The Drifters, doo-wop fixtures, to perform in Valley Stream


While planning this summer’s concert series — a Wednesday night tradition on the Village Green — organizers decided to try a different approach for the Aug. 9 installment.

“This is a first for Valley Stream,” said Chuck Ristano, assistant director of the recreation department. “We’re actually doing three bands in one show.”

Known for their hits “This Magic Moment” and “Under the Boardwalk,” Charlie Thomas’s the Drifters will headline the doo-wop concert alongside supporting acts Barbara Harris & the Toys and John Kuse & the Excellents.

“In the doo-wop circles, the Drifters are big,” Ristano said. In 2004, Rolling Stone named the group to its list of 100 greatest artists. The Drifters — which had more than 60 members in its 64-year history — were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Charlie Thomas, who will perform at the Village Green band shell next week, joined the group in 1958.

Doo-wop developed in predominantly African-American communities in the 1940s, and its signature four-part harmonies and lyrics about love became popular in the ’50s and ’60s.

The movement started out with singers performing on street corners and subway stations in cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore and Newark, generally in groups of three to six. They sang a cappella arrangements, and used onomatopoeia to mimic instruments — “doo-wop” imitated the sound of muted brass.

To this day, group performances remain integral to doo-wop productions. “In the doo-wop era, it’s better to have packages because that’s the way they did it back in the ’50s,” said Pete Mastropaolo, musical director of Coda Productions, who organized the show.

Mastropaolo said that members of the recreation department contacted him with the idea, after John Kuse & the Excellents were well received in previous years. “They wanted to do a much bigger-scale show,” he said.

Mastropaolo plays in the house band that supports the various singers appearing next week. He said this contributes to the vintage feel of the production. Singers from different groups rotate, while the band remains.

The Valley Stream Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the event, along with the Valley Stream Soccer Club and Advantage Toyota of Valley Stream. Sponsors will set up tables with light refreshments.

Timmy Graham, president of the VSSC, said he didn’t think the soccer club would sign many new recruits at the concert, but that the organization was happy to sponsor it.

“We’re all about giving back to the Village of Valley Stream whenever possible,” Graham said. “They help us out tremendously, and we try to help out whenever we can.”