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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/

 

 

I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are!

Published July 3, 2015 by Maryanne

records 2The best girls are diehard music fans!

Big truth here (and what my husband says makes me special ♥).

Whenever there’s an event, other wives/girlfriends run off to smoke a cigarette, take selfies in the bathroom, check their smart phones …. whatever! But I’m happy being left behind with my very good looking husband and all the other guys talking about MUSIC!

An interesting stereotype right? But 90 percent of the time it is true.

I’ve been a diehard music fan since I was a kid. (It’s all documented in my book “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X). And from day one, it was apparent that girls weren’t as interested in music as I was. One of my touchy little girlfriends scolded me saying I talked about Freddie Mercury too much. My mom said she was right.

I felt defeated until I realized, that’s exactly the kind of girl a guy likes — one who knows music. And for that very reason, I always had more guy friends than girlfriends. A guy once said to me, “Every girl wants to be told she’s different. But you … you’re really different!”

I wrote about this on Face Book yesterday and surprisingly, I got the “thumbs up” from quite a few of my female friends! It lead to an hour long conversation from one girl I was friends with in the 1990s. We took a walk down memory lane discussing all the bands we saw together and then shared the highlights of some of our favorites that we saw in later years. It was the most fun I had on Face Book in ages and I don’t see something like that happening again soon, as females bonding over music is rare. This is why, in my second book, “Love Cats” (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YBGVJQS/) I had two girlfriends, Janey and Valerie, being big music fans.  This way, the book could be more attractive to male readers who normally wouldn’t read chick lit.

Actor Scott Schiaffo, best known for his role as the Chewlies Man in Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” endorsed “Love Cats” saying, “Maryanne’s zeal for life and passion for creativity shines through in all of her work. Here in her first book of fiction she gives us multidimensional characters mitigating love and growing pains as they manicure their pop culture lifestyle at the tail end of the ’80s. It’s romance — Gen X style! I could not get enough of Janey and Beck.”

I was thrilled that Scott enjoyed my little romance novel. Of course with so many musical references you can’t go wrong when it comes to hip guys from the Gen X generation! And that’s just it … guys who are big music freaks really are the best guys. I always found musicians and music fans to be the deepest, smartest, funniest, dedicated and most honest. Sure, there are some that fit the stereotype of being cheaters and assholes, but there’s definitely more that are not. In our circle, all the musicians and music lovers are super guys that anyone would enjoy being around. Hey, maybe that’s why I don’t mind being left at bar with them!

So, ladies, perhaps I can inspire you … when your group runs off to wherever for whatever, why not stay behind? That’s where all the fun is!

Now enjoy some cool tunes:

My Guest Slot on Totally Driven Radio

Published May 2, 2014 by Maryanne

Totally Driven

I had such a great time promoting my book “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” on Bay Ragni’s show “Totally Driven.”

Host Bay Ragni was “totally awesome.” He knew so much about music and asked great questions. We talked about Joan Jett, Cyrinda Foxe, original Plasmatics drummer Stu Deutsch, me getting locked in Max’s Kansas and so much more!

The show is now archived so anyone can listen. I’m the first guest: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/totallydriven/2014/05/02/totally-driven-radio-78

And to purchase “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X

Merry Christmas From Maryanne’s Jukebox!

Published December 23, 2012 by Maryanne

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta (photo by Darlene Foster)

At WDVR-FM radio (Photo by Darlene Foster)

I HOPE EVERYONE GETS ALL THE MUSIC THEY WISHED FOR!

Here’s a few more of my Christmas favorites:

Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Jingle Bell Rock by Billy Idol

Mele Kalikimaka (By Bing Crosby)

Do You Hear What I Hear by Bing Crosby

Little Drummer Boy by Joan Jett

Feliz Navidad

Mamacita, Where is Santa Claus?

Father Christmas by The Kinks

Oi to The World – By No Doubt

Wonderful Christmas Time – Paul McCartney & Wings

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee

Marshmallow World – by Dean Martin

“Frosty the Snowman” The Ronettes

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) – The Ramones

A Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives

Mr. Grinch – Whirling Dervishes