Sunday, April 15, 2018

Doowop and much more in New England

I'm three days into my latest US music trip (with Alan Lloyd, John Howard and Gordon Fleming) and   I've been busy, the highlight being a highly enjoyable Doowop show last night in New Bedford, Massachusetts. We flew in to Boston on Thursday, picked up a car and drove the 30 odd miles to the small town of Mansfield, where we are staying in New England - much cheaper than downtown Boston. Next day we toured Boston on a trolley tour and were impressed  by the actors at the Tea Party experience: touristy, but fun. Back in Mansfield we had a superb Italian meal.
Yesterday we drove south to Providence, state capital of Rhode Island, for breakfast and then circumnavigated the tiny state, taking in Jamestown and Newport, famous for its jazz and folk festivals. It was a sunny day and the up market resort was busy, so we continued to New Bedford, once the centre of the whaling industry, where we toured the whaling museum. It's quite impressive but manages to glamourise the gory trade. We went to have a good Portuguese meal locally.
The Doowop show, in the Zeiterion Theater, is the 16th such show organised by enthusiast Todd Baptista, and featured four acts, each performing 8 or 9 songs. It's a good format which gives the acts a better chance to show off their repertoire than the Hauppagge shows, where only three or four are the norm. First up were The Orlons, not really a Doowop group perhaps, but good pop performers, featuring original members Stephen Caldwell and Jean Brickley. They were excellent on hits such as Not Me, Crossfire, Wah Watusi, Don't Hang Up and South Street and also included a couple of more obscure numbers - their 1961 debut number (Soldier Boy) I'll Be There and (Happy Birthday) Mr 21. Next up were The Mystics, from Brooklyn, with a lineup including original lead singer Phil Cracolici and second tenor George Galfo. They harmonised sweetly on Tonight, Don't Take The Stars, Chapel Of Dreams, All Through The Night and a dramatic Cara Mia. They did a quick take on Teenager In Love, a song written for them by Pomus and Shuman but given to label mates Dion and the Belmonts they said, before ending with their own smash Pomus and Shuman song Hushabye and Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart.
The second half began with the first appearance in 22 years by members of the Del Vikings including originals Ritzy Lee, Doug White and Joe Lopes (now in a wheel chair). The set included hits such as Whispering Bells, I'm Spinning, Cool Shake, Sunday Kind Of Love and, of course, Come Go With Me. There were also less well known tracks including the very similar Come Along With Me, Bring Back Your Heart (featuring soaring tenor by Terry Jones, one of the newer members), The Sun and Kiss Me, from their ABC Paramount era. Superb stuff. The final act was the wonderful La La Brooks, still in great voice and looking fabulous in a shiny silver trouser suit, who joined The Crystals aged 13 and sang lead on Then He Kissed Me, Da Doo Ron Ron,  Little Boy and I Wonder, all of which she sang to perfection. Other numbers included There's No Other Like My Baby, Uptown and Be My Baby before ending with an exciting version of Proud Mary, during which she mingled with a rapturous crowd. Great stuff from a great artist and overall a really great show. Todd insists on the acts singing their original material and on them meeting the fans in the foyer afterwards, all of which contribute to the success of his shows.


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