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Caravan of the Stars 20
Jackson, Tenn., October 23, 2010
by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson

The Caravan shows are sponsored by KOOL103 FM, and are always well attended and received. It's probably due to all the performers who appear at these concerts and put on super performances. It shows. At the Caravan of Stars 20 show in Jackson, Tenn., held on October 23, 2010, there were eight artists scheduled, but like the other three I've attended, there must have been some kind of scheduling conflict, for one of the listed singers wasn't there. The artists were Sonny Geraci; Rocky Burnette, the son of the late, great Johnny Burnette; Don Ciccone, the lead singer of The Critters and later a member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, as well as being a member of Tommy James and the Shondells; Billy Joe Royal; Ron Dante, lead vocalist for The Archies, The Cuff Links and a member of The Detergents; John Cafferty, who fronted the Beaver Brown Band and recorded the original soundtrack for the movie "Eddie And The Cruisers;" and as a last minute replacement, the great voiceover talent Jack Parnell came out and did a wonderful version of "Old Rivers," a song that was a hit by the late Walter Brennan.

And of course, there was Dennis Tufano.

Tufano came out during the second half of the evening's show, and his slot was the third of four artists that were to appear. Amid the opening strains of "Don't You Care?" the thunderous applause from the audience members, (as well as a few catcalls from the women), he strode onto the stage full of confidence. After he cleared a couple items out of his way, ("house cleaning," he called it), he started singing in a voice that was the strongest yet I've ever heard it.  He breezed through the classic Buckinghams' hit with all ease and ended the song by holding an extended high A.

After thanking the crowd for their approval and having been invited back to Tennessee to perform once again, he said, "Here's another one," and the drummer counted off the beginning of "Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song." The emcee had previously introduced him by saying his voice sounded as good as it had in the early days and as Tufano sang this classic, he proved it to anybody that had not seen him before. I was down front getting a couple photographs and not being near anybody, of course I was humming right along with him. When it was ended and the crowd had settled down once more, he sent out some birthday greetings to a person who was present in the Carl Perkins Civic Center that night.

Then, to preface his opening trifecta of Buckingham hits, he asked "How many Susans do we have out there tonight?" Some guy yelled out "Yeah!" Dennis countered right away with "No, just the girls. I don't want no Johnny Cash." (A reference to Johnny's song, "A Boy Named Sue.") This of course led to my favorite song Dennis does from his Buckinghams era, "Susan." The backup singers blended with his own voice to do the vocal bridge at the end and it was just great. Judging from the response it got, I wasn't the only one who felt that.

He spoke about Bobby Darin and his own newly-released CD tribute to the late entertainer, strapped on an acoustic guitar (which was a first for me to see), and did a really fine rendition of the Darin classic "18 Yellow Roses." This was well received by the audience at large, as are all the Bobby Darin songs he does down in Tennessee. In between this and the next song, he introduced the members of the band, which had been
working hard all night backing up all the artists. Then, he broke out another instrument on which he is proficient with and played one of his earliest recordings as both a lead vocalist and as a working member of the band. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" was one of the earlier tracks from The Buckinghams and like that early Chicago style they had of interpreting songs, Dennis wailed on it with his harmonica. This was also something
that was new for me and as a working musician myself, I could tell that Dennis really is as good at playing the harmonica and the guitar as he is with his rare vocal talents.

After the applause had died down, Sonny Geraci came back on the stage and asked Tufano if he wouldn't mind him singing along on one of his favorite songs, which he had forgotten to do as of yet. As Geraci described it, "Due to a senior moment." Tufano replied, "That's not Spanish, by the way – Señor Moment." So, it was decided that they
would duet together on "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." Of course, the two had performed this together before and it showed. Another powerhouse performance of a song that will get you revved up in no time with its catchy beat. It was a special favorite of the crowd who had heard it before down there, but probably not with as much ferocity as the two singers delivered it on this night. I know I was singing along with it down off to the side as I took a few more shots. Tufano thanked everyone again at the radio station for putting these shows together and for his own privilege of being able to hear all the great artists
himself while waiting backstage.

For his final number of the evening, the band broke into the opening bars of that smash #1 Buckinghams' hit "Kind Of A Drag." He was totally in the intensity of the moment for this one and it was very close to the original version. Of course, when he finished, he was met with a resounding standing ovation for his set, a well-deserved thank you from an enthusiastic crowd. Having played just under a half hour, he sure managed to pack a lot of entertainment into such a relatively short span of time.

If you ever get a chance to see Dennis Tufano perform at one of the Caravan shows, don't miss it - you won't be disappointed.


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