em>Doo-wop hit takes singer for another spin
When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “There are no second acts in American life,” obviously, he didn’t have John Sylvia in mind.
Forty-six years after his initial success, the wheel of fortune is once again spinning this Marion resident’s way.
John Sylvia, you ask?
The name might not ring a bell, but try these lyrics on for size:
“Happy, happy birthday, baby.
Although you’re with somebody new.
Thought I’d drop a line to say … that I wish this happy day …
“Will find me beside you.”
If you’re old enough to remember liking Ike, the Edsel, or Kookie’s comb — not to mention doo-wop songs from The Golden Era of Rock ‘n’ Roll — it certainly should. Listening to radio in 1957-58 you couldn’t have missed this ubiquitous No. 1 hit … it was all over the airwaves.
John Sylvia is one of two surviving members of the Boston quartet, The Tune Weavers, which sold well over 2 million records with “Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby,” in the late 1950s.
And, even if you’re too young to remember that original recording, perhaps you might know the cover version by country star, Ronnie Milsap, which sold an additional million copies in the 1980s.
By 1957, John and his fellow Tune Weavers — wife Margo and her brother Gil Lopez, co- writers of the song, plus Charlotte Rose — were riding high with the tune recorded on a small Boston label the year before.
But success didn’t come easily.
As the story goes, The Tune Weavers were plugging their single exhaustively, with a notable lack of success, in small gigs throughout New England, when a Philadelphia DJ accidentally put their record on the air.
The switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree … and the rest is doo-wop history.
It wasn’t long before legendary promoter Alan Freed signed them up for his huge week-long rock ‘n’ roll show at Brooklyn’s Paramount Theater, playing alongside the likes of Buddy Holly and Little Richard.
Pretty heady times.
From there it was on to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand — twice — and prestigious venues at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, before undertaking a national tour with The Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis.
But, alas, every bubble is destined to burst.
Without a sophomore hit to propel them — and with pop musical tastes slowly changing — by 1962 The Tune Weavers were no more.
Thus, for nearly 40 years John Sylvia and his band mates found themselves little more than an asterisk in pop music history. First Margo, then her brother Gil, passed away. John remarried and settled in Marion.
And that, as they say, would have been that, if not for Boston promoter Harvey Robbins, who created the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame three years ago.
As it turns out, one of his favorite songs from those days was “Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby.”
Long story, short, this past March both The Tune Weavers — and the song — were inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame.
But, fate took a strange turn when original members Charlotte and John decided to recruit two replacement singers in order to perform the song on stage for the induction ceremony.
Not only was the performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall a resounding success, earning the re-formed Tune Weavers a standing ovation, but — get this — offers to perform have been pouring in ever since.
Summer doo-wop festivals. Outdoor venues. Indoor concerts.
Indeed, many folks feel The Tune Weavers stole the show at their recent Cape Cod Melody Tent performance.
It is, in effect, a whole new career for the group — and John Sylvia.
So much for second acts … what the heck did F. Scott Fitzgerald know about doo-wop, anyway?
Sometimes you can’t get into Hank’s World without a song in your heart. firstname.lastname@example.org