INTERVIEW: Dennis Tufano says NJ concert will not be ‘a drag’

The Spring 60s Spectacular comes to the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on Saturday, April 29. Audience members can expect to take in the sounds of Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, BJ Thomas, the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Dennis Tufano, former lead singer of The Buckinghams. The evening promises to be a trip down memory lane.

The Buckinghams, in particular, were legendary among early rock bands. Their hit songs, including “Kind of a Drag” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” are still staples on the radio.

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Tufano, who is no longer affiliated with The Buckinghams, about what fans can expect at the State Theatre. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

When did you realize that music would be a lifelong passion?

Just after high school I was working as a commercial artist in downtown Chicago and singing in an a cappella group. Then singing in front of a band sealed the deal. I felt comfortable and worked at it with passion. I knew it was for me the day I quit my job at the art studio and went full-time music [in] early 1965.

How did The Buckinghams first form?

We started out as The Pulsations and played around Chicago wherever we could. Within nine months we had changed some players and won a battle of the bands to be featured for 13 weeks on a local TV show on WGNTV called All Time Hits. We were the rock act on the show and covered whatever song was trending at the time. During rehearsals for the show, we were asked to change our band name to something more British sounding due to the British Invasion of music.

A security guard at the station overheard the request and the next day gave us a list of names he came up with. The Buckinghams jumped out at us as it was a British-sounding name but also because there is a landmark water fountain in Chicago’s Grant Park, very large and colorful, so we thought it would be part-British and part-Chicago.

The Buckingham Fountain is the background on our first Kind Of A Drag album.

What was it like when “Kind of a Drag” climbed the charts and could be heard around the country?

It was amazing to see it take off — first, of course, in Chicago but then nationally. It was released November 1966, and by February 1967 it was number one with a bullet. We were real excited the first time we heard it played on WLS Radio. Every time we heard our songs on the radio was a blast. It still is.

What makes Bobby Darin such a music hero to you?

Bobby Darin was an influence on me in high school. He was versatile and creative in his approach to new kinds of music and always had a sense of humor that I related to. His style was professional and classy, and his voice was one of a kind. His body of work is an amazing collection of so many genres and all done with respect to each type of music. He did a lot to help other musicians and singers get a break in the business, too. He died young at 37 but did more in those years than most do in a lifetime! It’s a privilege and honor to present his music to my fans as they all seem to miss his work, too. Singing his songs is a gift for a singer. My live CD I Remember Darin was a labor of love.

What can audience members expect when you come to New Jersey?

This show is nonstop! 1910 Fruitgum Company are great, and they are backing me in my show! BJ Thomas is pitch perfect and one of our iconic voices, and Peter Noone is the consummate entertainer and showman. My show has all the hits and some Bobby Darin tunes, along with the blues and faves from groups that I love. One of the best shows ever, and I’m honored to be included. See you there!

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Dennis Tufano will play as part of the Spring 60s Spectacular at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Joining him for the April 29 concert is Peter Noone, 1910 Fruitgum Company and BJ Thomas. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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