BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
Although Doo-Wop’s popularity faded more than 50 years ago, four acts, the Classics, Coasters, Belmonts and Drifters kept it alive and well last Saturday evening.
To an audience of mostly baby boomers, some of whom danced nostalgically along to the soundtrack of their youth, the show was hosted by local radio personality “Big” Joe Henry who entertained the crowd between acts.
The evening’s openers, The Classics led by original lead singer Emil Stucchio, did a slick Las Vegas –styled set. Accompanied by Al Contrera, originally of The Mystics (“Hushabye”), and Teresa McClean, who also does children’s TV shows and radio voice-overs, the group performed its signature 1963 hit “Till Then,” songs from the most recent album “ A Moment In Time,” as well as covers like Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Stuccio 72, who still wears his hair in a pompadour style, humorously recalled how in the 1950s, guys were obsessed with getting theirs just right.
While none of the original members of the famed ’50s vocal group The Coasters, “The Clown Princes of Rock and Roll,” are still with us, Vita Gardner, the widow of original member Carl Gardner, chose (and manages) “new Coasters” Dennis Anderson, Primo Candelaria, Eddie Whitfield and J.W. Lance.
Their choreography and vocals were first-rate, reliving such Leiber and Stoller composed classics as “Searchin’,” “Young Blood,” “Poison Ivy,” "Along Came Jones," “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown." Group member Eddie Whitfield also showed off his basso-profundo singing on the old standard “Zing, Went The Strings Of My Heart.”
Starting the show’s second half were The Belmonts, best known originally for their collaborations with Dion, who left the group for a solo career in 1960. Although only one original member, bass singer Angelo D’Aleo, remains, the trio with singer-guitarist Warren Gradus and lead singer Don Elliot, reprised “A Teenager In Love,” “Where Or When,” "I Wonder Why," and “That’s My Desire.” They also sang “Runaround Sue” which, although technically actually recorded after Dion left the group, was the set’s biggest crowd pleaser.
That left the show’s headliners, The Drifters featuring Charlie Thomas, who was the only actual “Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame” inductee on the bill. Although Thomas 77, sang lead on such Drifters hits as “When My Little Girl Is Smiling” he confided to me after the show that because of time constraints, some of those had to be passed over for more audience-friendly hits he originally sang back-up on like “There Goes My Baby,” "Save The Last Dance For Me, “Up On The Roof” and “This Magic Moment.”
Of course, “Under The Boardwalk “was performed. Since the concert was held just two blocks from the Ocean Grove boardwalk, it was more than appropriate.