TOMMY JAMES
 AND 
THE SHONDELS


 

TOMMY JAMES AND THE SHONDELLS

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORY OF THE GROUP

The music of Tommy James is played continuously, everyday, in every country in the world, and has been for over a generation. His songs have become so ingrained in modern culture, it's difficult to go for more than a couple of days without hearing one of them on the radio, TV, in films, or one of the 300 plus cover versions of his songs by other artists. He has sold, to date, over 100 million records and has been awarded 23 gold singles and 9 gold and platinum albums.

He was born Thomas Jackson on April 29, 1947 in Dayton, Ohio. His family finally settled in Niles, Michigan which he still regards as his hometown. His first stage appearance was as a child model at age four.

In 1959, at the age of 12, he formed his first rock band, "The Tornadoes", and began playing local gigs around the area, developing a sizeable following.

In 1964 a local DJ asked Tommy and the group to sign with his new regional label, "Snap Records". One of the 4 sides they recorded was an obscure song written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich called "Hanky Panky". The group changed their name to "The Shondells" and released it as a single. It was an instant local hit but didn't break nationally and was soon forgotten.

Amazingly, two years later, the record was found in an obscure record bin by a Pittsburgh nightclub DJ who played it at his weekend dances. The response was so overwhelming that the local radio stations began to play it and the local record distributor began to bootleg copies of the song. In ten days, sales had reached 80,000 so that by May of 1966, HANKY PANKY was the number one record in Pittsburgh and Tommy James was a sensation. Tommy was tracked down and asked to come to Pittsburgh. Unable to put the original group back together, Tommy went alone and hired the first local band he could find to be The Shondells. Two weeks later the new group signed a record deal with Roulette Records in New York and HANKY PANKY became the biggest hit of the summer of '66. Thus began one of the longest strings of non-stop hits in recording industry history.

HANKY PANKY was quickly followed up by two more million selling singles: SAY I AM and IT'S ONLY LOVE with the HANKY PANKY album going gold a mere 4 weeks after its release in July of '66.

Tommy then added producers Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell to the team who, over the next two years, produced 7 more back-to-back gold singles including: I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW, MIRAGE, I LIKE THE WAY, GETTIN' TOGETHER, OUT OF THE BLUE, GET OUT NOW, and the party rock icon... MONY MONY.

The Gentry/Cordell/James team also produced three platinum albums: I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW, SOMETHING SPECIAL, and MONY MONY. Tommy James and The Shondells were also one of the first acts to experiment with Music Videos of their hits starting with MONY MONY in 1968, thirteen years before MTV.

Tommy James and The Shondells were also one of the first acts to experiment with Music Videos of their hits starting with "Mony Mony" in 1968, thirteen years before MTV.

By the end of '68, after three months on the road with Vice President Hubert Humphrey's Presidential campaign, TJ and company began writing and producing their own records. Their first project, released in early 1969, was the unforgettable CRIMSON AND CLOVER album which, in addition to going multi-platinum, spawned three more monster hits for the group: DO SOMETHING TO ME, CRIMSON AND CLOVER, and CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION. A fourth song on the LP, SUGAR ON SUNDAY, was recorded by The Clique and also went top ten.

The CRIMSON AND CLOVER album was followed by the CELLOPHANE SYMPHONY album, which featured the newly developed Moog Synthesizer, as well as another smash hit, SWEET CHERRY WINE. Their second volume of greatest hits titled THE BEST OF TOMMY JAMES AND THE SHONDELLS was released that same year and featured the smash hit BALL OF FIRE. The LP has sold, to date, over 10 million copies.

In 1970 the group released another million selling LP, TRAVELIN'. This innovative theme album was viewed by many as their best work. It contained two gold singles: SHE and GOTTA GET BACK TO YOU. TRAVELIN', however, would be the last album Tommy would make with The Shondells. After four hectic years, both Tommy and the band decided they needed some time off.

With the breakup of The Shondells, Tommy continued with a solo career beginning with the writing and producing of the million selling single TIGHTER, TIGHTER for the group Alive 'N Kickin". Over the next four years Tommy scored an additional 12 chart singles including: COME TO ME, BALL AND CHAIN, I'M COMIN' HOME and DRAGGIN' THE LINE. Tommy also produced three top 40 albums during that time: "TOMMY JAMES", "CHRISTIAN OF THE WORLD", and "MY HEAD, MY BED AND MY RED GUITAR". The latter was recorded in Nashville with an all-star cast featuring Pete Drake and Elvis side-men: Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana.

 

In 1974 Tommy left Roulette Records and over the next three years, recorded two albums for San Francisco based Fantasy Records: IN TOUCH and MIDNIGHT RIDER.

Returning to the east coast in 1980, Tommy signed with Millennium Records scoring three more chart singles including the million selling THREE TIMES IN LOVE.

By the mid-80’s, Tommy's songs, now considered classics, were being covered all over the world by everyone from punk rockers like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts to symphony orchestras like The Boston Pops. At one point in 1987, Tiffany and Billy Idol, with their versions of I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW and MONY MONY, fought it out for the top spot on the charts for a solid month, each eventually going number one. It was the first time in music history that two cover versions of songs by the same artist went number one back-to-back.

In the 90's Tommy's music has been played on countless movie soundtracks including: “Forrest Gump,” the Oliver Stone movie “Heaven And Earth", "Cape Fear" "Pontiac Moon", "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead", "Off And Running", "Vice Versa" and in 1999 REM's cover of DRAGGIN' THE LINE was one of the high points in the summer blockbuster "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me while the film "A Walk On The Moon" featured Cher singing CRIMSON AND CLOVER and Morcheeba doing CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION. This year, three major Hollywood movies have used Tommy’s songs: “We Are Marshall” DRAGGIN THE LINE, “Zodiac” and “The Nanny Diaries” both using CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION.

 

In the 21st century, Tommy is busier than ever performing to sell out crowds across the country as well as working on a myriad of new projects. He has recently signed with Sony BMG for the release of both his “Live at the Bitter End” CD and DVD. He has recently formed his own record company AURA RECORDS to promote both his classic and new material and scored three top five AC hits from his studio album HOLD THE FIRE. He is also working on his autobiography: CRIMSON & CLOVER and has a state-of-the-art website: www.TOMMYJAMES.com where he can stay in touch with his many fans both old and new, worldwide.

In 2008, Tommy’s long awaited Christmas album "I Love Christmas" will be released. The title track is already on thousands of radio Christmas playlists and a new single from the album; IT'S CHRISTMAS AGAIN, featuring the original Shondells: Mike Vale, Eddie Gray, and Ronnie Rossman, will be released to radio this Christmas season. Also in production is a 40-year retrospective CD package, which is certain to become the crown jewel in any Tommy James collection.

Tommy James has left an indelible mark on his industry and his generation with credits and longevity as an artist, songwriter, and performer that few have equaled. With the ever increasing popularity of his music, there seems to be no end in sight.

 

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Contains such hits as Crimson and Clover/Sweet Cheery Wine/ Crystal Blue Persuasion. and much more !!

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Tommy James is still touring today ! and really puts on a great show!!


 

SINGLES

Top 10 hits:
Pop:

Top 10 albums:
Pop:

Other notable recordings: "Say I Am (What I Am)," "It's Only Love," "Baby, Baby I Can't Take It No More," "I Like the Way," "Run, Run, Baby, Run," "Gettin' Together," "Real Girl," "Love's Closin' In On Me," "Out Of The Blue," "Get Out Now," "(I'm) Taken," "One Two Three And I Fell," "Somebody Cares," "Go Go Gorilla," "Do Something To Me," "Sugar On Sunday," "Loved One," "Ball Of Fire," "She," "Gotta Get Back To You"
Wrote or co-wrote: "Tighter, Tighter," Alive and Kicking
Covered by: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Tiffany, Billy Idol, R.E.M., Concrete Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Snuff, Evil Stig, The Pooh Sticks, Amazulu, Lene Lovich, Morcheeba, Guster, Ratcat


 

MAJOR SINGLES

HANKY PANKY

SAY I AM ( WHAT I AM )

IT'S ONLY LOVE

I THINK WE ARE ALONR NOW

MIRAGE

I LIKE THE WAY

GETTIN ' TOGETHER

OUT OF THE BLUE

MONY MONY

DO SOMETHING TO ME

CRIMSON AND CLOVER

SWEET CHERRY WINE

CRYSTAL BLUE PERSUASION

BALL OF FIRE

SHE

DRAGGIN THE LINE

MONY MONY DANCE VERSION --1992


TRIVIA

#1--------------- THE SONG HANKY PANKY was orginally released in 1964 and became a local hit but due to how small the record compnay was they could not keep up with distribution. The Song was released again  in 1966 on the ROULETTE RECORD LABEL where it became a national hit.

 

#2---------------The time the song Hanky Panky became a hit all the orgianl Shondells had quit the group and Tommy had to find new Shoundells

 

#3-------------- As Tommy was working across the street from the MUTUAL OF NEW YORK BUILDING ON Broadway in NYC he stared out at their sign which said MONY standing for the company name and this is where he came up with the idea of the title which he thought would be like many other songs at the time with girls names said twice.

 

#4---------------The version you are now use to hearing of the Song MONY MONY is not the orginal version since back in 1966 a song would only last 2 or 3 minutes.

 

#5-------------The Song following Mony Mony was Tommy James largest hit called Crimson and Clover and is when he went to the psychedelic music sound.

 

#6-------------It is thought that more people have done make overs of Tommy James songs than any other group  and achieved hits with them.

 

#7-------------In later  years two artist had re -done his songs and one was #1 on the charts , I think WE are Alone Now and #2 was MONY MONY!!!

 

#8--------------During 1968-69, Tommy James and The Shondells sold more single records than any artist in the world, including The Beatles. Tommy has had 23 gold singles, 9 gold and platinum albums, and has sold over 100 million records worldwide.

 


 

STORY OF TOMMY JAMES

 

Tommy James was born Thomas Jackson in Dayton, Ohio on April 29th,1947 and moved to Niles, Michigan when he was 11 years old. At age 12, he formed his first band and called them - The Shondells. At the time, the group was simply a hobby in high school.

In 1964, Tommy was asked by a local DJ to record a few songs for Snap, a tiny Michigan record label. One of those tunes was "Hanky Panky", which started to take off locally, but then quickly died, a victim of poor distribution. The song was soon forgotten, and eventually the group broke up.

Two years went by before another DJ found a copy of the song in a stack of oldies. Not knowing that it hadn't been a real hit, he played it by mistake. To his amazement, delighted listeners wanted to know where they could get a copy of "that hot new single".

Sensing a hit, a local bootlegger taped the song off the radio and began pressing copies of it. Within ten days, more than eighty thousand copies had been sold. The Pittsburgh DJ finally tracked down Tommy James and informed him that his record was number one in the city. Tommy almost hung up on the guy, but a week later, he was in New York, selling the original master of "Hanky Panky" to 'Roulette Records'. By the late summer of 1966, it was the number one selling single in the nation.

Tommy moved to Pittsburgh and formed another band called "Tommy James and the Shondells". This group included members of a group that had been known in Pittsburgh as the "Raconteurs" and included Ronnie Rosman on keyboards, Mike Vale, Joseph Kessler, Vince Pietropaoli and George Magura. The last three were soon replaced by Eddie Gray on guitar and Peter Lucia on drums.

The group needed a follow-up and selected a song called "Say I Am [What I Am]". Although not as successful as Hanky Panky, it reached number 21 on the charts later in the same year.

Roulette knew that it had a hot commodity on its hands and assigned songwriters Richie Cordell and Bo Gentry the task of writing songs for Tommy James and the Shondells. The combination resulted in some great finger-snapping tunes which were regarded in the late 60s as bubblegun music, some good rock songs, and even one that was in tune with the psychedelia that was prevalent in pop music at the time. From 1967 to 1969, the group turned out hit after hit on the Roulette label, including six that made it to the top ten: "I Think We're Alone Now", "Mirage", "Mony Mony", "Crimson and Clover" (the group's second and final number one hit in the USA), "Sweet Cherry Wine", and "Crystal Blue Persuasion".

The chords and structure of Tommy's smash single "Mirage" were actually the chords to "I Think We're Alone Now" in reverse, created when it was accidentally played backwards during a writing session.

Tommy James and the Shondells' "It's Only Love" album cover was the first professional photo shoot by Linda Eastman McCartney in 1966.

"Mony Mony" is a classic song of the 60s. It was co-written by Tommy James, Bo Gentry, Richie Cordell, and Bobby Bloom, who had a top ten record of his own with "Montego Bay". The hook in the song is said to have been inspired by Tommy's view of a Mutual Of New York sign on the New York City skyline. Mony Mony was the only song by the group to reach the top twenty in the United Kingdom; it was #1 there, and #3 in the USA.

In 1968, Tommy decided to change his musical direction and started to not only write his own material, but to produce his own records as well. His first project was "Crimson and Clover", which he wrote with his drummer, Peter Lucia. Tommy played all the instruments on the recording except drums and also sang all the vocals. The song took only five hours to record, start to finish and sold five and a half million copies.

In 1969, Tommy and the group regrettably turned down the offer to perform at the original Woodstock Festival when his booking agent described the event as "...a stupid gig on a pig farm in upstate New York."

Tommy James experienced some minor health problems in 1970 and he and the Shondells went their separate ways. The group renamed themselves Hog Heaven, but met with little success.

Tommy reached the charts by himself in 1971 with the hit "Draggin' The Line", but spent most of the seventies struggling with personal problems and groping for a new musical direction. He did however place several songs on the upper end of the Top 100.

He finally found his grove again in 1980 and triumphantly returned to the record charts with "Three Times In Love".

As the years went on, other performers would cover some of the great records that had been recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells. Joan Jett had a top ten song with Crimson and Clover in 1982, and in November of 1987 Tiffany and Billy Idol had back-to-back number one hits with "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Mony Mony", respectively.

The Hits of Tommy James and the Shondells:

1966- Hanky Panky- charted at # 1
1966- Say I Am (What I Am)-charted at # 21
1966 - It's Only Love- charted at # 31
1967 - I Think We're Alone Now - charted at # 4
1967 Mirage - charted at # 10
1967 I Like The Way - charted at # 25
1967 Gettin' Together - charted at # 18
1968 Mony Mony - charted at # 3
1968 Do Something - charted at #To Me 38
1968 Crimson And Clover - charted at # 1
1969 Sweet Cherry Wine - charted at # 7
1969 Crystal Blue Persuasion - charted at # 2
1969 Ball Of Fire - charted at # 19
1969 She - charted at # 23
1970 Gotta Get Back To You - charted at # 45
1971 Draggin' The Line - charted at # 4

During 1968-69, Tommy James and The Shondells sold more single records than any artist in the world, including The Beatles. Tommy has had 23 gold singles, 9 gold and platinum albums, and has sold over 100 million records worldwide.

Into the new millennium, Tommy remained very active in the music business and continued to record and tour.


 

 


 

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