It’s Been A While
Darlene, Dionne, Mary & Ronnie
By Jack Coll
It’s been nearly two years since Donna and I have been to a live music show but that little dry-spell ended when we traveled to Glenside on December 17 to enjoy Darlene Love in concert at the Keswick Theatre.
In July of 2019 Donna and I visited the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City and enjoyed an evening with Gladys Knight. We have both long enjoyed her music over the years. Two months later we were at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia where we really enjoyed the music of Allison Krauss and Bonnie Ratt. Willie Nelson was also on the bill but we cut out early having met and seen Willie a number of times.
As most of our readers know we really enjoy live shows and in January 2020 while in Las Vegas for a Framing Convention we were part of an exclusive audience, (maybe 150 people) in theatre at Caesars Hotel Casino called Cleopatra’s Barge where we enjoyed a very intimate evening with Dionne Warwick. Somehow Donna and I had front row center seats. The stage was about 12 inches off the floor where I propped my feet for the show and Dionne was about 36 inches from us sitting on a stool making eye contact with us for a good portion of the show. Dionne didn’t disappoint as she performed a good many of her nearly 40 charted hits like “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Walk On By,” “Message To Michael,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Do You Know The Way to San Jose,” “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” “Heartbreaker,” a song written by the BeeGees and “That’s What Friends Are For.”
While in Vegas thanks to our son Brian and his wife Anna, we also enjoyed the Beatles “LOVE” Cirque Du Soleil, an excellent show.
Little did we know we were just weeks from a nationwide shutdown and words I never heard of like “coronavirus” and “Covid” were all over the news. As we all know this virus led to worldwide deaths.
So, when Darlene Love announced that she would be appearing at the Keswick Theatre for her annual Christmas Show I was just thrilled that following nearly a two year lay-off from live music shows.
Darlene Love, (Born Darlene Wright) has long been a favorite female singer of mine going back to my childhood in the early 1960’s. With a transistor radio strapped to my ear day and night I’d listen to Darlene along with all the other pop artist of the day. She was the voice of the Crystals singing popular songs like “He’s a Rebel,” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” She was also the lead voice on (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” and “Wait Til’ My Bobby Gets Home.” Darlene also recorded the song “Da Doo Ron Ron,” in the studio but producer Phil Spector decided to record it with another singer and again credited the song to the Crystals.
Darlene’s best-known song “Baby Please Come Home” written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich was one she recorded in 1963 for a holiday compilation album, “A Merry Gift for You” from Phil Spector. Spector got a writing credit as he did most of his early songs and his intention was to have Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes record the song. According to Darlene Love Ronnie lacked the emotion put into the song as needed. So, Darlene was brought into the studio to record the song and as they say the rest is history as Darlene’s version became a huge holiday favorite.
I love Darlene Love’s music and I’ve enjoyed talking with her over the years. I first met Darlene about 25 years ago in the late 1990’s when she held a book signing at Ruby’s Diner once located at the King of Prussia Plaza. Rob Hoerburger worked along-side Darlene writing her autobiography titled “My Name Is Love.” In the memoir, Love writes about her life in the music industry and her years of struggle.
Her appearance at Ruby’s Diner was promoted by W O G L Radio Station 98.1 and when I walked into Ruby’s Darlene was sitting in a booth with a pile of books in front of her accompanied by on air personalities Charlie Bennet and Christy Springfield. After exchanging “Hellos” with Darlene I slid into the booth alongside her for an autographed book where we had a conversation not only about her book but I was interested in her early career and time being produced by Phil Spector. I figured it was all in the book but was looking for a few inside tid-bits that might have been left out. I was thrilled to meet her and extremely happy to be talking to her. I was in no hurry to leave and she seemed in no hurry to get rid of me seeing how there was no-one else in the diner other than Charlie and Christy and an elderly couple having breakfast.
As I was leaving, I asked Charlie Bennett why no-one was there to meet Darlene and he felt it was poorly promoted and the fact that it was a 9:00 AM breakfast event, I certainly didn’t mind it gave me more time with Darlene.
I also spent the day with Darlene when Bob Frost and I spent the day at the Kimmel Center ten years ago on January 28, 2012. It was at a Jerry Blavat annual New Year’s event. For the true music fan, it was an all-star event featuring Conshohocken’s own Ed Cermanski and the Trammps, Ben E. King, Chris Montez, Shirley Alston Reeves of the Shirelles, Lenny Welch, Edna Wright and Darlene Love.
Edna Wright and Darlene (Wright) Love are sisters. Edna Wright was featured in a group known as The Honey Cone who charted hits like “Want Ads,” “Stick UP,” and “The Day I Found Myself.”
Bob and I had dinner with Chris Montez, a talented singer with early 1960’s hits like “Let’s Dance,” “Call Me,” “The More I See You,” and “There Will Never Be Another You.” Montez was so popular in the early 1960’s that The Beatles opened for Montez for about six months. He told Bob Frost and I some very interesting stories about the long bus rides with the Fab Four and hotel escapades. Those stories are for another time. Also joining us for lunch was Ed Cermanski of the Trammps who had big hits with “Hold Back The Night,” “That’s Where The Happy People Go” and of course “Disco Inferno,” and it was a real pleasure to be joined by Lenny Welch, who was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey and produced hits with “Since I Fell For You” in 1963, “Ebb Tide” in 1964 and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” in 1970.
So, Frost and I spent the day at the Kimmel Center where we sat-in for the sound check, imagine, the two of us, the only people sitting in the entire theatre, front row of the Kimmel Center watching all the performers going thru their sound check. We had lunch and dinner with the performers and of course the show that evening where we enjoyed all the performances from the side of the stage.
During the sound-check I chatted with Darlene and took some photos but the highlight of my day was during the performance I was standing on the side of the stage with a sold-out theatre enjoying the show when Ben E. King took the stage, Darlene walked over and stood with me and the two of us stood there watching King tapping our feet and telling each other just what a great performer he was.
When Ben E. King was done Darlene walked out on stage and King walked over and stood with me to watch Darlene and we talked about what a great performer she was.
I’ve seen King perform a number of times over the years and if you’re not familiar with Ben E. King well he was one of the original Drifters who wrote the lyrics to “There Goes My Baby” which he sang lead on in 1959, King went solo in 1960.
He had several solo hits with “Spanish Harlem,” “Stand By Me,” was a hit in 1964 when it went to number 4 on the charts, and resurfaced again in 1986 when it went to number 7 on the charts thanks to the movie starring Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix. The song “Stand By Me” was based on the spiritual “Lord Stand By Me.”
Following the show all the performers were available to talk and sign autographs. I wandered over to Darlene’s dressing room where she was happy to chat and talk music.
Frost and I had a great day with our All-Access Pass and chatting with all the performers before, during and after the show.
I’ve seen Darlene perform a number of times over the years and her show never gets old, her voice hasn’t changed since I started listening to her all those years ago. If you’re thinking about seeing her you might want to see her next time around, she just turned 80 years old.
On a side note, I was sorry to read about the passing of Mary Wilson of the Supremes who passed away on February 8, of 2021. Mary spent 18 years with the Motown group “The Supremes,” before going solo. The Supremes was the most successful Motown act of the 1960’s and best charting female group in U. S. history, as well as one of the best-selling girl groups of all-time. Wilson performed back-up for 10 of the 12 Supremes number one hits.
I met and spent time with Mary in Wildwood New Jersey some years ago. She was strikingly beautiful and couldn’t have been more pleasant to talk to. We chatted briefly about her time as a Supreme and about a book she had authored at that time “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.”
And sadly, on January 12 of this year, it was announced that Ronnie Spector, Veronica Yvette Bennett, passed away at the age of 78 due to cancer. Like millions of other fans, I loved Ronnie and was fortunate enough to see her perform a number of times.
The first time I saw Ronnie was sometime in the early 1970’s at the Valley Forge Music Fair. She was touring with an “Oldies” act, or as it was called then a “Music Revue,” or a “Rock & Roll Revival.” Members of the revival on stage the night I was present included Jackie Wilson, Chuck Berry, Ronnie Spector and a number of other acts of the day. I fell in love with Ronnie that night, her looks, her voice and her presence on stage, wow, she was something special. Jackie Wilson was also very impressive, I loved his song “Higher and Higher,” It’s the song most familiar to me of his released 1967. At the time I saw him perform I wasn’t familiar with Jackie’s history. Well he had a string of hits dating back to 1958 and when he started singing “Lonely Teardrops” Women’s panties and bra’s were thrown onto the stage much to Jackie’s delight, I thought it was a Tom Jones concert. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s Jackie had more than two dozen hits.
Twenty years later in 1994 I was back at the Music Fair for a WOGL Radio Station concert that featured Little Anthony And The Imperials, Peter Noone, lead singer of the Herman’s Hermits,” and you guessed it, Ronnie Spector, one time lead singer of the famed “Ronettes.”
I saw Ronnie perform in Hershey Pa., and twice in Atlantic City performing her Christmas Show which was always very entertaining. She always sang all her hits including “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” “Do I Love You?,” “The Best Part of Breakin’ UP,” and ‘Walking in the Rain.” Her Christmas shows also always included her Christmas Songs from the Phil Spector Album “A Christmas Gift For You.” Phil Spector produced nearly everything Ronnie ever recorded.
Most of us will remember Ronnie’s voice on the popular Eddie Money Top 5 hit “Take Me Home Tonight,” in which Ronnie answers Money’s chorus lyric, “Just like Ronnie sang,” with “Be my little baby.”
I’ll be one of many fans who will miss Ronnie, I feel privileged that I attended four of her concerts over the years.
As the 1960’s children grow older we will likely be morning the loss of our childhood musical heroes more and more.
It was good to be back enjoying live music although with the pandemic raging, I don’t know if live events will continue, but it was good to hear Darlene’s voice.
Photographs include in no particular order:
Darlene Love singing on stage at the Kimmel Center back in 2012 at the Jerry Blavat Spectacular.
Darlene Love at her book signing at Ruby’s Dinner back in 1998.
Darlene Love at Ruby’s Dinner with W O G L on air personalities Charlie Bennet and Christy Springfield.
Ed Cermanski of the Trammps with Ben E. King and former Mayor of Conshohocken Robert Frost.
Ed Cermanski goes over some show notes with Darlene Love, Darlene’s sister Edna Wright is on the left.
Darlene Love, Ben E. King and Ed Cermanski of the Trammps.
Pictures of Jack with Darlene Love and Ben E. King.
Photos of Ronnie Spector on stage in Hershey Pa.
If you enjoy music of the 1960’s and 1970’s, be sure to check out Talkin Music on Conshystuff.com
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