Tony recieving the award of life time Honorary Membership of the
Gene Pitney Commemorative Committee in Rockville, Con, USA.
In the picture are Tony, Cliff Edwards and Wild Wayne.
A Weekend to Remember GENE PITNEY, the PALACE THEATER and ROCKVILLE!
By Cliff Edwards, GPCC President
TONY LEEperforming his moving Tribute to Gene Pitney Show
Saturday and Sunday, October 4th & 5th was a weekend for remembering!
The Gene Pitney Commemorative Committee did just thatwith the help of Russs Rock & Roll Diner, they co-hosted
Rockvilles first ever International Fan Convention & Gene Pitney Tribute Show starring Englands own TONY LEE and
New Yorks SHADES OF SOUL, a 3-man singing group who provided some wonderful harmonies to open Tonys show!
Saturday afternoon began with a cozyMeet and Greet Fan Convention held in the main hall of the original KOSCIUZKO
CLUB, which by the way, was the same club that Gene Pitney made some of his earliest professional singing appearances
at in 195850 years ago! The convention also offered souvenirs (over 2,000 collectible items on sale), special guests
from Genes storied past (Bob Terryand Dick Spurling original members of Genes first group, The Genials, Larry
Harper original member of The Embers, one of Genes first backup groups, Anita Basile half of the singing group
The Marie Sisters who appeared with Gene on several of his early shows, and Joe Angiolillo author of Genes
biographical bookGene Pitney - His Climb to International Success). Ken Kojak, a guest DJ who introduced SHADES OF SOUL
, was also on hand to talk about his experiences and share stories about what Genes peers had to say about him.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was the private showing of some old film footage and sharing of rare and
unreleased music from members and Genes archives the fans were awed by some of the rarest songs and images of
Gene they had ever seen. To cap it off, Genes family had donated his original red sweater that had been worn for photo
sessions for his album covers and some lucky attendee wound up taking it home later in the evening!
The audience was a marvelous mix of local and out of town visitorsdrawing people from such faraway places as Great
Britain, Wales, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, Canada, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland,
South Carolina, Colorado and all over the state of Connecticut! It was like a mini-United Nations here! I cannot
remember any other time in my history in this town (65 years) when so many people came here on purpose for a show
of any kind!
The evening was even more specialKEN KOJAK opened the nights program with snippets of other artists sharing their
memories of Gene
stars such as BOBBY VEE, BARBARA HARRIS of The TOYS, Famed New York D.J. DON K. REED, BOBBY
JAY, and LESLIE GORE all honored Genes memory and then he brought on the SHADES OF SOUL, who dazzled everyone
with their wonderful vocal harmonies and great renditions of many soul and doo-wop classicsIt was just fan-tastic!
After a brief intermission, WILD WAYNE (from WWUHs long running Rock & Roll Memory Machine radio program)
introduce TONY LEE who arrived to a standing ovation and launched into his own stirring rendition of Genes hit 24
Hours From Tulsa which Gene had always opened his own shows with. Following several more unbelievable spinetingling
ventures into Genes hit vaults, TONY shared some of his memories of Gene and read some fan e-mails and
letters for the audience, a tradition that Gene himself followed for his live performances It was touching and we could
all hear the emotion in Tonys voice as he reflected on actually singing on the same stage that Gene sang on 50 years ago
this year! The karma of the event was incredible and Tonys performance reflected it!
Tony continued on with an eclectic mix of American and International favorites he knew there were many UK fans in
the audience and they knew some songs that American audiences were not so familiar with . songs like 24 Sycamore,
Take Me Tonight and Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart (which by the way reached #1 on the charts in many
countries and was not even released here in 1988 by his record companya move that stumps everyone to this day!)
Midway through his final set, he sang a special request songOceans Away from 1976, that he had dubbed a special
mix forMaurice Merry, Genes UK Music Director and friend provided a music background with Genes original voice
doing harmony on the chorusand Tony allowed the harmony part to play by itself, while he provided the melody for
the rest of the song! It was a gesture that brought tears to Genes fans and added the perfect personal touch to an
electric night! By the time he sang the infamousTown Without Pity as a closer, the audience had been drained by
continuous applause but still called him back for a well-deserved encore!
At the end of the show, Cliff Edwards presented him with an Official LifetimeHonorary Membership to the GPCC and
the crowd roared its approval! Everyone went home drained and a little teary-eyedGene was definitely watching over
them that night!
Sunday, although the day began a little soggy, by 1:30pm when the Parade stepped off the skies had cleared and the
floats rolled. As the lights from the Original PALACE Theater marquee flashed overhead,TONY LEE along with both
original members of Genes backup band, THE GENIALS, BOB TERRY and DICK SPURLING, sang and tapped drumsticks to
all of Genes best known hits for the appreciative crowds that lined Rte 83 on the 2.2 mile parade route.
This float not only honored Gene Pitney, but also the first venue that Gene played at, Rockvilles own PALACE THEATER,
which was torn down in the 60s to make room for more parking lots. Riding on the float were members of the GPCC and
twoTeen dancers NANCY (MORSE) BAILEY, who rode the Soda Shoppe float in 1958 with Gene & The Genials, and
CORRINE LaCHAPELLE, the GPCCs only Student Adviser. Even the bunting that covered the outside of the float was from
the Vernon Sesquicentennial Parade in 1958donated by Stu and Norine Edwards. The overseas contingent from the
night before had all lined up at the Review stand at the end of the parade and gave a mighty cheer when the float finally
arrived! It was truly a magical ending to a magical weekend.
Dignitaries in the evenings crowd included State Representative, CLAIRE JANOWSKI (pictured above) and BILL McGURK,
President of Rockville Bank (not pictured)
If you are interested in learning more about the evening or becoming a member of the GENE PITNEY COMMEMORATIVE
COMMITTEE, INC. please visit their website atwww.genepitney.org or stop in and see Russ and Sandi at RUSSS ROCK &
ROLL DINER in downtown Rockville.
Respectfully submitted by Cliff Edwards 860-896-0834
No reproduction of this story is permitted without the express authority of the GPCC