Tommy James & The Mob

As I was pouring my first cup of coffee this morning, I flipped on the television to find a rather young-looking (considering his age) Tommy James on the Imus In The Morning program, promoting his new book entitled “Me, The Music, and The Mob”. Admittedly I know very little about the man so I was more than a bit curious as to how he and the mob were associated.

Tommy James & The Shondells had a string of hits back in the mid-to-late sixties, two of which made it to number one on the charts – Hanky Panky and Crimson & Clover. Other songs like Crystal Blue Persuasion, I Think We’re Alone Now, Sweet Cherry Wine, Mirage and Mony Mony all reached top ten status, the latter, successfully covered in the 80’s by Billy Idol. Little did anyone know at the time that Tommy was “mobbed up”, to coin a phrase.

Tommy, along with the first incarnation of the Shondells, covered Hanky Panky in 1963 after James had heard it while standing outside a nightclub. Originally released on Snap Records, it was somewhat successful in Michigan and Illinois, but because Snap had no national distribution, the song quickly drifted into obscurity and the band broke up.

Then completely by accident, a Pittsburg disc jockey happened to mistake the song as being a “hit” and played it one day and the calls flooded in demanding to hear it again. The DJ, Mike Metro, who was known as “Mad Mike” to his listeners, called James and asked that he come and perform the song, but due to the members of the first Shondells having moved on, they begged off and James went to Pittsburg by himself.

Long story short, he got involved with Morris Levy’s Roulette Records, made hit records, had the major labels court him only to days later refusing his phone calls (Levy had personally called each label and let them know that James was hands off in only the way the mob can do so) and the rest is history, as they say. Being as how I plan on reading the book myself, I don’t want to give a proper review until I’ve had time to digest the entire book, but suffice it to say, if you’re a music fan and/or a fan of that particular genre, this book should prove to be a page turner.



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