2009-07-17 / Community

The Planotones Keep The Spirit Of Doo-Wop Alive

By Nicholas Briano

Kenny Vance and The Planotones will perform at the Leon S. Locke Memorial Concert on Sunday, July 26 at Riis Park Bathhouse. Show starts at 6:30 p.m. Kenny Vance and The Planotones will perform at the Leon S. Locke Memorial Concert on Sunday, July 26 at Riis Park Bathhouse. Show starts at 6:30 p.m. Kenny Vance and The Planotones will play the Leon S. Locke Memorial Concert on July 26 at Riis Park as part of the Rockaway Music and Arts Council Summer Concert Series. Songs from their original recordings of classic doo-wop sounds and vocal styles will highlight the second of three summer concerts.

The Rockaway native says there is nothing like playing in front of a crowd in Rockaway.

"It is special for me because this is my hometown and there's nothing like playing for the people who remember you from Far Rockaway High School, neighbors and a whole new audience of people," Vance said. "It is something wonderful playing here while overlooking the Marine Parkway Bridge."

Vance started his musical career as a young teenager in the 1960s with the famed Jay and The Americans. Throughout the group's 15 albums and 11-year run they toured all over the world, appeared on various television programs and were the opening act for the Rolling Stones and Beatles.

After the disbandment of Jay and The Americans, Vance continued working in music as a producer, movie and television composer, music director for Saturday Night Live and also worked as music supervisor on such films as "Animal House" and "Eddie and The Cruisers."

But it was his work on the 1978 biopic of legendary disc jockey Alan Freed, "American Hot Wax," that gave birth to The Planotones, originally a fictitious group for the film in which they appeared. The Planotones broke up after the film and wouldn't reconvene until some years later.

"The Planotones were formed for the movie 'American Hot Wax.' We needed a fictitious group and it had been six or seven years since I performed. I was the music director and later decided to perform in the movie," he said.

"In 1992 as I got older, I realized I got in this business to be a singer and I'm going to start the Planotones again. Sixteen years later we're going stronger than ever, playing all over the country, making original music. We have eight albums."

Vance recalls how Alan Freed brought rock and roll to masses and what it meant to him and other teenagers at the time.

"It was the '50s, everyone was polite, and everyone wearing a suit, then this DJ came on the radio, Alan Freed. When he started playing the '50s music and popularizing rock and roll, anyone that was a teenager was captivated by that because we finally had our own voice, something that was ours," he said. "One day he announced he was going to hold the first ever rock and roll show in Brooklyn's Paramount Theater. It was mind-blowing to see these people I heard on the radio, those pioneers of rock and roll."

Those memories have invoked years of passion and dedication to the music he grew to love as a teenager.

"It was an amazing time and it still lives inside of me. We [The Planotones] are carrying the torch of those memories, those pioneers and innovators. When we play we're energizing the audience. Even the younger people come and see it and realize they like it."

The Planotones continue to write and record new music, keeping doowop alive and relevant to audiences that still embrace the sounds of the late '50s and '60s.

"The way we stand out is that we're able to still make albums. Others continue to perform on their fame and previous recordings. But we're able to make recordings, and the audience embraces us because we remain true to the idiom; it gives them fresh stuff to talk about.

This is valid because very few are still working in this genre."

The Planotones come on stage at 6:30 p.m. at the Riis Park bathhouse.

Parking in the Riis Park lot is free after 6 p.m. Handicapped parking is to the left of the bathhouse.

For more information about the Rockaway Music and Arts Council and their events, visit Rockawaymusicandarts. org or call 718-474- 6760.

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