I used to be the agent/manager for Mike Vale and his group, The Raconteurs in the mid to late 60’s. Tom Hartman who owned the Red Rooster, a popular teen-age nightclub (remember when those existed), turned me on to the promising group. Tom didn’t have the time to manage them and wanted to know if I could take them on.
At the time, I was an agent, manager and a concert promoter with an office in the Carlton House in downtown Pittsburgh. It was the mecca for the music industry in the city. Anyone who was a songwriter, publisher, agent, manager, record producer or record company had an office there. I signed the group.
At this same time, one of Pittsburgh’s oldies jocks Mad Mike started playing a two-year-old song that didn’t get much play or sell many records for that matter. It was called Hanky Panky by Tommy James and The Shondells. There actually was a Tommy James, who lived in the state of Indiana. But he had no idea that the locally released record, which was dead and forgotten, had new life breathed into it in Pittsburgh where it became an instant hit.
This led the astute record promoter Nick Cenci on a mission to locate the record company- a monumental task. Since Nick realized that the shelve life of a record in demand was limited, and after being unable to contact the owner of the label, Nick decided to press 10,000 copies of the record and sold them. The demand was overwhelming and it is rumored that Hanky Panky went on to sell 80,000 copies in Pittsburgh.
Nick was eventually able to reach the record company and Tommy James, who couldn’t believe that the practically defunct company now had a potential million seller on their hands. While all of this was going on, I received a call from Tom Hartman who wanted me to book Tommy James and The Shondells for his Red Rooster.
We were able to locate Tommy, but there were no Shondells. Tom suggested we bring Tommy James in to perform and have The Raconteurs back the group up for the weekend gig. After having played the weekend shows, Tommy loved the group and asked them to become The Shondells .
The group went on to sell over 100 million records world wide with 23 gold singles. Mike Vale played bass and sang in the group. He co-wrote Crystal Blue Persuasion which went to #2. After Mike left Tommy James, he went with Hog Heaven. He has written 150 songs including Ball Of Fire, She and Sugar On Sunday.His current release is In My Dreams.
Mike’s record company will be having a release party for his new CD, In My Dreams. Special guests artists like Donna Groom, Johnny Angel and Bubba Daley of the Halos, Don Garvin of Pure Gold, Bob Prince, Dave Molter and others will perform with Mike at Atrias at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Thursday May 29 at 7PM.
If you’ve never been to a record label new release party, you have to make it. Anyone can come. I love the CD and I think it is hit material. I’ll be there. Mike is one of my favorite singer/musicians and a really great person. If you come to the release party, please be sure to say hello.
What’s your favorite Tommy James and The Shondells song?