I recently had the privilege of seeing the Doo Wop Spectacular at the John Harms Theater in Englewood, N.J. near where I live and it was a very good and entertaining show. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term “ Doo Wop” it originated back in the 50’s when a small group of friends would stand on street corners and harmonize songs while a group of people formed around them to listen. It was an age of Drive –In movies and car hops where you drive up to a fast food restaurant and young girls on roller skates came out to deliver your food right to you.
Saturdays concert featured several well known oldies groups that are keeping the music alive. The concert opened with several local doo-wop groups, one who was a father and daughter group who harmonized beautifully acapella and with a band doing a few original songs and a few well known songs. They received a warm, positive reception.
Following the local groups Kathy Young was introduced singing off stage and walking onto the stage. Kathy is known for her song “A Thousand Stars in the Sky.’ She was born in 1944 and still sounds great and with a smooth clear as a bell voice that sounds like yesterday. I still have her original 45 rpm record. Does anyone remember those? Kathy said her first song she sang was “How Much is that Doggie in the Window” when she was five years old. After doing a few lesser known songs Kathy did her hit song “A Thousand Stars in the Sky” which she recorded when she was14 years old. You can watch her sing it here.
Following Kathy Young Chris Montez was introduced. Chris is known for his song “Do you Wanna’ Dance?” Chris came out playing guitar and was very energetic. He explained that his mother had 18 kids, nine of which survived so today he has four brothers and four sisters, “Those Mexicans know how to multiply,” Chris said. Chris said his real name is Ezekial Christopher Montenegro and when he first went to record they asked him what do his friends call him and replied, “Zeke.” They told him that will never do and to come back next week .When he came back they said they were changing his name to Chris Montez. Chris then did the Astrid Gilberto song, “Call Me” followed by the Richie Valens songs “Donna”and “La Bamba” getting the audience to sing along before doing his hit song “Do You Wanna’ Dance?” Chris got a whopping reception.
Larry Chance and the Earls
Following Chris Larry Chance and the Earls came out. They are known for their hit song “Remember Then” Larry is a burly guy with a husky voice, but when he sings he sings normal and comes out beautiful. Larry told how one of their original members joined the 82nd Airborne and never came back. He dedicated the song “I Believe” to him and all vets especially Vietnam Vets, which they did beautifully. After a few more songs they went into their hit song “Remember Then.”
Kenny Vance and the Planatones
Closing the show was the act everyone was waiting for the famous Kenny Vance and the Planatones. Kenny was the original founder of the legendary Jay and the Americans” which they did a medley of songs from there including, “Let’s Lock the Door,” “Come A Little Bit Closer,” and “Cara Mia”. Larry is 75 years old and was a little more subdued this time, but still sounded great due to the fact that he recently had surgery for a torn artery and didn’t want to take any chances with the high notes so he has his son Ladd perform all the high notes like the beginning and end of “Looking For An Echo” Which you can see below.
The Planatones consist of Johnny Gale on guitar, Jimmy Bense on vocals, Tony Gallino on drums and Chip Dees on keyboards and all have been with Kenny for the past ten years now and like Kenny all hail from Brooklyn, New York. Their newest member is Kenny’s son Ladd Vance who is currently from Los Angeles. Kenny is known for his white fedora hat and dark sunglasses and smooth talking voice. He tells stories in between songs while the music plays softly in the background which adds to the story and I always love it when I hear that. Kenny told how when he was a young boy and went to record he told the executives the name of his group which they disapproved of. He went home and told his mother and she said “You go back there tomorrow and tell them I said to keep that name.” He went back and said “My mother said to keep that name and so they did and if it wasn’t for his mother Jay and the Americans would never have been around. Kenny did a few well known oldies such as “Diamonds and Pearls” “Tears On My Pillow” “This is the Night for Love,” “Angel Baby”and got the audience all singling along to “In the Still of the Night” which he considers one of the greatest love songs ever done. At one point Kenny did a duet with is son of the Everley Brothers’ “Let It Be Me.” It was beautiful. Kenny ended his set with their famous “Looking for an Echo” as seen below. If this show comes to a theater near you be sure to check them out for a great night of entertainment, memories and nostalgia. Check out some of their great videos here.
? “CARA MIA” Kenny Vance & The Planotones – YouTube Watch Kenny do a superb rendition of Cara Mia from 2009.
Kenny Vance & The Planotones: Sleepwalk, Angel Baby & the Retirement Stroll! Watch Kenny introduce the Retirement Stroll which he did at Saturday’s concert and kiddingly said this is what you see a lot of people do in Florida.
Looking For An Echo – Kenny Vance – YouTube Kenny and his son Ladd and the band do Looking For An Echo filmed just last year.