The Saturday night, March 4, 2017, Doo Wop Explosion II set a high standard to top if we decide to do this again. Seven great doo wop acappella groups, each in top form, and each with their own unique style and repertoire. We (Pam & Charlie Horner) had the opportunity of not only producing this concert for Monmouth University’s Center for the Arts, we had the pleasure of emceeing it.
[To see photos from the sound checks and pre-concert reception click Part One]
The Copians started the show with bass singer, Bob “Bobski” Reilly doing a rhythmic “Jocko style” rap, reminiscent of his days with prior Philly acappella groups Neighbors Complaint and A Moment’s Pleasure. This led into the opening number, the Collegians’ “Let’s Go For A Ride.”.. Another alumni of A Moment’s Pleasure, Bill Keith, led the next song, an obscure but great Cadillacs tune called “I’m In Love”. The song is so obscure that even we didn’t recognize it the first time we heard it, until we realized it was one of those songs recorded but not released until years later on the Murray Hill box set. Each member of the Copians sang at least one lead. Jim Bakay sang the doo wop falsetto favorite, “The Wind”. John Bishop’s strong voice led the Emblems’ “Would You Still Be Mine”. Bob Reilly’s bass voice easily handled “Can’t Do Sixty No More”. And Horace Brown please the audience with his trademark “Members Only” (a song originally done by Bobby Bland).
Re-MemberThen was well known to the Jersey audience. The group returned to the Pollak Theatre after pulling double duty last year – backing Larry Chance and singing their own set. This year they had all new material. After opening with a Larry Chance & the Earls’ song, “Never,” Mike Del Franco belted out the Teenchords’ “Please Tell The Angels”. Frank Cicerale gave a strong rendition of another Larry Chance song, “I Believe”. Marty Geliebter brought things up tempo with Little Anthony’s “Traveling Stranger”. Sal Contrino brought applause from the audience with a powerful rendition of “For Your Precious Love”. The group rounded out their set with “We Belong Together, ending with the Jive Five’s “What Time Is It”.
A Perfect Blend showed that doo wop acappella is not an entirely male profession. The Philadelphia area group is made up of three men and two women. While each voice is distinctly different, they blend together “perfectly” to produce a soulful sound. Krissy Star led off with an incredible “Who’s Lovin’ You” followed by an equally powerful rendition of the Roxy & the Daychords record, “I’m So In Love,” led by Cheryl Petruzelli. Andy Petruzelli led “Mia Amore” and “I Need You So,” one of our favorite songs. The later songs was the fliup side of Tommy McLain’s “Sweet Dreams,” a hit a few years back. [We had the pleasure of meeting Tommy McLain last year at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.] A Perfect Blend’ founder, Gibson “T” Trowery, had the theatre rocking with “Drip Drop” and then tore the place up with his powerful version of the Impressions’ song, “Never Let Me Go”. This group has four great leads and a powerful bass in Gary Williams.
The Cameos are often called New Jersey’s favorite oldies group. They usually perform as an 8 person vocal and instrumental band. But on this “all acappella” night, we asked the Caneos four vocalists to give us an acappella set. And they were exceptional. Danny Ugarte, Arno Petronzio, Chris Cerullo and John Basilone showed us that on special occasions like this, they really didn’t need a band. The group mixed doo wop standards like “Coney Island Baby”, “Oh What a Night” and the Cadillacs “The Girl I Love” with an occasional more obscure gem like the Avons’ “A Girl To Call My Own”. The latter song was given to the Cameos by the late Ronnie I. The concert night, March 4, marked the 9th anniversary of Ronnie I’s passing, a fact not lost on the audience. The Cameos mixed in up tempo sings like the Earls’ “Acappella with My Friends” and the Drifters’ “Fools Fall In Love”. What a great set!
After a short 20 minute intermission, Quiet Storm opened up the second half of the concert. As always, Quiet Storm was in great form. William Nix sang heart-felt renditions of “Only You” and the Magnificent Men’s’ “Peace Of Mind”. Quiet Storm’s newest member, Madison “Skip” Gulett did a great job with “If I Remember To Forget”. Quiet Storm mixed in a couple great soul harmony tunes like the Platters’ “I Love You 1000 Times” (Skip lead) and the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Ron Silva lead). James Phillips closed the set with a show stopping slow version of “Unchained Melody”. As always, Kamau “Smitty” Akiba bass vocals drove a stellar set.
In the early 1960’s, the Brooklyn doo wop group, Vito & the Salutations scored a major hit with a frantic up tempo version of “Unchained Melody”. It’s been 55 years since Shelly Buchansky recorded that song with the group. We were thrilled when Shelly agreed to have Vito & the Salutations perform acappella at the Doo Wop Explosion II, as the group usually performs with a band. Obviously the audience was just as thrilled to see them as they applauded loudly. Rick Anthony handled most of the leads, backed by Shelly, Elmo Maisonnet and Billy O’Neill (whom the group introduced as being 80 years old). Vito & the Salutations entertained the crowd with “Tonight Could Be The Night,” “This Magic Moment,” “Mio Amore” and “So Young”. Shelly took the lead on the Cadillacs’ “Zoom,” a favorite of his since back in the day. Of course, the group did those Vito & the Salutations’ standards “Gloria” and “Unchained Melody” What a fabulous performance!
.The final group of the evening was Pookie Hudson’s Spaniels and it was worth the wait! The Spaniels began singing in Gary, Indiana, in 1952 and will forever be recognized as one of the key vocal groups of the 1950’s. Between 1953 and 1960, the Spaniels placed 5 records on the Top 25 R&B Charts. Their million seller, “Goodnight Sweetheart Sweetheart” will forever define the Doo Wop Era. The Spaniels’ legendary lead singer, Pookie Hudson, passed away in 2007, the Washington DC based Spaniels group that sang with him the last nine years of his life was the group on our Doo Wop Explosion II. If fact, when Pookie’s health was failing, he told the group to go out and get James Ivey to take over the lead. Ivey’s voice sounds remarkably like Pookie’s. Others in the group, include Wellington “Bay” Robinson, James Faison, Lester Wade and Steven Wade. [To read about Pookie Hudson’s Spaniels, visit Meet the Spaniels] The Spaniels opened with a couple of up tempo tunes, “Crazy Baby” and “What Cha Gonna Do”. The group sang a number of Spaniels favorites including “Trees,” “Heart And Soul,” “People will Say We’re In Love” and “Baby Sweets”. Hearing the group sing “Lovely Way To Spend an Evening” and “Peace Of Mind” were jaw dropping highlights of a concert filled with highlights!
Of course, Pookie Hudson’s Spaniels closed the show with “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight” and then brought out the rest of the singers to join them in this grand finale.
What an incredible night of acappella harmony.If you attended the concert, please fill out the survey at http://bit.ly/MonmouthPA16-17 to let our friends at the Monmouth University Center for the Arts know what you think. Anybody up for a Doo Wop Explosion 3 ? We’re ready!
Again, our sincere thanks to Monmouth University’s Center For The Arts, our 7 acappella groups, our stage manager Joe Loud, all those who helped with promotion, sound, lighting, and a hundred other tasks that made this successful. Most of all, we thank all of you who came out to support us. You made this possible.
As we were tied up producing and emceeing the concert, our photo taking was limited. We’ve not yet received the photos from the professional photographer. We’ll post them later. We thank those who have shared photos they took and will credit them under each photo by their initials…All uncredited photos are ours.
“MC” – Marian Cicerale
“JB” – John Bishop
“LG” – Linda Golden Granett
“MG” – Matt Gilliano
“MD” – Mary Ann Neil Dorso
“AA” – Alex Augustine
Click on any photo to enlarge. Then use the side arrows (either on your keyboard or on either side of the photo to see the others.