As fresh as ever
Otis Williams, the last surviving original member of the Temptations, says he remembers well when doo-wop was king.
"That music reminds us of all the incredible times we had then," he recalls. "When I see the PBS shows, I have to stop and watch someone like Ben E. King sing 'Stand by Me' and I think, ‘How many times did my group perform that song?' "
Rieder says doo-wop sustains him in a way that classic rockers like the Rolling Stones and others just don’t do anymore. “Doo-wop and R&B are just as fresh as they ever were,” he says. “I could hear ‘At My Front Door’ by the El Dorados every day for the rest of my life and be fine, but I would hate to have to listen to ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.’”
Here to stay
While much of the audience falls squarely in the boomer ranks, the younger generations also love the music. “I look out and see an audience that goes from 6 to 80,” Williams says. And the Tokens’ most famous hit got a new lease on life when it was used in The Lion King in the mid-1990s. Almost instantly, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was an international hit all over again and beloved by 6-year-olds around the world.
But it is the nostalgia for the music of one’s youth that seems to have hit a chord on TV, at live shows and on Broadway. Stories of early rock ‘n’ roll have become bona fide Tony winners, such as Jersey Boys, which is about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and this year’s Million Dollar Quartet, which is about the recordings session of Elvis Presley, Jonny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.
The doo-wop audience is a passionate audience. “As long as they keep on coming, we’ll keep on singing the songs,” Siegel says.
And that’s all a fan can ask.