Doo Wop show continues long-standing tradition
By Kellie B. Gormly
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Doo-wop music evokes the same warm, fuzzy, nostalgic feelings as a Norman Rockwell painting, and ties Americans to their customs and roots, says singer Kenny Vance.
“It connects us to our customs. In this country, a lot of people have abandoned customs,” Vance says. He and his Planotones will be playing at Consol Energy Center on Friday along with seven other classic acts for the annual Doo Wop Holiday Reunion Show XI.
“Doo-wop is really the music of America; it's Americana,” Vance says.
The standing December date for Pittsburgh's doo-wop show enhances the feeling of the music, because doo-wop and Christmas music go hand in hand, Vance says. Many decades-old Christmas carols, such as “I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas,” have well-known doo-wop versions. Vance recalls listening to Christmas music by Bing Crosby and the like as a kid.
“To me, they are interconnected, because they connect you to what's truly American,” Vance says. He and his band recently put out a Christmas album, “Mr. Santa,” with 14 songs, including three originals.
Doo-wop shows continue to attract a big following of senior citizens and members of the younger generation, Vance says.
“Fifty years later, I can attest to the fact that, wherever we go, the crowds are as big as ever,” he says. “Their passion and love for this music is unabated. It's as strong as it ever was.”
Doo-wop shows aren't evenly popular throughout the country, Vance says. Pittsburgh is one of the biggest markets for this type of music, because people here seem to appreciate nostalgia and history.
“I really wish more cities were like Pittsburgh,” he says. People are “connected to the things that are mostly important. You really do get that feeling from Pittsburgh. Other cities, they want to be hip. ... They have gotten away from the ‘Norman Rockwell' aspect of things.
“There's something about Pittsburgh that's connected to the old world,” Vance says. “That's why (doo-wop is) so popular in Pittsburgh and not so popular in Dallas and Phoenix. ... The other cities don't have that historical significance.”
Sadly, Vance is living in a hotel after losing his home on Rockaway Beach, N.Y., to Superstorm Sandy in October. He had lived in the house for 38 years, and his collection of vinyl records was destroyed, along with his house's other belongings. Vance was performing on a cruise when the storm hit.
“I don't even have a coat or shoes; I just had what was on my back,” he says. “There are no words to describe it. That's all I can tell you. I'm in shock from it.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7824.
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