The year is 1964, the place, Pittsburgh, PA. And not unlike every other city or town across the country being influenced by the recent arrival of The Beatles and other prominant self contained Rock acts, wide eyed musicians throughout the area are birthing their version of the next Rock And Roll supergroup.
Ron Rosman, who is attending St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, is pulling together some fellow Music Major pals and forming "The Raconteurs". Not far away, in Greensburg, PA, Mike Vale is recruiting a drummer and a couple of guitar players for his new band, "The Sonics". And almost within shouting distance in Connellsville, PA, Ed Gray has just joined a five peice soul group by the name of "Monte And The Stingrays".
No one could have imagined at that point that within just a year or two these three aspiring Rock Stars would join forces to become part of the same Classic Rock Ensemble which would go on to create music history writing, recording and performing songs that some forty years later still resinate with an entire generation and beyond!
In 1966, while performing at The Thunderbird lounge in Greensburg PA (as The Raconteurs), Rosman and Vale would meet a young man by the name of Tom Jackson from Michigan who was in Pittsburgh promoting his new release, (5 years old actually but that's another story) Hanky Panky, and looking for a group to become "The Shondells". He became so impressed with The Raconteurs that he asked them to join him and "Tommy James And The Shondells" was born. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Following Hanky Panky the group enlisted Eddie Gray and Peter Lucia to replace some departing members, and that iteration of "Tommy James And The Shondells" went on to record approximatly 20 chart singles including such smash hits as: "I Think Were Alone Now", "Mirage", "Crimson And Clover", "Mony Mony", "Ball Of Fire", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Sweet Cherry Wine" and many more! Much in demand, they appeared on the most popular TV shows of the day like "Ed Sullivan", "Joey Bishop", "Merv Griffith", "Dick Clark's Bandstand", "The Dating Game" and a host of others.They also hold the distinction of being the only group in Rock history to campaign and tour with a U.S. Presidential candidate. In this case, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey who, by the way, wrote the liner notes for their "Crimson And Clover" album!
Through the years their legacy has only expanded while having their songs covered by the likes of Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Prince, Tom Jones, Santana, Tiffany and hundreds of other artists. Additionally, songs from their catalogue of hits have been featured in major motion pictures like "Forest Gump", "Yes Man", "Zodiac", "Monster", "Walk On The Moon", "The Nanie Diaries", "Expendables 2" and many more.
Important to those interested in the Pittsburgh connection to Rock music history, not only were these men responsible for recording the liteny of smash hits, they also were writers/ cowriters of many and also coproduced one of their biggest albums, Crimson and Clover.
In 1971 Tommy James launched his solo career and The Shondells left to form a new group, "Hog Heaven", releasing 2 albums over the next three years. Subsequent to Hog Heaven however each member went off in seperate directions pursuing individual aspirations both in and out of music. The group did reunite briefly with Tommy again in 2009 when they were asked to join him in recording a song for his Christmas album, "I Love Christmas". That song, titled "It's Christmas Again", was written by James and Vale who also wrote a number of their early hits.
In 2015 Gray, Rosman and Vale decided it was time to reembrace Rock history and reunited to form thier new group, The Crystal Blue Band. They recruited longtime friend, and great drummer, Mike Wilps to replace Peter Lucia who sadly passed at the young age of 37. "The thing that drove our decision to get back out there, aside from our love of music and performing, was that our decision to pursue solo careers over such a long period diminished the ties we had to the great success experienced by Tommy James and The Shondells.", said Vale. "Combine that with the Shondells recieving little or no recognition for contributions which led to the groups success became frustrating to us and misleading to a whole new generation of Rock enthusiests and people within the industry It's time to get back out there".
The Crystal Blue Band is preparing to begin a new concert tour beginning approprietly enough in their hometown of Pittsburgh PA at The New Hazlett Center for Performing Arts on Saturday, June 18th, 2016. The history laden playlist for that concert will I'm sure be designed to reestablish their connection, in the minds of fans and idle listeners alike, to a legacy possibly distorted by time. The band is also anxious to share their new material written and recorded over the last few years..Ensuing concert dates will be posted on their website www.thecrystalblueband.com
We hope you enjoy browsing the website. Ed, Ron and Mike are extremely excited about once again getting out among you rekindling old friendships and creating new ones. "Thanks for your many years of love and support. See ya' soon and God Bless!"
A RECLAIMED LEGACY