tommy james and the shondells

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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/

 

 

Tommy James/Gary Puckett Double Bill at PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ

Published September 20, 2014 by Maryanne

Tommy James Gary PuckettTwo legends! Tommy James & Gary Puckett

(I swiped this from Gary Puckett’s Face Book page — hope it’s okay!)

Last night was phenomenal! Very rare do you get to see two legendary acts in one night. My husband Dennis and I were waiting for this night all summer!

It was a perfect late summer night, a bit chilly, but nothing a hoodie and blanket couldn’t cure. The show was hosted by the legendary Cousin Brucie.

Gary Puckett hit the stage around 8:30 or so and played a very long time. He did all of his hits “Over You,” “Woman, Woman,” “Young Girl,” and “This Girl is a Woman Now.” Plus he did a medley of hits from bands he toured with in recent years like Three Dog Night and The Turtles. He also did a tribute to the veterans and at the end of his show thanked God for the glory.

Puckett’s voice is still amazing and he can also pull off hits of other artists. And he looks just as good — at 71 he could easily pass for late 40s. After the show my husband and I went to meet him at the merchandise table and he was very down to earth.

This was another one of many times my husband and I went to see Tommy James perform. Once again, he did not disappoint. He did all his great tunes, including my favorites “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “Crimson and Clover.” He did “I Think We’re Alone Now” twice — acoustic and electric.

He also spoke about the upcoming movie based on his life and his journey with Roulette Records. Can’t wait!

We didn’t stick around to meet Tommy because it was getting very late and I had to present a lecture this morning. We met Tommy a few times before, plus I once had the honor to interview him. I’m sure we’ll meet Tommy again someday though.

Thanks for a fabulous show, Tommy James and Gary Puckett! For songs that gave me chills when I was a little girl and too young to know what you’re singing about. But, boy, I was feeling it!

The stadium was packed with over 17,000 people! And out of all those people, we were lucky to spot our friends Mair and Paul!

SAM_6054Mair and me!

Here’s a little magic for you all!

GARY PUCKETT

TOMMY JAMES

And one of my favorite songs Tommy never does (at least not when I’ve seen him). If you are reading this, Tommy, please do “I Love You Love Me!”

“On the Guest List” PUBLISHED!

Published February 6, 2014 by Maryanne

Cover proof 4Cover design by Darlene Foster

back cover proof 2

I did it! “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” is now published.

You can purchase directly from my publisher, Next Century: http://www.nextcenturystore.com/on-the-guest-list-adventures-of-a-music-journalist.html

Or on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/162903908X

I’m super duper excited and even more happy because of all the support I received along the way.

I’m booked to be on a few radio shows. The release party is still in the planning stages.

Yay!

“On the Guest List” will be released later this month and sold on Amazon!

Published January 8, 2014 by Maryanne

Cover proof 4“On the Guest List” cover design by Darlene Foster

Well, the time has finally arrived! I found a publisher I am excited to be working with and “On the Guest List” will be released and sold on Amazon later this month (as a book only, I am not into Kindle, as to keep with the retro groove of the book and adventures in it!)

People are asking me about book release parties and author expos, etc. Not sure if that’s my scene as I view “On the Guest List” as more of a work of art, than a book, as it’s not coordinated by chapters, but by song titles. Some gave advice along the way, but I disregarded that and went with my heart. I am so happy I did so.

That said, I highly doubt I’ll be on the author’s circuit schmoozing and selling. “On the Guest List” is my precious muse and as Sid Vicious once said, “I did it my way.” And I will continue to do it “my way” thinking out of the box and coming up with ideas not to sell the most books, but to touch the most people who will connect with the book, no matter how big or small that circle is. Not to mention, there’s the whole anti-bullying angle, so I highly look forward to lecturing in schools and conventions about anti-bullying, as I do want to give back to the community as much as possible.

Like so many other generous people, I want to “save the world.” And if my book helps prevent JUST ONE bullied child from committing suicide, my work is done.

What I am thrilled about will be selling my books at Resintopia (http://www.resintopia.com/)  later this year, supporting my good friend Vin Bordogna who is the CEO and founder of the operation. When good people work together, nothing but good comes out of it — and that excites me to no end.

Enjoy the back cover pictured below.. This is the first time I posted it on this blog. Darlene Foster (http://www.darlenefoster.com/) went above and beyond the call of duty. And I’m honored beyond belief that I was able to score such positive endorsements from people whose work I’ve admired throughout my life!

Well, count down … it’s only a matter of weeks now!

back cover proof 2

“On the Guest List” Sneak Preview Book Cover!

Published November 15, 2013 by Maryanne

Cover proof 4(Cover Design by Darlene Foster, photo by Ed O’Brien)

Hello All!

I am absolutely thrilled by all the hard work Darlene Foster (www.darlenefoster.com) did in putting together the cover for my upcoming book, “On the Guest List.”

She was truly an asset to my vision and went above and beyond my expectations.

It’s such a blessing to have such creative people involved in my vision.

The next several months I’ll be poking around seeking the perfect self-publishing company and plan on having my book out by Spring 2014.

I’ve hired a couple promoters and check out my Face Book page – I’m thrilled by all the positive comments! https://www.facebook.com/maryanne.christianomistretta.1

So, moving along as planned!

Tommy James & Shondalls/Jefferson Starship, Ocean Grove Auditorium

Published July 21, 2013 by Maryanne

SAM_1690Tommy James and The Shondells

My husband Dennis treated me to a most wonderful evening, seeing Tommy James and The Shondells, at Ocean Grove Auditorium, which is actually a huge church!

This was our third time seeing Tommy James. It was amazing, as always! He opened up with “Draggin the Line,” followed by my favorite “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” Also did “Ball of Fire,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Crimson and Clover” (which was electrifying when they put the special effects on his vocal!) “Hanky Panky” … during “Mony Mony” he jumped into the audience and shook hands and met fans. He was out there about 15 minutes while the band played, trying to meet as many people as possible. He was so awesome for doing that. He ended the show with “Sweet Cherry Wine” and told the audience that “Jesus is Coming!” (as he’s done before, it’s no secret that Tommy James is a Christian!)

Jefferson Starship was the warm-up act. Original founder Paul Kantner is still in the group and Cathy Richardson takes on the role of Grace Slick. Richardson’s voice was powerful and she was a true rock ‘n’ roller. This was my second time seeing Jefferson Starship. (The first time was around 2002, I think). My favorites were “White Rabbit,” “Somebody to Love,” and “Runaway.”

It was another super hot night in New Jersey. I danced so much and really worked up a sweat!

During intermission we ran into Tommy James’ manager Carol and chatted with her. Also ran into our friends Glen and Gina. After the show we caught up with them again, all walked the boardwalk together and then had a beer.

The Specials also played at Stone Pony last night. The four of us were considering that show, but Gina found out it was over already. We had so much fun though regardless. Lots of laughs and music chats.

It was a fantastic, five-star evening! I am so high!

 

Jukebox Dreamin’

Published May 6, 2013 by Maryanne

tommy-james-and-the-shondells-crystal-blue-persuasion-rouletteDon’t you just love when you hear songs in your dreams?

Last night I heard two of my favorite songs while sleeping.

First up was “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” by Lou Christie. Now Lou Christie is one of my favorite singers of all time. I’ve discovered him within the past five years. He was a 1960s artist. I remember “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” as a little kid. But a few years ago, while listening to a transistor radio on the beach with my husband, we heard “The Gypsy Cried.” The lyrics freaked me out, but then I heard the song again and fell in love with it. I was like, “We have to see this dude!” We saw him live, twice (the second time I got to shake his hand!) Lou Christie is amazing because he wrote most of his songs as a teenager, with a woman who was twice his age named Twyla Herbert (who is now deceased). The Christie/Herbert song writing team was off-the-hook!

That man never ceases to amaze me because there is so little interviews you can find — so he remains mysterious. From his vibe onstage, he just seems like a lot of fun. If I was ever to hang out with someone, I wish it could be Lou Christie.

All that said, I have about four of his CDs, including the conceptional “Paint America Love” album, which has many obscure songs you never here. Every Lou Christie song is a true work of art — a masterpiece. But I have to say “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” is my all time favorite. That song has that extra something-something.

Note the production perfection:  the backing vocals, the snake rattle and even how it picks up after the break. I’d love for a modern band like HIM to re-do this one, slow it down and make the production even more vast. A slower version would allow the listener to have a creepier take on the lyrics (which are very stalker-ish, yet the way Lou sings it’s cute).

Lou is very easy on the eye. He looks like a Val Kilmer upgrade even though Lou came first 🙂

ENJOY:

Lou Christie: “I’m Gonna Make You Mine.”

I gotta hand it to my mind, the follow-up song in my dream was “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells, another one of my favorite songs! If I was a 1960s radio DJ, I do believe this song would be the perfect follow up to “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” because it’s equally as great and even though slower, it keeps of the momentum of greatness.

I wrote about Tommy James recently for his birthday, so I won’t go on too much about him, but I will say “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is about the coming of Jesus Christ — not about crystal meth! Better get ready!

Enjoy this most gorgeous song:

Tommy James & the Shondells – “Crystal Blue Persuasion”