“Music does not get old. It gets better, like wine.” — Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, SiriusXM Radio DJ
Certainly, this is the case as Bruce Morrow and the SiriusXM ’60s on 6 production staff get ready for their fifth annual live radio broadcast on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at the State Fair Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. The evening’s event —Cousin Brucie’s Palisades Park Reunion Show V — will be a nostalgic musical time travel back to the ’60s and feature classic recordings and live performances from artists who entertained audiences at NJ’s Palisades Amusement Park during that decade including Felix Cavaliere, The 1910 Fruitgum Company, Billy J. Kramer, The Capris, and The Quotations.
As we walk through the fair and head toward the American Stage, we are greeted with the sights, sounds, and smells of a summer carnival — Jersey style. We take in the smells of sausage with peppers and onions, funnel cake, pizza, and dozens of other carnival treats. We spot flags flying in the summer breeze and feel the warm sun on our backs. Overhead, we watch a fire-engine red helicopter soar around the perimeter of the fairgrounds, no doubt delighting passengers eager to take in the entire colorful scene from above.
After we take our seats under the big concert tent — and before the on-air broadcast actually begins — we are entertained by an up-and-coming artist discovered by Cousin Brucie, Vinnie Medugno. He immediately warms up the crowd by singing Cousin Brucie’s theme song, followed by Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon’s “Palisades Park” — an essential for this evening’s reunion concert.
Medugno also belts out such classic oldies tunes as Johnny Tillotson’s “Poetry in Motion,” Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” Lou Christies’ “Lightnin’ Strikes” and Domenico Modugno’s “Volare,” all of which have the viewers clapping, swaying, and singing along. As he croons Jay and the Americans’ “Come a Little Bit Closer,” we spot a couple dancing a cha-cha towards the front of the stage.
Cousin Brucie makes his entrance donning a leopard skin suit and explaining that in addition to the live radio broadcast which will include a few million people from around the globe, there will also be live video feed on Facebook.
He tells the crowd, “This show is gonna knock your socks off!” and then reveals his own colorful striped socks to the audience. As we eagerly await the beginning of the radio broadcast, Brucie mingles with the “cousins,” greeting old friends and making new ones with the multigenerational crowd assembled under the big top.
The radio show is now live and Cousin Brucie re-introduces Vinnie Medugno, who performs another Jay Black and the Americans’ tune, “Cara Mia,” as the crowd claps along.
Throughout the evening, the audience experiences what a live radio broadcast is all about, as Cousin Brucie introduces — and then interviews — select audience members during the entire three-hour live event.
One such member is “Cousin Debbie,” who has traveled to New Jersey from Elizabeth, Colorado. She happened to be caller #53 on his Sirius XM Radio ‘60s on 6 show and the winner of tickets to this concert. “Cousin Debbie” — in addition to several other pre-selected audience members over the course of the live production —introduces the next song by reading cue cards held up by a member of the radio production staff.
Throughout the entire broadcast, audience members have an opportunity to enjoy the featured live performances in addition to Cousin Brucie’s interviews and all the great musical selections played on SiriusXM Radio.
The next live act to take the stage is The Quotations, a doo wop band from East Brooklyn. The groups sings their 1961 Top-40 hit “Imagination,” followed by a heartfelt rendition of the Broadway show tune, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
In their matching “Q” shirts, The Quotations blend their vocal harmonies beautifully on an accapella version of a doo woo classic, “Sh-Boom,” which brings the audience to their feet as Cousin Brucie exclaims, “There’s nothing like the human voice!”
Then, Cousin Brucie introduces one of the top bubblegum bands of all time, New Jersey’s own 1910 Fruitgum Company.
The group performs several ’60s tunes including The Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” in addition to their own hits “123 Red Light,” and “Indian Giver.”
When the group sings their 1967 smash “Simon Says” — a record which sold over three and a half million copies — the audience energetically sings and claps along to the song’s directions, making them feel like kids again.
After the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s performance, we have an opportunity to catch up with several of the band members. Guitarist Frank Jeckell, who started the group in 1967 and who hails from Linden, NJ, reveals that since the band got back together in 2000, they have traveled all over the country performing solo concerts and shows with other bands and are still “having fun” doing it.
Bass player and vocalist, Glenn Lewis, who also hails from New Jersey, tells us he was born and raised in Rahway. When asked how he enjoys performing here in the Garden State, he says, “We play out of state a lot, so when we are in our home state of New Jersey, we feel comfortable.”
Next to take the stage is the legendary singer/songwriter Felix Cavaliere.
Cavaliere is most noted for being a member of the ‘60’s group The Young Rascals, for whom he co-wrote and sang such iconic ‘60’s tunes as “How Can I Be Sure,” and “People Got to Be Free.” For his — and co-writer Eddie Brigati’s — efforts, he and his partner were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2009.
Cavaliere sits solo at an electronic keyboard and smoothly sings into the microphone his #1 hit, “A Beautiful Morning.” Other noteworthy numbers include an intimate and personal rendition of “Groovin’” and a rockin’ version of “Good Lovin,’” which has audience members singing and moving to the beat.
Following this, British ‘60’s artist Billy J. Kramer performs “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” the 1963 hit written for him by The Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney which catapulted Kramer to fame.
Kramer was also mentored by Lennon, who advised him to add the “J” to his name. In addition, he was managed by Brian Epstein, who also managed The Beatles.
Kramer enthralls the crowd with several other hits including “Bad to Me” and “From a Window,” and announces that he has a book and a CD — recorded “unplugged” with acoustic guitar accompaniment — set to come out this year.
The final live performance of the evening is from the doo wop group, The Capris. The audience is brought on a nostalgic journey as The Capris belt out such classic tunes as Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” and their own 1961 hit, “There’s a Moon Out Tonight.”
The quartet’s performance of Eddie Holman’s 1969 classic “Hey There Lonely Girl” features singer Michael D’Amore’s rich falsetto that brings the crowd to their feet in appreciation.
After the live show has wrapped and Cousin Brucie has thanked the audience, artists, and crew for being a part of the Cousin Brucie’s Palisades Park Reunion Show V broadcast — we take a moment to catch up with some of the fans in the audience.
One of them is Diana from Old Bridge, who states that she’s attended four out of five Cousin Brucie reunion shows. To her, “the music is home,” as she remembers listening to Cousin Brucie on the radio as a teenager. Diana recalls that when she went off to serve in the military, she taught the tunes to her army buddies who hailed from all over the country. To her, it was a special way of bringing a piece of home with her wherever she went.
As we make our way out of the American Stage, we can hear modern melodies blasting from the various tents and stages, accompanying the crowds of people — some holding stuffed animals, cotton candy, or snacks from the many food concessions — still having fun at the fair.
As we stroll past these crowds, the musical nostalgia we have just experienced through Cousin Brucie’s Palisades Park Reunion Show V has heightened our senses and we feel at home again, too, especially when we look up in the sky and notice — as the Capris’ just sang — “There’s A Moon Out Tonight!”
To learn more about Cousin Brucie’s ’60s on 6 radio program, please go to www.siriusxm.com. To find out about Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals, see felixcavalieremusic.com. For more information on the 1910 Fruitgum Company, go to 1910fruitgumcompany.com.
To learn more about The Quotations, go to thequotations.com. For more on Billy J. Kramer, click on www.billyjkramersite.com. For more information on the Capris, visit them at facebook.com/thecapris.
Lastly, to find out more about the State Fair Meadowlands, which runs through July 9, visit njfair.com.