on this day

January 7, 2016 Troy Shondell died in Picayune

Shondell was educated at Valparaiso and Indiana universities. Shondell’s father taught him how to handle a trumpet when the boy was four years old. Four years later, he introduced his son to the piano. He also learned to play five musical instruments and cited his dad as a major influence, along with Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly. He wrote his first song at age 14, which was recorded by Little Anthony & the Imperials. His professional music career started as a teenager. Mercury Records released his first single, “My Hero”, from “The Chocolate Soldier” which he recorded in 1958 under the name Gary Shelton, which was close to his real name.He followed the next year with “Kissin’ at the Drive-In”, a rockabilly song that went on to become a drive-in theater standard. Still performing as Gary Shelton, he seemed to be on his way, at least in the Midwest. Chicago’s Brass Rail, a major nightclub that usually hosted jazz and blues acts, brought him in for its first foray into rock and roll. The successful gig stretched to 16 weeks. In 1959, Mark Records released “The Trance” and “Goodbye Little Darlin'”. These sold well in the Midwest and a few other areas, but neither made it into the Hot 100’s Top 40. By 1959, the singer opened shows on a tour called Shower of Stars for such headliners as Chuck Berry, the Impalas, Frankie Ford, Frankie Avalon, and the Skyliners.

One cold Sunday night on February 1, 1959, Troy and his band were entertaining at a club in Davenport, Iowa. Just before closing a group walked in, sat down, and sent a note up to the stage. The note asked Troy to acknowledge them and sing a song from their show. A young and extremely nervous Troy, very familiar with the group sitting in front of him, happily fulfilled their request and performed “That’ll Be The Day” ” a song that remained in his act for the rest of his career. That request had come from a group who was to give their last performance at the now infamous Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom, in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2, 1959, starring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper. The three famous performers were killed the next evening when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff, following that show. Troy believes he was the last performer, other than the ones sharing the bill at the Surf Ballroom, they saw together.That same year Gary and his band were invited to join the Shower of Stars tour, when they got to back the stars and to open the show.

January 7, 2016 Troy Shondell died in Picayune

This proved to be a big break for him as among the stars on the show were Chuck Berry, Frankie Ford, Rod Bernard, The Skyliners, The Impalas, and Frankie Avalon. He gained great reviews, which helped draw more attention to his growing career.He traveled to New York in June 1959 to record at the Columbia Recording Studio. Though Gary had always played piano on his sessions, this time the famous Bert Keyes was on the keyboards for his next single “Honey Bee,” released on the small Alpine label.On Halloween 1960, a heart attack that killed his father brought Shondell home briefly to help his mother run the family business. A song he wrote about his father’s death called “Still Loving You” became a country hit when it was recorded by Bob Luman. In February 1961 his mother encouraged Troy to audition for an extra part in a movie being filmed locally after seeing an ad in the local paper. At the audition a man familiar with Troy’s music, said he would finance the session, if Troy would consider recording again. Happily, Troy agreed, and since he had been secretly hoping to record again, he had set aside a song just in case the opportunity again came his way. It was a song that Al Russell, a local disc jockey in Fort Wayne, had called to Troy’s attention.There was a tremendous blizzard the day of the session (April 1, 1961) in Batavia, Illinois, and only three musicians were able to make it, a guitar player, sax player, and drummer. Troy played piano, vibes and tried to get a bass type sound out of his guitar, because the bass player couldn’t make it either. That song was “This Time (Were Really Breaking Up)” a song written by Chips Moman and first recorded by Thomas Wayne. The record was released during the last week in June on the tiny Gaye label and picked up by the small Los Angeles Goldcrest label.

January 7, 2016 Troy Shondell died in Picayune

Around this time, he began using a new stage name, Troy Shondell, partly because of the popularity of actor Troy Donahue. Within the first week of the single’s release, lovers of his swamp pop sound snatched up 10,000 copies of the record. Six weeks after being released and played in Chicago, Shondell flew to Los Angeles and signed with Liberty Records. It finally hit the Billboard charts the third week of September and landed in the Top 10 five weeks later at its #6 peak, and it stayed in the charts for a total of thirteen weeks. In those days, Liberty Records were released in the UK on the London label, and following extensive plays on Radio Luxembourg, the track also reached #22 in the UK Singles Chart at the end of that year, and sales rose to more than three million copies. The song was covered by Shakin’ Stevens on the 1981 Epic album “Shaky”.Shondell’s influence rippled through the young rock & roll community. Up-and-coming bands named themselves after him. A guitarist in Michigan named Tommy Jackson who would later score with “Hanky Panky,” “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Mony Mony,” had renamed his band Tom and the Tornadoes to Tommy James & The Shondells. In Chicago, Jim Peterik, later known for “Survivor” and “The Ides of March,” also dubbed his group The Shon-dells. Shortly before their debut single ”You Wouldn’t Listen” was released, the label found out that James had been using the name first, so they were forced to change it. Recording for La Louisianne, Warren Storm and Rod Bernard also tipped their hat to Shondell when they named their act after him.Liberty’s legendary staff producer Snuffy Garrett took over Troy’s recordings in Los Angeles, where he recorded “Tears From An Angel” b/w “Island In the Sky,” a double A-side single which made the lower reaches of the American pop charts in March 1962 and completed the tracks for his first album, “The Many Side Of Troy Shondell”.Despite being a seasoned performer, an excellent multi-instrumentalist and superb songwriter, Troy Shondell didn’t score any more pop hits, but remained within the music business for the rest of his working life. He moved to Nashville in 1964 and self-produced the recordings of “Walkin’ In A Memory” and “You Can’t Catch Me” that were released on Decca Records. Signed to various publishing companies he worked as a songwriter, session musician and played the occasional rock ’n’ roll package show. He continued to record throughout the 1960s for various small labels. Future RCA boss Jerry Bradley produced Big Windy City released on Ric Records in 1965.

That was followed by a series of singles for Brite Star. With his band The 69ers, Troy recorded a couple of singles for Three Rivers Records, but like his previous singles, they all sunk without trace.In 1968, Shondell became a songwriter for Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville, Tennessee, and the first recording artist for TRX Records, a branch of Hickory Records. Working with producer Don Gant, who would later gain widespread recognition producing Jimmy Buffett, Troy released four singles, including a revival of “A Rose & A Baby Ruth” and the self-penned” Something Wrong In Indiana.” There was one more single for ITC Records at the end of 1969, when Troy moved into an executive position as Assistant Regional Director for ASCAP’s Southern Regional Office in Nashville.In October 1969, Shondell went into the music publishing field and was appointed as Assistant Regional Director for ASCAP’s Southern Regional Office in Nashville. He continued in various executive positions, mainly within music publishing and concentrated on songwriting, gaining the odd album cut or independent artist singles. The first version of his ode to his father, “Still Loving You,” became a #7 country hit for Bob Luman in early 1974. Occasionally, Shondell would venture back into the studios and during the 1970s he released some more singles for various small labels. These include “Your Love Keeps Coming On” for W.A.R. Inc (Writers & Artists) in 1973 and “Angel” for the Cloud 9 label in 1975. Four years later he finally made the country charts with a pair of singles. The first was his own “Still Loving You” on Star-Fox in 1979 followed a year later by “(Sittin’ Here) Lovin’ You” for TeleSonic.He returned to the country charts again in 1988 with “(I’m Looking For Some) New Blue Jeans” on AVM Records and performed regularly on rock ’n’ roll revival shows and in casinos and small night clubs across America, During the 1990s several compilation albums featuring a mixture of old tracks and new recordings were released including “The Trance” on Dunhill in 1994, “Rock And Roll Rebel” on Goldcrest in 1997) and “Kissin’ At The Drive” on Germany’s Bear Family label in 1999.At the turn of the new millennium, Shondell was still performing at nostalgia shows and other events. From his home in Nashville, he also composed and produced. Along with Jimmy Clanton, Ronnie Dove, and Ray Peterson, he was a member of the Masters of Rock ‘n’ Roll and toured regularly into 2003 and also worked in the studio on new recordings and producing other acts.On October 2, 2007, Shondell traveled to Collins, Mississippi, to deliver a musical tribute to his fallen rock and roll colleague Dale Houston, who, with musical partner Grace Broussard, had reached #1 in 1963 with “I’m Leaving It Up to You” as the musical duo Dale & Grace.







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