Harmony Lane: Doo-wop series captures precious performance

Driftersreunited-01-01.jpgA performance by The Drifters founder Bill Pinkney is the latest treasure to be captured in the latest tapings for the ?My Music? doo-wop series from TJL Productions and PBS-TV.

Pinkney, who died July 4, was part of a roster of more than 30 acts that performed before cameras and live audiences at the historic Ritz Theatre in Elizabeth, N.J., for the third installment of the series. The finished version is expected to be broadcast over public television stations nationwide in November.

?I?m proud to be here tonight,? Pinkney, 82, told the surprisingly sparse crowd of less than 500 that gathered at the Day Three taping in May. ?I?d like to thank your parents and your grandparents for playing our music and passing it on. By being here tonight, you, and your children, will know what good music is all about.?

Show creator and executive producer T.J. Lubinsky has literally archived America?s soundtrack from the ?50s and ?60s while broadening the pioneering artists? international exposure. By the end of the third night of taping, which I attended, a tired, but excited, Lubinsky was clutching more than a dozen boxes of film that will yield the next installment in the ?My Music? series.

Sets by Nick Santo and the Capris and Ben E. King got Night Three?s taping rolling. The personable Charlie Thomas and his Drifters followed King on stage with a spirited set that included ?Up On The Roof,? ?Sweets For My Sweet? and ?Under The Boardwalk.?

A full complement of backing musicians and a trio of female singers added to the mix, which started and stopped periodically for technical fine-tunings and the occasional false start.

Later, King returned to the stage to warble his signature ?Stand By Me,? backed by Thomas? vocalists, Lou Bailey, Jerome Manning and Stephen Brown.
One by one, Thomas, 70, Bobby Hendricks ? who led the group on the 1958 classic, ?Drip Drop? ? and Pinkney joined King on stage to each sing a verse of the song, which climaxed with the four pioneers harmonizing together.

While production staffers regularly asked the crowd to express certain degrees of emotion and enthusiasm during the night, the reaction to the all-star Drifters summit was overwhelming and unsolicited.

After a brief respite to reload tape, popular series host Jerry Butler took the stage to introduce Pinkney and his Original Drifters with guest Hendricks for a five-song set that included ?Gonna Move Across The River,? ?Money Honey,? ?Fools Fall in Love? and ?White Christmas.?

Backed by Pure Gold, a solo set from Hendricks followed with ?Itchy Twitchy Feeling? and a tribute to the late Clyde McPhatter.

?The spirit of Clyde McPhatter has brought me here tonight,? the 69-year old singer remarked after pleasant romps through ?A Lover?s Question? and ?Lover Please.?

For the first time since 1962, classic Brooklyn, N.Y., group the Velours ? Jerome Ramos, John Cheatdom, Donald Haywoode, John Pearson and Keith Williams ? appeared next for an all-too-brief stab at their 1957 classic, ?Can I Come Over Tonight.?

?Somewhere tonight, Charlie is smiling,? offered lead singer Ramos, referring to the group?s original bass, Charles Moffett, who was murdered on his way home from a concert featuring his Velours group in the late 1980s.

Twelve-year-old sensation ?Kid Kyle? Flandrau showed attendees and performers alike that doo-wop is not just for the older crowd. The up-and-coming star fronted Richie Johnson?s Students for spot-on renditions of ?I?m So Young? and ?Every Day Of The Week? before stepping into Frankie Lymon?s shoes for a bit, leading the Legendary Teenagers on ?The ABCs of Love? and ?Am I Fooling Myself Again.?

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