Ron Onesti: Bucket list item … check out Doo Wop dudes!
As I get deeper and deeper into the rock ‘n’ roll world of the 1970s through today, my appreciation for the pioneers of the 1950s and early 1960s gets deeper as well.
It seems that any musician that is worth anything credits those original doo-woppers with laying the foundation on which they have built their own careers.
As much as I can, I present vocal groups you see occasionally in black and white on PBS documentaries, as they belt out ballads and dance tunes while all moving to the beat with expert choreography. There are many of these groups still around, most of which have only one or maybe two original members in them, but still maintaining the name and fostering the music.
Just over the past three weeks I have had the privilege of presenting shows with The Crests, The Flamingos, Earl “The Duke” Chandler, The Brooklyn Bridge and the Duprees. I also recently did shows with Danny & the Juniors and Joey Dee & The Starliters.
All these guys have one major thing in common: a fierce pride in their history and their music. They all still dress “to the nines” in tuxedos and matching pattern suits. Their shoes are all shined and without a scuff. Their hair has ample amounts of Brylcreem slicking it back, leaving that single curl-flip in front. They even walk to the stage in unison! I love these guys!
PBS has helped give these groups new life, actually pulling many performers out of retirement. It has breathed a refound element of fun and excitement, not only for audiences across the country but also for the entertainers themselves.
As I talk to these guys in the dressing rooms, they still refer to their ’57 Chevys and the street-corner singing sessions, the soda fountains and the malt shops, as if they were yesterday. They talk about Ed Sullivan and Dick Clark as if they just got off the phone with the television-music pioneers.
And as they prepare to go on stage, belting out one final vocal scale and popping a Halls Mentho-Lyptus lozenge, they still have a bit of a nervous stomach.
Their shows usually start with a video montage of the group’s history, and they watch it as intently as the audience does. It brings a grin to their faces and I can see them relive their own histories unfurling before them on the video screen.
And then, with great reverence and respect, I introduce them. They puff out their chests, take a deep breath and walk out on stage with just the biggest and brightest smiles you could ever see.
For the next hour or so, they transform back into those 17-year-old Doo-Woppers again, hanging out under the street lamp, rolling cigarette packages in their T-shirt sleeves and running their fingers through their greased-back hair.
If you get the chance (and there is ALWAYS a chance at The Arcada), come to one of these classic, “old school” Doo Wop shows. I guarantee, a more entertaining, wholesome and downright feel-good show you will not see. And if you do come, just know you are honoring guys who are directly or indirectly responsible for all the music you enjoyed growing up, whether it was in the 1950s, 1960, 1970s or beyond.
They are leaving us more and more each day. We just lost Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, among others. Come on out to a classic rock ‘n’ roll show and “twist” all night long … it will get your blood flowing and help you forget your troubles better than anything else you could imagine.
• Ron Onesti is president and CEO of The Onesti Entertainment Corp. and The Historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Celebrity questions and comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.