Excitement is in the air this Thursday, September 14, 2023 evening at Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center as music lovers excitedly anticipate a Malt Shop Memories Live concert featuring Bobby Wilson, Dennis Tufano, Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Happenings, The Tymes, Johnny Farina, The Chiclettes, The Coda Band, and Vinnie Medugno.
Presented by the Garden State Arts Foundation, tonight’s show is a free event in a season which has already featured performances by Herman’s Hermits featuring Peter Noone, The Lettermen, and Tony Orlando.
Vice President of GSAF’s Board of Trustees Ron Gravino welcomes concertgoers to tonight’s program. He thanks the sponsors of the show along with GSAF executive director Cookie Santiago and Bob O’Brien and the many GSAF volunteers for their help with this evening’s concert.
Gravino introduces tonight’s Malt Shop Memories show emcee — MusicRadio 77-WABC disc jockey and entertainer Vinnie Medugno — who takes the stage performing Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity” accompanied by The Chiclettes vocal trio and The Coda Band.
“It’s good to be back at my second home away from home!” says Medugno to the PNC crowd before recalling how he was invited to Pittsburgh, PA to perform his next song on the TJ Lubinsky television production, Doo Wop Pop and Soul Generations Live. Here, Medugno delivers his version of Pitney’s “I’m Gonna Be Strong,” which has concertgoers cheering.
“Long live good music!’” exclaims Medugno prior to asking, “Do we have any Malt Shop Cruisers in the house?” and cruising into his final number, Jay and the Americans’ “Cara Mia,” which has the crowd on its feet for his dynamic vocal performance.
Declaring, “I’m your cruise director for tonight’s show!” Medugno introduces The Chiclettes — Susan, Sarah, and Deanna — who open their set with a nostalgic “girl group” medley of tunes including The Crystals’ “And Then He Kissed Me,” The Shirelles’ “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” Leslie Gore’s “It’s My Party,” Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street,” and The Supremes’ “Come See About Me” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
The Chiclettes conclude their portion of the program by honoring Tina Turner with an upbeat rendition of “Proud Mary.”
The crowd cheers, and Medugno introduces Santo and Johnny’s Johnny Farina who plays The Chantays’ “Pipeline” on steel guitar accompanied by The Coda Band.
“Hello, everybody!” says Farina, exclaiming, “I’m 82 moons and I still feel good!” Sailing into “Ebb Tide,” Farina imitates the sound of seabirds with his steel guitar prior to playing the melody of this lovely ballad.
Stating, “This next song needs audience participation” — “hand clapping,” “whistling,” “foot stomping,” or “whatever you want to do”— Farina performs a nimble rendition of Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser” joined by The Coda Band’s Mary Beth Ryan-Mastropaolo on alto sax.
For his final number, Farina’s hands glide across the strings of his steel guitar on “Sleepwalk,” its ethereal sound inspiring an avid standing ovation from the crowd.
Medugno introduces the Philly group, The Tymes — featuring original members Norman Burnett and Al “Caesar” Berry, along with lead singer John Henry Stone — who open their set snapping their fingers and singing in soulful three-part harmony on “Somewhere.”
Next up is “Wonderful Wonderful,” which was also recorded by Johnny Mathis, performed tonight by Al “Caesar” Berry and The Tymes supported by The Chiclettes and The Coda Band.
Interweaving harmonies are featured on The Tymes’ 1963 doo-wop smash, “So Much in Love.” The Tymes conclude their set with their 1974 disco hit, “You Little Trustmaker,” which has audience members tapping their toes and nodding their heads to the tune’s infectious “You little trustmaker/You’re no heartbreaker” refrain.
“We thank you for being here!” declare The Tymes as they dance their way off the stage accompanied by a standing ovation.
Exclaiming, “I didn’t know you could have this much fun on a school night!” Medugno announces, “Now, it’s back to the ‘60s” as he welcomes Bob Miranda and the Happenings to the stage.
Opening with an energetic rendition of The Rascals’ “People Got to Be Free,” Miranda points out the song’s co-writer — Eddie Brigati of The Rascals — seated in the audience.
Revealing that The Happenings’ next song was originally suggested to him by its songwriter, Carole King, Miranda’s falsetto voice is featured on a catchy arrangement of “Go Away Little Girl.”
Miranda explains that in a recent Sirius XM 60s Gold radio survey of the “Top 400 Summer Songs of the ‘60s,” The Happenings’ 1966 tune, “See You in September,” came in third following The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” and The Beach Boys’ “California Girls.” Backed by The Coda Band, the audience sings along with Miranda and The Happenings on a spirited rendition of “See You In September.”
Recalling, “We did this Gershwin tune and previewed it on The Smothers Brothers TV show,” Miranda and Co. conclude their set with a bouncy version of “I Got Rhythm” which elicits a standing ovation.
Following a short intermission, Medugno introduces The Coasters — Joe Lance Williams, Primotivo Candelaria, Dennis Anderson, and Robert Fowler — who open their set with the upbeat “That is Rock and Roll” and follow up by dancing and stepping to the enduring 1959 Coasters’ hit “Poison Ivy.”
Announcing, “We want to sing a love song!” the quartet performs a disco version of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.”
After asking the crowd, “What is your favorite Coasters’ song?” music lovers shout out their favorites as the group launches into its 1959 hit, “Charlie Brown.” The audience joins in on the tune’s famous “Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?” lyric.
To wrap things up, The Coasters impress with their dance moves on their 1958 #1 hit, “Yakety Yak,” doing kick steps and dancing on stage to an appreciative standing ovation.
Medguno introduces Charlie Thomas’ Drifters with Jeff Hall who open their segment exclaiming, “We’re here to have a party today!” as they perform The Drifters’ 1963 hit “On Broadway.”
Continuing with 1960’s “This Magic Moment,” Mary Beth Ryan-Mastropaulo is featured on alto sax before the group follows up with 1960's “I Count the Tears.” Singing, “Na, na, na, na, na, na late at night/ Na, na, na, na, na, na late at night,” The Drifters demonstrate how the song influenced The Grass Roots’ 1967 hit, “Let’s Live for Today.”
Music lovers clap along with Jeff Hall on The Drifters’ 1962 hit, “Up On the Roof,” as they dance on stage, and the audience happily sings along to the group’s final number — their 1964 smash, “Under the Boardwalk.”
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen!” says Hall as the group exits to a enthusiastic standing ovation.
Medugno has the Malt Shop Memories audience pose for a selfie taken from the stage before introducing the original singer of The Buckinghams, Dennis Tufano. “Hello, New Jersey!” exclaims Tufano, “What a great show!” prior to launching into a rockin’ rendition of The Buckinghams’ “Don’t You Care.”
Joking, “You all remember The Buckinghams — we broke up in 1970 because we were a ’60s band,” Tufano presents a sparkling version of “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” where the crowd happily sings along on the tune’s “Hey baby” refrain.
Pointing out Eddie Brigati in the crowd, Tufano sings a snippet of Brigati’s classic hit with The Rascals, “How Can I Be Sure,” before getting down on one knee and crooning The Buckinghams’ “Susan” to Brigati’s wife, Susan.
To conclude his portion of the program, Tufano has the audience sing along on The Buckinghams’ 1967 #1 smash, “Kind of a Drag,” which has the crowd erupting with a fervent standing ovation.
Before leaving the stage, Medugno surprises Tufano by having music lovers sing “Happy Birthday” to him, at which point, Dennis joins in singing as well.
Medugno introduces tonight’s final performer — Jackie Wilson’s son, Bobby Wilson— who electrifies the crowd with his rendition of “Can’t Turn You Loose.”
Wilson follows up by dancing across the stage on “634–5789.”
Announcing, “You made this one big in 1959 on American Bandstand,” Bobby gives a soulful performance of his dad’s hit, “Lonely Teardrops.” The Chiclettes are featured on the “Oh, oh, oh, oh” call-and-response vocal of “Reet Peteet.” Then, Bobby knocks out a punchy rendition of Jackie Wilson’s “Baby Work Out.”
Bobby exclaims, “I had a great time tonight! I’m gonna close with a big number my dad had,” before concluding tonight’s Malt Show Memories show with Jackie Wilson’s 1967 classic, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” and reminding everyone present that if you can “love one another like you love yourself” you can “heal the world!”
To learn more about Malt Shop Memories cruises — including the upcoming 2024 cruise featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters with Jeff Hall, The Coasters, Johnny Farina, and Vinnie Medugno along with The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Chubby Checker, and more — please go to maltshopcruise.com. For information on future Garden State Arts Foundation concerts at the PNC Bank Arts Center please click on gsafoundation.org.
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