Producer Tony Camillo dies at 90; memorial service planned

Tony Camillo dies

TONY CAMILLO, 1928-2018

Producer, arranger, musician, songwriter and studio owner Tony Camillo died on Aug. 28, at the age of 90. A GoFundMe campaign is raising money for a memorial service, tentatively planned for Oct. 27; visit

The Somerville native’s biggest claim to fame was co-producing Gladys Knight & the Pips’ 1973 No. 1 hit, “Midnight Train to Georgia,” whose music was recorded at his Venture Sound Studios in Hillsborough (vocals were added later, in Detroit). Camillo played keyboards and percussion on the track.

Other musicians he worked with included Dionne Warwick, Eric Carmen, The Stylistics, Dazz Band, Millie Jackson, Chambers Brothers, Peaches & Herb, Sha Na Na, Grand Funk Railroad, Stevie Wonder, The 5th Dimension, Martha Reeves, The Supremes, Parliament and Tommy James.

He also co-owned a record label, Venture, that had a Top 40 hit in 1982 with “Murphy’s Law,” by the duo, Cheri. And in 1975, he put together a group, Bazuka, that had a Top 10 novelty hit with “Dynomite” (see below), which he wrote and produced; it was inspired by the catchphrase of Jimmie Walker’s character, J.J., on the sitcom “Good Times.”

Camillo “was one of the kindest, most talented and caring people I’ve ever met,” wrote Joe Stuby on Facebook. “He could give you a lifetime of knowledge in one short sentence, and he helped me tremendously at a time when I needed it the most.”

Camillo worked in Detroit and New York before building his own studio in Hillsborough (Somerset County).

“I was born to music,” Camillo told The Star-Ledger in 2004. “My family all told me that by the time I was 1 year old I could sing a song all the way through. When I was a little kid, I had a soprano voice, and I still remember my teacher, Mrs. Francis. She used to take me all over the state. She’d put me on a pedestal to sing. I used to make people cry. My mother would take me to the butcher shop, and the butcher always wanted me to sing for him. He’d put me up on a block and he’d say, ‘If you sing for me, I give your mama free meat.'”

He studied composition under Leonard Bernstein and also played trumpet in big bands and taught music before turning to his attention to pop and R&B.

“I went out and bought the Top 10 records at the time and listened to them all,” he said in the same Star-Ledger interview. “I thought, ‘This is stupid. I know I can do this as well or better.’ Then I started doing some arranging jobs.”

A message on the GoFundMe page reads: “He profoundly touched many of us in this life, and we would like to honor that life … in celebration and song. He was brilliant and generous and had a huge persona, but he was not good at finances! In order to honor him in the way he deserves, we will need help from his friends. Please contribute, and please come.”


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Dawn Barry September 3, 2018 - 8:33 pm

Tony was a dear friend and I will miss him terribly. We talked for hours and he always had a positive attitude. He was a good man and always rose my spirits. He loved when I’d sing for him. I pray his family finds peace in his passing, they were always kind to me. Rest easy my friend, sing with the angels. Thankyou for inspiring me to be a better person and reach my goals. I’ll miss you Tony Maroney- love always Dawn Barry CNA .💕

Steve --- Tarkanish September 6, 2018 - 8:39 am

You close your eyes and your at an age that seems unreal. Tony just finished Gladys Knight and the Pips cut. The song says so much about his “gift.” My band was on the road to Atlanta, Georgia. We looked into the song and their was Tony. He came out to see us in NJ several times. He was a great guy and I’m sure we’ll see him again. RIP Tony Camillo.

Kay Blevins May 8, 2019 - 10:24 pm

Tony you were an amazing person and a dear friend . One of the most talented people I ever had the privilege to meet Rest In Peace my friend.

John M. Cassidy January 2, 2020 - 3:51 pm

I met Tony back in the summer of 1988 when I was playing drums for one of his recording proteges Valerie Ford. Tony generously provided lodging for the band members and myself while we played gigs in New York and North Jersey. He was a very nice guy and had an amazing studio where he allowed us to jam between sessions.

Frank Stallone April 11, 2020 - 6:19 am

Tony produced my first album for RCA Records with my group Valentine 1977 in his studio. As many have stated he was a wonderful funny warm person, who was. Dry generous with his time, talent and positive attitude. I spent a lot of time at venture studios and have nothing but great memories. Rest In Peace 🙏🙏🎼🎼🇮🇹🇺🇸

Jay Sheridan April 10, 2021 - 8:40 pm

Much respect, Tony was fantastic to me and the band. Real gentleman & Talented music man. Rest in peace Tony.

Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel June 14, 2021 - 8:57 pm

I will never forget how generous Tony Camillo was to me with his time, his studio, the most talented pianist he knew, and his feedback. Although I returned to college and studied in another field, my first vocal recording efforts had the benefit of his feedback. Rest in Heavenly Peace, Sir ! (aka Jane Ross Rogers)

Jay Sheridan July 18, 2021 - 9:10 am

Local band, recorded tunes in his basement recording studio. Tony was very talented and kind. Helped us alot to get started. Rest in peace.


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