Gary U.S. Bonds turns 80 today, but don’t worry about him retiring anytime soon. He’s got a show — billed as a Birthday Bash — at the Cutting Room in New York, June 7 at 7:30 p.m. He’ll also present a free show at Kennedy Plaza in Atlantic City, July 24 at 7 p.m.
Not bad for a guy who had his first Top 40 hit (“New Orleans”) in 1960, and returned to the Top 40 six more times before The Beatles even arrived in the United States.
Thought Bonds is not a New Jerseyan, he’s kind of an honorary Garden Stater, due to his association with Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Southside Johnny and others. Starting with his 1981 comeback album Dedication, which Springsteen and Van Zandt co-produced and wrote songs for, New Jersey rock fans have embraced him as one of our own.
I was lucky enough to see him perform at an Asbury Park Music and Film Festival concert at the Paramount Theatre in April 26, and he was as marvelous as ever.
“I’ve been ‘an oldie but a goodie’ twice,” he said, referring to his initial burst of hits in the ’60s, and his ’80s resurgence. Of course, he performed songs from both the early days (“Quarter to Three,” “New Orleans,” “School Is Out”) and the comeback albums (“This Little Girl,” “Dedication,” “Jole Blon,” “Daddy’s Come Home”).
He sang “Talk to Me” — for the first time ever, he said — since longtime Asbury Jukes guitarist Bobby Bandiera was guesting for part of the set (before walking across the street to the Wonder Bar to do his own show). And he closed with an exuberant version of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” with Joe Grushecky (who opened the show) on guitar and vocals, and Tony Amato (of Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys) on keyboards.
At one point, he talked about getting tired climbing up some steps at his hotel, but perhaps he shared this just to set up a joke: “I started feeling like Elvis — without the money!” he said.
At another point, he sang a medley that included his 1962 hit, “Twist, Twist Senora,” then shared his secret: “I’ve been told if you can twist, you’ll never grow old.”
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