Classic groups to perform ‘Blue Moon’ and other favorites in Tyrone

Singer Walt Maddox joined the doo-wop group The Marcels in 1961, the year they hit it big with such hits as “Heartaches,” “Melancholy Baby” and the iconic “Blue Moon.”

Now 75, Maddox hasn’t toured with the group for nearly 15 years, though he still manages it.

“For a number of years, I sang lead and I toured with my own act, ‘Tribute to Nat King Cole,'” the Pittsburgh native said in a phone interview. “It just became too much for me.”

So when the Marcels join Jay Siegel’s Tokens and the Tyrone Area High School jazz band for the 12th annual Oldies Fundraising Concert for Tyrone-Snyder Public Library at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Tyrone Area High School Auditorium, Maddox planned to be on the sidelines.

“I tricked Walt into singing a couple of songs,” Chuck Banas, the concert’s organizer, said with a laugh.

Banas said he and Maddox grew up a few blocks apart in Pittsburgh and have a good relationship. Maddox has helped Banas arrange the library’s oldies concerts since their inception 12 years ago.

“I said, ‘I have a new singer I’d like to sing on the show. Is that OK with you?’ and Walt said, ‘Whatever you want, Chuck, it’s your show,’ Banas explained.

“I said, “OK, do you want to know his name?’ and Walt said, ‘Sure.’ I said, ‘Walt Maddox.’ He said, ‘Hold up! Rewind, rewind!’ And I said, ‘Too late, we have a verbal agreement!'”

The Marcels, inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002, now consist of lead singer Jules Hopson (with the group since 1994) Kenny Mitchell (joined in 2011), Ted Smith (joined in 1995) and Richard Harris (with the group since 1965).

“The faces have changed, but the talent level is the same,” Maddox said. “The group that’ll be on stage [in Tyrone] is the best group that’s ever toured under the Marcels name.”

He pointed out that though the singers aren’t young anymore, that doesn’t change their enthusiasm. The veteran of the group, Harris, still does the splits each night as part of the group’s choreography.

“It’s a bunch of senior citizens on stage,” he said. “The youngest is, I think, 60 and the oldest is 72. I call them kids because I’m 75.”

Maddox said the group still does more than 40 dates a year, playing mostly theaters and high schools. The crowds at the shows illustrate the timeless quality of the music, he said: “I think it’s the memories that are attached to the songs. As you sit there, you can see your life flash before you. Even with kids, if you can see them get exposed to the music of our generation early on, they get attached to it.”

That sort of attachment to the music is the key to the success of the oldies concerts.

“Our first concert was the Marcels and Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners and it’s grown each year,” Banas said. “Every year, [the attendees] say it’s the best one ever.”

According to Banas, last year’s show featuring Jay and the Americans and The Edsels – with an estimated attendance of 750 – raised $23,000. In their 11 years, the concerts have raised $134,000 for the library.

“People have been talking about how it’s always a good evening of entertainment,” he said. “We’ve got people coming from as far west as the other side of Pittsburgh and as far east as the other side of Lancaster and all points in between. … It has consistently grown.”

Banas said this year’s show should cause even more excitement than usual.

“It’s going to be an excellent show and we’re going to have a surprise that I don’t think has ever happened in Blair County before,” he said, refusing to give a hint.

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.