A little piece of rock n roll trivia? Name the only group to have an American Hot 100 #1 hit before, during and after Beatlemania? I would have guessed, maybe, The Beach Boys but in fact it was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. That fact is important because half of the musicians that comprise the “pop super-group” The Hit Men were all major performers with The Four Seasons.
Other pop/rock icon represented here are seasoned music pros representing groups and solo artists such as The Critters, the American pop group that had several successful hits in the mid ‘60s, such as Younger Girl (penned by John Sebastian), Don Ciccone’s (a founding member of The Critters and also a member of The Four Seasons) Mr. Dieingly Sad (#17 on the charts in ‘66), and ‘67s Don't Let The Rain Fall Down On Me which was to be the bands last chart success before breaking up due to the fact that three founding members joined the military to beat the Vietnam draft build up.
After their military obligation was fulfilled, Don Ciccone and Jimmy Ryan re-entered the music business, Ciccone with The Four Seasons and one of the other groups represented here, Tommy James and The Shondells. Ryan went on to guitar/arranger/songwriter duties with pop giants, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Rod Steward, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Kiki Dee.
Speaking of Tommy James and the Shondells, they almost, but not quite, could have been the answer to the trivia question. In 1964, the newly renamed Shondells recorded an obscure ‘B’ side tune by The Raindrops and written by the groups mainstays, Jeff Berry and Ellie Greenwich, who along with producer Phil Spector went on to define the mid ‘60s “girl group” sound. The song was Hanky-Panky.
The song was a regional hit in the midwest, but was never released nationally until 1966 when a Pittsburgh radio station unearthed the forgotten single and touted it as an "exclusive". The band had broken up by then and when James discovered the tune climbing the charts nationally, he had to assemble a new group to tour.
From ‘66 until ‘68, Tommy James and the Shondells were a mainstay of the “bubblegum rock” scene. From 1968, the group began writing their own songs and embraced the sounds of psychedelia. They are maybe most semi famous for having turned down an invitation to play at Woodstock.
The Hit Men consist of Lee Shapiro (Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Barry Manilow, Bob Gaudio, Jimmy & Jerry Vivino, Paul Schaffer),Don Ciccone (The Critters, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Tommy James and the Shondells), Larry Gates ( Desmond Child, Larry Hochman, Izzy James, Daniel Freiberg, Janis Ian, Rick Derringer), Gerry Polci ( Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Barry Manilow),
Jimmy Ryan ( The Critters, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Rod Steward, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Kiki Dee) and Russ Velazquez ( Sting, Carol King, the Ramones, LL Cool J, Luther Vandross, Korn, Paula Abdul).
Some of these guys; the talented and seasoned pros that were, for the most part, not the head lining stars, but were the foundation behind some of rock and pops biggest hits and acts, have been friends for 50 years. On this album that familiarity shines through as they play together tightly and brilliantly as they perform their various catalog of hits that span early ‘60s rock n roll and pop, Motown, psychedia, disco and the singer/songwriter era of the ‘70s, and ‘80s pop and R&B.
You can download the album from iTunes and if you can you’ll want to catch them on tour, through June 2012. Some things get better with age, and The Hit men prove that in spades.
February 10 - Duncan Theater - Lake Worth, FL
February 11 - The Phil - Naples, FL
February 12 - The Phil - Naples, FL
February 19 - The Sunrise Theater - Fort Pierce, FL
February 20 - Jonathan's Landing - Jupiter, FL
February 24 - Ridgefield Playhouse - Ridgefield, CT
February 25 - Broadway Theater - Pitman, NJ
March 30 - "Dosey Doe" - The Woodlands, TX
March 31 - Brauntex PAC - New Braunfels, TX
April 20 – Harrington Raceway & Casino – Harrington, DE
April 21 - The Lehman Center - Bronx, NY
June 11 - Garde Arts Theater - New London, CT
June 12 - Garde Arts Theater - New London, CT
July 14 – Ft. Lee NJ Summer Concert Series – Fort Lee, NJ
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved