Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tales spring from rock star attire


My wife Sue and I can't say that rock star Don McLean didn't do everything he could to please us as fans.

After all, he gave us the shirt off his back, literally.

McLean's gift to us came in May, 1989 after we sent a letter to his Garrison, N. Y. home asking for an autographed picture or other memorabilia to display in the rock 'n' roll museum inside our retail record store.

"This shirt has been used by me on many shows and elsewhere. Note the initials on the cuff. This letter warrants the above," McLean wrote in an accompanying note.

The label on the black cowboy-style shirt shows it came from Sheplers, a well-known chain of western stores.

Roses embroidered across the front of the shirt further personalize the garment.

Looking at the shirt, you can almost hear McLean sing "American Pie," his masterpiece from 1972. "I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride. But something touched me deep inside, the day the music died." McLean was singing about the day in February, 1959, when he delivered newspapers carrying the news about three early rock stars being killed in a plane crash.

One person who personally knows about that tragic day 50 years ago is Dion DiMucci, who also made a donation to our museum.

While fellow Winter Dance Party stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. "the Big Bopper" Richardson boarded a small plane after their Feb. 2 gig in Clear Lake, Iowa, Dion decided to take the tour bus to the next show. The plane crashed into a corn field a few minutes after midnight, killing all aboard.

Weeks later, Dion and the Belmonts (Angelo D'Aleo, Fred Milano and Carlo Mastrangelo) scored their first Top Ten hit with "A Teenager in Love."

Dion sent us one of his trademark caps, similar to the one he wore for the cover of his "Yo, Frankie" album, released on Arista Records in 1989. He wrote "God Bless You" on the underside of the brim. The Bronx-born singer even had a minor hit at the time with "And the Night Stood Still," which featured Dave Edmunds and Patty Smyth.

Inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, Dion's other big hits included "Run Around Sue," "Ruby Baby" and "The Wanderer."

Rock star Lou Christie has been generous
with his fans over the years, even giving away the
shirt he was wearing in this photo.

An equally accommodating performer is Lou Christie, who sent us a flashy turquoise shirt he wore in concert as well as a photograph of him wearing it.

Fans will remember Christie for "Two Faces Have I," "Lightnin' Strikes" and "I'm Gonna Make You Mine."

Christie autographed the rayon/metallic garment made by "Lenny NYC."

Designer Lenny Prussack spent 15 years outfitting rock stars and other major entertainers from his Manhattan headquarters.

The 58-year-old Prussack now lives in Fairmont, Ind., where he operates a store called Rebel Rebel Collectibles. Trivia aficionados will recognize Fairmont as the home town of James Dean, the tragic Hollywood legend mentioned in "American Pie."

Christie last performed in this area on Oct. 3 & 4, 2008 at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris on a program with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell. The three ex-teen idols were billed as Dick Fox's Golden Boys.

Other rock star accouterments we have acquired came from Ray Charles, Cher and the German hard rock band Scorpions.

Charles, who died June 10, 2004, was a classy performer and sharp dresser. He sent us a black bow tie, autographed in silver.

About the time we received the tie, Charles was enjoying his first hit in several years with "I'll Be Good to You." The Quincy Jones song, which featured vocals by Charles and Chaka Khan, reached No. 18 on the pop chart.

A hit maker from the 1950s through the 1980s, Charles' biggest songs were "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind," all reaching No. 1.

Charles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, in the same class as Buddy Holly, the influential rocker McLean idolized in "American Pie."

Cher, meanwhile, also has a lengthy musical resume and a reputation for a provocative wardrobe. Born Cherilyn Sarkisian, her biggest songs include "Believe," "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" and "Half Breed." She also had hits as part of the Sonny & Cher singing duo. Remember "I Got You Babe?"

As a curio, Sue and I bought a camisole signed by Cher though a charity auction in California. If you're wondering, the garment is pink, features lace embellishments and can't be any more than size small. In any case, profit from the sale of the petite lingerie went to charity, so who can argue with that?

On the other hand, the Scorpions sent us a XXL white tee-shirt promoting their "Savage Amusement" album. A track from the disc, "Rhythm of Love," got some airplay, but many fans may know the group from "Wind of Change," their No. 4 hit from 1991.

The shirt, made in England, was signed in 1988 by all five members of the heavy metal outfit: Klaus Meine, Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs, Francis Buchholz and Herman Rarebell.

So, there you have it, the story of two shirts, a cap, a bowtie, a tee-shirt and even some scanty women's apparel.

Personally, I don't know a thing about fashion, but I have learned rock star attire can be quite revealing, no pun intended.

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