Doo-Wop at Cerritos: a Sound Whose Time Has Come
Pop music has as many sub-genres as Carter had pills but Doo-Wop may be the most ignored by the young who turn to stuff that musically can’t hold a candle to the pristine harmonies of the fellas on the street corner. Yet, at Cerritos I sat behind two young women who seemed to have gotten the message and were having as great a time as the packed house-full of folks who remember when twitter was a lyric in “When the Red Red Robin Come Bob Bob Bobbin Along” The girls and a few thousand others liked the evening enough to stand and cheer and do plenty of chair dancing that did not endanger sacroiliacs in the assembled Boomers. These Doo-Wop resurrection concerts walk a thin line between nostalgia and neuralgia of the aged but there is nothing like hearing the great old songs live, if they are done right. “The Ultimate Doo-Wop Show” happily fired on almost all cylinders and the few notes that maybe didn’t reach vinyl records heights were easily forgiven in the glow of the number of great ones on display.
This show was dominated by the excellent Seymour Potts with the Contours who lit up the auditorium with high voltage R&B including their memorable hit “Do You Love Me” (Now That I Can Dance) along with a fiery send-up of “Shout” that was pure adrenalin. “The Contours” are originals who can still bring it with hot sauce on the sounds too. While this show closing gallop sent everyone to their cars happy there was plenty of other fine music throughout. A neo-doo-wop group, “the Royals” from San Diego
were perfect in their tight harmonies, even singing the now highly ironic “Teenager in Love” to a crowd that last saw the teen years about half a century ago. There was Joe Jones, the original lead singer of the Pentagons holding steady on “To Be Loved” that stirred some old romance cells. Paul and Paula came out and looked good, bringing memories of 1963 with “Hey Paula” that might have sounded great coming out of the vibrasonic in your 62 Nomad while cruising up Bellflower Blvd.
The Volumes were classic, choreographed flash with their old hit “I Love You” that demonstrated the emotional appeal of this style of music when sung by four guys becoming one voice. The first half was then closed by the Vibrations who really put electricity into the hall with “Hang on Sloopy,” “Peanut Butter” and a terrific “Watusi” that got me to tap my pen on program.
The second half was more exciting and satisfying sounds from the days when pop music was about harmony and fine voices. “The Olympics” picked up the pace with “Big Boy Pete,” “the Hully Gully” and “My Baby Loves the Western Movies” which sent some old cruisers swinging their air lassoes in the audience. The best voice heard on the night was without a doubt Kathy Young who seems to have been sipping from the fountain of Ponce de Leon and when she crooned “A Thousand Stars” it sounded just as sweet as it did coming from your car radio back in the day. As the penultimate thrill of the evening the Doo-Wop royalty “the Spaniels” came in silver suits and silky voices to give a masters class on how to sing in harmony, especially on the song that has been called the anthem of the genre “Goodnight Sweetheart” which set the huge crowd to swaying happily in Doo-Wop joy.