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Meet Tommy Tutone [PHOTOS, VIDEOS]

Tutone album cover
Tommy Tutone album (“Angel Say No”) 1980. (Craig Allen photo)

Back in the 1980s, Tommy Tutone gave us one of the most famous phone numbers* in rock ‘n’ roll history! 867-5309/Jenny! People still dial it to this day, asking for Jenny as a prank!

Tutone back cover
1980 album back cover: Tommy Heath, Jim Keller, Terry Nails, Micky Shine. (Craig Allen photo)

Tommy Tutone is an ’80s pop band, and although it is usually referred to as coming from San Francisco, it was actually based in Willits California.

Contrary to popular belief, Tommy Tutone is the not the name of the lead singer. There is no (person) Tommy Tutone! Tommy Heath is the lead singer. The name of the band is shortened from its original name, Tommy and the Tu-tones.

Tommy Heath and Jim Keller founded the band in 1978, with Heath as the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. Tommy Heath also played keyboards on occasion. Keller played lead guitar, and sang supporting vocals.

Over the years, the lineup of the rest of the band Tommy Tutone has changed many times! Just looking at the revolving personnel list can cause a person’s head to explode! But, it is interesting to note that current bass guitarist/vocalist Jimmy James was “raised in the Garden State,” So, there is (now) a Jersey connection to the band…

867-5309/Jenny was a BIG hit, landing at #4 on the US Top-40 charts in 1982.

Back to the pranking with the now-famous number. Tommy Heath says that, over the years, several people threatened to sue the band! As it turns out, 867-5309 was the personal number of the daughter of the Buffalo (N.Y.) Chief of Police, back in the day! That’s a new one to me… I remember hearing Casey Kasem tell the story on “American Top-40″ in 1982, of how a Chicago rock station purchased the famous digits from an area grandmother who was tired of being pranked…and then used the famous (and easy to remember) number for their station contest line!

On the band’s official website, Heath says that even if fans can’t get all the numbers straight, they call the hit song their “personal anthem for the 80′s.”

Although Tommy Tutone  is frequently remembered as a so-called “one-hit-wonder,”  it already had another hit (#38) on the Hot 100 charts, with “Angel Say No” from 1980.

Life after “Jenny?” Tommy Heath became a computer analyst and moved to Oregon, where he worked for a startup computer company. Eventually, he returned to California. In 2007, the band signed a recording contract with Spectra Records. In 2009, Tommy played Nashville. In 2010, Tommy relocated to Tennessee. And while he still makes his living as a computer analyst, Heath is working on new music, and tours with the band!

Jim Keller went on to become the director of musician Philip Glass’s publishing company. He still performs in New York City.

Tommy Tutone will be performing at the Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, Friday January 26th, 2013!

 

*(Another famous number: Beechwood 4-5789, by  Mavelettes #17/1962 & Carpenters #74/1982)

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