the characters

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The British Invaded Mendham on July Fourth Weekend

Published August 3, 2016 by Maryanne

carnaby streetCarnaby Street

This article originally appeared in the Mendham News. 

The British Invaded Mendham on July Fourth Weekend

By Maryanne Christiano Mistretta

It was the 1960s British Invasion all over again Sunday, June 3, when New Jersey rock outfit Carnaby Street performed at the Borough Park Gazebo in Mendham. Over 200 people, of all ages, and all areas, gathered together to enjoy Mendham’s picturesque park setting.

The band executed spot-on recollections of British artists such as Herman’s Hermits “Something Good,” The Zombies “Time of the Season,” The Kinks “Well Respected Man,” The Rolling Stones, “Out of Time,” and an epic rendition of The Who’s “See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You” which had about a dozen happy kids dancing and doing gymnastics on the well groomed lawn in front of the pergola.

After a 90 minute set, Carnaby Street ended the show with a magnificent tribute of Simon and Garfunkle’s “America” in honor of Independence Day.

“That was my favorite,” said 5-year-old Fiona Carty, enthusiastically. “It made me feel good.”

Ten-year-old Lexie Hammel added, “That was my favorite too. I liked the music and it was fun to dance.”

After the show, excitable children ran to the stage asking the band members for autographs. But this is nothing new to Carnaby Street singer and guitarist, Chris Roselle, of Bordentown, who has been playing professionally since 1982, right after he graduated high school.

His first band was The Characters. “We played in New Jersey doing covers then went to all originals,” said Roselle. “We played the Dirt Club and were on the original circuit.”

In 1986 The Characters had an opportunity to perform at the 20th Anniversary Monkees Convention, which coincided with The Monkees reunion tour – which helped skyrocket The Characters popularity. The Characters also cut an album with Chip Douglas from The Turtles, who also produced The Monkees.

Roselle officially stayed with The Characters, fronted and led by Danny Solazzi, until 1987. Today The Characters still perform regularly on the NJ club circuit, as well as at The Monkees Conventions and other retro conventions such as The Brady Bunch conventions. On occasion Roselle will resume his original post in the band to help out.

In addition to playing lead guitar/vocals in Carnaby Street, Roselle also plays lead guitar and sings with Rave On, a Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison tribute band.

Carnaby Street has been around since 1995, with Roselle joining the following year. The band is based around the British Invasion music and other artists of the 1960s. “It’s just a love for that music,” Roselle said.

In addition to Roselle, Carnaby Street is made up of Dino DiMartino of Madison, on drums and vocals; and Pete Bremy of Stanhope, on bass guitar and vocals. Chris Breetveld of Maplewood was the substitute bassist for Sunday night’s show.

Roselle’s love for music began as a child. He started out listening to old school country music like Johnny Cash and Buck Owens. “My intro to music was what my father was listening to,” he said. “Then I found Elvis and The Beatles.”

He got his first guitar at 12 and started playing with guys in the neighborhood doing Beatles songs. “Not singing,” Roselle said. “Learning the instruments.”

Roselle was raised in a musical family. His father played guitar and his mother played piano. But Roselle was the only one that took it to a professional level.

Though Roselle put out a solo project 10 years ago, he feels he’s better at interpreting other people’s songs rather than writing his own. He said, “Johnny Rivers was notorious for that; Elvis too. Not to put me on those guys’ levels. I’m not a songwriter, that’s all.”

He continued, “My purpose of doing Carnaby Street and Rave On – this is my way of carrying the torch. Even though we did a CD of Roy Orbison, I want people to listen to the original songs.”

For more information on Carnaby Street visit:

For more information on Mendham community events visit:

 Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist.” Her book is available on Amazon:

Rave on!

Published August 17, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_8250Rave On!

(Photo by Maryanne Mistretta)

Last night was another one filled with great entertainment. This time we stayed local and saw Rave On! (a Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison tribute act).

Rave On is made up of Chris Roselle: Guitar and lead vocals; Pete Farley: Bass and background vocals; and Don Guinta: Drums and background vocals.

This band was fantastic! And as a treat for music lovers, they did the more obscure songs like “Heartbeat” by Buddy Holly, which I knew as a song by The Knack in the 1980s. My favorite picks of the night were both by Roy Orbison: “In Dreams,” and “Crying.” They also did some Elvis songs, “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and “Suspicious Minds.”

When I found the website, I didn’t know Chris’s last name … and turned out he was a friend of my husbands! A cool side note here … Chris changed my life! One night, back in 2008, we were at a car show with Chris and our other friend Danny (singer for The Characters: Chris shared that he was self-employed as a musician since 1986. He inspired me to quit my job as a journalist at a Montclair newspaper and work for myself. Ever since I’ve written and published two books and helped at least 10 people write their own books. You never know when someone can inspire you to change your life!

But back to the music … Rave On also warmed up for Lou Christie the other night — the show we were at! However, we got there too late and missed it.

For more information, visit Rave On’s website:

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist:

The Characters Perform Brady Bunch Convention

Published August 17, 2014 by Maryanne

SAM_5642You know who this guy is!

I was thrilled when my husband’s friend Danny Solazzi invited us as his guest to see The Characters perform at the Brady Bunch convention at The Hilton in East Rutherford, NJ.

From the first time I saw The Characters many years ago, I was hooked. Danny is the best front man — full of life and has an incredible voice. And as a cover band, they choose the best songs, songs you just won’t hear other bands doing. Though you should check out originals by The Characters too on their CDs, as they are just an all around top notch act!

Over the years my husband Dennis and I saw The Characters many times. Dennis also filled in as a bassist a few times. We always had so much fun.

Last night we got to the convention early and Barry Williams was doing a Brady Bunch tribute commentary. He sung “Days of Our Lives” (by Queen) while showing home videos of The Brady Bunch on location over the years.

When The Characters hit the stage, Barry Williams hung out a bit, getting into the tunes from the side of the stage.


The set list was massive. Many 1960s and 1970s pop hits were squeezed into a two-hour set: “Photograph” (Ringo Star), “Not Unusual” by Tom Jones, “Banana Splits Theme Song,” “I Think I Love You” (Partridge Family), “Knock Three Times” (Tony Orlando & Dawn), and “More Today Than Yesterday,” to name a few.

Mid-way to the show, The Characters did a few Monkees songs and Emily Dolenz, daughter of Monkees legend, Mickey, joined Danny onstage and sang and danced with him; and then got teary eyed during “Daydream Believer” as many in the audience also did, including myself.

SAM_5699Danny Solazzi & Emily Dolenz

Emily Dolenz was the life of the party, danced to almost every song and danced with everyone, including me! She was smiling non-stop and posing for pictures with fans. A lovely, beautiful young lady!

SAM_5688Me and Emily Dolenz

SAM_5678In the moment! Everyone loves The Characters!

SAM_5721Danny & Emily chatting after the show. Her dad performed on a Characters CD.

SAM_5722Great friends, Danny & Dennis

This was definitely a fun night to remember. High energy all around. Everyone was dancing, non-stop. People were friendly. It was just a good energy evening. After the show it was fun hanging out with Danny and other band members, including Danny Roselle (keyboards) of Waking Heroes. I’ll make a mental note to see The Characters again real soon. It’s just been too long!

As my husband and I were walking out, we spotted Susan Olsen (who played Cindy Brady) lounging in the bar with friends.

Always Musicians

Published March 2, 2013 by Maryanne

ian-mitchell-bay-city-rollerIan Mitchell of Bay City Rollers (photo swiped from Google search)

Last night my husband and I were talking about our childhood crushes and he asked me if I ever had a crush on a television star or if it was always musicians.

It was always musicians.

A late bloomer, I didn’t have my first real crush until I was about 11- or 12-years-old and it was on Ian Mitchell of The Bay City Rollers. He was just the cutest thing and I started buying all the 1970s Tiger Beats and 16 magazines just to have a lot of pictures of him. Ian Mitchell wasn’t an original Roller as he was first featured on their “Dedication” album.

Shortly after that musician crush, I moved on to Freddie Mercury of Queen. A classmate said that I “go from one extreme to the other.”

Freddie MercuryFreddie Mercury

My crush on Freddie Mercury lasted at least two years from ages 12 to 14. Again, I went crazy with the magazines, but Freddie Mercury wasn’t in 16 and Tiger Beat, I had to move on to Creem, Circus and Hit Parader. Soon all the pictures of Ian on my wall were replaced with Freddie Mercury pictures and posters. I got all the Queen albums and stole my mom’s vitamins, thinking they would help me stay awake to watch Queen on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, which came on at 1 a.m. on Saturday night.

I still have my year book album and the entry a friend wrote, “I hope you marry Freddie Mercury someday.”

Crushes on musicians soon became a reality because from my first boyfriend onward it was always musicians. And if someone I was interested in wasn’t a musician he  had to at least have a record collection bigger than mine or the relationship was doomed by me being bored with him.

Music is my favorite thing in the world and there is just something so special about a person with musical talent. Maybe subconsciously because I fail in this area, having no rhythm or even the desire to pick up an instrument — even after trying so many: guitar, violin, viola, keyboard, singing lessons, the best I can do is sing back-up or write lyrics (at least they are GOOD lyrics!)

I also think, as an independent kind of person, a musician naturally respects that independence. I think a lot of women would agree that it’s annoying if someone counts on you 24/7 to make his life complete. That kind of energy is just undo-able! It’s nice that if you feel you want to read a book or something, your significant other can go off in his studio and practice a song.

Music is such a God-given talent and I’m always impressed by people (both men and women) who can express themselves musically. As much as I love art and reading and even yoga as an art, music will always be my favorite thing in the creative field.

People who gravitate to music whether they have an actual talent, or just a great appreciation as I do (having a huge music collection and an extreme need to hear  live music as often as possible), seem to be the most sensitive, easiest to talk to, most caring, most amazing people. And funny as hell, I might add. (What’s that saying, every musician wishes he could be a comedian?)

There are those who keep up with the Joneses, but I prefer to keep up with the Tom Joneses and the Davy Joneses. So I have a confession to make: if I can’t talk music with someone, I just ain’t interested!

Many years ago when I was very young (early 20s) and super single (as in no prospects at all on the horizon!) one of my young co-workers wanted to fix me up with someone. When she showed me his photo I was impressed. He looked like a young Elvis. And then he was even cuter in person. He was kind and generous, treating our table of six to a wonderful meal. But when I asked him the magic question, “What kind of music do you like?” He said he didn’t know.

What kind of answer was that? I knew we weren’t going to get far and I didn’t even kiss him goodnight. I mean, this guy was a total catch — for another lovely young lady, but not for me.

I need to talk music!

Oh yeah … over the years I’ve dated actors, artists, other writers, but always came back to musicians. It is true, music makes the world go ’round. While most young women dream of a romantic dinner, my favorite dates were always concerts, whether it was in an arena or just seeing a local band in a dive bar. Music is, was and always will be the romantic back-drop to my life. And my soundtracks are endless. Each and every song I know reminds me of a story (or several stories) of my life.

Now I’m not saying that EVERY musician is the cat’s meow. Oh no, definitely not! I’ve dated quite a few “winners” (meaning “losers”) that were musicians. For instance, there was one, no TWO actually, who were such ego maniacs that they got offended if I listened to any music other than THEIRS! (Eww, right?)

And then there was another who was so high on himself he actually said he thanked his mother for being so good-looking. Eww, again!

And then what’s that saying, “What do you call a drummer without a girlfriend?” HOMELESS! It is so true that to the stereotype that SOME musicians are moochers, as well as cheaters, and flakes, and stalkers and everything else you’ve heard. But that is true with everyone (male and female alike). You just have to find that jewel in the haystack and then life is super duper good!

So while some relationships with musician were horrific, there were several that I’ll have great memories because they were simply cool and treated me right. It’s all about respect and I’m always happy knowing that even if someone wasn’t “THE ONE” I could still have that mutual respect and enjoy myself for as long as the mutual infatuation lasted. And when I see these dudes in bars or what not, I will always say “Hey, how ya doing?” It’s all good and I always wish them the best.

In spite of all the stereotypes, there are a ton of musicians out there who are hard-working, stable, loving, adoring, loyal and family-oriented. Deep down, I always knew this!

I finally met the musician of my dreams when I hooked up with my husband late 2005. Actually, I knew my husband since I was a teenager, as I used to follow his band Pharoah. And for about six months I was part of their theatrical stage show, but Dennis and I never really had a long conversation, it was more like, “Hey, how are you?” I always thought he was cute though, but neither of us were ever available. I always had a boyfriend and he always had a girlfriend.

In late 2005, Pharoah played a benefit concert for the drummer, Nelson, who lost his wife to cancer. That was the first time Dennis and I actually had a real conversation and a few weeks later we started dating and became inseparable. The sparks just flew!

We married 11/9/11 and are so happy.

Maryanne at Pharoah showMe in front of my husband performing as Dennis Lords in his band, Pharoah

Dennis - Characters 2007Dennis playing with The Characters

One of the coolest things about my husband is that he’s not only a musician but a music fan! He is not intimated or jealous of other musicians, but rather in awe. Together we have the most massive collection of records and CDs.

We always have music playing in our home, both upstairs and downstairs. When we get ready to start our day, we’ll have blues or swing or The Monkees playing downstairs; and upstairs I’ll have the Sex Pistols or Sophie B. Hawkins or HIM.

We always go to live performances, especially in the summer when there are so many free concerts to take advantage of.

Once in a blue moon we’ll create together and write a song. We’re always having fun and being silly. We love taking long rides, listening to the radio and talking about anything and everything.

This is why I’m so happy all the time! My husband makes me complete in so many ways. He’s my go-to person when I’m sad and always there for me through thick and thin.

Parents may encourage their daughters to marry a doctor or a lawyer, but I say to be truly happy, marry a musician!