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Classic Tunes Still Keep The Audience Cheering

Classic Tunes Still Keep The Audience Cheering

Who: Gene Pitney
Where: Newcastle Panthers
Author: Jade Lazarevic
When: Wednesday October 29, 2003

AFTER more than 30 years in showbusiness, GENE PITNEY shows no signs of retiring his crown as a superstar.

With millions of fans around the world, Pitney has come a long way from his humble beginnings in Connecticut.

Since he first broke through during the height of Beatlemania, Pitney has left the pop world with a string of classic tunes such as Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, Town Without Pity, I'm Gonna Be Strong and Lookin' Through The Eyes Of Love .

His career has crossed five decades and seen him work with some of the biggest names in the business including THE ROLLING STONES, BURT BACHARACH and PHIL SPECTOR .

But unlike many pop stars from his era, Pitney has maintained a universal and age- defying appeal.

In 1990, he found success in a new contemporary market with his worldwide number one duet, Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart, which gave Pitney his first number one hit in the UK.

Although the single was Pitney's first hit in several years, he has always maintained an active touring profile by performing six months out of every year around the globe.

Pitney never grew up with any real desire to become a singer, but his talent was undeniable.

His first taste came when he formed GENE PITNEY & THE GENIALS , at which point he also began to compose his own songs.

In 1959, he made his first recording with the song Classical Rock & Roll with singer GINNY ARNELL.

``We called ourselves JAMIE AND JANE ,'' Pitney said.

``I knew, however, that I didn't want a professional career in music with only a first name or as half of a duet, so I moved on to record Cradle of My Arms the following year under the name of BILLY BRYAN .

``In fact, the record company wanted to call me HOMER MUZZY .

Well, that was it.

I wasn't going to go through life with a name like that! I decided it was time to start using my real name, Gene Pitney.

'' His first major success came when the KALIN TWINS recorded his song Loneliness .

``From that point, I decided to concentrate on writing songs instead of singing them.

'' This was the start of an illustrious songwriting career in which his songs were recorded by the likes of STEVE LAWRENCE, ROY ORBISON and BOBBY VEE.

Each song sold over a million copies.

Pitney realised that he could make a career out of singing his own songs and his first demo climbed to Number 39 in the US charts and Number 26 in Britain.

``I had just turned 20 and suddenly I was doing every television show, radio show, and record hop they could book me into.

``When the hits started coming, I was recording and touring almost simultaneously.

'' His hits included Hello Mary Lou and Every Breath I Take and he won a GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD for Best Song in a Motion Picture for Town Without Pity.

``The film was initially a box office disaster but after the success of the record, the film was re-released and became a huge hit.

``That's the kind of power records had in those days.

'' Another movie theme, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance , gave him another hit.

The hits continues with Only Love Can Break A Heart, I Didn't Have A Dime, Half Heaven, Half Heartache, Mecca, True Love Never Runs Smooth and It Hurts To Be In Love.

By 1963, he had developed followings in Italy, France, Germany, Latin America, Mexico, Japan, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

During a trip to the UK, Pitney met the Rolling Stones and struck up a friendship with MICK JAGGER and KEITH RICHARDS who penned the hit That Girl Belongs To Me for him.

He proved his diversity when he was invited to perform at the GRAND OLE OPRY in Nashville with EDDIE ARNOLD, BUCK OWENS, ROY CLARK and CONNIE SMITH .

``I like things to keep changing.

I've seen too many artists left out in the cold because they relied on the same old sounds and same old type of songs.

'' In 1970, Pitney finally decided to cut back his touring commitments.

``I had a family at home, two boys starting to grow up, and I was getting a guilt complex about not being there with them,'' he said.

lw-1 ``So I decided to make a six- month commitment to touring and spend the rest of the time at home with the family.

'' He continues to perform all over the world and is in Australia with THE ULTIMATE TOUR.

He will perform at CLUB NOVA PANTHERS NEWCASTLE on October 29.

Tickets are on sale this week from the club.

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