The Letterman and Think Pink Floyd headlining local venues Friday
By Denny Dyroff, Correspondent, The Times
Many of the live music shows in the area right now feature pop and rock music that is current while some focus on futuristic sounds. There is also a variety of shows that look back to music from previous generations. This weekend, you have two options locally to attend concerts that are structured to take listeners to musical eras from the past.
If you want to travel back to the late-1960s/mid-1970s era, you can check out the show featuring Think Pink Floyd, an acclaimed Pink Floyd tribute band from the Delaware Valley, on May 2 at the Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-917-128, www.thecolonialtheatre.com – tickets range from $15-429.50)
Or, you can set your musical time machine for a longer trip into the past and attend the show by legendary vocal group the Lettermen, which is scheduled for May 2 at the American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-648-4102, http://www.amtshows.com – tickets are $35).
The Lettermen haven’t released a single in almost 25 years yet are still touring internationally and playing to packed houses. When the Lettermen got started as recording artists, 78 r.p.m. records were still on the shelves of record shops. The distance between that era and the digital era can only be measured in light years, yet the Lettermen are still going.
“We’ve done at least 75 shows a year for 50 straight years,” said the group’s founding member Tony Butala, during a phone interview earlier this week.
Known for their great vocal harmonies and romantic ballads, the Lettermen spent 25 years recording hit singles for Capitol Records. Their debut album “A Song for Young Love” reached the Top 10 and was the first of 32 straight Top 40 albums by the trio.
“I put together the first ‘boy band’ around 50 years ago,” said Butala. “We were like the Jonas Brothers of our generation. I found the best-looking, best-dancing, best-singing solo artists and formed a trio with them. We’ve never been a recording group that happens to sing. We’re a performing group that entertains.”
The Lettermen established their enduring popularity with songs such as “When I Fall In Love”, “Where Or When”, “Somewhere My Love”, “Theme From A Summer Place” and “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”.
“We established a wide demographic base during the first 20 years and we’ve continued to build on it,” said Butala. “We just finished our 76th album. Performance is the most important reason for our longevity — but, it’s also because we sing love ballads. Love never goes out of style.”
Butala and his mates have never been content to rest on their laurels.
“Right now, we’re working on a ‘Lettermen’s 50 Years-Plus’ special for PBS,” said Butala. “We also just finished making a Time Life infomercial called ‘Legendary Voices.’ It has 10 CDs and 150 songs featuring so many of the great voices — Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett and Barbra Streisand just to name a few.
“There are also four featured vocal groups in the set — the Drifters, the Platters, the Four Seasons and the Lettermen. In the infomercial, we talk about the music and speak about the artists. We also sing a few songs a capella. We just finished it in November.”
Over the years, the Lettermen have always maintained in interactive relationship with their fans.
“After each of our shows, we always come out to the venue’s lobby and meet with our fans,” said Butala. “We pose for pictures and sign autographs so tell people to bring their albums and cameras. We’re always the last ones to leave the building — except for the janitor.”
There never has been the need for a tribute band for the Lettermen — because the Lettermen have never stopped performing. Such is not the case with many of the bands from the 1960s and 1970s.
Some of the bands from that era have just dissolved over time. Other groups can never replicate their original sound because of the death of key members — bands such as the Grateful Dead, the Doors, the Beatles and Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.
Two of the original five members of the British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd have moved on to the other side — guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Syd Barrett, who died in 2006, and keyboardist Richard Wright, who passed away in 2008. The band’s final tour was “The Division Bell Tour” in 1994.
Not surprisingly, a number of Pink Floyd tribute bands have emerged all around the word, including The Machine (New York), the Final Cut (Germany), the Australian Pink Floyd Show, House of Floyd (San Francisco) and Think Pink Floyd (Philadelphia).
“I’ve had this band together for eight years,” said Think Pink Floyd guitarist/vocalist/founder Billy Martin during a phone interview this week. “We can play five entire Pink Floyd albums and 36 solo songs.
“We have a total of over eight hours of Pink Floyd music we can perform live. We’ve played everywhere from small clubs to large venues like the Bergen Center in North Jersey. Even for bar shows, I set up the videos and use lasers.
“I’ve seen all the Pink Floyd tribute bands over the years. What sets us apart from the other tribute bands is that we do Pink Floyd’s music note-for-note. What you hear from us is what you hear on the record.”
The reason for Think Pink Floyd’s ability to nail the sounds originally produced by the legendary British band is the musical talent of the TPF’s keyboard player Chie Suzuki.
“Chie is a classical pianist from Japan,” said Martin. “She and I are the main people in the band. She is amazing. She listens to a Pink Floyd song and then writes out every part — guitar, bass, keyboard — and she gets it perfect every time.”