The Buckinghams, Lou Gramm and Jo Dee Messina are the 2013 West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival headline entertainers, according to a press release from Lindsey M. Lowe, festival coordinator.
Antero Main Stage Headlining Entertainment:
The Buckinghams — Aug. 30
From Chicago’s Holiday Ballroom to America’s living room on The Ed Sullivan Show, across the USA and in the White House, The Buckinghams have stayed true to their Chicago roots. Audiences and critics have affirmed the demand for the music of The Buckinghams, proving that success is sweeter the second time around. Original founding members Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna continue to deliver a powerful replay of their hits and solid gold memories.
The trademark opening horn notes on their No 1 hit, “Kind of a Drag” became a signature of the Chicago horn sound as identifiable as The Buckinghams themselves. Their first manager/co-producer, Carl Bonafede, signed them to Chicago’s USA Records. With big band musician Dan Belloc as co-producer, and arranger Frank Tesinsky creating their horn sound, The Buckinghams recorded 12 singles. Performing on WGN-TV’s “All Time Hits,” for 13 weeks increased their Midwest reputation. When USA Records released “Kind of a Drag,” no one anticipated the demand, as the single rocketed to No. 1 across the country. In 1967 Cash Box Magazine named them “The Most Promising Vocal Group in America,” and they delivered.
Columbia Records offered national label distribution, and the band chose James William Guercio, who’d written Chad and Jeremy’s No. 1 hit, “Distant Shores,” as their new manager. The Guercio-produced “Time and Charges” and “Portraits” albums created 4 more Top 10 singles for Columbia. Dominating the AM radio airwaves, The Buckinghams set off a chain- reaction of demand nationwide in record stores, with hits including “Don’t You Care,” “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Susan.”
While the single “Kind of a Drag” was still at the top of the charts, USA Records quickly released 12 earlier-recorded tracks, also called “Kind of a Drag.” Overnight, it became a major-selling album. Then USA also released “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” which climbed the charts alongside Columbia’s first release, “Don’t You Care.” In 1967, The Buckinghams recorded in Columbia’s New York and Los Angeles studios, in between more than 300 tour dates. With 3 chart hits at one time on 2 labels, in 1967, Billboard Magazine named them “The Most Listened to Band in America.”
While the airwaves were brimming with The Buckinghams’ latest tunes, TV audiences saw them on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Show,” “The Jerry Lewis Show,” “The Joey Bishop Show” and “American Bandstand.”
The Buckinghams played to capacity crowds in arenas and festivals, sharing the bill with Gene Pitney, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Neil Diamond, America, Tom Jones, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and The Who. Thousands of teenage girls waited at concerts to rush the stage and rip clothing for souvenirs. Overnight, The Buckinghams became part of American teenage culture. Their faces were splashed onto national magazines, posters and album covers with a look and style that helped define 60s pop rock. Their horn sound turned Chicago’s “Royalty of Rock and Roll” into “One of America’s Answers to the British Invasion.”
Their third album marked The Buckinghams taking charge of their careers. With a new manager and a new producer, Jimmy “The Wiz” Wisner, in 1968, Columbia released “In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow,” from which “Back in Love Again” made the charts. Soon afterward, America’s youth turned attention to war, Woodstock, and Monterrey Pop. Later, Jim Wisner selected producer John Hill to produce The Buckinghams final tracks that produced their final chart singles, “It’s a Beautiful Day” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”. When they mutually decided to disband in 1970, they would all remain involved in entertainment.
Carl Giammarese, who’d focused primarily on lead guitar and backing vocals, and former lead singer Dennis Tufano formed a rock duo with an acoustic style. They played Chicago clubs and small venues, anonymous from their Buckingham identities, simply as “Dennis and Carl.” With guidance from The Buckinghams’ drummer, John Poulos, as their new manager, Carl and Dennis were signed to Ode Records by legendary producer Lou Adler. Adler renamed them “Tufano and Giammarese” and gave them exceptional freedom to create their own music and a generous share of the publishing rights.
Three albums and several years of touring, sharing the bill with Carole King, Bread, and Cheech and Chong, were rewarding. Both decided to focus on their individual interests in the late 1970s. Giammarese found his solo voice and launched a productive career as a studio singer for national TV and radio advertising producers. Tufano followed his heart to California, and found home base in film/TV work.
Nick Fortuna immersed himself in rhythm and blues, exchanging his signature Hofner bass for a funkier Fender Precision bass. He played gigs across Chicago, with groups including Music Power ‘69, Jimmy V and the Ambassadors, and Baby Huey and the Babysitters. Fortuna later started his band, Crystal, with Billy Corgan, Sr., and other talented musicians, playing solid R&B and creating their own sound that can still be heard in Fortuna’s signature blues-style bass chops today.
Marty Grebb and his powerful songwriting/guitar/saxophone/keyboard skills landed him on tour with Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Chicago, Eric Clapton, and Dave Mason. Until his passing in 1980, John Poulos continued to be involved in managing and producing musical acts, including The Boyzz from Illinoizz and other groups, whose music would benefit from his dynamic personality and knowledge of the record industry.
The Buckinghams’ impact on the music scene didn’t end when the band broke up. The musical trend they started in the 1960s was a prelude to shaping other legendary hits. In 1968, Guercio took his experience from The Buckinghams to become a staff producer for Columbia, crafting Blood Sweat and Tears’No.1 album. At the encouragement of The Buckinghams, Guercio signed the group “The Big Thing,” or as they were renamed, “Chicago,” and produced their first 11 albums. The Buckinghams’ creativity and talent inspired an award-winning musical legacy that includes three groups and spans four decades.
In 1980, the word again went out to find The Buckinghams. A call from radio programming executive John Gehron to Carl Giammarese brought an invitation to reunite on the WLS stage for Mayor Jane Byrne’s ChicagoFest. The event drew enthusiastic crowds to hear Giammarese, Fortuna, and Tufano sing the hits once again. The Buckinghams found repeat success and acclaim as they played selected events the next two summers.
Giammarese and Fortuna committed to performing full-time, and Tufano returned to film work in California. Giammarese added lead vocal duties to lead guitar, and Fortuna, on bass, also found his solo voice, out front on a few songs. Together, these two founding members recruited new sidemen to The Buckinghams to remain true to their original sound.
Legendary agents David Fishof and Howie Silverman signed the back-in- demand group to the “Happy Together Tour,” performing with The Turtles, The Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. It was one of the 10 top-grossing concert tours in 1985, as they performed in more than 150 cities to rave reviews.
Invitations to headline corporate events followed, and the demand for performance venues increased to include casinos, arenas, festivals, and theatres. During the past 3 decades, many fine musicians have joined Giammarese and Fortuna, to help stay true to The Buckinghams’ sound through the years. These include: Curtis Bachman, John Turner, Tom Radtke, Tom Osfar, John Cammelot, Laurie K. Lewis, Barb Unger-Wertico, Larry Nestor, Tom Scheckel, and Bob Abrams. Keyboardist/vocalist Bruce Soboroff has backed Carl and Nick since 1986.
In the 1990s, The Buckinghams’ tracks found renewed national interest when Sony/Legacy released the “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” compilation CD. In 1998 The Buckinghams signed with Nation Records and released “Terra Firma,” which featured songs by Giammarese and Soboroff. Fans stood in line for hours to meet Giammarese and Fortuna, who were the first to initiate “meet and greet” opportunities after concerts.
In 2001, renewed national interest brought an invitation to join the “Solid Gold 60s Tour.” The Buckinghams continued touring the country, sharing the bill with Tommy James and the Shondells, The Grass Roots, The Turtles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Gary Puckett. Today, The Buckinghams continue to perform across the nation as headliners, or together with Herman’s Hermits, The Grass Roots, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Three Dog Night, and others.
In 2004 PBS invited The Buckinghams to join in “The Sixties Pop Rock Reunion,” a national program that chronicled the best music of the times. In 2005, The Buckinghams were invited to play the “Twilight on the Prairie” inaugural ball at the White House.
In 2007, Fuel Records, respected for R&B and classic rock reissues, signed The Buckinghams. Carl Giammarese had written 8 original songs at the request of fans, who’d been asking for “more of that signature Buckinghams sound.” Fuel released those songs on the Giammarese-produced “Reaching Back” in 2008. “Standing Room Only,” a re-issue of the “Live and Well” CD was also released, featuring Giammarese on lead vocals for all their 60s hits, with Fortuna taking the lead on “Expressway” and “Domino.”
In 2009, The Buckinghams had the honor of being invited to once again headline the entertainment for the Bipartisan Illinois Agricultural Ball for the inauguration of President Barack Obama for the Presidential Inauguration festivities. Later that year, The Buckinghams were honored to be selected as new inductees into the 2009 class of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Sony/Legacy also reissued three of The Buckinghams 1960s albums as digital downloads as part of their Legacy Music Series.
As The Buckinghams are frequently asked to perform Christmas shows for corporate and public events, in 2009 “The Joy of Christmas” took flight as a new favorite holiday CD that features a rock version of favorite Christmas songs, plus new holiday songs written by Carl Giammarese.
Their newest DVD release on Renaissance Records/itsaboutmusic.com, “Up Close,” is a live concert recording from a recent performance at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana, a favorite venue. The DVD/CD box set includes all their million-selling hits and two popular medleys of solid gold classics and a fan-favorite Chicago song set.
In the 1960s the band was at the forefront of a musical style that has come full circle, as The Buckinghams in concert today blend their hits with others made popular by Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, the Spencer Davis Group, James Brown, Three Dog Night, Billy Joe Royal, and Motown’s biggest acts.
Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna continue to be a proud part of the soundtrack of American life in the 1960s. In May, 2010 they’ll embark on the Happy Together Tour where The Buckinghams join The Turtles, The Grass Roots, Micky Dolenz, and Mark Lindsay on the 25th Anniversary of this national tour. From million selling chart-topping hits to creative new music, you are always at home, with the music of The Buckinghams.
Lou Gramm, Voice of Foreigner — Aug. 31
Gramm was the lead vocalist on all of Foreigner’s hit songs, including “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice,” “Long, Long Way from Home,” “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision,” “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” “Head Games,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Urgent,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Break It Up” and “Say You Will.” He co-wrote most of the songs for the band, which achieved two of its biggest hits with the ballads “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, which spent 10 weeks at No. 2 on the 1981-82 American Hot 100, and “I Want to Know What Love Is,” which was a No. 1 hit internationally (US & UK) in 1985. Their first 8 singles cracked the Billboard Top 20 (4 went Top 10) making them the first group to achieve this since the Beatles. They have sold over 70 million records worldwide. Lou has enjoyed a successful solo career since his time in Foreigner. In 1987, Gramm released his first solo album, Ready or Not, which received critical acclaim and contained a top five hit single with “Midnight Blue.”
Jo Dee Messina — Sept. 1
With the release of “Unmistakable: Love,” the first in a series of three EPs to be released in 2010, Jo Dee Messina steps firmly into the front ranks of country singers with staying power. A collection that displays both her songwriting prowess and her abilities as a co producer, Unmistakable is above all a showcase for one of the genre’s most remarkable and distinctive voices.
The Unmistakable EPs-”Love,” “Drive” and “Inspiration”-are being released throughout the year, and include live bonus tracks of Jo Dee’s biggest hits on each. “I think this is a great way to let the fans hear all the recordings made in the last six years,” says Jo Dee. “They not only get to experience the finished product, but the complete collection of songs recorded along the way.”
“I knew she was a great singer,” says Chris Ferren, one of five co-producers who worked with Jo Dee on the project, “but I guess I didn’t know how great until I worked with her.” That is a sentiment echoed across the board from Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts, Jerry Flowers, Dann Huff, James Stroud, who each co-produced cuts on Unmistakable. Flowers goes so far as to deem her “the best vocalist I’ve ever worked with. No matter what you ask her to do, she can do it, and do it better than what you wanted. She sings from her heart and it’s just amazing every single time.”
As always, Jo Dee’s passion and believability are front and center on Unmistakable, which catalogs her live experiences from a disappointing relationship through a painful but liberating break-up into real and fulfilling love. “You can pretty much feel it that there was a shift in my life during the process of recording these new songs,” says Jo Dee, who became engaged, got married and had a baby during the extended creative process.
The EPs display all the range, versatility and exuberance that have long made Jo Dee a fan favorite and have brought her so much success both on record and on stage. What’s more, it is a project for which she had complete artistic freedom.
“My team really wanted to hear what I had to say,” said Jo Dee of her songwriting side. “It made the creative process extremely enjoyable.”
Unmistakable is the next chapter in a career that has brought the Massachusetts-born singer to the heights of the genre she has loved since she was a little girl. She has sold over five million albums, had nine No.1 singles, earned two Grammy nominations in addition to awards by the CMA and ACM.
The Unmistakable EPs follow on the heels of Delicious Surprise, another commercial success, but also a project Jo Dee found especially satisfying in terms of artistic achievement.
“Delicious Surprise was great for me because I was determined to be honest, to be myself” she says. “People were saying, ‘It’s amazing. You’ve reinvented yourself,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m just being me.’ And that spirit has continued through this album.” Jo Dee’s writing talents, long relegated to a back burner, are fully evident in the songs she co-wrote for the new project.
“For years I was afraid to bring out my songwriting. And then as this project got underway, Jerry was saying, ‘Come on! Let’s write something. I’ll help you.’ The first day we got together it was-boom-done. They just came.”
Her contributions include the title track, “Unmistakable,” a lovely and sensual waltz about the joys of being certain of love and “Think About Us,” an impassioned ballad of loss, both available on the first disc, “Unmistakable: Love.” Soon to be released in the series are “Just Drive,” a look at a woman’s bid to maintain her courage as she leaves a relationship, and “Shine,” a song that defines her current upbeat state of mind.
The craft and artistry in the new songs represent one of country’s true talents at the top of her game. Jo Dee’s contributions as co-producer and her one-of-a-kind voice insure that the music, for all its varied takes on love, has a real unity. What’s more, she says, “All the producers know each other and they’re all great guys, and everybody kind of knew what was going on sound-wise with everybody else, so it is very consistent from beginning to end.”
Jo Dee brings world-class pipes, an unbreakable spirit and a unique musical and personal style all to bear on the project.
“I think what makes it all work,” she says, “is the fact that it’s so real and relatable to the listener. It rings true for people.”
This year, she has taken all of her experiences, her enthusiasm and most importantly, her songs, on a unique cross-country “Music Room Series Tour.” Modeled after the music room in her home, where she sings, writes and rehearses, the tour includes a simple stage with piano and a couple of backing musicians. Each show is distinctive in that Jo Dee plays songs new and old, takes requests, answers questions and gives fans a new insight to the stories behind the hits.
That irrepressible spirit of country music has been in Jo Dee’s DNA since her childhood in Holliston, Massachusetts. She was first attracted to country in the music of Alabama and Hank Jr. as well as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. She appeared in local plays and musicals as a girl, and by 16 she had a band that included her sister on bass and her brother on drums. She performed in clubs throughout the Northeast, booking shows and hauling gear, with a work ethic she inherited from her single-parent mother.
At 19, she loaded a car and headed to Nashville, where she entered talent contests and got a regular gig on Nashville’s “Live at Libby’s” radio show. Producer Byron Gallimore heard her and introduced her to another struggling newcomer named Tim McGraw. Jo Dee was signed, then dropped, by one major label before, at a backstage meeting at Fan fair, she met and charmed a Curb Records executive and got a record deal on the spot.
With Gallimore and McGraw producing, Jo Dee gained attention out of the box with “Heads Carolina, Tails California” and “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore.” Her follow-up album, I’m Alright, exploded with its back-to-back-to-back chart-toppers “Bye Bye” (ASCAP’s Song of the Year), “I’m Alright” and “Stand Beside Me” made her a star. Jo Dee won the ACM’s Top New Female Vocalist award, the CMA Horizon award and the nod for Most Played Country Female of 1999 from Billboard. The Burn album entered the Country Albums chart atNo.1, went platinum and earned two Grammy nominations. Hits like “Lesson in Leavin’,” “Because You Love Me,” “Downtime,” “Bring On The Rain,” “That’s The Way” and “My Give A Damn’s Busted” would cement her reputation as one of country’s most loved and enduring hit-makers. Along the way, Jo Dee earned a well-deserved reputation as an electric live performer, becoming one of the first women of country to mount a major headlining tour.
Jo Dee’s drive is evident in her personal life as well. A dedicated runner, she has completed two marathons and still trains. “On the road, I’ll get up and run, and since my steel player is training with me we run together,” she says. “Then I go to the gym and lift weights, have lunch, do the sound check and then my meet and greet, do the show and get to bed as early as I can. No staying up late partying!”
Her marriage to Chris Deffenbaugh and the addition of their son, Noah Roger, in January 2009, is part of a life in which genuine comfort and happiness seem to be the main order of business. Balancing motherhood and her career is a challenge she is facing head-on with a joy befitting the situation.
“My guard is kind of let down a little,” she says. “I’m a little more vulnerable because I am in a safe place. And it’s not just my personal life, but me as a person. I’ve just grown. I’ve realized that I can only be who I am. I was married to my career for years,” she says. It came first. It came before birthdays, it came before weddings and funerals, and it came before everything. A couple of years ago I said, ‘Wait a minute! This garden needs some tending. The most real thing in my life is relationships.’”
For Jo Dee, it’s now about balance and living life to the fullest.
“I’m a work in process,” she says. “I am constantly learning. I’m constantly growing. You’re always evolving and it never ends. You’re never, ‘OK. I’m done. I’ve figured it all out.’”
That sense of exploration has always gone into her art, and it infuses the Unmistakable trilogy..
“In the midst of your creativity is when you’re most in tune with God. There is a creative rebirth on these records, and it came so effortlessly. I can’t wait for people to finally hear them.”