Gerry Polci. Lee Shapiro. Jimmy Ryan. Larry Gates. Russ Velazquez. They may not be household names, but in the 60s, 70s and 80s, you bought their records. You heard them on the radio. Went to their concerts. Saw them on TV.
So, who are they? They’re The Hit Men, a 2-year-old supergroup comprised of musicians, vocalists, arrangers, and composers who performed and recorded with some of biggest rock stars of all time.
Two of The Hit Men – Gerry Polci and Lee Shapiro — are former stars of the hit-making factory known as Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. They toured the world with Frankie and recorded numerous hit albums with him. Polci, in fact, sang the lead vocals on “Dec. 63. Oh What a Night!” – the biggest Seasons hit of all time. When they met in 1973, they were 2 boys from New Jersey barely out of their teens, and the Four Seasons hadn’t had a charted hit record in years. Along with Valli and songwriter/producer Bob Gaudio, Polci and Shapiro successfully transitioned the group’s sound from 60s doo-wop to 70s pop with mega-hit songs like “Who Loves You” and “Oh What a Night”.
Spurred by the runaway success of “Jersey Boys”, these former Seasons, who are now in their early 60s, decided to re-unite – along with an A-list group of musicians and band-mates who wrote, recorded and performed with Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Jim Croce, Chicago, Luther Vandross, The Ramones, Carole King, and other mega-star acts of the era – and give touring one more shot.
They call themselves The Hit Men, and their first gig together was two years ago at a Mexican Restaurant in Teaneck New Jersey called Mexicali Live. The first bookings after Mexicali Live were at outdoor summer concerts through the metropolitan area, where the audiences went wild for The Hit Men’s show – with all of those amazing hits from the Four Seasons songbook like “Rag Doll”, “Dawn” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, “Marianne” and “Sherry” and the other mega hits that members of the group helped make famous like Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train”, Jim Croce’s “Leroy Brown”, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”, and Tommy James’ “Mony Mony”. The audiences also fell in love with the the fascinating back stories The Hit Men tell about what it was like being on the road and in the recording studios with Frankie, Tommy, Carly, Cat, Jim, and Elton.
And then, they were booked at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Naples Florida. Their success at this performing arts center was the catalyst that catapulted them to huge success at theatres, casinos and fairs and festivals across the United States…and even into Canada.
All in just two years. There are three reasons for this kind of success: The Music, The Magic, and The Memories — which also happens to be the name of the show they just videotaped for broadcast on public television stations across the U.S.
“Our show is mega-hit after mega-hit after mega-hit….No B-Sides”, says Music Director and former Four Seasons member Lee Shapiro. “And…it is also a very special reunion. Not just a reunion of The Hit Men…and some of us have known each other for 50 years. But a reunion between us and our audience. Because when we were first performing and recording all this great music, the people in the audience were listening and dancing and dating to it. And when they hear the songs and the stories behind them, they’re all 23 years old again. That’s the magic that happens when the music we play evokes the memories of the glory days of rock and roll.”
For more info, visit www.thehitmenlive.com