Those oldies but goodies … music history at its best

Bergen PAC

The Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood not only took me back in time on May 6, 2023, but it also landed me in a part of music history while providing a music history lesson as well.

The “Oh What a Night of Rock and Roll and Doo Wop” show had a lineup any teenager from the 1950s and 1960s would have kicked and screamed to attend — screaming teenagers who broke out of the crooning era of music their parents loved, to finally hear songs that related to them.

Not only that, but they made them dance too.

Because of the Doo Wop sensation and R&B/early rock and roll, the music world and music lovers found and continues to find change with the evolution of the music to the music that is being listened to today.  I’ve always personally considered that era the birth of music for teens.

When these artists began their careers, they were basically either in their teens or at least in their 20s, and here we are, roughly 70+ years later, and these legends are still giving it all they’ve got, exactly as they did when they originally performed their hit songs. These performers are now in their 80s and 90s, yet they continue to emulate their performances as if it was when they first burst on to the scene in the 1950s/1960s.

If you were talented and lucky enough to have a hit song at the time, you not only changed the music landscape, but they also created a dance craze.

The legendary Joey D from Joey D and the Starliters, “Peppermint Twist” fame, is still twisting and his voice hasn’t changed a bit. Every time I speak to him or see him, I envision him as a younger man, when his world exploded and he became THE Joey D.

The happiness and excitement he must have had at that time puts a smile on my face when I see him. I also love that he was born and raised in Passaic and lived down the street from and attended school with Ronnie Spector.  You surely can’t go wrong with that talent.

At Bergen PAC, not only did he put on a fantastic set, but he had the audience on their feet doing the Twist.

Dee also gave me a copy of his book “Peppermint Twist Chronicles.” It’s a great read on Dee’s career, his life and all his incredible experiences.

He donates all proceeds of his sales to the St Jude Children’s Fund.

The excitement and love of music continued as singer La La Brooks from The Chantels belted the heart wrenching “Maybe.”  The plea of a lovesick girl thinking that maybe she and her love could get back together after a breakup. It was perfection. Brooks shared she was with Spector first and “Be My Little Baby” was written for her, but it was Spector who catapulted the song to the top of the Billboard charts.

Brooks sounded conspicuously like Spector, so it’s easy to see why it was written for her.

The evening kicked off with Cleveland Stills and the Dubs from “Could This Be Magic” notability.  That is a great example of the vocal harmonies of Doo Wop and romance themes. The slightest hint of instruments in the background or harmonic acapella alone. Stills and the Dubs songs and vocals are Doo Wop classics.

Also, as we kicked off the evening with Doo Wop, it would end with Doo Wop, a buildup to the final act, Kenny Vance and the Planotones. Vance, the original member and cofounder of Jay and the Americans, performed a medley of the Americans’ hits, including “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “This Magic Moment,” “Cara Mia,” “She Cried” and “Looking for an Echo.”

Vance’s voice has remained unchanged. He tells stories and speaks with deep bass, but his falsetto remains finely tuned. Vance’s son, Ladd, played the role of trying to earn the signature fedora that the senior Vance is known for.

Ladd performed Cara Mia with precision and others along with his duet with his father, “Let It Be Me.”.  It was all in quest to fill the shoes of his famed father.

The elder Vance has been in the industry for several decades as a singer, songwriter, producer and director and he is also the proud winner of the NJ Film Festival for his new documentary, “Heart and Soul.”

It was all a trip down memory lane and a history lesson wrapped into one. Each performer not only gave performances of a lifetime to their adoring fans, but they tell the stories behind the songs, how they were part of the birth of music without knowing it at the time and somewhat astounded their music is still appreciated and adored by those who were a part of music history.

Catch more shows like this coming to Bergen PAC by visiting



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JoAnn Barton | Special to The Observer

Jo-Ann Barton is a singer/songwriter and musician for the past 25+ years who contributes entertainment-related stories to The Observer. Her last CD, 'POP and CIRCUMSTANCES,' spawned a number one hit song at college radio stations throughout the United States, including Hawaii, in 2001. She is the host of the Applause Radio Show, a platform JoAnn brings to an ever-growing audience tuning into listen to their favorite celebrities.