I’d never been to a Doo-Wop Show before.
Sure, I’d seen them on TV on PBS … and I was always amazed at how incredibly good and smooth the vocals of the artists had remained over so many years …
But I’d never actually BEEN to one … until Sunday Night at The Arcada Theatre … and this one was a doozy!
And let me also tell you that the tradition holds true … ALL of these artists were in top form vocally for this program … and seemed to be having a ball up on stage, entertaining an enthusiastic crowd who truly loves this music.
It was a great line-up of acts …
Ladd Vance, son of Kenny Vance, original founding member of Jay and the Americans (who then went on to perform for YEARS as part of the Planotones) …
Larry Chance and the Earls …
Jay Siegel’s Tokens …
And Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon.
(Now I will admit that I have NO idea what Freddy Cannon has to do with doo-wop … but this is just the way some of these package tours are put together. We’ve seen Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of The Buckinghams, perform Bobby Darin songs at what was billed a Bubblegum Fest!)
Freddy, of course, is the one we came to see. A long time friend of Forgotten Hits, we have stayed in touch by phone and email over the last several years and this was our first opportunity to say “hello” to each other in person. (You’ll find a review of Freddy’s show tomorrow in Forgotten Hits.)
But first, let me tip my hat to the other outstanding artists on the bill.
Ladd Vance kicked things off with a great set of doo-wop classics, all of which he made his own.
Backed by a local pick-up band of local musicians led by our FH Buddy Bob Abrams and a three-piece group of background vocalists who look like they’ve been singing doo-wop all of their lives, this was a great set showcasing Ladd’s incredible vocal range. As was true of ALL the acts we saw Sunday night, the vocals were impeccable … and the crowd responded in kind. (This was a different type of Arcada crowd, including many first-timers … based on the response of the audience on Sunday, I’d say that The Arcada Theatre will be hosting many more doo-wop shows in the future!)
Ladd opened with a killer version of “Denise,” the Randy and the Rainbows hit, and closed his set with “Cara Mia,” a pretty ballsy choice as you’ve REALLY got to deliver the goods on this one. He did.
Next up were Larry Chance and the Earls. Larry’s been singing forever … but I couldn’t help but wonder what else they were going to do besides their One Hit Wonder, “Remember Then,” a MONSTER hit in 1963.
Due to some technical difficulties with the monitors, Larry had to improvise a little bit with the crowd … and he told joke after joke after joke … great stuff from a very seasoned performer.
The Earls provided their own musical backing (the only artist on the bill to do so) and they looked amazing in their blue velvet suits. (And they sounded just as sharp as they looked.) They offered up a series of stirring performances, both with their band and a cappella … A VERY entertaining set.
The Earls were followed by Jay Siegel’s Tokens.
Jay told some great stories about the early days … including one about singing in the high school choir with Neil Sedaka, who was a member of the band for a short period of time in the early pre-hit years.
They did their hits “Tonight I Fell In Love,” “Portrait Of My Love” and, of course, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” their big #1 Hit from 1961 that was resurrected and became a hit all over again in the '90's after it was used in the animated Disney film “The Lion King.” (His five year old Granddaughter had to bring him to her kindergarten "show and tell" because the other kids didn't believe that her Grandpa sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" ... so he showed them!!! lol)
In addition, they also did a couple of songs that The Tokens were involved with producing, such as “See You In September” by The Happenings and “One Fine Day” by The Chiffons. (Side Note to Ron: You’ve got to get The Happenings for the next one … I hear they're still knocking ‘em dead in their live performances!)
Jay proved to a very engaging act who, at nearly 80 years old, is still belting out “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” like he’s a kid.
Now I know that we're going to get some mail from our East Coast Readers who'll be stunned to hear that I've never been to a Doo-Wop Show before. But the truth of the matter is that a lot of these acts just don’t get to Chicago very often. (Larry Chance made a comment that he last played The Arcada Theatre 35 years ago … and was back now "by popular demand!" lol)
Even Ron Onesti mentioned that in his thirty years of promoting shows, he had never worked with any of these acts before ... so it was a real treat to spend the evening venturing back to the earliest days of rock and roll music when kids got together and harmonized under the street lamp ... or sang in the stairwell to get that special echo sound they were looking for. At such, it was REALLY nice to see some artists that we don’t typically get to see … this was a VERY enjoyable show from start to finish ... and a whole lotta fun. (It was very clear that the audience had a ball!)
Tomorrow in Forgotten Hits … the headliner … Freddy “Boom Boom’” Cannon. (kk)
[Special thanks to Luciano Bilotti, House Photographer at The Arcada Theatre, for providing all these great shots used today]