Fans of the history of rock and roll, pop and Motown will be delighted with an upcoming performance of some legendary living artists from the birth of contemporary pop culture and they come together for a special locally developed charity. Songs like “Baby It’s You”, “Dancing In The Street”, “Tears of a Clown” and more were the foundation for rock and roll covered by the likes of the Beatles, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and more but this weekend some of those original architects of rock and roll make a rare appearance right here in Hamilton thanks to the likes of longtime Hamilton promoter Reg Titian.
“My daughter Michelle has an organization she’s a part of called the Drive Foundation, which is a chartered, federal charity for the purpose of working with mental health and addiction for artists, musicians and the general public,” says Reg Titian. “They started this foundation so I jumped in with CHML’s Ted Michaels and we put together this concert for the purpose of raising funds to help getting the ball rolling for them.
“I’ve worked in the industry for many, many years and these are all acts I’ve worked with over the years booking them into the casinos throughout Ontario and the US,” adds Titian. “So I put together a ’60s show with these five acts and we’ve got one heck of a benefit concert.”
Given the history of rock and roll, a lot has changed over the last fifty plus years and the oldies circuit can be glutted with tribute acts but for Titian it was important to work with the authentic original performers. While there may have been some 66 members of the Drifters, Rick Sheppard was a real recording and performing member from 1966 through 1988. Shirley Alston Reeves is the lead vocal on “Tonight’s the Night” and “Baby, It’s You” and of course Martha Reeves’ name is part of the name Martha and the Vandellas — and part of the rock and roll hall of fame.
“These people are all the real deal,” says Titian. “Rick Sheppard was the Drifters’ third lead singer, he took over when Ben E. King went solo but he was the guy from 1966 on. Sonny Turner replaced the original lead singer of the Platters in 1960 and he became the guy. Of course, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas is a stand out Motown Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act — “Dancing in the Street”, “Heatwave”, “Jimmy Mack” — there are so many hits she recorded over the years and a really exciting show. Shirley Alston Reeves was the voice on “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and has gone on to have a career on her own. The Miracles — when Smokey Robinson went on to his own solo career, Mark Scott became the lead singer.
“There is a lot of legitimacy with these acts — these are not tribute acts,” adds Titian. “These are the people that blazed the trails and have been doing this for many, many years. It’ll be a treat for the audience ot have a first hand experience with these original artists. It’s going to be a very exciting show. I’ve done dozens and dozens of shows with these people, it’s feel good, happy music. A lot of the younger generation might not be familiar with the artists names but there are so many songs that made it into big movies so when you hear the music, you know. Of course, the older generation that is above 50, they grew up with that music and they love it so we're hoping everyone comes out.”
It’s a rare opportunity to be in the same room as these important figures in the history of rock and roll and Titian and company have arranged VIP meet and greet opportunities for the real rock and roll enthusiasts as well. But with Titian’s experience, he’s hoping for a great night of music and all in the name of an important cause for the Titian family. Scene veterans will recall Reggie’s Musical Showcase, the musical instrument store on John Street for some twenty–five years, but Titian has spent more time as a booking agent and promoter for the last thirty years. Titian’s real legacy though is his children with Trevor becoming a recording studio producer and Michelle becoming a singer, songwriter and recent addiction spokesperson.
“These are feel good acts with feel good music and it's a feel good story,” says Titian. “The stars have aligned for this particular benefit concert. The acts are all stars in their own right and this will be a legendary show and you’ll never see these guys again. They’re in the twilight of their career but are still putting on great shows. It’s a chance in time and see the real deal — I can promise there will be no disappointed people. There’s a film crew making a documentary on the Brill Building and they’re coming to interview Shirley Alston Reeves at this show.
“We’re hoping to get a lot of people out to help the cause of the Drive Foundation and that was the motivating force behind this concert,” adds Titian. “We all face challenges in our lives and they’re all different and we all respond differently but I’m proud of Michelle. She faced her demons head on and did something about cleaning up her act and making a statement with the direction she’s gone in her life. She’s laid it bare and said this is what I did with my life and I’m here to help others. She’s still so creative and talented and surrounded by some wonderful people like her manager Steve Brown from England and working on her next record with producer Steve Lillywhite. She’s in a good camp and head space. She’s got her feet on the ground and humbly approaching life with the attitude of making a difference with her music, which I’m really proud of. It's going to be a special event with some amazing music from amazing, down to earth people and we’re hoping to help out the Drive Foundation. I feel grateful that we can help out with this amazing concert for this special cause.”
What A Night - Real Living Legends Live in Concert happens this Saturday October 5 at FirstOntario Concert Hall with the Platters, the Drifters, Shirley Alston Reeves, Martha Reeves the Miracles Revue and host Ted Michaels. Doors open at 7:30 pm and tickets starting at $49.95+tx available at the Box Office or Ticketmaster.ca in support of the Drive Foundation. Click on drivefoundation.orgalexwhorms.com