Spent an excellent evening at Clearwater, Florida's newly-renovated Ruth Eckerd Hall on December 14th.
Bowzer's Holiday Rock 'n' Roll Party, 2019.
According to Jon Bauman (Mr. Bowzer himself), this was the 12th straight year that he has hosted this particular event here in Clearwater and even though I have lived here most of my life, this was the first time that I have attended.
The draw for me was seeing Mark Lindsay, one of my top five all-time favorite singers, and Gary Puckett (both newly added to the show) along with Peter Noone and some of Bowzer's former bandmates from Sha-Na-Na.
This show has always been advertised as a Christmas event and while that was fine with me, I was also hoping to hear some of my favorite songs from the 60s.
The show opened with Bowzer strolling on stage in his usual greaser outfit from the 50s (but wearing a Christmas hat) and then stopping while turning sideways and doing his usual routine of flexing his muscle while stretching his mouth wide open and greeting the crowd. Classic!
He welcomed everyone to the show and then introduced his backup band, Florida's well known Rocky And The Rollers, and then broke into song doing "White Christmas." His bass voice is simply incredible, even at his age of 72 years.
He then brought out one of his former bandmates from Sha-Na-Na, Johnny Contardo. He told the audience how Sha-Na-Na were responsible for some of the songs from the hit movie Grease and then Johnny sang "Those Magic Changes." Then together they did "Blue Moon." Both were simply outstanding on this version, with Bowzer hitting some incredible low notes. Bowzer then brought out another Sha-Na-Na bandmate, Henry Gross.
Henry told a little bit about what he has been doing lately, writing songs in Nashville and doing a few gigs here and there. He then sang what he said was a brand new song titled "New Year's Eve" and then, of course, sang the song everybody was waiting to hear, "Shannon," his huge hit from 1976. His falsetto has lost nothing over the years. (He could do a great Barry Gibb impersonation).
He told the story about how he dedicated this song to the late Beach Boy Carl Wilson because when he met him back in the early 70s, Carl had told him a story about how his dog Shannon had just passed. Henry said that inspired him to write the famous hit and the rest is history.
Bowzer then brought out his three back-up singers, the Stingrays (also dressed in greaser outfits topped with Xmas hats) and they sang a couple of gospel tunes. Bowzer then joined them along with Johnny Contardo and they sang "Twistin' The Night Away," while imploring the crowd to do just that. That was followed up by "Willie And The Hand Jive" and the big crowd favorite, "Shout."
And, because Bowzer said he did not want to leave anybody out of the Christmas holiday, he and the group closed out their portion of the show with "The Chanukah Song." You figure it out.
Everybody then left the stage except Bowzer while the crew took maybe three minutes to set the stage for the next act.
Bowzer told a few stories while the crew hurried along and then introduced Gary Puckett & The Union Gap. Gary and his Union Gappers took the stage with "Lady Willpower." He immediately went into (my personal favorite) "Over You" and followed that with what he said was his personal favorite and that, of course, was his very first hit, "Woman Woman."
Let me stop the presses right now.
I have seen Puckett a number of times over the last 30 years or so and quite simply his voice has never sounded better than it did tonight. I very strongly suspect that Auto-Tune Live was being used (which can sense and instantly correct any missed notes so subtly that only the most well-trained ears will ever realize the vocals were initially off-key.) I'm pretty sure most performers nowadays are using this device. A couple of other examples that come to mind are Gerry Beckley of America and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, among many others. Their voices just a few years ago were starting to sound pretty rough but the last couple of times that I saw them they sounded much better. Much, much better! Hmmm. Anyway, personally I highly approve of the device. At least they aren't lip-synching! But I digress.
Gary then sang a couple of Christmas songs, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" and "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow." Both sounded wonderful. And then, for a special treat, Gary's very young grandson walked out on stage (I'm guessing 4 or 5). Gary scooped him up and they both sang "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." Major applause and then Gary explained his whole family was here because ... he was a resident of Clearwater and has been for many years. More huge applause , of course.
"I've got one more song to do and please sing along" ... and naturally went into "Young Girl." Bowzer came back out and thanked Gary for being part of the show and announced a fifteen minute intermission.
After the intermission, Rocky And The Rollers came back on stage with Bowzer and the Stingrays and they did a couple more Christmas songs (I missed it because I was in the lobby meeting Gary Puckett and that was a thrill.) I got back to my seat just in time for Bowzer to introduce Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere & The Raiders fame.
With Rocky & The Rollers as his backup band, he jumped right into "Steppin' Out" followed by "Just Like Me." He then spoke to the crowd about how proud he was that the Raiders had four songs featured in Quentin Tarantino's 2019 movie "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" and said "I would like to feature two of them now." Mark then sang "Hungry" followed by "Good Thing."
"That's enough rock & roll for now, I would like to show you that I can still do a nice ballad." And "Arizona" was the ballad.
"Back in 1971, the Raiders had a Number One Hit with the song I am about to sing and at that time, it was the biggest selling single in the history of Columbia Records. And it remained Number One for about 12 more years until that twerp Michael Jackson topped it by "Billie Jeaning" us. The song, of course, was "Indian Reservation," and as that song ended, he dived right into the classic "Kicks," which closed out his portion of the show. (No Christmas songs from Mr. Lindsay ... just six classic Raiders hits with his big solo hit.)
He sounded great (auto-tune?) and he looked great. He is obviously in great shape (especially for 77 years old) and still sported his classic ponytail. He moved really well on stage and even did a few kicks during "Kicks." I'm nit-picking here ('cause I really enjoyed his performance) but I would sure love to hear him do a few Raiders songs from their 1967-1970 period. I have never heard him play "Him Or Me," "I Had A Dream," Too Much Talk," Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon," "Let Me" or anything from that great album Collage. I would love to hear "Just Seventeen." Oh well, maybe someday.
And now Bowzer is back on stage and tells a few more stories while the road crew sets up for Peter Noone's Hermits band. The latter-day Hermits come out in their Christmas outfits with guitarist Billy Sullivan dressed up as Santa Claus. The other three (Vance Brescia on guitar, Rich Spina on keys, and Dave Ferrara on drums) are dressed up as elves. They all looked adorable. Bowzer then gave a wonderful heart-felt introduction to the man himself, Mr. Peter Noone.
He bounded out on stage with his enormous smile singing his (I believe) first hit "I'm Into Something Good" and encouraged the audience to clap and sing along. He segued right into the Hermits' remake of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World," and followed that with "Love Potion No. 9."
"We like doing other people's songs also" he said before jumping right into "Dandy." That, of course, was a hit for both his band and the Kinks. "We like to do a little country also" and Noone did a great tongue-in-cheek version of Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire." Joking that someone in the front row thought they were coming to see the Monkees, the band played "Daydream Believer" and followed it with "All My Loving" with Peter explaining "We have to do a Beatles song, don't we?"
Now it was time for some more Hermit's hits and they played "Just A Little Bit Better" followed by "Silhouettes" and then just a very beautiful and tender version of "Listen People." And then, with "Here's another ballad," Peter performed a very heart-felt and poignant rendition of the classic "End Of The World."
Next comes Peter's classic Mick Jagger impersonation while singing a snippet from "Jumpin' Jack Flash." Great fun!
Back to the Hermit's hits with "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat," with Peter and Santa Claus (aka Billy Sullivan) dancing around during the instrumental break. And then that familiar guitar into of ... wait a minute ... it's "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" sung like "Mrs. Brown!' After all, it IS Christmas time. And then, of course, all is right with the world as he segues "Rudolph" back into "Mrs. Brown."
The crowd is now on their feet with the opening drumbeat of "I'm Henry the VIII, I Am." Wait a minute, it now becomes "Jingle Bells" for a few verses and then back to "Henry." Of course, it becomes a great crowd sing-along with singing competition and it's all in great fun. And to wind everything up, it's the classic 1967 song "There's A Kind Of Hush."
Bowzer is back on stage followed by the Rollers and greets and thanks Peter again for a great performance and begs him for one more. Who can refuse the Bowz?
Everybody is back on stage and the Rollers, along with the Hermits and Bowzer, the Stingrays, Johnny Contardo and Peter break into the classic "Goodnight Sweetheart."
Gary Puckett makes his way on stage holding onto two grandkids (the man is in great shape) to join the fun. No Mark Lindsay though ... apparently he flew the coop. It was a beautiful-sounding song with everybody, including the audience, singing along. What a great way to end the show!!!
The icing on the cake was meeting Peter out in the lobby as he posed for pictures and signed some autographs. Gary Puckett came back out also and greeted and talked to fans. As many times as my girl friend Alice and I have seen both Gary Puckett and Peter Noone, we have never had the privilege of meeting them. OMG, this was a definite huge thrill for both of us.
I have enclosed a couple of pics with my girl Alice and Gary and Peter. My expectations for this show were quite high and they were blown out of the water. Three hours long and a sold-out crowd of 2,130. I'm pretty sure a great time was had by all but especially by me and my girl!
Palm Harbor, Florida
This sounds like an amazing show ... thanks for sharing it with our readers. (And I have to admit that I am CONSTANTLY blown away by how many of these artists have helped us build Forgotten Hits into what it is today.
Bowzer participated regularly while working to get his Truth In Music laws passed across the country ... Henry Gross has been a regular contributor since 2000, as has Peter Noone ... and Mark Lindsay and Gary Puckett have also chimed in a number of times over the years (as has Peter's AMAZING guitarist, Vance Brescia.)
It's times like these that I feel truly blessed to have been able to live even the smallest part of the rock and roll dream. ALL of these artists have meant SO much to me over the years ... and are still out there wowing their fans with great shows like these. Wish we could have seen it! (kk)