Tony DeLauro has had a very successful and eclectic career in the entertainment/music industry. Currently he manages the career of rock legend Gary U.S. Bonds, and he's represented artists including Peter Noone and Chubby Checker for the past 30 years.
RD: I've often said that all doo wopp are oldies, but all oldies are not doo wopp. Care to elaborate?
TD: 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.
RD: You're a baby boomer who came of age in the 60's, why doo wopp?
TD: 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.
RD: What was the year of the first Royal New York Doo Wopp Show?
TD: 1978 at the Beacon Theater.
RD: Doo Wop was not in vogue in 1978. How did the first show come about?
TD: 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.
I 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
So 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.
RD: How many volumes of the show were there?
TD: 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.
I 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.
RD: Must have been some crazy moments backstage at the shows.
TD: 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, of course.
So 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.
They 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.
RD: Maybe it was just stage fright.
TD: 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.
So 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.
When 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.
They 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.
RD: Who did you want to get for a show that you were never able to get?
TD: I think we got them all. We got everybody.
RD: What did you think when you turned on your TV a few years back and saw your entire concept being presented by someone else?
TD: 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.
The 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.
I wanted to film it. Nobody wanted to spend the money on film. They only wanted video tape.
So 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.
The 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.
RD: Your shows always had great lighting and production values almost song to song.
TD: 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.
RD: 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.
TD: 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 suits.
RD: I agree. The PBS doo wop shows wouldn't have happened had you not shown the way in New York.
TD: 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.
Being 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.
RD: The audiences loved it.
TD: The audience would kill for me. I have had people who literally said they'd kill for me.
RD: Don't mention their names.
TD: 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.
RD: So what's next?
TD: Unless somebody takes the music and finds a way to continue to remind people that its part of our history then it just disappears.
Don't 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.
RD: 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?
TD: 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.
RD: Finally, what's your all time favorite Doo Wopp record?
TD: Well the obvious answer here is 'Gloria,' cause everybody did it.
RD: By who?
TD: The Cadillacs, that's the only version that matters to me. They did it first.
RD: Why did so many groups record that tune?
TD: 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.
That's the obvious song, but to me "Wisdom Of A Fool," that's the song. Rudy West and The 5 Keys.
We 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.
That 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.