Showing posts with label Top 40 Radio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Top 40 Radio. Show all posts

Sunday, January 15, 2023



D E N N I S   T U F A N O 


T H E   B U C K I N G H A M S

“Kind of A Drag”, “Don’t You Care”, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song”, “Susan”  “Back In Love Again” 




Dennis Tufano is the original "voice" of “The Buckinghams”. the Chicago-based group that scored a string of five Top Ten hits in the late-sixties including, the #1 “Kind of A Drag”, “Don’t You Care”, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song”, “Susan” and “Back In Love Again”. Following his success in the Buckinghams, Dennis was part of the song-writing duo "Tufano and Giammarese" and recorded three albums with Lou Adler's custom label, Ode Records. Appearing as guest vocalist he went on to co-write with renowned composer and musician Tom Scott. With Scott as composer, Dennis performed the "original title/theme song" for the long running "Family Ties" television show.

Dennis also wrote the music and performed with Bernie Taupin, Elton John's lyricist, on Taupin's album, " He Who Rides The Tiger ". Subsequently he teamed again with Taupin to co-write, co-produce and perform the Farm Dogs album “Last Stand In Open Country”.

Back on the road, Dennis joined Olivia Newton-John on her hugely successful tour and was featured, with her on the HBO Special in two dramatically inspired duets.

As an actor, Dennis has also worked in film, television, radio and commercials.






Dennis Tufano official website

Fan Site


2023 Shows

Friday, January 20, 2023, 7:00 pm ET

Original Hitmakers of Summer Tour

Dennis Tufano, Brian Hyland, Chris Montez, Rock and the Rollers

Circle Square Cultural Center, Ocala, FL.

Tickets: $35-$60; Doors open 6 pm ET


Saturday, February 25, 2023, 8:00 pm PT

Best of the '60s

Dennis Tufano with Special Guests Cannibal and The Headhunters

The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, CA

All ticket purchasers will be entered to win a guitar that will be

autographed by the artists in the show.

Tickets: $30; Doors open at 6 pm PT


Saturday, March 11, 2023, 7 pm ET

Rockin' Oldies Dance Party

Dennis Tufano, The Vogues, Bobby Wilson, The Trammps

The Grand Opera House, Copeland Hall, Wilmington, DE


Saturday, April 29, 2023, 7 pm ET

Sixties Spectacular

Dennis Tufano, Herman's Hermits, Jay and the Americans,

1910 Fruitgum Company

Proctor's Theater, Schenectady, NY





February 12 – 19, 2023

Wonder of the Seas


Rocky & The Rollers

America’s Premier Rock and Roll Band

Jon “Bowzer” Bauman

“Formerly of Sha Na Na – Born to Hand Jive”

Johnny Contardo

“Formerly of Sha Na Na – Those Magic Changes”

Dennis Tufano

“original lead singer of The Buckinghams – Kind of a Drag”

Jay Siegel’s Tokens

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Portrait of My Love”

La La Brooks

“original lead singer of The Crystals – He’s a Rebel”

Brian Hyland

   “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”

Chris Montez

“The More I See You – Let’s Dance”

Joey Dee

“Peppermint Twist -Shout”

 Peggy March

“I Will Follow Him”

Port Canaveral, FL | CocoCay, Bahamas| Charlotte Amalie,

 St. Thomas |

Basseterre, St. Kitts | Port Canaveral, FL


October 28th-November 4th 2023

The Temptations … Little Anthony …Jay And The Americans …The Lettermen… Al Jardine, Founding Member of The Beach Boys, & His Endless Summer Band… Darlene Love… The Bronx Wanderers… Peter Asher… Dennis Tufano the Original Lead Singer of The Buckinghams… The Vogues… The Skyliners… The Contours… The Elegants …The Reflections… Linda Gail Lewis (sister of Jerry Lee Lewis) … Bobby Wilson

    And more surprises to come!



Kind of a Drag (1967, USA Records)

Time and Charges (1967, Columbia)

Portraits (1967, Columbia)

In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow (1968, Columbia)



1965 "Sweets for My Sweet"

b/w "Beginners Love"

1966 "I'll Go Crazy"

b/w "Don't Want to Cry"

"I Call Your Name"

b/w "Makin' Up and Breakin' Up"

"I've Been Wrong Before"

b/w "Love Ain't Enough"

"Kind of a Drag"

b/w "You Make Me Feel So Good"

1967 "Lawdy Miss Clawdy"

b/w "I Call Your Name" (first pressings)

"Makin' Up and Breakin' Up" (later pressings)


b/w "I Don't Want to Cry"

"Don't You Care"

b/w "Why Don't You Love Me"

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy"

b/w "You Are Gone"

"Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)"

b/w "And Our Love" (from Time & Charges)


b/w "Foreign Policy" (from Time & Charges)

1968 "Back In Love Again"

b/w "You Misunderstand Me" (Non-album track) In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow

"Where Did You Come From"

b/w "Song of the Breeze" (from In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow)

1969 "This Is How Much I Love You"

b/w "Can't Find the Words" (from In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow)

"It's a Beautiful Day (For Lovin')"

b/w "Difference of Opinion"

1970 "I Got a Feelin'"

b/w "It Took Forever"


 JANUARY 16TH 2023











Order yours today on (Collector edition) Hardcover or E-book at and

Featuring over 45 intimate conversations with some of the greatest rock legends the world will ever know.







-By Literary Titan (5) STARS

The Rock Star Chronicles by Ray Shasho, is a splendid book written by a music enthusiast who has poured their heart and soul into it. It’s a story of a boy who loved rock music, and his obsessive passion of it earned himself the name Rock Raymond. He went to school but instead was schooled in all matters of music while his peers were buried chin-deep in coursework. He then became a radio DJ and has now compiled a book on all interviews he held with Rock gods who raided the airwaves back in the 70s and 80s. It’s a compilation of interviews with outstanding vocalists, legendary guitarists and crazy drummers in the rock music scene. Each interview gives a reader an in-depth view into their personal lives and the philosophies that guide their lives which all serve to humanize these great icons. For readers who are old enough to call themselves baby boomers this book will bring old memories back to life. Millennials, on the other hand, may think of this book as a literal work of the Carpool Karaoke show. 

The Rock Star Chronicles is a book I didn’t know I was waiting for. To come across a book that will talk me into trying something new. One brave enough to incite me to venture into new frontiers. This book made me a believer- I am now a bona fide Rock and Roll music fan. 

Ray Shasho masterfully gets the interviewees talking. He smartly coaxes answers from them with crafty questions designed to get a story rolling out of them. The artists talk about diverse issues ranging from music, politics, and their social engagements. Having been on the music seen all his life, Ray Shasho knows the buttons to press, how to get them comfortable about talking about their lives. 

The book’s cover is befitting of its subject matter with the leather look offering a royal background to the golden letter print. It speaks to how high a level rock music holds in the pecking order- arguably, modern music as we know it has originated from blues and rock music.  The second noteworthy thing is the use of high-definition pictures to reference the musician being interviewed in every sub-chapter. This ensures that the book is for both original rock and roll lovers and aspiring new ones. Together is makes for a refreshing and consistently enjoyable read.

I recommend this book to rock music enthusiasts, aspiring musicians wondering what it takes and all readers curious to learn new things by going back in time.   

Gold Award Winner


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Exclusive Interview: Tommy James (Shondells) Talks About 'Me, the Mob, And The Music'



By Ray Shasho

I had the unique privilege of speaking with legendary hitmaker Tommy James of The Shondells recently about his infamous and often intimidating association with Roulette Records and the “Godfather” of the music business Morris Levy.

After Tommy James and his family moved to Niles, Michigan he assembled what became a very popular local act called The Tornadoes. A local deejay asked the band to sign with his new label called Snap Records. One of the tunes recorded was a catchy rock and roll ditty written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich called “Hanky Panky.”

The song quickly became a local hit and then rapidly faded away into oblivion.

Two years later an improbable occurrence unfolded when “Hanky Panky” was discovered in a record bin by a nightclub deejay in Pittsburgh. He began playing the newly discovered 45 at weekend dances and the response was beyond overwhelming. A local record distributer bootlegged it and sold 80,000 copies in just ten days. By May of 1966 “Hanky Panky” became a number one hit in Pittsburgh. Later a promoter hunted down Tommy in Niles, Michigan and urged him to come to Pittsburgh where he was already a huge sensation.
A young and impressionable Tommy James would soon be trying to sell “Hanky Panky” to the largest record companies in New York. With an original copy from Snap Records and a bootleg copy in hand the executives from all the major labels positioned themselves to sign the rock and roll Boy Wonder. Strangely the next morning Tommy received a phone call informing him that all those record companies that were so eager to sign him had decided to pass. A disconcerted James then received a call from Jerry Wexler of Atlantic records who informed Tommy that he received a call from Morris Levy president of Roulette Records. The message was made crystal clear to Wexler and all the other record execs.

Levy said, “This is my F’ing record! Leave it alone.”
(Hanky Panky became number one on the charts in America and the biggest summer hit of 1966.)

Thus began the infamous relationship between Tommy James, Roulette Records and music mogul/gangster Morris Levy. After every crime family member connected to Roulette Records had passed away, Tommy James was compelled to profess his incredible story. So with help from author Martin Fitzpatrick, James confessed his story into a book called Me, the Mob, and the Music which became a Simon and Schuster best seller.

At 64, Tommy James may be entering an exciting second leg of his life. A movie is forthcoming by Goodfellas, Casino, The Color of Money and Cape Fear producer Barbara De Fina. Also a Broadway musical will be scripted by Oscar- nominated actor Chazz Palminteri along with brand new Tommy James compositions in addition to all of his greatest hits.

Tommy James has sold over 100 million records and was awarded 23 gold singles plus nine gold and platinum albums. Some of his legendary hits include “Hanky Panky,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Sweet Cherry Wine” and “Draggin’ The Line.”
During 1968-69 Tommy James and The Shondells sold more single records (45s) than any artist in the world, including The Beatles.

Here’s my interview with legendary singer/songwriter/performer/musician/'60s icon… and just a great guy Tommy James.

Tommy how are you doing?

“What’s going on?”

Right off the bat, I want to say that I loved the book, as an author myself; I noticed the story get’s right to the point, no filler and no fluff. I hate fluff in a story.

“So do I.”

Martin Fitzpatrick did a fantastic job with the story.

“Thank you very much I’ll tell him you said that. And you know it’s a story that I’ve been waiting to tell for a very long time and couldn’t. It was very therapeutic for me I’ve been carrying this around for a long time.”

What’s the status of your movie deal and Broadway musical?

“Well they’re both going to happen. The musical is going to come out about six months to a year before the movie that’s the schedule. Basically what we’re talking about is Chazz Palminteri by the way the great actor from you’ve seen A Bronx Tale; he was Sonny the Gangster in A Bronx tale and he was in Analyze This and so many great movies, a lot of mob movies actually, is going to write the actual Playbook -he and I will write the dialogue and the script together and he’s going to play Morris Levy. He’s perfect he even looks like Morris.

"One of the things I love about talking to Chazz Palminteri is he grew up in the Bronx right where Morris did. You know thirty years younger but he knew these guys. You know the movie A Bronx Tale the little kid (Cologero ‘C’ Anello) that’s him when he was little. He played ‘Sonny the Gangster’ but those were all real characters.

"Plus there are about nine new songs that are going to be in it in addition to the greatest hits. Well let’s put it this way we’ve written nine new songs if we get five or six that will be great. There’s going to be a lot of new music mixed in with the old music and so it’s going to be a true musical. We’re slated for about 18 to 24 months and that’s pretty ambitious but that is the plan so far.

"And then the film is going to be produced by Barbara De Fina who produced Goodfellas, Casino, Cape Fear, The Last Temptation of Christ and The Color of Money with Paul Newman. She’s going to be producing the film and we’re going to be selecting directors and doing all that fun stuff over the next month or two.”

Wow, what a resume.

“Oh just incredible her movies are all over you know you see them every week on TV somewhere.”

Who are they getting to play Tommy James in the musical?

“That’s a great question that’s above my pay scale. I’m going to get quite an education over the next two or three years that’s all I can say.”

How long of a contract did you sign with Morris Levy and Roulette Records?

“Well it was a standard form contract but the problem was it didn’t matter. The contract was fine. When we signed with Roulette 'Hanky Panky' exploded out of Pittsburgh. And we went to New York to sell the master and I still got hayseed in my mouth from the Midwest -- I’m eighteen years old and first trip to New York and 'Hanky Panky' was number one in Pittsburgh and you know the story.”

It’s amazing that someone had dug that single out of a record bin in Pittsburgh two years after you recorded it in Niles, Michigan. 

“It’s really a miracle! So when I went there and sort of grabbed the first bar band that I could find and called them the Shondells because I couldn’t put the original band back together. So we all head to New York and we get a 'yes' from everybody. From Columbia, Epic, RCA, Atlantic, remember Kama Sutra Records and so the last place we took the record to was Roulette. And I go to bed that night feeling great because everybody wanted the record and we were probably going to go with Columbia or RCA.
So all of a sudden the next day I start getting calls about 9AM from all the record companies saying listen we got to pass. And I said what do mean we got to pass I thought we had a deal. Finally Jerry Wexler out of Atlantic leveled with us and said Morris Levy called all the record companies and said, 'This is my F’ing record, back off!' He scared everybody and they backed off and that’s quite literally how we ended up on Roulette. And once we got up there it was pretty obvious what they were. We started recognizing people from TV very notorious gangsters you know.”

The real Soprano characters use to hang out at Roulette Records right?

“Absolutely, well Morris was Moishe. Moishe was Hesh. Of course Morris was a lot scarier than Hesh. But the point is the head of the Genovese family was his business partner up there Tommy Eboli and oh man we’d meet somebody in Morris’s office and a week later we’d see him on TV doing the perp walk in handcuffs with police out of some warehouse in New Jersey … 'Hey isn’t that the guy we just met at Morris’s?' And so what it all boiled down to was that Roulette was used from everything from a social club to illegal bank accounts to drug deals and strange boxes showing up and disappearing.”

Besides Roulette Records, do think there were other shady dealings going on in the music business back in the '60s?

“Oh no, let’s put it this way Roulette Records was ground zero for all that crap. And no doubt about it Roulette was a front for the Genovese crime family. And you know the top mobsters from the Genovese family were all partners up there -- I don’t know if I want to say partners they all just showed up. And Morris although he was Jewish was definitely a mobster he may not have been a made guy but he was everything else. And you know they’d use Morris’s office for sit downs and it was a very notorious bunch of people up there.”

In the book you talk a lot about working the phones at Roulette to help promote your records.

“Definitely with Red Schwartz. Red Schwartz taught me the radio business -- when I say work the phone’s he was the head of national promotions and Red taught me the industry and we literally worked every station in the world. He’d call the station and get the PD (Program Director) on the phone and talk crap to them and then say, 'Hey guess who just walked in the office?' So I’d sit down and talk with them and meet them on the phone and there’s no doubt about it that personal touch was why we got so much success and Morris cracking the whip.

"We ended up with 23 gold singles at Roulette and nine gold and platinum albums and about 110 million records sold. And the main thing I want to say is if we had gone with one of the corporate labels Columbia or RCA or even one of the subsidiaries like Epic or something I could tell you right now we would have been lost in the numbers especially with a record like “Hanky Panky” starting out it would have been handed to some in-house A&R guy and we would have been a one-hit wonder.

"At Roulette they actually needed us and left us alone and allowed us to be in charge of our own career. And allowed us to mores into whatever we wanted to become. And thankfully we had the public’s attention long enough where we could do that. We were involved anywhere from radio promotion to album design and then producing the record and writing the songs we were allowed to do it all. That would have never happened at any other label. I got an education that would have never happened anywhere else but getting paid was just not going to happen we were just not going to get mechanical royalties.”

So the only way you really made any money was from on the road?

“We made money on the road, we made money from BMI, we made money from commercials there’s a lot of revenue sources other than the mechanical royalties but the royalties were huge we ended up getting cheated out of between 20-30 million dollars.”

Even though they cheated you out of millions there were positive impacts as a result of signing with Roulette Records and dealing with those guys although scary as they were also exhibited a sort of charisma.

“Plus the fact that nobody is ever going to mess with you and secondly from a creative standpoint we couldn’t have made a better decision because we were king of the castle and we were given keys to the candy store and anything we wanted we got except our royalties. And I guess what I’m saying is I had a constant decision whether to take my life in my hands and try to leave and get out of that or go along with it and just play ball. And I think we made the right decision because in the end I get to tell the story and this story is probably going to be the biggest project that I’m ever going to be involved in. So there is universal justice.”

In the book you actually kept Frank Sinatra waiting downstairs in a hotel lobby and you never showed up to meet with him. That could have been worse than working for Morris Levy.

“Yes, that’s a true story. I just can’t believe some of the things that got overlooked and some of the things like not going to Woodstock and oh God the mistakes you make because you don’t think it. You don’t think of your life as being a story when you’re living it it’s just happening so fast.”

You know I couldn’t write a fictional story as good as your nonfictional life events.

“I know you can’t make this crap up. But you know whenever I go to say something really nasty about Morris Levy and Roulette I got to stop myself because the truth is if it hadn’t of been for Morris Levy there wouldn’t have been a Tommy James. And that’s the truth.”

Ironically Chapter 10 in my book is titled The Newport – Miami Beach. And you also talk about the Newport Hotel in your book.

“Well you know my second wife had a relative his name was Red Pollack had an uncle who ran the Newport and he was very mobbed-up. I mean the Newport was a Mob front. And the Miami Mafia basically developed Morris Levy and sent him back to New York. But I always loved going down there.

"You know Morris could really shake the universe if he really wanted to. He could get up and get things done they didn’t call him the Godfather of Rock and Roll for nothing. The two songs in the show where I’ve got Morris talking not singing and one of them is at the signing and it’s called 'A Hell Of A Ride' that’s the name of the song and it’s almost like a rap thing but he’s talking over drums. We can’t actually get a hip hop beat but it’s over drums and 'He’s talkin’ like dis you know' (gangster voice) and the other one is up on his farm and this is later on like in Act II. We’d get loaded up on his farm and I actually asked him why he hung out with these people? And he looked at me like what the hell you asking me a question like that for. And he said (in Tommy’s gangster voice), 'These are the people I came off the streets with this is who I am' and I thought what a great moment for a song so I wrote a song called 'That’s Who I Am' and that’s the second song Morris is going to do. He had a reach like you can’t believe I mean if you wanted to get something done you called Morris and it would get done.”

Morris Levy fled the country during the mob wars and you were basically a sitting duck.

“My lawyer Harold Orenstein had me go down to Nashville. And you know I ended up doing an album down there with Elvis’s guys. The front cover of the book was taken right during that time and right after 'Draggin’ the Line' was released in 1971 when the gang wars was going on and I snuck back to New York and they had a party for me up at the Persian room at the Plaza Hotel where I got something like eighteen gold records and that was that night. And then I had to go back to Nashville and snuck into town and that’s when that picture was taken.”

Did you ever collaborate with Elvis while you were down there?

“I would have loved to. While I was down there he was going to come over from Memphis and take us all to dinner and he got stoned and couldn’t make it over. And he invited us to Graceland and I never went I just put it off and I was doing other things and pretty soon he was gone.”

It didn’t seem like Elvis collaborated with many other musicians outside his circle.

“He was very paranoid of his own little circle and nobody really got into that. And it’s too bad because I’m sure that if he had a few more friends and there’d be a Betty Ford Center he might have been alive today because he really did himself in. I loved Elvis too. Elvis was the reason that I started playing.”

So many people feared your boss Morris Levy.

“It wasn’t that they were just afraid of him he actually knew people I mean Cardinal Spellman would come by isn’t that incredible? Then Morris got arrested in the late '80s and he died of cancer before he could serve a day.”

Didn’t Morris Levy go after John Lennon?

“He threatened John Lennon. May Pang told me that she and John were up at Morris’s farm and she told me that Morris flat out threatened the both of them. Morris didn’t have respect for anybody. How it started 'Come Together' sounded too much like a song Chuck Berry wrote. So Morris sued him and won. And so the settlement was Morris had John do a bunch of songs and he was going to put them out. Morris jumped the gun and put out the demos and Capitol came down and said you can’t do that and sued him. Morris lost that case but Morris never loses so he threatened the two of them and it got very serious. And that’s when Lennon died a lot of people suspected Morris. But I don’t believe that happened that was pretty much a one man show.

"Listen he was doing business with the guy up in LA that the kids killed the parents -- the Menendez and he was doing business with him and so people suspected him of that too before they found out that it was the kids.”

When was the last time that you saw Morris Levy?

“When he offered me a record label. I went up in the late '80s to Roulette and I don’t know what possessed me to go up there and see Morris. I went up and he was looking like an old man just fifty pounds heavier than I’d seen him and he was only in his 50s and he was 62 when he died so he was like 56 or 57. And I went up and he was still on Broadway but it was really kind of a crummy looking office and Art Kass was up there Art ran Buddah.

"And so I played him a couple of demos that I was working on and he said, 'That’s a F’ing hit,' it was a song called 'Distant Thunder' that I had written and behind Morris was this needlepoint sign in a frame saying 'Oh Lord give me a Bastard with talent' and it’s been there since as long as I’ve known him. The FBI had put a camera and a microphone in the ‘O’ of Lord. And that’s the camera and the microphone they nailed him on. They had a bird's-eye view of everyone sitting in front of Morris.

"So this whole experience of playing him 'Distant Thunder' and him reacting to it and by the way he offered me a label not just a record company I told him I wanted a label but he wouldn’t allow me to collect my own money. So I would have been right back to where I was before and thank God not being able to do it. So anyway that was the last time that I saw him and that was the camera that got him arrested along with Vastola who went to jail and Morris died. You know the thing that got Morris arrested finally caught and convicted was his relationship with MCA. MCA was very mobbed-up.”

You got your royalties back when Roulette Records was sold right?

“I got a lot of them. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we were going to lose a lot of money. And so when they sold the company it was kind of a birthday present. They sold to Rhino which is part of Warner Brothers. But originally it distributed actually Rhino by EMI for Sultan and then they went with Warner. And so the publishing company Big Seven Music is now with EMI and the masters are with Warner so you’ve got the two biggest companies in the world with the music.
"Now we have started our own label and I have my own publishing company and we are putting out our own product you know we put out our own DVD we’ve got the greatest hits all over the world now and we  license to movies but we’re doing as well in many respects as we were doing in the '60s. I really can’t complain about how much we lost now.”

I know you’ve gone through the ups and downs at Roulette records and of course with Morris Levy, but it  seems to me that you got some really good breaks throughout your career too.

“I’ve certainly have had my share of ups and downs but the truth is I have had so many miracles in my life happen -- just the way I got into the business to the way I stayed in the business and you know I’ve been doing this for forty-six years now and actually if you tally it up from before that it’s close to fifty and I’m just very, very thankful to the good Lord and the fans for the kind of longevity that we’ve had its been really remarkable. I was very fortunate to make it when I did because you know every block had a cover band on it. Especially back in the early '60s when being a rock musician was a job opportunity.”

I really think there was a greater opportunity for garage bands to make it big back in those days too.

“I do too. There are so many young bands that are busting their ass and are trying to make it. Radio is really no more and getting new music in front of the public is the greatest challenge in the world right now. Just making it into the entertainment business you’re talking about a business by definition is -- a desperate industry by the people in it are just desperate to make it. There’s so much error and very few people who show you how to make a straight line in show business. And the thing that makes it even tougher is that there’s so many different ways to make a straight line and so many of them are a matter of being lucky. When I talk to young bands we do a lot of seminars in addition to with the new book I do a lot of talking to people and face to face about it. And there are a few ways a few things you can do right now that make sense. We’re in such a weird moment right now and especially in the music business.”

I guess our horrendous economy has taken its toll on the entertainment business as well. 

“It sure has but not only that but because of essentially the economy the radio industry has really folded. When I came up about two dozen Top 40 AM stations blanketed the United States with 50,000 watt stations. The average hit record was heard by 150-200 million people. Today there’s nothing. There’s really no way other than the internet of course and as fun as it is has never really taken the place of those kinds of numbers.”

You’re preaching to the choir, brother. When I was on the radio as a Top 40 deejay back in the late '70s and early '80s -- radio was still radio. But I agree wholeheartedly that the radio biz has lost its direction and basically has folded.

“I’m actually seeing some light at the end of the tunnel as far as what we call the record business if it can be called that anymore. I really believe once Hi-Def TV comes into its own that is a melding of computer technology and TV technology. I really think the whole music industry is going to move to television and I don’t mean like MTV. I think we’re going to have like the Sony Channel, the Warner Channel and of course they’re going to premiere new music but more than that I think we’re going to have networks of video radio stations and what I mean is you know the stations are already there. Remember what Don Imus did about twelve years ago when he put digital cameras in his radio booth and became the number one show on morning television.

"There’s no reason you can’t do that with music radio. And my belief is that we’re going to see digital cameras put in the broadcast booth and you’re going to have networks of stations – somebody is going to have to program it it’s going to have to be sort of a total entertainment format like the old Top 40 was. Top 40 back in the '60s was a combination of new music, oldies you’d be on one radio station and get Frank Sinatra or Led Zeppelin. You’d have five different stations today you’d have Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, oh God Walter Brennan had a hit back in the early '60s I mean that’s how crazy it got and today that would be five different radio stations.

"So my point is that if you had a sort of total entertainment format with let’s say thirty or forty stations flying a network and you call it 'Spins' or something I don’t know and you’d have a central location like New York and they’d be saying, 'Hey let’s go out to Seattle what are you guys doing out there and ... blah blah blah' and they’re playing six or eight songs and they’re showing around the town or maybe videos made by the groups or maybe around the radio station who the hell knows. But if you give these jocks face time they’ll love you and you can break new music and probably bring the charts back. You can probably make a chart based on downloading … I’m getting really fanatical here I’ve got to stop myself. But I’m very serious I really believe having a downloading capacity of the music you’re playing and creating charts based on the downloading.”

So you’re watching TV and a new song comes on that blows you away and so you download it using the remote, something kind of like Pay-Per-View?

“I mean they’ve already got your billing information. You can either do it right from your TV which will probably be available soon or you could go on their website. Now you can have advertisers but essentially this is a huge revenue stream. I use to talk with Pat Clarke when XM was up and running and I said, 'Why the hell don’t you have on your boomboxes a button to push for downloading you’ve got everybody’s billing information and you’ve got every song in the world digitized?' Well I never got a straight answer. But I mean somebody’s going to do that.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have innovators like Don Kirshner or Dick Clark around anymore to get the job done.

“What you got to do is you’ve got to have somebody that can hook up with like a Comcast somebody that can really make a network on television and it will be done I’m telling you. I have great confidence in greed.”

Speaking of innovators in the world of entertainment Ed Sullivan screwed up your name when you appeared on his show.

“We were on three times; the third time we didn’t get on because Nixon gave his Cambodia speech. But it’s actually kind of a compliment now to have your name screwed up by Ed Sullivan. It’s something to tell your grandchildren.”

He made mistakes all the time; why didn’t he do a little research about the bands before introducing them?

“By the end of the show he was tanked. He was loaded. If you were the headlining act you never knew he’d have you on twice during the show the first time he’s pretty okay and the second time you’d be lucky if he remembered who you were. Plus he’d do things like you’d hold out your hand to shake his hand and he wouldn’t see it. He’d just stand there looking like an idiot.

"The second time we were on I didn’t even talk about this in the book but we did 'I’m Alive' and 'Ball Of Fire' and we headlined again and I’m standing on a four-foot riser and he comes running at me and he’s going to jump up on this thing and no way because Sullivan wasn’t big he was small and he gets one foot up there and slides and he’s falling backwards and I grab him and this is while we’re on camera and I’m posing with my arms above my head you know 'Ball Of Fire' and he jumps up on this thing and I grab him and I pull him up on stage and if I hadn’t he would have killed himself. And he said, 'Tommy my boy there’s only one thing left to say' and I’m looking at him like what-what-what? So I figure he’s saying good night and so I said, 'Good night everybody!' and it wasn’t time to go off the air. And so I’m standing with him and they fade to black and showed a commercial and then come back and we’re still standing there. So all the miscues that could happen you could blow your cool a hundred different ways doing Sullivan and that’s if you made it through the song.”

Didn’t they tape the show a couple of times in front of two different audiences?

“Yes they would record at five in the afternoon that was a dress rehearsal and they’d run that simultaneously and then they’d do it at seven o’clock, Sullivan came on at eight o’clock. They would run the five o’clock show and the seven o’clock show at eight o’clock the show was videotaped but it was videotaped as a live show. So if you screwed up it stayed on. And there were two different audiences.”

A lot of those performances were also lip-synced right?

“Usually what they would do is they would have the lead singer singing live and everything else would be prerecorded. On my case I actually talked them into letting me do 'Crimson and Clover' as a lip-sync because there’s no way they would have gotten the fade right or anything. So I begged them to let me lip-sync but they wanted a four track recording so they could mess with the mix and it didn’t sound like the record. So I gave them four tracks of mono.”

The Brits copied American rock and roll during the British invasion and of course American teenagers went crazy over the Brits. But rock and roll was invented right here in the U.S.A.

“I’ve always viewed it as America and the Brits riding this gigantic song called rock and roll together. And that’s why it is so sad to see the damn thing fall apart because the rock and roll industry was typically an American industry and to see it dissolve like this is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”

You were one of a few bands from the '60s that came from Top 40 singles AM Hitmakers and were able to cross over into album rock FM radio.

"'Crimson and Clover' did that for us. There was this mass extinction in 1968. I equate this with the Humphrey presidential campaign in '68. We went out with Humphrey and when I left in August the biggest acts on the radio were The Turtles, The Rascals, The Association, Gary Puckett, us, and I come back ninety days later and it’s Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Blood Sweat and Tears all album mix. That is how quickly the world turned upside down in the record business.

"And none of those groups that I just mentioned ever had another hit after that. There were a few acts that went on like The Doors, Sly and the Family Stone and us and a few others like Neil Diamond but honestly and I mean American acts, the British acts kind of went on and of course The Rolling Stones. But there was this mass extinction and nobody talks about it and somehow it got unnoticed. Thankfully we were working on 'Crimson and Clover' at that exact moment. And 'Crimson and Clover' was the only single I could think of we ever did that would allow us to make that move from AM Top 40 singles to FM Progressive Album Rock. And also let’s start selling albums we had never sold albums before. We were all about singles.”

I covered Joan Jett in Tampa this year and even liked her version of “Crimson and Clover.”

“There are almost 400 covers of our stuff. She’s been one of the more successful ones but we’ve had everyone from R.E.M. to just last year Prince and of course there’s been a bunch of hip-hop artists sampling 'Draggin’ The Line' for some reason.”

Didn’t Morris Levy place “Draggin’ The Line” on one of his infamous cut-out albums while it was still on the charts and classified as a hit?

“I tell the story in the book when 'Draggin’ The Line' came out I’m sitting in LA ready to do American Bandstand that’s what I went out there for. And by the way that was the day of the famous earthquake of 1971. Anyway so I’m sitting there in LA and all of a sudden on TV I see 'Draggin’ The Line' advertised as a cut-out and that devalues the song from about 90%. So it goes from being worth a dollar to being worth about a dime when it’s on a cut-out. And I just flipped my lid the song is number two and it’s a cut-out … just incredible.”

Tommy, thank you so much for spending time with me today. I can’t wait to see both the Broadway musical and the movie, they’re going to be great!

“Ray, it’s been a pleasure talking with you thank you very much.”

Special thanks to Carol Ross- Durborow for arranging this interview.
Tommy James and the Shondells official website
Order Tommy James' book -- Me, the Mob, and the Music at

Order Ray Shasho’s new book Check the Gs -- The True Story of an Eclectic American Family and Their Wacky Family Business at
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