One of the largest crowds ever to fill the Samala showroom at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, CA assembled on May 17th for a nostalgic night of music. The evening featured the music of three truly iconic pop singers. As if to underscore the historical significance of the show, one of the performers Fabian had to cancel due to illness. Although the crowd was disappointed by the announcement, they cheered when it was revealed that much-revered singer would be replaced by yet another 60, s pop icon Gary U.S. Bonds. Bonds joined the other two headliners of the night Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon.
The evening began with a 30 minute set by Bonds featuring a phenomenal house band and his wife and daughter on backing vocals. The 79-year singer is an American R&B and rock and roll singer from Jacksonville Florida, best known for his classic hits from 1961, “New Orleans” and “Quarter to Three.” The tight six-song set also included his comeback hit “This Little Girl” that he produced with Bruce Springsteen in 1981. The rock and roll feel-good set had people dancing in the aisles.
After a short intermission, a nostalgic video showed some classic clips of Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon in their American Bandstand heyday in the early 1960s and in teenage cult classics of the time like Beach Blanket Bingo. Then the lights went out, and the septuagenarian singers appeared onstage singing an appropriate duet of “Bandstand Boogie,” while the crowd broke into a standing ovation. The pair grew up in the same neighborhood in South Philadelphia, and both benefited from heavy rotation on American Bandstand. They have been touring together as the Golden Boys, along with Fabian for well over 30 years.
Then Avalon departed the stage and Rydell took over to perform a solo set. The charismatic singer charmed the audience taking on a very Italian persona, channeling the memory of Frank Sinatra in his glory days. Between songs, the elder statesman of 60’s pop chatted humorously about aging and surviving numerous transplants and surgeries. “I am a frequent flyer at hospitals he quipped.” He also told a humorous story about when he first met Sinatra. Then Rydell broke into a Sinatra cover bringing the crowd to their feet yet again. The eight-song set included Rydell’s biggest hits, including “Volare,” “Wild One,” and “Kissin’ Time.”
Frankie Avalon took over the stage next and opened with a medley featuring early pop anthem “Beach Blanket Bingo” which led into Yackity Yak, Charlie Brown, and Witch Doctor. Avalon took the time to share stories about his life and music before launching into a set of at least 14 more songs including his biggest hits, “Venus,” “De De Dinah” and “Bobby Sox to Stockings.”
Avalon was then joined for a finale encore by Rydell and Bonds which featured a medley of classic covers from their heyday, including the material of Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Rick Nelson, and Bill Hailey. The crowd danced like teenagers as the rock-infused medley brought back memories of a happy time in American pop.