Tommy James, The Jaggerz among Pittsburgh Rock 'N Roll Legends
March 15, 2017 9:27 AM
Tommy James and the Shondells: Ron Rosman, Peter Lucia, Tommy James, Mike Vale and Eddie Gray.
The Jaggerz in 2014: Paul Martello, Hermie Granati, Chris Patarini, Jimmie Ross, Dennis McAbee and Benny Faiella.
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The inductees for the 2017 Pittsburgh Rock ’N Roll Legends have been announced, and they are:
Modern Era Legend (solo performer or band with 20-plus years in the business): Tommy James and the Shondells, famed for such classics as “Hanky Panky,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Crimson and Clover” and “Mony, Mony.”
“I’m very honored to be chosen,” James said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Pittsburgh is where it all started for me. My wife came from Pittsburgh, my career came from Pittsburgh, so I owe Pittsburgh a great deal.”
Although James is a native of Dayton, Ohio, and formed his first band in Niles, Mich., it was Pittsburgh DJ Bob Mack that broke “Hanky Panky” as a hit in 1966 after the breakup of his original band. Mack brought James to Pittsburgh and, though he never lived here, he formed a new Shondells with members of the Latrobe band The Raconteurs.
“Hanky Panky” was originally a B-side written by Jeff Barry and Elle Greenwich for their group The Raindrops.
“I had heard another group play it live at a dance,” he said, “and I saw what it did to the audience. I said, ‘We gotta do that record.’ I couldn’t remember the words, so I just made up the words. All I could remember was ‘my baby does the hanky panky.’”
They went on record a total of 23 gold singles, including “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” co-written with Shondells members Eddie Gray and Mike Vale.
Tommy James and the Shondells were nominated in the category, along with popular Pittsburghers The Clarks and Rusted Root, despite having more than 40 years experience in the business.
James regrets that he will be on tour in California on the night of the induction ceremony.
Legacy Legend (solo performer or band with 40-plus years in the business): The Jaggerz, the Beaver County band that went to No. 1 on Cashbox and No. 2 on Billboard in 1970 with the million-selling hit “The Rapper.” Written by Jaggerz member Donnie Iris (who was inducted as a solo artist in 2015), it appeared on the band’s second album, “We Went to Different Schools Together,” released on Kama Sutra Records. Iris remained in the band until 1976, then went on to join Wild Cherry and form Donnie Iris and the Cruisers. The Jaggerz are still led by original members Jimmie Ross and Benny Faiella. Also nominated in the category were the Del Vikings, The Vogues and Bobby Vinton.
Music Industry Professional Legend (producer, promoter, manager, etc., with 20-plus years in the business): Jerry Reed, the founder and owner of the Beaver studio Jeree Recording, where The Jaggerz, Donnie Iris and the Cruisers, the Iron City Houserockers, The Silencers, B.E. Taylor and Billy Price all made popular records. Also nominated were band manager Charlie Brusco and Andy Warhol, for his work with the Velvet Underground.
Music Broadcaster Legend (DJ or VJ with 20-plus years in the business): Chuck Brinkman, the Dormont native and Kiski Prep School grad who was a popular DJ on KQV from 1960 to 1972 (doubling as music director for part of that time), and introduced the Beatles at the Civic Arena in 1964. He went on to become DJ/music director for WTAE-AM and WFFM/WMYG, and he left Pittsburgh for a job in Dallas in 1988, eventually becoming part owner of an oldies station in Greenville, Texas, where he still lives. Also nominated were the late Clark Race and Jimmy Roach, who urged the public to cast their vote for Brinkman.
In addition to those inductees, Alan Leeds (manager), Eric Leeds (saxophonist) and Matt Blistan (trumpeter) will be recognized for their work with the late Prince.
Inductees were selected through weighted ballots cast by more than 1,400 registered voters from the general public and the Pittsburgh Rock ’N Roll Legends Awards Academy of Voters, comprised of more than 200 local producers, promoters, music historians, musicians, media, educators and other music industry professionals.
The fourth annual celebration, benefiting the Cancer Caring Center, will be held at Jergels Rhythm Grille in Marshall on April 27. It will feature Pittsburgh’s All-Star Band, with Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Billy Price and Frank Czuri, a live and silent auction and video tributes.
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