NEPA Scene Staff

Tommy James and the Shondells play classic rock at Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Nov. 10

Tommy James and the Shondells play classic rock at Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Nov. 10
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From a press release:

It was announced today that FriendlyHart Productions will present Tommy James and the Shondells, known for chart-topping hits like “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Hanky Panky,” “Crimson and Clover,” “Draggin’ the Line,” “Mony Mony,” and “Sweet Cherry Wine,” at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.

Tickets, which are $44.95, $54.95, $64.95, and $74.95, plus fees, go on sale this Friday, May 25 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased at the Kirby Center box office (71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre), online at, and by phone at 570-826-1100. A Kirby Member pre-sale begins Wednesday, May 23 at 10 a.m.

Born and raised in the upper Midwest, Tommy James grew up in Niles, Michigan, where he made his first stage appearance as a child model at age 4. In 1959, he formed his first rock band, The Tornadoes, which developed a sizable regional following.

In 1964, a local DJ asked James and the group to sign with his new label, Snap Records. Among the four sides they recorded was an obscure song written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich called “Hanky Panky.” The group changed their name to “The Shondells” and released it as a single. Although it was a local hit, it didn’t break nationally and was soon forgotten.

James’ road to superstardom began when a nightclub DJ in Pittsburgh discovered that two-year-old record and played it at his weekend dances. By May of 1966, “Hanky Panky” was the No. 1 record in Pittsburgh and Tommy James was a local sensation.

Two weeks later, he signed with Roulette Records in New York, and “Hanky Panky” became the summer smash of ’66. Thus began one of the longest strings of nonstop hits in recording industry history.

James promptly followed “Hanky Panky” with two more million selling singles – “Say I Am (What I Am)” and “It’s Only Love” – and the “Hanky Panky” album, which went gold just four weeks after its release.

James then brought in producers Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell who, over the next two years, produced seven more back-to-back smash singles: “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mirage,” “I Like the Way,” “Gettin’ Together,” “Out of the Blue,” “Get Out Now,” and the party rock rave-up “Mony Mony.” The Gentry/Cordell/James team also produced three platinum albums.

In 1968, James became one of the first artists to experiment with music videos, creating a mini-film around “Mony Mony” for theatrical showings, 13 years before MTV hit the airwaves.

After spending three months on the road that year with Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign, TJ took over the creative reins of his career, writing and producing the groundbreaking “Crimson and Clover” single and album.

The album racked up multi-platinum sales and spawned two more monster hits for the group: “Do Something to Me” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” A fourth song from the LP, “Sugar on Sunday,” rose high on the charts in a cover version by The Clique.

James followed with the “Cellophane Symphony” LP, which featured the newly developed Moog Synthesizer and included the Top 10 single “Sweet Cherry Wine.”

James was on a roll. The total sales of his four 1969 hits topped those of the Beatles that year, and “The Best of Tommy James and the Shondells” (featuring “Ball of Fire”) sold over 10 million copies.

Alone among his 1960s contemporaries, James had successfully made the transition from a Top 40 pop singer to a respected classic rock album artist.

In 1970, he released the gritty rock ‘n’ roll album “Travelin'” (thought by many to be the band’s best work), which contained the gold singles “She” and “Gotta Get Back to You.” James then took a break.

Upon his return, he wrote and produced “Tighter, Tighter” for Alive and Kicking. Over the next four years, James scored an additional 12 chart singles, among them “Come to Me,” “Ball and Chain,” “I’m Comin’ Home,” and “Draggin’ the Line.”

During that time, he also produced the albums “Tommy James,” “Christian of the World,” and “My Head, My Bed and My Red Guitar,” the latter of which he recorded with an all-star cast that featured ace guitarist Pete Drake and Elvis Presley sidemen Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana.

In 1974, James left Roulette Records and released the albums “In Touch” and “Midnight Rider” for San Francisco-based Fantasy Records. In 1980, he signed with Millennium Records and scored three more chart singles, including the million selling AC No. 1 “Three Times in Love.” In the 1990s, James formed Aura Records and landed three Top 5 AC hits from his album “Hold the Fire.”

Meanwhile, James’ songs became pop culture classics and were being covered by everyone from punk rockers to country icons. In 1987, Tiffany and Billy Idol’s versions of “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony Mony” reached No. 1 – the first and only time that two cover versions of songs by the same artist topped the national chart in back-to-back weeks.

James marked the start of his fifth decade as a recording artist with the release of a career-spanning retrospective, “40 Years: The Complete Singles Collection (1966-2006),” and his first-ever holiday album, “I Love Christmas.”

Meanwhile, his autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells,” is on its way to becoming a major motion picture, a project helmed by producer Barbara De Fina, whose credits include “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Cape Fear,” “Color of Money,” “The Grifters,” “The Age of Innocence,” and “Silence.”

Today, Tommy James is still rockin’ around America, performing his many timeless hits to sellout crowds and recording an exciting new album to be released in 2018.