'Yakety Yak,' old-time rock 'n' roll is talking back for high school benefit Oldies groups coming to Atholton

November 05, 1993|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

Nostalgia-seekers longing for old songs about true love, dying love and love potions can turn off the radio and put back their dusty 45s.

Three popular groups from the '50s and '60s will perform two "Golden Oldies Benefit Concerts" tomorrow night at Atholton High School in Columbia.

The Coasters, the Duprees, and Vito Balsamo and the Cavaliers will sing several of their hits including "Love Potion No. 9," "My Own True Love" and "Last Kiss" in a rock 'n' roll program benefiting the Atholton High School Music Boosters.

"There are a lot of people in this area that grew up on this music," said Duane Salisbury, publicity director for the boosters, a parent fund-raising organization.

"Because of the popularity of groups in the area that perform that music, there appeared to be an interest in an oldies concert," he said.

The three groups represent an eclectic mix of old-time rock 'n' roll, from the soft and romantic harmonies of the Cavaliers and Duprees to the offbeat and humorous sounds of the Coasters.

But only the Coasters features all of its original members -- Bob Rivers, Sam White, Charlie Thomas and Mike Raysor.

The group, which formed almost 40 years ago on the West Coast -- hence its name -- performs "Charlie Brown," "Poison Ivy," "Yakety Yak," "Searching," "Hog For You Baby" and "Love Potion No. 9."

The Duprees, based in New Jersey, features two original members, Michael Arnone and Richard Rosato, plus new vocalists Tony Testa, James Spinelli and Bill Gianito.

The Duprees perform older oldies -- songs originally recorded in the 1930s and 1940s by other artists -- lending a "rock 'n' roll feel" to the melodies, Mr. Arnone said.

"We're really not a do-wop group," he explained. "We're billed as a romantic group, nothing fast, everything from the past. It took us a while to get started. At the time, everyone wanted original songs, but we didn't compromise."

For example, "You Belong To Me" became a hit in 1962 -- but it was a hit by Jo Stafford in 1951. Similarly, "Have You Heard," by Joni James, was No. 1 in 1953 and it was a hit for the Duprees in 1963, Mr. Arnone said.

"My Only True Love," the theme of the 1939 movie "Gone With The Wind," became a hit for the Duprees in late 1962. "I think we're the only ones who ever sang it," he said.

The group developed its distinct style by combining the sound of the 1940s Glenn Miller Orchestra -- four saxophones and a clarinet -- with '50s harmonies, producing rich and mellow background for its timeless love songs.

Even during the dark days of disco when rock 'n' roll was on the decline, "we never stopped performing because of the uniqueness of the sound," Mr. Arnone said.

Because the group borrows from so many different eras, its audience

"is not only from the '60s. We take on people older than that," he said.

Vito Balsamo and the Cavaliers feature original Cavaliers member Leo Lucas. The group formed in 1962 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Two years later, J. Frank Wilson of Texas joined as lead singer.

A Cavaliers hit, "Last Kiss," which was No. 1 on the charts for 12 weeks in 1964, holds the distinction of being one of the last in a long line of "car-crash songs," Mr. Salisbury said.

The group disbanded that year as members entered the military.

In 1985, Mr. Lucas and Raymond Sweeney restructured the group to include Randy Silverman, formerly of the Salutations and the Impalas; Al Diaz, formerly of the Capris; and Tom Powers. Mr. Balsamo of the Salutations came on last year as lead singer.

The Cavaliers perform hits originally recorded by the Salutations, including "Gloria" and "Unchained Melody," the song that regained popularity in the movie "Ghost"; and "There's A Moon Out Tonight" by the Capris.

The group, which will open both concerts, invites audience participation. "We play with the audience," said Mr. Lucas, who often invites guests to get up and sing.

The resurgence of rock 'n' roll has made the New York-based group "one of the top-billed groups in Long Island," said Mr. Lucas, who explained that the popularity of the "oldies" sounds has permeated today's music.

"Michael Bolton and Billy Joel sing from the old songs," he said. "There's an oldies background in Billy Joel's 'River of Dreams' and it ends with Vito's version of 'Gloria.' "

Tomorrow's benefit will also showcase the comedy of master of ceremonies Bobby Nyk. Mr. Nyk, a.k.a. Robert Nykyforchyn, has been the host and disc jockey at several community and charity events in the county and in Baltimore. A Spanish teacher at Howard High School, he is also the host of the county cable sports show, Sports Scene 6.

Proceeds from ticket sales will be used to buy uniforms for Atholton's 46-member marching band.

"The uniforms are so old they are falling apart," said Mr. Salisbury, a minister at the Church of Christ in Laurel. His son, Jared, 16, is a member of the band and chorus.

While $1,071 of the music department's budget is earmarked for the band, almost $40,000 will be needed for uniforms.

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