Rock, Rhythm & Doo Wop
A once-in-a-lifetime reunion of music legends. Performers include Frankie Valli, Little Richard, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Fred Parris & The Five Satins, Lou Christie, Lenny Welch.
Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop
A simple song has the ability to transport any one of us back in time – and the lyrical and electric sounds of Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop do it better than almost any other genres! It evokes images of slow-dancing with your steady in the still of the night . . . crying to your “ex” that he don’t love you like I love you. . . or dreaming of happily-ever-after since I fell for you. . .
WQED Pittsburgh and Rhino Entertainment, the world’s leading pop culture label, team up to present a musical event that is as close to time-travel as television allows! Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop was taped at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh – the Oldies Capital of the World – reuniting the original legends of Rock-n-Roll for a once-in-a-lifetime performance.
Hosted by legendaries Frankie Valli, Jerry Butler (The Iceman), and Lloyd Price, the program also boasts a surprise appearance by Little Richard, who burns up the stage with an exhilarating performance of Keep A-Knockin’.
“You’re never going to see a line-up like this again,” says T.J. Lubinsky, the program’s producer and mastermind. Lubinsky is a Doo Wop aficionado – which is not so unusual if you consider the fact that he’s the grandson of Savoy Records founder Herman Lubinsky. “These are the original performers, singing their biggest hits. This is as close as you can get to one of the great Alan Freed rock and roll shows.”
It was both a professional and personal mission for die-hard fan Lubinsky to reunite the original superstars of “oldies” music, and he launched a worldwide search to find the performers – many of whom had dropped out of the music scene years before. In many cases, they hadn’t seen or even spoken to each other in decades. Some had fallen on hard times; others thought they’d retired from music permanently. Yet Lubinsky managed to soothe ruffled feathers, entice singers from retirement, and orchestrate one of the most exciting coups in concert history.
On the bill for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop is Fred Parris, who comes out of retirement after a decade to join The Five Satins in a performance of In the Still of the Night, the number one oldies single of all time! Hal Miller joins The Rays after 40 years of retirement to sing Silhouettes; and Kathy Young is reunited with The Innocents to sing A Thousand Stars for the first time since they recorded the hit when Young was just fourteen years old!
Ed Townsend, who wrote and produced Marvin Gaye’s R&B classic Let’s Get It On, performs his 1958 hit For Your Love; and hometown Pittsburgh boy Lou Christiedisplays his classic trademark falsetto in Lightning Strikes. The line-up also includes superstars Little Anthony & The Imperialssinging their hits Tears On My Pillow, Going Out of My Head, Hurt so Bad, and Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop; and, in a touching return to the stage after battling throat cancer last year, Larry Chancereunites with The Earls to sing I Believe and Remember Then.
Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop’s predecessors, Doo Wop 50 and Doo Wop 51, were co-produced by WQED Pittsburgh and Rhino Entertainment and raised over $30 million in pledges for PBS, shattering all previous fundraising records for the network, including those set by The Three Tenors. That same production collaboration is responsible for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop.
Henry DeLuca, Associate Producer for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop and Lubinsky’s second lieutenant for all three Doo Wop programs, says the overwhelming response from viewers is a testimony to the enduring popularity of the genre. “Nothing transports people back to a good time like music does,” DeLuca claims. A Pittsburgher and avid oldies fan who has been staging and producing concerts for many years, DeLuca notes that the atmosphere was electric during the taping of Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop. “The audience was so responsive. They were cheering, there were constant standing ovations. It was really gratifying to be there and be a part of it.”
“We’re preserving a personal time capsule of memories,” says Lubinsky. “This show gives the performers the credit, honor and respect they deserve. And for the audience, well. . . It’s as close as they’re ever going to get to that piece of their past, to what they experienced in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.”
WQED Pittsburgh, honored with the 2007 and 2006 Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award for Station Excellence, was founded in 1954 as the nation’s first community-supported broadcaster. WQED creates, produces and distributes quality programs, products and services to engage, inform, educate and entertain the public within its community and around the world. WQED Pittsburgh is one of the first broadcasters in the country to be fully high-definition (HD) in its studio and field production capabilities. It is the parent company of WQED-TV (PBS); WQED: The Neighborhood Channel; WQED: The Create Channel; WQEX-TV (A ShopNBC affiliate); WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; a publishing division that includes PITTSBURGH MAGAZINE; local and national television and radio productions; WQED Interactive (www.wqed.org); and The WQED Education Department.
BACKGROUND ON DOO-WOP PHENOMENON
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, the sound of street-corner harmonizing blossomed into one of the most memorable eras in American music. Dubbed Doo Wop (so-named because background singers frequently sang nonsense words for added rhythm), this musical genre provided the roots for our country’s rock and roll revolution and gained a devoted following that’s endured for decades.
Soulful and stimulating, lyrical and electrifying, Doo Wop music is the soundtrack for an entire generation of Americans. The list of crooners who became musical legends goes on and on: Frankie Valli . . . Little Anthony & the Imperials . . . The Duprees. . . Lloyd Price . . . Lou Christie . . . The Chiffons . . . The Coasters. . . Kathy Young with the Innocents. . . Hal Miller & the Rays. These artists and many more contributed to the rich tradition of American rock, rhythm, and blues, and even though most of the groups disbanded when the genre gave way to new musical trends in the late 1960’s, die-hard fans continued to celebrate the spirit of Doo Wop.
Now, more than half a century after its birth, an Oldies revival is sweeping the nation! And it’s due, in large part, to one man who turned his personal passion for Doo Wop into a national phenomenon.
T.J. Lubinsky just happens to be the grandson of Herman Lubinsky, creator and founder of the early rhythm and blues label Savoy Records. Driven by family pride and a soul-deep love for the genre, T. J. Lubinsky masterminded Doo Wop 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Street Corner Harmony.
Instead of relying on tribute bands or relic recordings, Lubinsky launched a worldwide effort to locate and reunite the original superstars of Doo Wop. In many cases, performers hadn’t seen or even spoken to each other in decades. Some had fallen on hard times; others thought they’d retired from music permanently. Yet Lubinsky managed to soothe ruffled feathers, entice singers from retirement, and orchestrate one of the most exciting coups in concert history: A once-in-a-lifetime performance featuring Doo Wop’s original legends.
Artists including The Chantels, The Marcels, and The Del Vikings took the stage for Doo Wop 50, which aired nationally on PBS in December, 1999 – and immediately captured the attention of the network by attracting new audiences as well as loyal old fans! Ultimately, Doo Wop 50 raised over $22 million for PBS stations, surpassing The Three Tenor to become the highest grossing fund-raiser in PBS history.
The following year, WQED Pittsburgh partnered with the world’s leading pop culture label Rhino Records, and Lubinsky recreated his magic for Doo Wop 51, another critical and financial triumph for PBS, raising over $8 million.
Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, taped at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center, is hosted by Frankie Valli, Jerry Butler (The Iceman), and Lloyd Price. Fred Parris of the Five Satins comes out of retirement for the first time in a decade to join the group for In the Still of the Night, the #1 oldies single of all time! The Duprees reunite with original member Mike Arnone; and Larry Chance of The Earls (Life is But a Dream, Never, I Believe, and the classic Remember Then) returns to the stage after recovering from throat cancer discovered late last year.
Like the music itself, the programs that started as Doo Wop have evolved to include Rock and Rhythm as well as America rediscovers and revels in the past, present, and unexpected new future of Oldies music.
GROUPS: Bios and Special Points
Born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia, “Little Richard” merged gospel with New Orleans R&B to create a fiery sound that earned him status as one of the true rock-and-roll greats. Signed by Specialty Records in 1955, Little Richard turned a provocative ditty into his first smash hit, Tutti Frutti. For Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, Little Richard treats fans to a sizzling rendition of Good Golly Miss Molly.
KATHY YOUNG with THE INNOCENTS
Formed in Sun Valley, California in 1958, this group’s major contributor is Kathy Young. They performed songs by Al Candelaria, Darron Stankey, Jeanne Vikki, and James West, among others, and counted Gee Whiz, Honest I Do, and Thousand Stars among their hits before disbanding in 1964. Together again for the Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop reunion, Kathy Young joins The Innocents to perform A Thousand Stars.
Formed in 1958 in Detroit, Michigan, The Contours have the distinction of being one of Berry Gordy’s earliest discoveries for Motown Records.The quintet scored an R&B chart-topper in 1962 with the hard-rocking hit Do You Love Me, made popular again by a whole new generation when it appeared in the movie Dirty Dancing. Later hits include the soul classics Just a Little Misunderstanding and First I Look at the Purse. Do You Love Me sees yet another reincarnation and a chance to capture a new audience as The Contours perform it during Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop.
HAL MILLER & THE RAYS
The Rays, formed in New York, New York and popular during the 1950’s, performed songs by Bob Crewe and Frank Slay, among others. Their music appears on various compilation albums, including Alan Freed’s Memory Lane, Oldies but Goodies, Vol. 4., and in 1976, Fonzie Favorites (in reference to the popular TV series Happy Days, which paid tribute to the ‘50’s). Hal Miller, who has also worked with a number of other artists throughout his career including Carlos Santana and Mary K. Miller, reunites with The Rays at Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop to perform Silhouettes.
Formed in 1962 in Jersey City, NJ, The Duprees’ hallmark was to treat pop-rock standards to classy, big band treatment. They achieved great success in 1962-63 when You Belong to Me made the Top Ten, and three other hits, My Own True Love, Have You Heard, and Why Don’t You Believe Me also scored as Top 40 hits. For the Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop reunion, The Duprees perform their classic You Belong to Me.
Although Ed Townsend had his own R&B hit in 1958, For Your Love, this venerable singer/songwriter is just as famous (if not more so) for the hits he wrote that were recorded by such renowned artists as Nat “King” Cole and Etta James. In the mid-70’s, Townsend also co-writer with Marvin Gaye the classic R&B/pop hit Let’s Get it On. Although Townsend recorded other Capitol singles, including Be My Love and Hold On, For Your Love remains his most popular tune, which he performs for the audience at Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop.
This five-man Doo Wop group formed in 1962 in the Detroit area. Although their first recording was a remake of The Five Satins’ In the Still of the Night, their first hit came two years later when they recorded Romeo and Juliet for Ed Wingate’s Golden World label. Although they recorded seven more tunes for Golden World (including Like Columbus Did, Talking About My Girl, and Poor Man’s Son) none of them performed as well as their first hit. They later switched labels and even changed their name to High and the Mighty, but none of their new recordings achieved the success of their earliest work, Romeo and Juliet – which is what the group performs for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop.
Lou Christie (a.k.a. Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco) is a Pittsburgh boy known throughout the 1960’s for his bubblegum pop style of music. With his distinctive falsetto voice, Christie also made his mark as one of the first performers of the rock era to compose his own songs. Early in the ‘60’s, while playing with various local bands, he changed his name to Lou Christie, and eventually teamed with a classically trained musician named Twila Herbert. The two co-wrote The Gypsy Cried, which Christie recorded in his home garage! The song was licensed and released nationally by the Roulette label and made it to #24 on the pop charts by 1963. His follow-up, Two Faces Have I,” made it into the Top Ten, but shortly after, Christie’s career was interrupted by a stint in the Army. In 1966, he made his move back to music with the smash Lightnin’ Strikes (which he sings for Rock, Rhythm, and Doo Wop), and then Rhapsody in the Rain. After scoring one last Top Ten hit in 1969 (I’m Gonna Make You Mine) left music until the late 1980’s, when he began making occasional appearances on oldies package tours.
LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS
Formed in 1958 in Brooklyn, NY, Little Anthony & The Imperials began their career as The Chesters, but changed their name to The Imperials at the suggestion of disc jockey Alan Freed. They enjoyed a much longer chart run than many of the Doo Wop groups of the same era. Between 1958 and 1974, they saw ten of their songs hit the Hot 100, including Tears on My Pillow, Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop, Going Out of my Head, and Hurt So Bad. The group revamped in 1964, whittling down to four members and changing their sounds from classic Doo Wop to a harder-edged R&B. Little Anthony continued to work as a solo artist after 1975, but the group is reunited once more to sing Tears on My Pillow at the Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop concert.
Although Lewis worked for years as a recording artist, he is somewhat unfairly dubbed a “one hit wonder” because none of his other works ever achieved the monster success of the 1961 smash Tossin’ and Turnin’. That single sold over three million copies on the Beltone label, which issued an accompanying album by Lewis thanks to that single’s success. Of course, for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, Lewis will perform Tossin’ and Turnin’.
The smooth sound of The Fleetwoods allowed them to enjoy success singing both Doo Wop and R&B, with a trademark specialty singing ballads. Singers Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis initially invited Gary Troxell to accompany them as a trumpet player, but not long after The Fleetwoods formed, Troxell abandoned the trumpet and joined the crooning. Their 1959 debut was Come Softly to Me, and their third single, Mr. Blue, made it to the #1 spot on the pop charts and into the Top Five R&B. Over the next three years, they continued to score with a number of popular songs hits, most of them ballads, before disbanding in 1963. The Fleetwoods have reunited occasionally in the past for oldies revues, and even recorded an album in 1973. For Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, the trio performs Mr. Blue.
Lenny Welch worked doggedly throughout the 1960’s to sign and sing for various record labels. Compared to the velvet-voiced Johnny Mathis, Welch’s career seemed destined for huge things, but bad luck and bad business conspired against him. His first release, You Don’t Know Me, was marginally popular, but it was his second single on the Cadence label, Since I Fell For You, that made its mark on the charts. It hit #5 on the Pop chart, which paved the way for a follow-up success with Ebb Tide. When Cadence unexpectedly folded in 1964, Welch continued to record for other labels, and even performed gigs on weekends while serving in the military. In the mid- and late-‘60’s, Welch recorded some popular songs, including Darling Take Me Back, Please Help Me I’m Falling, and The Right to Cry. A voluntary leave-of-absence from the music world cooled his career and an attempted comeback in the 1970’s never offered the same spark he’d enjoyed earlier. But he’s back and in great form for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, where he performs Since I Fell for You.
LARRY CHANCE & THE EARLS
One of the more revered of the white Doo Wop groups, The Earls began their career as The High Hatters in 1957 at the Tecumseh Social Club in the Bronx. Lead vocalist Larry Figueiredo changed his name to Larry Chance (after the record label) and he and his partners started recording in Rome in 1961. That year, they recorded their first New York hit, a version of the Harp-Tones’ Life is but a Dream. In 1963, they released Remember Then for Old Town, and that song reached #29 on the R&B chart. Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop marks Larry’s laudable return to music after a battle with throat cancer late last year.
After singing with several other groups in the late 1950’s, James Sheppard connected with old friends Clarence Bassett and Charles Baskerville (formerly of The Videos) to form Shep & The Limelites. After a lackluster start on the Apr. Records label, they were signed by Hull Records and released Daddy’s Home, a sentimental ballad about returning from war. The single shot to #2 on the pop chart in 1961 and in the following four years, Hull released twelve more of the group’s singles, although Our Anniversary, which reached #7 on the R&B charts, was their only other chart success. Shep & The Limelites disbanded in 1966, although they reunited in 1970 for performances on the oldies revue circuit. Shortly after that, James Sheppard died in a tragic accident, although The Limelites have returned for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop to perform the group’s breakthrough ballad Daddy’s Home.
JAY BLACK & THE AMERICANS
Formed in New York City in 1961, The Americans’ original “Jay” was Jay Traynor, lead singer when the band had their first hit, She Cried. By the time the band scored another chart hit in 1963 (Only in America), the new lead singer was Jay Black – who, incidentally, was actually named David, but changed his name to “Jay” to fit the band’s name! Other big hits included Let’s Lock the Door and Cara Mia (which they perform at Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop). After their mid-‘60’s success, Jay & The Americans fell out of the limelight until a brief reappearance in 1969 and 1970 with updated covers of The Drifters’ This Magic Moment and the Ronette’s Walkin’ in the Rain. Shortly after, they joined the oldies revue circuit.
JERRY BUTLER (The Iceman)
One of the most distinguished voices in the music industry, Jerry Butler’s career spans four impressive decades, claiming over fifty albums! Butler’s first big hit, For Your Precious Love, came in 1958 when he sang as front man for Jerry Butler and The Impressions – which, interestingly, Butler had written the lyrics for when he was just 16! Butler left The Impressions later that same year to embark on his solo career, and shortly after that his single He Will Break Your Heart rocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for seven consecutive weeks. Subsequent hits included Hey, Western Union Man, Only the Strong Survive, Never Give You Up, and Are You Happy? In the early 1970s, he teamed with singer Brenda Lee Eager for the soul-ballad duet Ain’t Understanding Mellow, which made it to #3 on the Billboard R&B chart, a cover of The Carpenter’s They Long to be Close to You, and a remake of The O’Jays’ One Night Affair – which happened to mark his last song to crack the Top Ten. While he has continued to croon over the decades, Butler also made the interesting move to local and regional politics, campaigning on behalf of Chicago’s first Black mayor Harold Washington, and later taking positions as the Cook County (IL) Commissioner and a Chicago City Alderman. In addition to singing He Don’t Love You Like I Love You for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, Butler – with his trademark “Iceman” style – serves as one of the program’s hosts.
When a teenaged Lloyd Price and his brother Leo put together a small local band in 1952, Specialty Records exec Art Rupe caught the act and released Price’s classic Lawdy Miss Clawdy to rave reviews. The song topped the R&B charts and paves the way for more hits on the Specialty Label, including Ain’t It A Shame and Tell Me Pretty Baby. Shortly after, Price was drafted, but after serving in Korea, he left the military to start his own label, KRC Records, with partners Harold Logan and Bill Boskent. In 1958, Price’s adaptation of Stagger Lee topped both the R&B and pop charts. A string of hits followed in the late ‘50’s and throughout the ‘60’s, including Where Were You On Our Wedding Day, Personality, and Come Into My Heart, but Price left the music business when his partner Logan was murdered in 1969. After more than a decade abroad, Price returned to the US, although it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that he returned to music to take part in an oldies revival, convinced there was still an audience for his music. Yet another era of his career blossomed and he’s performed regularly ever since. For the Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop concert, Price performs his early hit Stagger Lee.
LENNY COCCO & THE CHIMES
This quintet formed in Brooklyn in the mid-1950’s, and scored an immediate hit with a remake of Tommy Dorsey’s Once in Awhile that reached #11 on the charts. Their follow-up success was a remake of the 1930’s classic I’m in the Mood for Love, and then continued to record under several different record labels through the early 1960’s. The groups disbanded in 1964 but reformed in the ‘70’s to play oldies revival shows, and has been at it ever since. For Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, Lenny & The Chimes perform their first hit, Once in Awhile.
GENE HUGHES & THE CASINOS
Although this Cincinnati-based band formed in 1958, they didn’t reach the top of the hit charts until 1967, with their ballad Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye. They were a throwback to the earlier days of Doo Wop, with smooth harmonies and a neat, conservative appearance, and although they recorded a number of other singles for the Fraternity label throughout the 1960’s, none of their songs ever matched the success of Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye. It’s also the song the group performs for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop.
FRED PARRIS & THE FIVE SATINS
A teen-aged Fred Parris started the doo-wop group The Scarlets back in 1953, while he was still in high school in New Haven, Connecticut. The following year, Parris re-organized the group as The Five Satins, and shortly after that, they recorded one of Parris’s compositions in the basement of a local church. That song was In the Still of the Night. It was released as a single on Standard Records in the spring of 1956 before being leased to the Ember label, when it shot up the charts. As In the Still of the Night made its mark on the charts, Fred Parris found himself drafted into the military, and with him stationed in Japan, the group recorded its follow-up single To the Aisle with Bill Baker handling lead vocals. When Parris returned from the military in 1958, he reorganized the group yet again, seeing minor hits before In the Still of the Night re-entered the pop charts, thanks to exposure on an Oldies but Goodies compilation album. During the ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, Parris led versions of The Satins in oldies concerts around the US and in Europe, until the group saw its last doo-wop hit in the Top 100 in 1982, a medley titled Memories of Days Gone By. Throughout the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, they performed occasionally at oldies revues, although Parris left music entirely in the mid-1990’s after the tragic death of his wife. After much urging, Fred Parris came out of retirement to once again join The Five Satins for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, where the group performs, of course, In the Still of the Night.
Biography – T.J. Lubinsky
With ten years’ experience in public television, 29-year-old T.J. Lubinsky has managed to parlay a personal passion for Doo Wop music into a PBS fundraising phenomenon. Currently a membership producer at WQED Pittsburgh, a post he accepted in 1996, Lubinsky has at turns in his career been a news photographer, technical director, radio producer, and on-air pledge talent. Membership and marketing, however, have proven to be his forte, as he’s masterminded a series of historic musical events that brought droves of new members to public television.
Originally from New Jersey, Lubinsky’s unlikely affinity for the Doo Wop genre isn’t so unusual to those who know his family background: His grandfather, Herman Lubinsky, was the founder of the 1950’s rhythm and Doo Wop label Savoy Records. Indoctrinated into the family passion since childhood, Lubinsky grew up indulging – and continuing to indulge – his love of music. He’s an avid collector, and has served as archival consultant for Motown Record’s Motown Master Series. He’s even turned up at area clubs on many occasions to “spin the platters” on Oldies Night.
“I live this stuff, love this stuff,” Lubinsky enthuses. “I remember being fifteen years old ‘making out’ with my girlfriend to In the Still of the Night. . . You hear this kind of music and it just hits you were you live.”
At 29, such a commitment to a former generation’s music may make him both an oddity and an anachronism – but he also possesses a savant-like knowledge of all-things Doo Wop! It was that kind of soul-deep appreciation for the music that inspired him to pitch his idea to WQED for the ultimate Doo Wop concert – not a revue headed by tribute bands but a line-up of the original Doo Wop legends.
“I was born too late to see an Alan Freed show, so I figured I’d recreate one for myself and my parents,” Lubinsky jokes. On a more serious note, he adds, “Pittsburgh [and WQED Pittsburgh] was the perfect place to do it. Pittsburgh is the ‘Oldies Capital of the World’ so this couldn’t have happened anywhere else.”
Determined to realize his vision of a massive and mighty musical reunion of Doo Wop’s original singers, Lubinsky launched a worldwide search for performers. Many had long since retired from music, and in some cases, hadn’t seen or even spoken to each other in decades. Some had fallen on hard times; others thought they’d retired from music permanently. Yet with his insiders’ knowledge and unmistakable ardor for the topic, Lubinsky managed to soothe ruffled feathers, entice singers from retirement, and orchestrate one of the most exciting coups in concert history: A once-in-a-lifetime performance featuring Doo Wop’s original legends.
In December, 1999, Doo Wop 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Street Corner Harmony debuted nationally on PBS. Artists including The Chantels, The Marcels, and The Del Vikings took the stage – and within three hours, the program raised over $22 million in pledges for PBS stations, surpassing The Three Tenors to become the highest grossingfund-raiser in PBS history.
Professionally, Lubinsky applauded the program’s ability to bring new members to public television, but on a personal level, he’s satisfied that the program serves as a tribute to the dedicated performers of the Doo Wop era. He says, “People can view this show for decades and it gives the groups the credit, honor and respect they deserve. I did it for them, and I also did it as a tribute to my mom and dad.”
Hot to capitalize on the success of Doo Wop 50, PBS, WQED Pittsburgh, and ultimate pop culture label Rhino Records quickly threw their full weight and support behind a follow-up. The result the following year was Doo Wop 51, featuring another outstanding line-up of original stars, and again, scoring a huge success in PBS fundraising drives.
With as much magic as momentum, Lubinsky immediately launched himself heart and soul into a third installment. In May, 2001, WQED Pittsburgh partnered with Rhino Records and Lubinsky taped Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop with a line-up boasting some of the era’s most spectacular performers. Frankie Valli took the stage, along with Little Richard, Jerry Butler (The Iceman), Fred Parris & The Five Satins, Ed Townsend, and Pittsburgh’s native son and Doo Wop legend Lou Christie, just to name a few. The program airs nationally on PBS in December, 2001, and it is expected to be as big a hit as its predecessors.
Lubinsky is proud to point out, “You will never see this kind of line-up again. It’s a tribute to members of public television that we’ve gotten this far. Without their support we never could have done this, preserved this for history.”
And that’s Lubinsky’s goal: At 29, this wunderkind has masterminded a cultural document that can be appreciated for generations to come, not just preserving a moment in history, but re-creating it.
“It’s all about the music,” he says, shaking his head in both wonder and satisfaction at this phenomenon he’s managed to achieve. “Everything’s about the music.”
ROCK, RHYTHM AND DOO WOP SPECIAL MAKES HISTORY WITH ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME REUNIONS AND UNEXPECTED MAGICAL MOMENTS
WQED Pittsburgh and pop culture icon Rhino Records partnered this past May to produce Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop, another installment in the series of smash-hit Oldies reunion concerts that have redefined “success” for PBS fundraisers.
Propelled by the spectacular momentum created by its predecessors Doo Wop 50 and Doo Wop 51, it was inevitable that Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop would end up offering some unexpected moments that could only add to the excitement quotient in a line-up already featuring the era’s most legendary singers.
Fanatic fans showed up at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center for the program’s taping, already thrilled at the prospect of seeing such greats as Frankie Valli, Lou Christie, and Jerry Butler (The Iceman) . . . so imagine their surprise when mega-music star Little Richard bounded on stage to perform a couple of tunes as well!
“Frankie Valli – you don’t get bigger than Frankie Valli! – is the host of the show,” marvels T.J. Lubinsky, the 29-year-old producer and mastermind behind this PBS phenomenon. “And on top of that we have Little Richard. He was never announced as part of the program and when he showed up the audience went wild!”
After his first two Doo Wop reunion concerts raised over $30 million for PBS (shattering all previous fundraising records, including the one set by The Three Tenors), Lubinsky set out to orchestrate the ultimate Oldies reunion. As he did with Doo Wop 50 and Doo Wop 51, Lubinsky launched a world-wide search for original performers, many of whom had left music years ago, and in some cases, hadn’t seen or even spoken to each other in decades.
The program boasts Fred Parris and The Five Satins, who came out of retirement for the first time in a decade to sing the number one oldies single of all time, In the Still of the Night. It also reunited Kathy Young with The Innocents to sing A Thousand Stars for the first time since she recorded that hit when she was fourteen years old!
And die-hard fans of the genre could only marvel at the trip back in time as Hal Miller reunited with The Rays to perform Silhouettes after forty years in retirement; and The Duprees reunited with original member Mike Arnone after more then ten years to sing You Belong to Me.
“It’s incredible, it really is,” says Lubinsky
Ed Townsend, who wrote and produced Marvin Gaye’s smooth R&B classic Let’s Get It On also appeared on the Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop bill to perform his 1958 hit For Your Love. And Pittsburgh’s own Lou Christie presented his trademark falsetto rendition of Lightnin’ Strikes.
“It’s also amazing that we have Little Anthony in the line-up,” Lubinsky points out. “Here’s a singer who epitomizes the evolution of music, from Rhythm & Blues to Doo Wop to Rock and Soul.”
Although Lubinsky is hard-pressed to single out just one personal favorite moment of the event, he did cite as especially significant Larry Chance’s triumphant return to music after a bout last year with throat cancer. Chance reunited with The Earls at Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop to sing I Believe and Remember Then.
“And,” Lubinsky laughs, “I did everything including calling Fred Parris’s kids and neighbors to convince him to come out of retirement for this concert!” Parris and The Five Satins often toured Oldies reviews, but Parris disappeared from the music scene in the mid-1990’s after his wife’s tragic death. “I begged him,” Lubinsky says simply. “I begged him to do it for his children and his grandchildren, so they could look at this program for years to come and see what a legend he is.” The effort paid off because Fred Parris appeared on stage with The Five Satins for a goose bump-inducing performance of In the Still of the Night.
Lubinsky himself is a self-confessed fanatic of the genre, and in putting together the reunion concerts he insisted on keeping songs as true to the era as possible. “Some of these people are still working in Vegas and places like that,” he explained, “and they do disco versions or whatever of some of their classics. Not for Rock, Rhythm and Doo Wop. We’re preserving a piece of history here. We’re doing it just like you would have heard back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.”
The result: A once-in-a-lifetime reunion that is as close to time-travel as television can allow.
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