Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kenny Vance & the Planotones back in the nabe

By Meredith Deliso

Today, Long Island University students fill the Brooklyn Paramount Theatre with the sounds of squeaking sneakers and buzzers in its current incarnation as a gymnasium. But during the 1950s, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis made the heralded movie theater reverberate with the sounds of rock and roll on several legendary occasions.

Kenny Vance remembers those days as if they were yesterday. As a teenager, the Brooklyn native attended legendary shows in the theater hosted by Alan Freed, the disc jockey who coined the term “rock and roll,” and would be in awe of the talent before him.

“As a kid I remember going there, waiting in line to see people who are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, people who are the inventors of rock and roll,” says Vance. “The thought of seeing all these people live was mind-blowing.”

Now, more than 50 years later, Vance is a hall of famer himself. Dubbed the “Dylan of Doo-Wop,” Vance is one of the founding members of Jay & the Americans, and was inducted in 2007 into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of Barbara Streisand, Simon & Garfunkel and Louis Armstrong. He was also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.

Vance currently preserves the genre performing all across the country with his band, The Planotones, classicists on the doo-wop formed in 2002 and also consisting of Johnny Gale, Kurt “Frenchy” Yahjian, Jimmy Bense, keyboardist Chip Degaard, and Tony Gallino on drums.

You can hear them on September 1 when they play the Summer Concert Series at Seaside Park in Brooklyn as part of a free summer-long concert series.“I like playing there because it’s my hometown,” says Vance, who grew up in Flatbush, going to high school at Erasmus and Brooklyn Academy of Music, and has lived all over Brooklyn since. “The audience is also people from Brooklyn, so that’s a reconnection with the people from the neighborhood.”

While it’s been many years since the days of sock hops and poodle skirts, the demand for the youthful energy and strong harmonies of doo-wop is still strong. Vance himself is booked through 2011 with gigs around the country, and he also has a new CD out with his band, “Oceans of Time,” on LaPlan Records, that has him gaining fans all over the world.

“We keep this type of music alive, and it seems to me that this is the music of America,” says Vance. “I think that our audience trusts the fact that we’re going to portray the music in a way that we respect it.”

That’s only natural, since Vance has been entrenched in the genre ever since he was a teen, leaving college at the age of 19 to pursue a music career full time with Jay and the Americans and reaching the heights of Billboard with songs like “She Cried,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” and “This Magic Moment,” as well as touring with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones during each of their first U.S. performances.

For Vance, those times aren’t just a distant memory.

“When we perform, the audience is kind of transported back into time,” says Vance. “They treat us like we’re teen idols, so the audience gives us an extra jolt of energy.”

Vance is happy to see a wide age range in the audience as well, reaching beyond the fanbase of those who were teenagers in the 1950s and 1960s, going to shows at the Brooklyn Paramount, to those who are today.

“I’m still as enthusiast about it as I was when I first started, even more so, because we’re bringing something to the people that they seem to thirst for, whether they’re old or young,” says Vance. “It’s really very gratifying to be able to do that.”

Kenny Vance and the Planotones play the Summer Concert Series at Seaside Park (Ocean Parkway and Seabreeze Avenue) September 1. (This was the show originally scheduled for July 21 but was rained out). The show is free and starts at 7:15 p.m. Feel free to bring lawn chairs. For more information, call 718-222-0600.

The band also plays Parsippany Hilton (One Hilton Ct., 908-876-9100) in Parsippany, NJ, on September 4 at 8 p.m.; Great Auditorium (15 Pilgrim Pathway) in Ocean Grove, NJ, on September 5, show time TBA; and at the Doo Wop Extravaganza at the Capital One Bank Theatre (960 Brush Hollow Road, 516-334-0800) in Westbury, NY on September 12 at 8 p.m.


Anonymous,  August 28, 2009 at 3:12 AM  
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Anonymous,  August 29, 2009 at 12:54 AM  
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