickets or more information, call the State Theatre ticket office at 732-246-SHOW (7469), or visit www.StateTheatreNJ.org.
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