The Coasters, working hard to keep the oldies alive
Right around this time of year I usually host an oldies / doo-wop show at The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove. Well of course the virus knocked that show off the calendar, as it did my entire summer entertainment schedule.
I so enjoyed hosting these shows because the groups would take you back into time with an education in the history of rock and roll. Throughout my long radio career here in New Jersey I’ve worked with many oldies groups and classic groups, all with hits that made up the fabric of what music is today.
I hosted these shows not only in Ocean Grove but in Madison Square Garden, outdoor venues throughout New Jersey, the Giants Stadium parking lot, at The Count Basie, The State Theatre, and various dinner theaters along with night clubs and theaters in Atlantic City. I’ve worked with some of these groups over a dozen times and never got tired of the music, never got tired of hearing those songs that I enjoyed.
The original oldies and doo-wop groups have unfortunately left the building. It’s a shame but when you think of it, these performers were in their late teens early 20s when they recorded hits in the early 1960s and are now in their 80s or have passed on.
The one great thing about all of that is we still have the music. There are a few groups that will still tour as the legendary groups but the performers are not the original artists. I must say that there are still some original artists out there but not many. In some cases that’s okay because the good cover performers are still so very true to the songs.
Meet the Coasters. They were a huge hit in the late 50s early 60s and got their name because they originated in Los Angeles but were coast to coast in New York too. They were one of the original groups to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They’re first hits Young Blood and Searchin, were top ten hits and they followed that up with Yakety Yak, which by the way featured the legendary King Curtis on sax. The group was led by Carl Gardener who teamed up with Cornell Gunter and they had the song writing team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who wrote dozens of mega-hits.
In the early 2000s Carl Gardener was experiencing failed health and couldn’t continue to perform, and by 2002 he was the only original group member left. So Carl handpicked a new group of Coasters and Carl’s wife Veta, managed the new group and held on tightly to the rights and merchandising.
This group worked closely with Carl on the original performance, look and style of the Coasters until his death in 2011 at the age of 83. I had a chance to talk with Veta and the new Coasters about the history, music and personality of The Clown Princes of Rock and Roll. Here’s a quick interview with The Coasters from my TV show The Big Joe Henry Variety Show.