It was a hot, humid, sweltering 100 degrees in Bloomfield, N.J. on Tuesday July 17th when I saw Kenny Vance and the Planotones in Bloomfield H.S. and I’m glad it was indoors and in air conditioning. Kenny Vance is one of the coolest and entertaining people I’ve seen in a long time as he takes the audience down memory lane consisting of oldies and doo-wop favorites.
Kenny Vance is an American singer, songwriter, and music producer who was an original member of Jay and the Americans. His career spans from the 50s to today, with projects ranging from starting doo wop groups to music supervising to creating solo albums.
In 1992, Vance started a doo wop group, the re-formed (no longer fictional) Planotones from American Hot Wax. They released two albums “Teenage Jazz” and “Looking for an Echo”, and then created the whole soundtrack for the 1999 film Looking for an Echo, for which Vance was also the musical director and the singing voice of Armand Assante. Since then the group has released five more albums, “Lover’s Island”, Countdown to Love”, “Dancing and Romancing”, “Oceans of Time”, and their holiday album, “Mr. Santa”. They continue to perform to audiences nationwide and on PBS.
In Tuesday’s concert Kenny made light of the heat saying he was dressed in his hat and jacket (all the Planotones dress in black suits, fedoras and sunglasses while Kenny distinguishes himself with his trademark white fedora) and had a fur jacket outside backstage so they should turn the air conditioning off to make it real. He then asked the audience how many want the air conditioning turned off and a resounding “NOOOOOOOOOOO” rang through the audience.
Kenny took us through such memorable hits as “Angel Eyes” “,In the Still of the Night” “Tears on my Pillow” and other favorites getting the audience to sing one verse and he the other alternating verses .He did this with several songs and the audience loved it.
It was hard to say which part I liked best as there were so many highlights, but I particularly liked it when Kenny would tell stories while the band played softly in the background. For instance, at one point he started singing ‘In the Still of the Night” and stopped while the band kept playing while he told about attending his first make-out party when he was 15.
His band consists of just a keyboard, guitar and drums and the harmonies of the other two Plano tones, but they create so much music. Their guitarist was mesmerizing and fantastic as he played Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” and then segueing into “Earth Angel.”
Kenny’s voice ranges several octaves from telling stories in a somewhat smooth bass sound to hitting high notes in a crisp, clear falsetto and boy can he hold those notes. Kenny wrote the song ‘Cara Mia” for Jay and the Americans and he brought the house down when he started singing “She Cried” from Jay and the Americans then “Come a Little Bit Closer” introducing the dates between each song while the band still played to finally doing “Cara Mia” to which the audience gave him a standing ‘O” cheering enthusiastically. I have included a video of him doing “Cara Mia” below. Kenny closed the show with their hit song “Looking for an Echo” which describes them singing in bathrooms in H.S. to get that echo sound in their songs which was popular in the 50′s age of doo-wop.
Kenny Vance and the Planotones have quite a following and I can see why. Half of the audience there had just seen them a few days earlier when they performed outside in the nearby park.
Kenny Vance and the Planotones consists of Kenny Vance, Johnny Gale, Jimmy Bense, Kurt ‘Frenchy” Yahijan on guitar, keyboardist Chip Degaard and Tony Gallino on drums.
I have listed a link to a YouTube of Kenny Vance featuring” Looking for an Echo.” There are also other YouTubes of Kenny and other doo-wop artists I’m sure any fan of doo-wop will remember and enjoy. I also have included their website for future dates and merchandise. If they come anywhere near you I definitely suggest checking them out.
Kenny Vance doing the all time favorite hit Cara Mia he wrote and made famous with Jay and the Americans. Check it out