The ‘Cameos’ – far more than a cameo band



By Anthony J. Machcinski

Nutley residents will welcome one of their own, John Basilone, when The Cameos perform at Nutley’s Summer Concert on Aug. 1.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Basilone said. “I really enjoy watching everyone have a good time… I’m more excited when I’m playing in front of friends and family.”

Basilone will perform at Memorial Park with The Cameos, a group whose history dates from 1957.

Led by drummer Paul Stuart, the band’s most recent incarnation has been performing for the past seven years. Stuart took over the reins from Roger DelRusso in 2005.

Since DelRusso’s passing that same year, Stuart has made it a point for the band to keep the same approach.

“He was a firm believer in presentation,” Stuart said. “I respected that because I’ve been in the business for a long time. He always had the band in proper attire like an oldies group should be. He ran the group very well.”

With Stuart at the helm, the band has ascended to new heights, opening itself to thousands of people all across New Jersey. When asked about their favorite venue to perform, both Stuart and Basilone had the same thought.

“PNC Bank Arts Center,” they said.

“We’ve had over 10,000 people in attendance,” Stuart said. “They keep asking us to come back.”

Basilone recalled: “When I told a friend of mine where we were booked (at PNC), he asked me, ‘What parking lot are you playing at?’ ”

The group’s repeated performances at the Arts Center are a testament to the band’s success.

“(This year) will be our fourth year back and that’s unheard of,” Basilone said. “Literally 10,000 people show up and we perform for an hour and a half. It’s just awesome. It’s a dream come true for anyone who made it big.”

For Stuart, performing at the Arts Center is a welcome challenge. “They keep asking us to come back, and that makes us work hard,” he said.

While performances at large stages such as the Arts Center are treasured experiences, the band says that playing smaller venues still offer value. “We were in Summit for the Fourth of July and there was about 5,000 people in attendance,” Stuart said. “(Seeing that many people) kind of inspires you. It’s a good thing to make people happy. That’s the reward in this business.”

Basilone added, “Nothing’s more enjoyable than when you do a song and you see a bunch of people dancing in front of you.”

For both Basilone and Stuart, performing isn’t a new hobby: it’s a passion that has been with the two men since they were young.

“I got into it when I was a kid,” Basilone said of his start in music. “My older brother was in an acapella group in Newark’s Steven Crane Village. Being infl uenced by Frankie Valli, (my friends and I) started a group called the Five Reasons. Singing’s really been in my family. We all sing. We’re a typical Italian family from Newark.”

Stuart’s music career also started with family roots.

“It actually started when I was about six years old,” Stuart said. “My uncle was a drummer and I was fascinated with it. They have pictures of me behind his drum set. He gave me that push and here I am at sixty years old still playing.”

As for what keeps the two men going in the tough music world, the two performers simply believe that it is a passion for music that drives them.

“It gets tiresome when you’re very busy,” Basilone said. “You get tired, but it’s something you enjoy so much. It’s something that a lot of people in the business wish they can do.”

“Everyone in the group loves what they do,” Stuart said. “We have something very unique with our chemistry. Having nine members in our group and handling that many other people isn’t easy, but it all works out because we all love what we do and we know we have something good.”

The Cameos perform at Nutley’s Memorial Park on Aug. 1. The rain date for the show is Aug. 15. Food concessions open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m.

Learn more about the writer ...