I've often said that all doo wopp are oldies, but all oldies are
not doo wopp. Care to elaborate?
Here's my take on doo wopp. It's 50's classic harmony groups singing
about love. Oldies can be something from last year. Doo Wopp is
a period. Oldies are something different to everybody. Today a
30 year old's oldie is something from 10 years ago. To a 50 year
old oldies is something from 30 years ago. Oldies can be anything.
Doo Wopp, there's a time line.
You're a baby boomer who came of age in the 60's, why doo wopp?
The guy who actually turned me on to it was Gus Gossert. He was
doing a series of shows called "Weekends of Classic Harmony
Doo Wopp," and he spelled it DOO WOPP.
So I went and did stage managing work for him, and the shows were
eclectic. I saw The Five Satins, and The Harptones and all the
others. I learned that there was almost a cult following for this
music and I enjoyed it. In the back of my mind I thought I'd really
like to do this, but it's so old.
What was the year of the first Royal New York Doo Wopp Show?
1978 at the Beacon Theater.
Doo Wop was not in vogue in 1978. How did the first show come
Here's how odd it was, a bartender at a club knew these three
Wall Street guys from Brooklyn. He was a fan of CBS-FM and of
my dear friend DJ, Norm N. Nite. He knew Norman. So the bartender
introduced Norman to these guys. They had so much money they didn't
know what to do with it, but they grew up in the 50's and early
60's and they loved oldies. They wanted to do a show. It didn't
matter to them, you know, The Shirelles, The Coasters, it didn't
matter. With their money they called up and booked The Beacon
Theater, they got an agent, they booked some talent. So Norman
introduced them to me because I was looking for something new
to do. They wanted to hire me to do their oldies show, but I refused.
I said, I don't want to do oldies, but I would get close. I'd
use some of the groups they liked if they would let me call it
doo wop. I had come up with the idea of calling it The Royal New
York Doo Wopp Show to give it a big name because as you said doo
wopp was definitely not in vogue.
would take care of producing their dream and they would be financing
mine. We came together and we ended up likeing each other. Frankie
Lanza, the aggressive one of the duo, became my friend and we
did every single show together. We had Frankie be the host which
also was calculated to keep us completely original
I got a couple of groups that they liked, put acappella on the
corner in front of the theater, and eventually they got the idea
of what I wanted to do. They had fun with it.
How many volumes of the show were there?
There must have been 40 of them. I think we did shows from 78
to 80 at The Beacon, then we moved to Radio City Music Hall till
93 straight through. What happened was there was that whole idea
of raising Radio City. They were going to put a high tower in
that space, but the guy who came in to do the white elephant deal
was a guy I had done business with out of Chicago. He brought
his public relations girl with him and I was very friendly with
her. So I called her and I said I've got this little show out
of the Beacon, maybe I could meet with these guys.
made them a deal. I told them if they gave us a date and gave
us a minimum guarantee and a small percentage I'd do the show.
If we didn't make money I'd give them all the money back. My partners
never knew I made that deal. We sold the place out.
Must have been some crazy moments backstage at the shows.
I don't think I ever told this, but this was one of the strangest.
A group, I'm not gonna say who the group was, they were 5 singers
and they came up to me just before they were to go on stage. Now
remember this is Radio City Music Hall and for most of the groups
the biggest gig of their life, which was one of the joys for me,
the group come up to me they say they have a real problem. They
can't go on and I have no clue what's going on.
say look at us. So I'm looking at them, but I don't get it. Turns
out one of the guys had black shoes on and the other four have
white shoes on. One guy had forgotten his shoes and they couldn't
perform. They were not capable of getting past that fact. They
never even thought that maybe they should all go put their black
shoes on. They were so sincere and explained to me that they couldn't
go on and they made me realize I couldn't let them go on. I switched
the schedule around and sent somebody to the guy's house in Brooklyn
to get the white shoes. I fixed it. It's memorable.
Maybe it was just stage fright.
Yeah, well listen, The Silhouettes, the original group that Norman
Nite found for me, they did a show at the Beacon. When they came
in I quickly realized that they had not done a show at The Beacon
Theater, maybe ever. When they did big shows on The Dick Clark
Tour or something in the 60's, the most sound they got were a
couple of little speakers. There were definitely no monitors and
maybe, they had 2 microphones.
when they did their rehearsal I had a monitor for every singer,
4 monitors, 4 microphones, but when they did the rehearsal all
four walked toward one microphone. So I stopped the rehearsal
and I said, guys you each have your own microphone. I said, it's
ok, and just before the band kicked in 3 of them walked to one
microphone and the lead singer used one, so they only used two
microphones. I couldn't get them to use more microphones.
the rehearsal was over they came to me and asked me, Mr. DeLauro
may we speak with you? These were grown men, older than me, you
know 60 something years old, and I said, sure. They respected
me as the promoter because that's what they knew. It didn't matter
my age, the position was reverence, but at that moment they wanted
to be my teacher.
took me very respectively to the side so I wouldn't be embarrassed
and they explained to me that the speakers, when the show came,
the speakers had to be turned facing the audience. They didn't
realize those were just monitor speakers. I said no problem I've
got a second set of speakers just for the show. I had to be kind
so it was very tricky stuff.
Who did you want to get for a show that you were never able to
I think we got them all. We got everybody.
What did you think when you turned on your TV a few years back
and saw your entire concept being presented by someone else?
It was mixed feelings. I first heard about it when some of the
groups called me. So I knew it was coming, but I had no idea what
it was going to look like.
problem was I was really disappointed in my own industry because
I tried to make this deal 10 years, 5 years earlier, and nobody
wanted to hear about it. I wanted to do it at Radio City Music
Hall with the New York players/musicians who knew this music inside
out, nobody wanted to spend the money.
wanted to film it. Nobody wanted to spend the money on film. They
only wanted video tape.
as soon as I saw it, to answer the question, I was really disappointed
because it didn't do justice to the period. To me, it was way
below what it could have been. What we were doing at Radio City
Music Hall was not represented by that thing. It was so much more
important than the way they did it. The proof is right there.
It was successful anyway, proving the music is important.
problem was they video taped it so the quality of it is video
tape. If it were filmed it would have brought the drama and the
heart felt feeling of those songs.
Your shows always had great lighting and production values almost
song to song.
It was an artistic thing that needed to be done. I could have
made millions with the shows if I compromised, but I'm in New
York! I have an obligation. Does Calvin Klien say no, I'm going
to make cheap dresses so that they can be sold at J.C. Penny when
he's doing his Fashion On 7Th? No, there's a lot more money to
be made on knock offs then there are on the haute couture. Well,
The Royal New York Doo Wopp Show at Radio City Music Hall was
the haute couture of doo wopp shows.
It's like you mentioned earlier, to most of the acts on your shows
it was the most prestigious and biggest show of their careers.
I wanted to give them all the respect and let them take it home
and let their chests stick out. That was my own personal goal.
The reality was the audience loved them for the right reasons
and it was good for the right reasons. It worked out the way it
should have, but if I didn't do it I know it still would not have
been done and they'd still be working bars in double knit frayed
I agree. The PBS doo wop shows wouldn't have happened had you
not shown the way in New York.
I didn't grow up with Doo Wopp, I was too young, but I had adopted
this era and I was responsible for it. I was also responsible
to The Music Hall because when I was a little boy I had gone there,
stood in line with my grandmother. It was a shrine.
someone from New Jersey who was now responsible for being the
producer in the music industry in New York City I felt there was
no choice. I had no choice. It had to be the best possible presentation
of any in the world. I felt no one in the world should be able
to copy what I was doing. I felt it that deeply. In retrospect
the business minds and the bean counters don't give a shit. However,
that's the way I felt about it and that's fine.
The audiences loved it.
The audience would kill for me. I have had people who literally
said they'd kill for me.
Don't mention their names.
The other disappointment was the guy who booked it was a guy who
I had helped get into promoting Doo Wopp shows in Pittsburgh,
but once he met all the oldies groups he didn't need me and never
called me again. Nobody was really loyal to me, but I can't be
upset about it. That would take away from the thrill of what I
did. At the same time, the other feeling that I had was that I
was really happy for the groups who really got a boost because
of the national exposure and it did help them for a long time.
They got a lot of work out of it. Unfortunately it ended because
no one was thinking ahead. They were only thinking about the moment.
Everybody sucked all the milk out of the cow. They saw what I
was doing as a cow that had milk to be weaned. I saw it as something
to be honored. You don't just start making mimeographed copies
of the Mona Lisa.
So what's next?
Unless somebody takes the music and finds a way to
continue to remind people that its part of our history then it
worry, I have a new idea. It's my responsibility because I have
an obligation to the era. So I do have an idea of how to continue
it and it's in the works.
Final couple of questions, if people wanted to add doo wopp to
their CD collection. What do they need? Where can they get them?
Where do they start?
This is funny because the two CD's are on Rhino. Rhino Records
are the people who gave the local PBS station something, money
to do that original TV show and they did the best they could,
but anyway they put out 2 CD's, the first is called "The
Best Of Doo Wop Ballads," and the second one is called
"The Best Of Doo Wop Uptempo,"
pretty good and a lot of obscure stuff. Both CD's have a lot of
songs on them.
Finally, what's your all time favorite Doo Wopp record?
Well the obvious answer here is 'Gloria,' cause everybody did
The Cadillacs, that's the only version that matters
to me. They did it first.
Why did so many groups record that tune?
Bottom line, it's a love song. It's about a girl. Gloria is every
woman, period and I love her. That's the end of the song. You
don't need to know anymore. It's not Marie, its Gloria.
the obvious song, but to me "Wisdom Of A Fool," that's
the song. Rudy West and The 5 Keys.
always used to tape the show on to cassette and I would take the
tapes home with me. I'd get home at 2 in the morning because we'd
go out after the show, and I would put my headphones on, put the
tape in the stereo, and lie down on the floor and listen.
night I must have dozed off and I remember waking up at 4:30 in
the morning just as Rudy West was singing "Wisdom Of A Fool."
It's a pure love song. The point of the song was don't ever let
someone who loves you go and I woke up with that song on and I
happened to wake up crying. End of story.
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