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Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon, Svengoolie and Ron Onesti backstage at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
Courtesy of Ron Onesti
What does Doo Wop and Svengoolie have in common?
Updated Jul 20, 2018 6:49 PM
The Arcada Theatre has given me so many gifts. I’ve had it for 13 years, and the treasured moments I have experienced there are numerous, yet each one is as special as the one before.Being a child of the ’70s, my center of musical gravity includes Led Zeppelin, STYX, Chicago, Journey, BOSTON, KANSAS and others from that Classic Rock era. But my musical journey has led me down many paths, and those paths have all led to the historic Arcada stage.And this past weekend was a prime example.I hosted a classic “Doo Wop” show that starred Ladd Vance, The Tokens, Larry Chance & The Earls and Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon. It was nothing short of spectacular! Yes, I LOVED it! Even though I am, as many people call me, the “Rocker from The Arcada,” those pure harmonies, heartwarming ballads and fun pop tunes are as much a part of Americana as is singing the national anthem at a ballgame.I was rockin’ to those deep anthems by Alice Cooper and RUSH coming home from school, and I would watch the weekly television variety show, “Sha Na Na” at night. That show turned me on to what is now called “Doo Wop” music, referring to the “Doo Wop” sound of a cappella group background vocals singing on the East-Coast street corners in the 1950s and early ’60s. It was years later, however, that I learned those great songs weren’t originals by the guys on the TV show!I have always loved those harmonies as they represented for me a more wholesome style of music than the acid rock of the time. There is a time and a place for all music, and when I was in an “all-American” mood, there was nothin’ like the music of Dion & The Belmonts and The Duprees!What occurred on our stage last Sunday was American music at its finest. Ladd Vance, who is the son of Kenny Vance of The Planotones, can’t be more than 40 years old or so, started it off with great renditions of songs from the time, with The El Reys from Pittsburgh backing him up. It was great to see a young man keeping the music alive — and did he do his father proud!Then, Larry Chance and The Earls came onstage. To see these guys, all pressed in their matching bright blue suits and patent leather shoes, was wonderful. I could only imagine what it was like when they hopped on stage back in the day, getting the sock hops going!Larry got emotional as he introduced their hit, “I Believe.” It is a great song of hope that originally was written about the Korean War. The Earls recorded it later, but after Larry survived throat cancer in 2000, the song had a whole new meaning for him. It was an inspirational moment for everyone in the room and an incredible performance by Larry and the guys.Jay Seigel of The Tokens was next. He was in astonishingly good shape — at 80 years old! And when he hit the high notes on the smash hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the whole theater was on its feet! It was great to see 12-year-olds to 70-year-olds singing the song together, word for word.One of the highlights of the night for me was meeting Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon. It was my first time working with him and what a treat it was! He was spry and funny, as excited to play The Arcada as he was at any of his record breaking 110 appearances on “American Bandstand.”“Ron! So great to finally meet you! Everyone I know talks about this place,” he said. I was humbled.He was also excited to finally meet my friend Kent Kotel, who hosts a blog called, “Forgotten Hits.” Kent had been communicating with Freddy for over 10 years via the site, but the two never met in person. Freddy wanted to meet Kent for many reasons, but one was quite a good story.
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