tommy james

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Why I Won’t Pay Big Money For Concerts

Published February 23, 2020 by Maryanne

Duran Duran concertMy husband and I at a Duran Duran show — FREE! 

I’ve been a music fan as soon as I knew what music was. Music was always playing in my house when I was a kid. And growing up, music was my priority in life. Mind you, I am not a musician; just a huge fan.

Concert going was always important to me. And even back in the day, growing up in an upper middle class family, tickets were overpriced. However, back then, you still had a fighting chance if you got to the mall early in the morning, you could score a front row seat for the regular ticket price before the scalpers got their grubby hands on them.

Then, things changed. You had no choice but to get tickets from scalpers. However, the most I paid to see a big name star, David Bowie, was $150 for 10th row center, during his Serious Moonlight Tour at Madison Square Garden in 1984.

David Bowie set the bar for me; he was worth it. And I subconsciously made a vow that I’d never pay more than $150 for a concert — over 30 years later, I stuck to it. The only other times I shelled out money close was $100 to see The Stones and $75 to see Prince.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen many big name concerts free because they were outdoors. OR, because, lucky, ambitious me, I was a journalist and was guest listed. And I have some friends in the music industry. And I married a musician. And I’m lucky. I’ve won tickets to see some great shows. And, last but not least, let’s not minimize the talent of our own friends who have made their way in the music industry on a smaller scale. Local talent should never be disregarded.

About 15 years ago I reconnected with a music loving friend I knew from high school. We went to many concerts together as teenagers; then a few as adults. She complimented me, saying that I was always up for a good time, and that I always had money to do things. She invited me to go to a concert with her that was well over $200. I declined. I couldn’t see the justification for paying that kind of money to see anyone when I’ve spent a lifetime of going to see music — GOOD MUSIC– for way less.

Here are some examples of great shows I’ve seen over the decades, for free, for winning, for being on the guest list (due to being a journalist or knowing someone), or for a real good deal. (Note: I’m not including concerts where people treated me as a gift).

Check it out….(note, all random off the top of my head, there are TONS more)

Free Outdoor Concerts

Elton John

Patti Smith

1910 Fruitgum Company

The Smithereens

Lou Christie

Tommy James

Gary Puckett

Ian Hunter

NY Dolls

Tom Tom Club

Peter Noone

Nancy Sinatra

The Turtles

Joan Jett

Chuck Berry

The Zombies

Sheila E.

And many, many more!

On The Guest List


Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks

The Pixies

The Plasmatics

Diamanda Galas

Duran Duran

Judy Collins

Roger McGuinn (The Byrds)

The Fab Faux

Tommy James

And many, many more!

Tickets I Won

Richard Barone (The Bongos)

Jeffrey Gaines

Rain (Beatles Tribute)

Probably more, but I can’t remember unless I go to my diaries.

(And don’t get me started on tickets I won but couldn’t attend for whatever reason, urgh! Still kicking myself for not going to see the late Hasil Adkins at Maxwell’s in Hoboken!)

Shows I paid $10 or less! 

Sierra Ferrell (upcoming artist, Rounder Records)

Ratt (1980s hair metal band)

Brute Force (Apple Records Recording Artist)

And many, many more!

Maybe I’m blessed, or just spoiled, but with so many great musical acts out there, and so many opportunities to see cheap or free shows, why should I shell out big bucks to ticket agencies? It’s definitely not necessary. Especially since, when you think about it, what goes up eventually must come down. Not to put anyone down–no way, I love these musicians way too much–but it’s just a great fact for us fans that in years to come, one of your favorites that was charging a ton of money in a large venue will perform for much less (or even free) in a smaller venue in years to come. Just a few years ago I saw Cher in a theatre in Maryland for under $40.

What was your favorite cheap or free concert? What was the most you ever spent on a concert? How do you justify it? 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at:

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit:

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here:

“The Gypsy Smiled” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, go here:


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:



Chuck Negron and Tommy James at PNC Bank Art Center

Published September 16, 2015 by Maryanne

SAM_8555Chuck Negron (photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

Another exciting night last night. My husband and I headed down to PNC Bank Arts Center to see Chuck Negron and Tommy James. My friend Lorraine saved us seats so we had fifth row, left.

Chuck Negron was up first. Neither of us saw him before. My husband saw Three Dog Night without Chuck when we first started dating and he called me and let me hear over the phone. And now, there we were, together, hearing so many legendary songs that we grew up with from the lead singer. My moment was “One is the Loneliest Number.” Other hits included: “Joy to the World,” and “Eli’s Coming.” Chuck’s voice was great, he looked fantastic and was a real hoot, keeping the audience in stitches with jokes. A real class act.

Chuck Negron’s site:

Next up was Tommy James. We saw him so many times before. I actually was lucky to interview him for The Verona Cedar Grove Times, as Tommy James is a New Jersey resident.

His show was incredible, as always. Early on, Tommy does my favorite, “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” which brings tears to my eyes. He also does an acoustic version of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and later an electric version. Other hits included “Crimson and Clover,” “Mony Mony,” “Hanky Panky,” and as a finale, “Sweet Cherry Wine,” with a nod to our Lord, “Jesus is Coming!”

During “Mony Money,” Tommy James walked into the audience of 17,000 and shook hands with fans.

Tommy James website:

Cousin Brucie was the emcee for the show; another sentimental treat as I grew up listening to his show. He’s a great host and makes the show even more exciting.

After the show, my husband and I saw Carmine Appice (  in the audience. We approached him and he was cool to let us take a photo. That was awesome because I had albums he played on when I was 13!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available on Amazon: and “Love Cats” which is available in paperback and on Kindle:

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!



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!”

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!


Happy Birthday Tommy James!

Published April 29, 2013 by Maryanne

tommy-james-and-mary-anneTommy James, Maryanne, 2011

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite artists, Tommy James!

In honor of his birthday, I am directing you to a blog I wrote last year on my other blog page, “Maryanne’s Jukebox” which describes my first experience going to see Tommy James perform back in 2010, and at the end includes an article I wrote about him that was published in several Patches online.

I truly feel that seeing Tommy James perform “Crystal Blue Persuasion” live planted a seed in me becoming a Christian. One day I was sitting in my car and heard “Crystal Blue Persuasion” started breaking down in tears and at that moment rededicated my life to Jesus Christ. Then just a few years later, I found my home church.

(Interesting side note, today I found a Christian magazine that needs writers — such a coincidence on Tommy James birthday! I’ll let you know what happens!)

Please enjoy my Jukebox page about Tommy:

When Christians Judge – Part Two

Published April 7, 2013 by Maryanne

Sissy Spacek - CarrieSissy Spacek “Carrie”

The past two days I was thinking a lot about how Christians turn people away by being judgmental, haughty and condescending.

If someone goes to another with a problem, it should be handled with love. It should not be taken as an opportunity to come across as Holier than Thou, making someone feel weak and small.

When I think of judgmental Christians, it reminds me so much of Piper Laurie’s character in “Carrie.”

Check it out:

It’s funny, but more so it’s sad.

When I think of judging Christians, I think it’s a missed opportunity to bring someone to Christ. It turns people off and makes them not want to be lumped in with others who are that way.

I know first hand because I was there myself. It took me a very long time to learn to focus on Christ, the church, the lessons — not the people, and especially not those who judge. We can say, “We’re human and we make mistakes” but honestly, I know so many people that aren’t as religious and spiritual but they are more inspiring because they really walk the walk.

This is why I always felt that God is an umbrella term for all things good and can come in the forms of many religions. This is why I am so proud that my church worked with other faiths on Martin Luther King Day and my pastor spoke in another church that also had a priest and a rabbi speak.

God is so vast that His black and white goes so far that it’s gray. God isn’t limited to one political belief. God isn’t a “cult” just for a bunch of followers who think you have to be a certain way to believe in Him. God is for everyone no matter where they are at in life.

Several months ago I was following “Couples Therapy.” There was a beautiful young woman on the show named Courtney Stodden. Courtney was just 17 and dressed very sexy. She also married a man who was old enough to be her dad.

Courtney is a Christian.

Maybe not someone you’d typically see in church because she is very outrageous in her style, but yes, she was a Christian. I adored watching Courtney on “Couples Therapy” because she was wise beyond her years, she was extremely kind to animals and she nurtured her husband in a way that was truly comforting. She was also very warm and loving to other couples on the show, but they were mean, judging her because of jealousy. I always felt bad for the kid and just wanted to give her a big hug. The others on the show were at least 10 years older than her, yet they judged her terribly without giving her a chance. And of course Courtney would get defensive and antagonize people who judged her. What do you expect? She was only 17!  How would you have reacted if people judged you at age 17? Right?

Courtney was an inspiration to me and she planted a seed.

Courtney StoddenBeautiful Courtney Stodden and husband Doug

My point is, and always was, even before I became a Christian — that you judge people by their soul, not by their clothes, their political beliefs, who they are dating, what kind of music they listen to, and even what their religion is — because in the end, it’s all God.

If God is always with you, then you can live each day seeing the beauty of things around you. Whether it’s your funny mom who is always cursing or that one oddball at a party who doesn’t quite fit in or a person in your work place that rubs you the wrong way … it’s up to YOU to up your game and make people feel wonderful and beautiful and welcome.

Your life can be anything you want it to be and judging others never gets someone very far because he/she is alienating and creating a clique, making Christianity seem exclusive and only for the select — when the message of God and Jesus Christ should be for EVERYONE!

Respect other religions and they will respect yours.

Respect people no matter what they look like and they will see the beauty in you! (Note: I’m just an average looking middle-aged woman, but so many people say that I’m good looking … well, it’s not me that’s pretty — it’s MY SOUL! I have a beautiful soul, that’s what you’re seeing.)

So there you have it …you never know who or what will inspire someone so don’t judge them because God is using them in ways you may not be open-minded enough to understand, but hopefully will be someday. While I had a few friends who inspired me to turn to Jesus, and I was so inspired by Tommy James, his beautiful song, “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” about Jesus Christ and yes, I was also inspired by Courtney Stodden! YAY! Thanks to all these seeds that were planted, now the tree is SOLID! I wake up every morning read the Bible and feel a true connection with Jesus Christ — thanks to all these little things over a few years, all adding up to one big thing!

People come to God in all ways — so we need all different types of Christians to inspire them!

Enjoy this beautiful song by Tommy James, it’s about Jesus:

Crystal Blue Persuasion

If this post inspired just ONE PERSON to not judge and to open their heart,  then it was worth typing all of this at 8 a.m. with only five hours sleep because I had so much fun last night being a Christian in the real world!

God bless and Happy Sunday!