Promoter Todd Baptista, working with Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, put on a spectacular show featuring R&B/Doo Wop acts of the 1950s and ‘60s. Oct. 16, 2022 – New Bedford, MA
Review and photos by Kirk Lang, Editor-in-Chief, EarlyR&B.com
The Five acts featured on the bill were The Rainbows, which saw original lead singer, 86-year-old Ron “Poozie” Miles, returning from a 15-year hiatus of theater concerts; The Mystics, best known for their 1959 hit “Hushabye,” The Swallows, which featured 91-year-old lead singer Eddie Rich; The Tymes (“So Much In Love”), and Jay Siegel’s Tokens (Siegel being the lead voice on the 1963 #1 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”).
Concertgoers, most of whom were of an age to remember the songs performed when they originally hit radio airwaves, were transported back in time – somewhat -with the help of a classic car line-up along Purchase Street in front of the venue. In addition, black and white video footage of classic groups, along with commercials for such products as Lionel trains and Geritol, played on a screen on stage prior to showtime.
The Rainbows hit the stage first and original lead singer, Ronald Miles, began with the group’s 1956 classic, “Shirley.” An upbeat number, it was a perfect kick-off for a Sunday matinee show that packed a broad range of styles into a three-hour-plus show. Miles sang lead on the group’s first two songs, “Shirley and “They Say,” before Larry Jordan took over the reins on “Evening.”
Miles, along with three other singers, provided background harmony, before it was Miles up front once again, on The Rainbow’s signature tune, “Mary Lee,” as well as “Your Promise to be Mine,” a Clyde McPhatter-era Drifters ballad. Miles wowed the crowd with this song, which was a perfect showcase for his still top-notch voice. Performed A Cappella, it also elicited the most response from the crowd, and nearly everyone at the front of the stage was standing and clapping for him when he finished.
However, die-hard Doo Wop fan Donna Whitworth, who made a seven-trek from Pennsylvania for the show, said she loved ‘They Say.” “Poozie goes from high to low. He can do it today at 86,” she said. “It’s one I can close my eyes to.”
Miles enjoyed the return to the bigger spotlight. He noted he had done smaller shows recently, but nothing the level of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.
“It was good being back,” he said. “It felt wonderful. I thought it was a blessing, just to perform, just to be on stage again. I mean, the whole thing, the roar of the crowd. The whole thing just brought back so many memories of years past. Even the dressing rooms brought back memories.”
Miles, who came by train from Maryland, was pleasantly surprised to discover all three of his children made it to the show. He said he hadn’t performed that many songs in a row in a long time but was glad he was able to pull it off.
“I’ve been resting ever since,” he said, laughing, three days after the show. “It beat me to the ground, but it was great, man.” The crowd, all the people I hadn’t seen in years. It was outstanding.”
Next to hit the stage at the Z was The Mystics. Opening their set with Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” the four-member group includes two original members from Brooklyn, NY, original lead Phil Cracolici and George Galfo (second tenor). It aims to please with uptempo numbers, including a few The Mystics recorded for Laurie Records in its doo wop heyday: “Darling I know Now,” “Goodbye Mr. Blues” and “Hushabye,” the set closer.
The Tymes then did two of their own hits, “Somewhere” and “Wonderful Wonderful,” which peaked at #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.
The group also did its cover of “People,” which many feel is far superior to Barbra Streisand’s 1964 version featured in the film Funny Girl. Its final foursome of songs was as follows: “The Love That You’re Looking For,” “Miss Grace,” “So Much In Love” (the group’s signature song), and “You Little Trustmaker,” a 1974 release whose intent was to appeal to disco fans of that time.
Lead singer John Stone III belted out a passionate vocal on “The Love That You’re Looking For,” and didn’t disappoint with “So Much In Love.” However, he felt the doo wop crowd may have liked “Wonderful Wonderful” most of all, “because as soon as I started singing the audience started applauding and let out ‘oohs and ahhs.’ ”
“So Much In Love” provided one of the funniest moments of the night, when, as Stone neared the song’s end, and held a note for some time, original Tymes member Norman Burnett turned to look at him, and said, with the delivery of a seasoned comic, “Well shut the front door.”
However, this wasn’t a planned dialogue. Stone burst out laughing, and even when he attempted to resume the song a short time later, he laughed some more. It was great to see a truly organic moment.
Stone subsequently told this reporter,” He caught me off guard.”
The final act of the night was Jay Siegel’s Tokens, a group that got its start singing along Brighton Beach
The Tokens opened up its set with this tune, and in between songs, Siegel talked about the good ol’ days. He noted that his grandkids wouldn’t know what a B-side is.
“They don’t even know what a record is,” he added. He said further, “There’s no more records, no more cassettes, but the music’s still here.”
Siegel also talked about how the British Invasion, led by the Beatles, hurt stateside groups. Fortunately, The Tokens scored its biggest hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” on which Siegel sings lead, three years before the Beatles’ 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was a number-one hit and hit a second time in the 1990s when RCA Records re-released it in response to being featured in the 1994 animated film The Lion King. Just before doing the song, which is sung in a high voice, Siegel joked that he always says a silent prayer that “the notes come out.”
Siegel did a fantastic job. He need not have worried. He still sounds like the recording. With The Tokens already on stage, the four prior groups walked out and joined them for an encore performance – The Beach Boys ‘ 1965 hit song “Barbara Ann.” Dozen-plus voices blended together, but one man stood out more than everybody – Eddie Rich. That’s because he once again demonstrated he has boundless energy. He had to dance as well as sing.
Baptista said it correctly earlier in the night, “Truly a showman.”
It was wonderful to see a 91-year-old out-performing his younger counterparts on stage because it cements the fact that age aint nothing but a number.
Here we have some car photographs from the event.