Blue lights illuminate the stage — and laser spotlights spin — as the audience files in to the sold-out Celebrity Theater, located inside Resorts Casino Hotel on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ this Saturday, May 20, 2017 evening.
From the looks on all of the faces waiting to enter, it appears the crowd is eager to enjoy an evening of magical music of the past in a concert extravaganza entitled Sounds of the 60s, starring La La Brooks of The Crystals, Dennis Tufano of The Buckinghams, and The Flamingos featuring Terry Johnson!
As we make our way into the theater, we notice that music of The Monkees, Motown, and more is playing in the background, setting the mood for what lies ahead for this audience of music lovers of all ages.
Once we’re escorted to our seats, we realize that seated to the left of us are several members of the 1910 Fruitgum Company — famous for such 1960’s hits as “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3, Red Light,” “Goody, Goody Gumdrops,” and “Indian Giver.”
Seated to the right of us are family members of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Terry Johnson of The Flamingos, with whom we strike up a conversation.
Says Ricardo Johnson — Terry’s son — “My dad was always on the road. One day, I saw him in a photo with a guitar and I wanted to play the guitar,” acknowledging, “I was inspired by him.”
Soon after, Terry bought Ricardo a ukulele and, later, his first acoustic guitar. With practice, Ricardo went on to become a professional musician who even played with his father for several years during the 1980s!
Moreover, explains Ricardo, the family business has continued with the latest generation of Johnsons when he explains, “My son, Jordan — Terry’s grandson — is also a musician who plays, writes, and does studio work, continuing the family tradition.”
The lights start to dim, and two large screens located on either side of the stage flash the message, “Sounds of the 60s,” while musicians scurry to take their places on the stage.
Soon, singer La La Brooks of the Crystals arrives on stage to large applause.
Opening with her Top Ten hit, “Then He Kissed Me,” Brooks still sounds just like she did when she recorded the lead vocal on that song with The Crystals back in 1963 — her iconic voice still rich and girlish. Backed up by a tight band featuring a top-notch rhythm section, horn section, and backup singers, Brooks impresses and entertains the audience with her talent.
“I was only 13 when I joined the Crystals and just 15 when we started working with producer Phil Spector,” reveals Brooks.
Moving on to the Crystals’ 1963 tune, “Little Boy,” Brooks sings, “Little boy, please let me be your little girl,” the back-up singers’ vocals deftly supporting La La’s effortless lead. As the ensemble performs, the audience claps along and moves to the easy beat of this innocent tune, making everyone at the Superstar Theater feel like they’re right at home.
Brooks’ next number is the power doo-wop ballad, “There’s No Other (Like My Baby),” her vocal crying and pleading for all to listen as she croons, “There’s a story I want you to know/‘Bout my baby, how I love him so.”
Explains Brooks, “That was the first recording The Crystals ever made. Barbara Allston was the lead singer on that one — and I love Barbara Allston,” before noting, “This was even before Darlene Love was with the group.” The audience smiles and applauds when Brooks goes on to quip, “And we all made Phil Spector as much as he made us!”
Stating, “Phil recorded this next single, too,” Brooks launches into a medley which opens with The Ronettes’ 1963 smash, “Be My Baby,” and continues with other ’60s “girl group” hits including The Supremes’ “Baby Love,” The Shirelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and The Dixiecups’’ “Goin’ to the Chapel.” As La La and the singers vocalize, horn players sway back and forth to the beat and lights change colors along with the mood, all while audience members sing along to these happy-go-lucky songs.
As the audience cheers, Brooks reveals, “We only had a twenty-minute rehearsal for that medley,” respectfully adding, “Thank you so much.”
Announcing, “We gotta get crazy now — we gotta get crazy!” Brooks discloses, “Barbara Allston also sang the lead on this song, but I’m gonna do it now.”
At this point, she launches into her rendition of a Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil penned Crystals’ number which is currently featured in the Broadway musical, Beautiful. Entitled “Uptown,” Brooks fervently croons, “But then he comes uptown each evening to my tenement/Uptown where folks don’t have to pay much rent… Then he’s tall/He don’t crawl/He’s a king.”
Going on to confess, “We did this next song with Phil when I was 15,” Brooks asks the crowd to “Stand up and party with me!” on The Crystals’ monster hit for which she sang the original lead vocal — their 1963 smash, “Da Doo Ron Ron.” Her voice never sending better, audience members leap to their feet as sparkling lights dance above their heads and strobes flash, everyone singing and dancing along.
“Don’t you sit down now!” asserts Brooks with a smile, before stating, “This next lady was bad!”
Here, she launches into her final number of the evening — a slow, funky version of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” — passionately singing the song’s famous opening line, “Left a good job in the city….”
Continuing, she keeps the tempo slow, but once the next verse comes around, La La goes crazy! She sashays down to the ground as the tempo gallops at a frenzied pace. The band rocks, and the audience drinks in every aspect of Brooks’ passionate performance.
“Ooh, you watch it, girl!” shouts a fan in the crowd to La La.
With this, Brooks leaves the stage and makes her way into the audience, getting up-close-and-personal with this happy group of music lovers. Once she finds herself among the packed crowd, she dances with an obliging gentleman — and then poses for photos with fans — before winding her way through the audience and climbing the stairs back up onto the stage.
For her efforts, the crowd rewards our Miss Brooks with a well-deserved standing ovation!
Following La La on stage is Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of the legendary ’60’s group, The Buckinghams. Tufano — one of the nicest guys in show business — starts off his portion of the program with a bang, singing The Bucks’ Top Ten hit, “Don’t You Care.”
Looking and sounding great, Tufano quickly gets the audience involved in the festivities as he launches into a second Buckingham’s hit, 1967’s “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song).”
“Back in high school,” explains Tufano, “we listened to WLS Radio disc jockey Dick Biondi in Chicago, who kept playing Bobby Darin songs for us.”
Clearly inspired by what he heard, Tufano performs a spectacular Bobby Darin medley for the crowd. The audience applauds and sings along on each classic Darin hit including 1959’s “Dream Lover” and 1958’s “Queen of the Hop” and “Splish Splash,” as Tufano thoroughly delivers the goods.
“You’re in good voice tonight!” exclaims Tufano before noting, “This next one goes out to all the girls in the audience named Susan.”
To hoots and hollers from the crowd, Tufano knocks one out of the park with his stellar version of The Buckinghams’ 1967 Top 20 hit, “Susan.”
Simply by letting go and allowing his pure talent to speak for itself, Tufano enables the audience to truly feel the emotion of the song’s lyrics when he sings, “No other girl could ever take the place of you/Though you’re hurting me/You know I’ll always be/Thinking of you/Girl, I love you.”
Following wild applause, Tufano exclaims, “Let’s get funky!” before launching into a soulful rendition of The Buckinghams’ 1967 Top Five hit, “Mercy Mercy Mercy.” As he wails, the crowd taps their toes and nods their heads to the funky beat.
As audience members shout out their approval, Tufano tells the crowd, “When Tom Brokaw was once asked, ‘What makes ’60's music different from the music of all other decades?’ Brokaw replied, ‘The music just kept building and building until it eventually changed the world.”
And as if to prove a point, Tufano goes on to give a dynamic performance of a Buckinghams’ song which rocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts, 1967’s “Kind of a Drag.”
With the band groovin’ behind him, Tufano gives it all he has and is rewarded with a standing ovation from the members of this delighted crowd who not only appreciate his talent, but his down-to-earth persona, as well.
Last to take the stage tonight are the members of The Flamingos, starring Terry Johnson, along with singers Stan Princeton, Starling Newsome, and Theresa Trigg.
Performing an extended medley of tunes from the ’60s, Johnson and The Flamingos open with a drivin’ version of The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’,” and move on to such other 60’s-era pop hits as Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” and Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World.” Their polished vocals and dance moves perfectly accompany the group’s top-notch custom musical arrangements.
Showing their versatility, the quartet segues into a collection of Beach Boys’ hits including “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “I Get Around,” before moving on to songs like The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” The Supremes’ “I Hear a Symphony,” and The Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”
Also included in the medley is The Flamingos’ salute to Little Anthony & The Imperials and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons which includes such tunes as “Goin’ Out of My Head” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” The audience sings along to these classic hits, each one taking advantage of long-term group member Terry Johnson’s Hall of Fame-caliber vocals.
Moving on to some jazz-rock, an electric guitar wails and horns scream on hits like Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” and Blood, Sweat and Tears’ “Spinning Wheel.” The brass growls and the guitar howls to create the underlying tension that makes these classic songs just so infectious.
As the audience avidly applauds, The Flamingos take a bow before performing their own signature song from the 1960’s, “I Only Have Eyes for You.” As they sing, their voices ring out throughout the Superstar Theater, delighting all who appreciate impeccable four-part vocal harmony.
With a disco ball sparkling overhead, the talented quartet moves on to a spectacular medley of Sly and the Family Stone hits including “I Want to Take You Higher” and “Dance to the Music,” inciting the crowd to leap to its feet and dance in the aisles!
“Let’s bring Dennis out again!” exclaims the group, and Tufano joins The Flamingos in a tribute to the music of Motown on a potent rendition of The Four Tops’ “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch).”
Then, La La Brooks returns to the stage to join the ensemble in a soulful version of Martha Reeves and The Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” in addition to a bouyant rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).”
“Did you have a good time?” ask the performers, to which the crowd cheerfully responds with a resounding, “YES!”
Following the performance, we take a moment to chat with several of the stars from tonight’s Sounds of the 60s musical presentation.
First, we speak to La La Brooks, who tells us what it was like — after the span of a half-century — to sing the hits she recorded as a young teen. Pointing to her heart, Brooks smiles and acknowledges, “It’s all still right here.”
We also talk to Dennis Tufano who reveals, “Playing with this great band — especially with a horn section like this — really allows you to get in the groove and just sing, while they fill in with all those great musical riffs.”
In addition, we take a moment to chat with several audience members who tell us about their experience enjoying the Sounds of the 60s this evening.
After seeing his famous father singing on stage tonight, Terry Johnson’s son, Ricardo, asserts, “Dad only gets better with age!”
Ricardo’s wife, Chrystal, agrees with her husband, explaining, “This music is just so uplifting!”
Tammy, an audience member from Atlantic City, tells us she loved the concert, noting, “I was just disappointed they all couldn’t do all their hits — I didn’t want it to end!”
And finally Pat, a member of the crowd from Bethlehem, PA states, “This show was absolutely wonderful! It touched me in every way possible. Dennis Tufano was special — he really spoke to me. I’m not star-struck, but wow — he just brought tears to my eyes.”
“And La La Brooks and The Flamingos were so warm and positive, too,” continues Pat, before emphatically concluding, “I just love this music — it makes me feel alive!”
For more information on La La Brooks, please go to lalabrooks.net. To learn more about Dennis Tufano, please see www.dtsings.com. For further information on The Flamingos go to theflamingos.com. For more on upcoming performances at Resorts Atlantic City — including The Midtown Men on June 3 and The Yardbirds on July 7 — please check out resortsac.comPhotos by Love Imagery
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