1960s

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Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

Published February 20, 2017 by Maryanne

tommy-james-photo-from-carolTommy James (Photo used courtesy of Carol Ross-Durborow)

This article originally appeared in The Verona/Cedar Grove News (New View Media)

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Tommy James, said he is “very honored” to be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame, which will be held in Asbury Park in May. The Cedar Grove iconic musician has 23 gold records, nine platinum albums, and over 100 million records sold worldwide.

“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Draggin’ the Line,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Hanky Panky” are just a few of his many hit records. His songs have been covered by other famous artists like Prince, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Dolly Parton, REM, Carlos Santana, and The Boston Pops.

James’ music is heard in 31 films to date and numerous television shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Aquarius.” You can also hear James’ songs in commercials. His “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is now the theme song for Crystal Cruise Line.

Born in Ohio and brought up in Michigan, James has been living in New Jersey almost 45 years. He’s lived in Clifton, and now resides in Cedar Grove. “I love it in New Jersey,” he said. “The weather’s moderate. The people are fun. It’s right by New York, where I have to be. I don’t think I can operate anywhere else. You’ve got the ocean, New York, Philadelphia. You’re in the center of the universe. Nothing is like New Jersey.”

While James has spent such a long time in New Jersey, he’s been in the music business even longer – 50 years! Regarding his endurance in the biz, he said, “I look at three generations of people in concert audiences. The music has never not been on the radio. I’ve been very blessed.”

James started playing music when he was 4-years-old and his grandfather brought him a ukulele. “I learned everything I could,” he said. “I started singing right away.”

His mom, who played piano, got James an acoustic guitar after he saw Elvis on TV. “The ukulele went out the window,” he said jokingly.

In addition to Elvis Presley, James was greatly inspired by the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll. “Gene Vincent … Buddy Holly,” he said. “Then The Beatles came along.”

Always encouraged by his folks, James taught himself to play acoustic, then graduated to playing an electric at the age of 10. He started his first band at 12, and got his first gig at 13. James graduated high school in 1965 and by 1966 his first hit, with The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” exploded.

“That’s how the good Lord works,” said James.

As a writer of so many hits, James says that inspiration for a song can come from anywhere. “I’m always looking on billboards for a little phrase,” he said. “I like to start with chord progression and it will tell you where it wants to go. ‘Crimson and Clover’ started with a title.”

He feels lucky to have had so many other notable musicians’ interpretations of his music. “I’m very flattered,” he said. “It’s always interesting to hear how another artist covers your songs.” His favorite is Prince’s version of “Crimson and Clover.”

James’ critically acclaimed autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music,” was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Music Memoirs” and is now in the development for a film, with producer Barbara De Fina, whose credits include “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Cape Fear,” “Color of Money,” “Hugo,” and the most recent, Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence.”

Matthew Stone just finished the screenplay for the film. His credits include “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Man of the House,” and “Big Trouble.”

James may have a cameo appearance in the film. “I may be a corpse,” he said jokingly, referring to his career which is now spanning 50 years and still thriving.

Now working in the studio on a new album, “Alive,” James expects an April release. “This is an album with eight new songs and four remakes,” he said, “A lot of nice little surprises.” One of the surprises includes an acoustic remake of “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Being able to thrive in the music business for 50 years and still have fun makes James feel so lucky. He said, “It’s been an amazing journey to be a lifer in this business. The fans, and the good Lord, I thank for the longevity and staying focused. That has meant a lot.”

For more information, visit: https://www.tommyjames.com/

 

 

Herman’s Hermits/Gary Lewis and The Playboys Show 9-9-2016

Published September 10, 2016 by Maryanne

peter-noone

Peter Noone autographed album to me and my husband

A super fabulous show was put on last night at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Note, while I love the shows that are put on at this venue, I am truly disgusted with PNC Bank Arts Center. The workers there behave like ex-cons pushing their weight around and yelling at people, telling them not to dance. Hello!!!!! This was an “oldies” show and most of the people there were seniors; this was not a Marilyn Manson concert — no need for the over-obsessive “security”!! Imagine such behavior from so-called professionals. And at the end of the show, I was innocently waiting at a table in the concession area while my husband was in the bathroom. All the lights were still on, which meant that it was still OPEN. One ugly bitch who worked there told me that I had to LEAVE. She was completely out of line! Even my husband, who is the most mellow person on the planet was pissed about her attitude towards me. SHAME ON PNC BANK ARTS CENTER!) 

But, back to the show, hosted by radio DJ favorite, Cousin Brucie, who always does a great job as emcee to these shows each year. The Cousin Brucie theme song was done by The Four Seasons and was played during Cousin Brucie’s time onstage.

First up was Gary Lewis and the Playboys! Gary Lewis is the son of comedian Jerry Lewis, who is now 90-years-old. The band was excellent. They did their hits, plus hits from other artists of the 1960s. Interesting side note “This Diamond Ring” was co-written by the late Irwin Levine who was a NJ resident.

Gary Lewis is 70-years-old and looked incredible. He was very high-energy, as was the rest of the band.

Lewis opened up with Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon’s “Palisades Park” and did such a great job, he seemed to own it.

It was one great hit after another and my absolute favorite song was “Green Grass.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtMbgt2zzno

Next up was Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone. This was the third time I saw Peter Noone perform and the best of all! Noone was incredibly entertaining doing a comedy routine in-between songs, imitating Mick Jagger and Johnny Cash (which was incredible). He also joked a lot about New Jersey.  It’s wild that he knows our area so well, making jokes about Sussex County, the Newark Airport, Hackensack and so on. He had the audience in stitches.

My favorite songs of the set were “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and “There’s a Kind of Hush.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79-dAhFu9vE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frTD7txjdds

Peter Noone still sounded like a teenager — and ran around the stadium like a teenager, shaking hands with fans. I shook his hand twice during the show and once afterwards when my husband and I met him after the show. We scored the “Blaze” album which Noone autographed for us.

It was an honor meeting an artist I listened to when I was a little girl — “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” on a 45-RPM record. In the early 1970s I was only 9-years-old and had a much younger cousin who was wise beyond her years. She said that song was “sad.” I never thought of it as being sad at the time, I just loved the melody. Then last night, listening as an older woman, it choked me up a bit — yes, it is a beautiful, sad song. ❤

For more information on Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, visit: https://peternoone.com/

For more information on Gary Lewis visit: http://www.garylewisandtheplayboys.com/ 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available in paperback only on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

The Rip Chords, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and Ron Dante at Jonathan Dayton High, Springfield, NJ

Published August 17, 2016 by Maryanne

SAM_0928Ron Dante

Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, Jonathan Dayton High School, Springfield, New Jersey, hosted a five-star musical extravaganza featuring The Rip Chords, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and Ron Dante.

The Rip Chords (http://www.theripchords.net/) — starring Richie Rotkin, Arnie Marcus, Mitch Schecter, Amy Lynne, Tony Tuttle, Mike Kelly and Randy Dance — were first up and wowed the audience with their classic surf/hot rod sounds. They performed their hits “Hey Little Cobra,” and “409” as well as a bunch of tunes from other artists of their era including a stand-out performance of Amy Lynne singing “Vacation.”

Original member Richie Rotkin was an exciting front man, showing off his groovin’ dance moves and later going into the audience shaking hands with fans. All members played instruments exclusive to the era, including the amps, creating an authentic sound.

Next up was The 1910 Fruitgum Company (http://www.1910fruitgumcompany.com/) with line-up: Frank Jeckell (original guitarist), Mick Mansueto, Glenn Lewis, Bob Brescia, and Keith Crane.

This is one of my favorite live bands of all-time. I started seeing them about 15 years ago when they first reunited and still had original  drummer Floyd Marcus in the band at Tierney’s in Montclair, New Jersey. Since then, I must have seen them at least 10 more times and it never gets old. I had their records when I was a little girl and to this day my favorite songs are “Simple Simon” and “1-2-3 Red Light” which they do at every show. Other tunes in their set include: “Kicks” and “Midnight Confessions.” This band is just so much fun and so full of life. You’ll always be greatly entertained.

Finally the legendary Ron Dante was up (http://www.rondante.com/). He’s best known for singing for The Archies and The Cuff Links.

The 1910 Fruitgum Company stayed onstage to back Dante up, which was a perfect fit. Last month I saw Ron Dante perform two songs at an outdoor concert before the show got rained out (though I was thrilled to dance to “Sugar Sugar” in the rain!) This time fans got to see the full show and it was amazing. In addition to “Sugar Sugar,” Dante performed his hit “Tracy,” a song that always sent chills up my spine; it’s just an adorable love song. Dante also sang some of the jingles he wrote, like the theme for Almond Joy. Finally, he brought the house down with the grand finale of “Johnny B. Good.” His vocals sounded just as pristine as the records; a true class act.

With three great acts, the night ended way too soon.

After the show all band members stuck around for a meet and greet. It was my honor to get to meet all these legends; some for the first time and others again. When you’re in the company of musicians you loved since you were a kid, it’s always fun and magic!

SAM_0938From left: Frank Jeckell, Ron Dante, Me, Mick Mansueto, and Keith Crane

Thanks to Mick for arranging this magical spur of the moment shot! 

SAM_0916Richie Rotkin and Me — He’s awesome! 

SAM_0941Two handsome fellows; my husband Dennis and Ron Dante.

Thanks Ron for signing these rarities! 

Check out their websites for upcoming shows — these acts are not to be missed! — and background information, as this is all the REAL DEAL! ❤

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available on Amazon in paperback only: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

1910 Fruitgum Company and Ron Dante Show Rained-Out

Published July 4, 2016 by Maryanne

SAM_05961910 Fruitgum Company

For nine years, every July 4th my husband Dennis and I loved going to see The 1910 Fruitgum Company at a park in Springfield, New Jersey, and this was the first year it got rained out after only a few songs!

From the get-go it didn’t look too good in the sky and for some reason the band started a half hour later than they were supposed to. (We actually got there early thinking maybe they’d start the show early because of the rain).

The band only got to do a few songs including their hits “Goody Good Gumdrops” and “Indian Giver” before the rain started. Original member Frank Jeckell jokingly put a towel over his head.

SAM_0602Original 1910 Fruitgum Company member Frank Jeckell

While the 1910 Fruitgum Company played in the rain, my husband noticed the legendary Ron Dante (of The Archies) standing by the side of the stage. We walked over to meet him. He was awesome! He signed one of my husband’s CDs and took a picture with me.

SAM_0601Ron Dante and me

After The 1910 Fruitgum Company cut their set short (so short I didn’t get to hear my two favorite songs, “1-2-3 Red Light” and “Simon Says”) Ron Dante came onstage, backed by The 1910 Fruitgum Company and did “I Want Candy.”

The rain was really coming down at this point, so he cut to the chase and did his biggest hit “Sugar Sugar.”

At least I got to dance to part of the legendary song before the sound guy pulled the plug.

My husband and I came home soaking wet, but we had FUN!

Oh, is that fireworks I hear — or thunder?

Happy Fourth of July

Rest in Peace Alan Young, 96

Published May 21, 2016 by Maryanne

alan-young-mr-ed-05202016Alan Young and Mr. Ed

Such sad news today to read from CNN that actor Alan Young, 96, died of natural causes: http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/20/entertainment/alan-young-obit/index.html

Alan Young was best known for his role of Wilbur on the Mr. Ed show which ran in the 1960s. I recently discovered the show and enjoyed watching it almost every morning on Antenna TV.

Rest in peace, Alan Young, you were beloved! ❤

Here is the very first episode where Wilbur meets Mr. Ed:

Alan Young’s book “Mister Ed and Me and More!” can be purchased on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mister-Ed-More-Alan-Young/dp/0979740401

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of Love Cats available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback versions: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513

Thanks Boonton Library!

Published December 2, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_9276Maryanne Mistretta and Stephanie Gabelmann

Thanks so much to Stephanie Gabelmann and The Boonton Holmes Library (http://www.boontonholmeslibrary.org) for hosting my presentation “Going Going Gone: What the Next Generation Won’t Remember.”

Synopsis for “Going Going Gone”

Since the year 2000, we’ve gained iPhones, GPSs, Twitter, Facebook and many other services and devices.

However, we’ve also lost some things that we’ve grown up with. In “Going Going Gone” Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta will take a walk down memory lane and talk about products that are either on their way out the door, or absolutely obsolete.

Some may actually surprise you!

Items included are: VHS video tapes, phone booths (and making phone calls in general!), travel agents, bookstores, newspapers and classified ads, wristwatches, maps, dial-up internet, encyclopedias, CDs, landline phones, film cameras, yellow pages and address books, and hand written letters.

Which of these items do you miss?

Christiano-Mistretta will also jolt your memory remembering some cool products of yesteryear such as the typewriter, the record player and Polaroid cameras.

Come share your views in this interactive lecture! Audience participation is greatly encouraged.

This presentation is available to libraries, senior groups, non-profit organizations, Jewish Community Centers, and rotary clubs. Please contact Maryanne for pricing and availability at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

Guest Hosting WRAT’s Electric Ballroom with Keith Roth

Published November 10, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_8643With Keith Roth, September 2015

THIS Sunday, November 15, 8 p.m. New Jersey friends and family can listen! I’m co-hosting The Electric Ballroom, WRAT 95.9 FM with Keith Roth!

From Keith Roth: Electric Ballroom ,11-15-15, This Sunday, 8:00 PM Eastern,Co-Host,Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta,She returns to the Ballroom, with the Release of Her Book (Love Cats),will discuss The Book,as well as Her upcoming Books,The 80’s and More,Also Giveaway’s of The New Rolling Stones,From The Vaults ,Tokyo 1990, CD/DVD!!! we came up with a Great Playlist that Includes The Clash,The Monkees,Lou Reed,David Bowie, Lou Christie,Joey Ramone,Tom Jones,The Smiths,NY Dolls,T-Rex,The Sweet,Rolling Stones,Alice Cooper, Ramones,Tommy James,New Dictators NYC,Love & Rockets,Pretenders,Bauhaus,The Cure,The Damned, Rocket From The Tombs,Lords Of The New Church and More!!! Come On Now ,What A Show,What A Show!!!!! NJ/NY WRAT 95.9 FM, wrat.com click on listen live!

“Love Cats” is available on Amazon in paperback or kindle versions: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1681020513

My first book “On the Guest List” is also on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X