Wednesday, October 29, 2014

More Tommy

First email in after our Tommy James concert review was posted came from Tommy's manager, Carol Ross ... a link to our review was then posted on Tommy's site as well.  (How VERY cool is that?!?!)  
Hey, we had a great time (and I think Tommy did, too!) so we wanted to help spread the word.  
Carol mentions a new web series called "Inside Tracks with Tommy James" where Tommy tells you himself (by way of YouTube clips) his own story in his own words ... these are available through his website link (or you can also find them on YouTube).   
More and more artists are doing this and it's a GREAT way for them to get their stories out there in the way they want them represented.  (Jim Peterik, who ALSO loved our glowing review of his book the week before, does the same thing on his site ... which also posted links to our review.  Burton Cummings is assembling a similar collection for video release ... backstage, fly-on-the-wall stuff for all the die-hard fans out there.  Burton returns to The Arcada Theatre in November.)  
Collectively, we are ALL helping to spread the word ... this music is timeless and there is still an audience out there for it ... no matter WHAT those radio consultants may be telling you to the contrary.  We LOVE the oldies ... but they're not just oldies ... it's GREAT, timeless music that reaches across EVERY generation!  Embrace it!  (kk)   

WOW, THANK YOU so much for this glowing review ... so glad you enjoyed the concert.  Tommy greatly appreciates your support ... we will stay in touch ... and don't forget to watch his show segments on you tube - INSIDE TRACKS WITH TOMMY JAMES!  
As for the latest on the movie, "Me, The Mob And The Music", we are at the stage of screenwriter who we finally have on board, Matt Stone ... so still a long way to go ... but it's moving at a Hollywood pace ... will surely keep you updated.  
P.S.  It took Mick Jagger, producer of the James Brown movie, ten years to get it done, so we are doing ok!  
Carol Ross,  

What a GREAT review of the Tommy James show at The Arcada Theatre.  I was at the show and whole-heartedly agree that he sounds JUST like he did back in the day and he really covered the hits.  (Sure there are a few more I would have liked to have heard but let's face it, you can only squeeze so many into a single show!)  Great show -- and you nailed it perfectly.  Thanks.  

Enjoyed the Tommy James review.  He is truly a great talent.  WLS certainly did support his music as well as WCFL.  It was even mentioned in his book and Stuart Shea talked with Tommy about the CFL / WLS controversy a few years ago.  Maybe Stu would share that with you?  I just sent his latest group interview.  Attached is the WLS Premier 45 I have from his 68 concert in Chitown that they gave away 10,000 copies at the concert!  Also, a rather timid sounding Italian vocal of his hit.  I would have been disappointed in not hearing "She" as well.  BUT, so many hits, so little time!  Can't wait for the movie after reading his GREAT book.  
Clark Besch

I remember Clark Weber telling me (and I believe it's in HIS book, too) about one of the times as a programmer that he was "wrongest"!!!  He told a VERY young Tommy James (even before the disc jockey in Pittsburgh started playing "Hanky Panky" in 1966) that he didn't think he had a hit on his hands.  In hindsight, Clark Weber and WLS could have broke this record worldwide a year before it happened ... but it just wasn't meant to be.  (Much like Dick Biondi playing The Beatles' "Please Please Me" in 1963 before anybody in the USA cared about four moptops from Liverpool, England!)    

Here, I found it ...

I'm the first to admit that I didn't always hear "hit record" when a song was first played.  In 1965, I was doing a beach party record hop at the Glen Lord Beach Park Pavilion in Niles, Michigan, when a very polite teenager asked me if I would listen to a record that he and his friends had written and recorded.  I said that I would and put it on the turntable.  My first reaction was that it was a bit primitive, but I decided to be gentle in my response.  I told him that while it was a good first try, it wasn't something that WLS would have an interest in playing on the air.  Yet, soon after, a Pittsburgh DJ started playing the song and, in a while it took off.  Before you knew it, Roulette Records heard it and signed the singer to a contract in 1966.  It became such a big hit that people still dance to it today.  The kid's name was Tommy James ... and the song was "Hanky Panky".  
-- Clark Weber   

"Hanky Panky" topped the WLS Silver Dollar Survey for four straight weeks that summer ... and was the #1 Best Selling Number One Record of the Year, 1966, on their year-end chart ... ahead of "Winchester Cathedral", "Good Vibrations", "Cherish, "Gloria", "California Dreaming", "Wild Thing", "We Can Work It Out", "Summer In The City", "Last Train To Clarksville" and "Paint It, Black"!!!   

More from Mother Weber's Oldest Son here ...  
Click here: Clark Weber's Rock and Roll Radio: The Fun Years, 1955-1975: Clark Weber, Neal Samors, Foreword by Neil Sedaka, Je

And, if I recall correctly, WLS "bootlegged" a copy of Tommy's hit "Crimson And Clover" and started airing an early mix off a demo Tommy brought to the studio in late '68.  (Tommy was pretty pissed at the time ... WLS taped their interview with Tommy and, as such, now had a copy of Tommy's soon-to-be-released single!)  Yes, the AM Wars of the '60's were legendary ... and we had the best of BOTH worlds here in Chicago with WLS and WCFL constantly trying to one-up each other by snagging the latest scoop.  So sad that today radio has become nothing more than a game of following the leader ... back then these guys couldn't WAIT to get the upper hand with a hot, new release!  It's like all the excitement ... and creativity ... is gone.  (kk)    

Here's the way Tommy James remembers the incident in his book "Me, The Mob And The Music":

We went into the studio and produced the "Crimson And Clover" single in December.  The night I finished it, I made a rough mix, right off the board.  We were going to come back in a week to mix in a lot of ambient sound, a lot of echo.  We wanted it to be a more profound statement than was on the mix.
That weekend, The Shondells and I played a date in Chicago and we were met at the airport by a limousine.  As we were driving to our hotel, I stopped by WLS on the off chance that Program Director John Rook was there.  I wanted to get some reaction to "Crimson" from a radio station that had always been so good to us.  John was in that afternoon and invited me to sit with him.  He made a big deal out of me being there.  I did an interview and talked about the new single.  I should not have done it, but I played him the rough mix when we were off the air.  He flipped over the record.  "Let me go get Larry Lujack in here.  We just hired him."  Lujack would go on to be one of WLS's top DJs.  Rook played Lujack the rough mix and without my knowledge or approval, pushed a record button on the tape recorder and made himself a copy.  Lujack loved it.  They handed me back the tape and we parted with promises to call each other next week.  By the time I had gotten into the limo, the radio was tuned to WLS and Larry Lujack was announcing in his best DJ voice:  "World exclusive ... Tommy James and the Shondells ... brand new single ... 'Crimson And Clover'."  He was playing the rough mix on the radio as a world exclusive.  I knew I ws never going to hear the end of this from Jim Stagg.  I was warned on "Mony" not to give WLS an exclusive.
Monday Morning, when I stopped by at Roulette, a five-foot funeral wreath was sitting outside Red Scwartz's office with a banner that read:  "Condolences on the death of Tommy James and the Shondells at WCFL Radio."  It was from Jim Stagg at the rival station.  Morris came right out and said, "What the fuck?"  I told them both what had happened.  Red called Rook and told him about the wreath.  Jim Stagg wouldn't take Red's call.  Rook said, "Fuck Jim Stagg ... Ill play it every twenty minutes!"  And then added in radio lingo, "He'll have to go on the record."  And that is what he did.  This was still the rough mix.  I never got a chance to remix the record.
Morris had DJ copies sent to all the radio stations in the United States.  He wouldn't let me do a final mix.  So the single of "Crimson And Clover" that we all know was from the tape of a rough mix that was never supposed to see the light of day.
"Crimson and Clover" took off and was the biggest record we ever had.  Jim Stagg left WCFL not too long afterward.  As it turned out, it was more his funeral than mine.
-- Tommy James
Maybe THAT'S why Roulette Records let WLS press up 10,000 special promotional copies to give away to their listeners!!!  They truly DID break the record worldwide (thanks to a little underhanded maneuvering) ... but that was the name of the game as it related to successful Top 40 Radio back in the 1960's!  (kk)

Order Tommy's book here:
Click here: Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells: Tommy James, Martin Fitzpatrick: 97 ...

Or order it from Tommy's website and he'll send you an autographed copy!!! 
(Actually, that's what I wanted to do Saturday Night after the show ... pick up another copy of Tommy's book and have him sign it ... but the line was INSANE so I may just place an order of my own thru Tommy's site later today!)  kk 

Enjoyed today's FH and the review you did of Tommy James show from this past weekend. I don't know or remember if you have featured it before, but I always liked ? and the Mysterians' version of DO SOMETHING TO ME better than Tommy James'. I believe their version came out about a year earlier on Cameo Records.
Larry Neal
Believe it or not, I only recently discovered the ? and the Mysterians version a few years ago, thanks to our FH Buddy Dave The Rave.  It's a GREAT version and it shoulda been a hit.  (Actually I think the two recordings are very similar.)  Had ? scored with his version, Tommy probably never would have recorded the song ... but since that didn't happen ... and since he still recognized a hit when he heard it ... he was able to capitalize on this chain of events and score yet another Top 20 single.  One of my late '60's favorites by him.  (kk)

Did Tommy knock it out of the park on "Ball of Fire", one of my all time, all time favorite songs?  I would have loved to have seen Tommy.
Chet Coppock
He sure did ... and honestly I don't know if I've ever seen him perform this one before.  (kk)    

Great job by Tommy. No disrespect to the opening act (the guy on the keys was sensational and the singer was good) but I would have loved to hear Tommy do some of the minor hits like Get Out Now, Ball and Chain, I'm Coming Home, and Nothing to Hide. To me, Tommy has done everything, and everything well ... garage, bubblegum, pop, psych, country, and songs with a religious favor. The only thing was the sound was a bit murky on some songs ... maybe I will go with the cheap seats next time. We had a fun time ... met some hard core Tommy James fans that put me to shame. But I have the one thing they drool over ... the original 45 on Snap Records out of Niles, Michigan by the Shondells ... that goes in my coffin!
Sorry I missed you. I was on the left hand side. Tommy was very gracious in signing everything. A wonderful night was had by all I am sure!
Mike De Martino
I had an original pressing on Snap Records, too, for the longest time.  I bought it AT THE TIME in 1966 when "Hanky Panky" went all the way to #1 here in Chicago.  Man, I LOVED that song ... couldn't get enough of it.  (I've told the story before of how me and my brothers would stand out in front of our old shed and "play" shovels and rakes, lip-synching to this song with the radio hidden behind the shed door, blasting.  There was a time when it seemed you could flip back and forth between WLS and WCFL and be assured of hearing this song every ten minutes on one station or the other!)
We missed the opening act ... that's when we were backstage ... but I heard they were very good.  (Sorry, but I don't even know the name of the act ... can somebody fill me in?)  The sound at The Arcada can be spotty, depending on where you're sitting ... but I know that this will be part of the upgrade once Ron starts to re-renovate the theater.  As mentioned below, for us it was loud ... but clear.  We loved it!  (kk)    

Loved your review on Tommy James.  I have seen and enjoyed Tommy many times.  The piece about walking through the audience, shaking hands, has been done since he started performing.  It's his signature.  Sometimes, in a large arena, you can go out for coffee, hit the bathroom, and still be back before he resumes the vocals.  Gotta love him!  One question:  did it seem loud at The Arcada?  I'm hoping the sound system was in your favor this time.
We had KILLER seats for this (thanks again, Ron Onesti!!!) ... fourth row, DEAD CENTER STAGE ... so yes, it was loud ... in fact it started loud and seemed to get louder as the night went on ... but we found it to be a very clean mix which meant you still heard everything in balance.  I've seen Tommy several times before ... as mentioned in the review a show at The Star Plaza Theater in which he seemed to be trying to reinvent himself and his music, which I felt was a HUGE mistake ... this music doesn't need any rearranging ... it is perfect just the way it is (and, that in fact, may be the largest part of its timeless appeal.)  I've seen him in the lean year playing at what was for all intents and purposes an old pizza restaurant converted into a banquet hall (on the same bill as Ricky Nelson, believe it or not!) where despite his surroundings, Tommy STILL put on a top notch show for the fans who were there.  Honestly I think writing the book may have made him feel closer to the music than he has in many years ... and the TREMENDOUS response he's received from it has helped him reconnect with the fans and see just how much this music meant to us all.  GREAT show!  (kk)

Another great live shot by Luciano Bilotti - thanks, Lou!  (kk)   

This Friday is the deadline for our latest Joel Whitburn / Record Research / Forgotten Hits Trivia Contest ... scroll back to October 17th for all of the questions ... and details about Joel's GREAT new book "The Comparison Charts".  We've got THREE correct answers thus far ... and you've got THREE DAYS to add yours to the list!  (kk)