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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Villagers’ 75th anniversary cause for celebration at concert

Sometimes music – like a love affair—seems to last forever.

So it was for Irving and Bernice Locker who came to Savannah Center Monday to listen to some oldies music and celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary.

Bernice and Irving Locker celebrating their 75th anniversary Monday in Savannah Center at an oldies concert
Villagers’ 75th anniversary cause for celebration at concert

The couple seemed right at home with the music of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Happenings, along with Rocky and the Rollers.

Those two singing groups came to prominence in the 1960s, long after Irving and Bernice were married in 1948.

“I tell her everyday how much I love her,” Irving, a World War II veteran, said. “I know he cares so much about me, and I feel the same way about him,” Bernice added.
Music provided the perfect backdrop to this everlasting romance. These oldies – like the Lockers’ love – seemed new again.
The Happenings came on stage and picked up the beat with a song perfectly describing the Lockers’ relationship: “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday.”
 The mood turned soft, with an elegant version of “Till,” featuring lead singer Bob Miranda. He offered another high voltage vocal on a cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”
Next came a couple of the Happenings’ biggest hits from the mid-1960s. Miranda rocked out with “See You In September,” and the group showed its harmony on “I Got Rhythm,” a swinging cover of a George Gershwin classic.

Bob Miranda of the Happenings sings one of the hits
Bob Miranda of the Happenings sings one of the hits.

Miranda explained how legendary songwriter Carole King pitched a song to the group, “Go Away Little Girl.”
“I told her: But Carol, Steve Lawrence already had a hit with that song a few years ago,” Miranda said. She told me: ‘Yea, but I want to hear the Happenings’ version.’ She was right. It was a hit for us.”
The Brooklyn Bridge hit the charts during the late ‘60s. The late Johnny Maestro – a doo-wop legend with the Crests in the 1950s—was the voice of the group. Maestro sparkled on the group’s biggest hit, “The Worst That Could Happen,” in 1968.

The Brooklyn Bridge brought back hits from the 1950s and 60s
The Brooklyn Bridge brought back hits from the 1950s and 60s.

Joe Esposito  took over most of the vocals in Savannah Center.  The group flashed its doo-wop roots on such vintage numbers as “Gee” and “Juanita,” an early number written by Maestro.

Oldies fans fromleft Marilyn and Bruce Rossi and Betty Balunis enjoyed the Brooklyn Biridge songs

These guys showed they can still rock with a hot version of the Jackie Wilson song, “Lonely Teardrops.” They added more spark to a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ready Willing and Able.”
But Esposito  – like Johnny Maestro – can touch your heart with a ballad. He did just that with “My Prayer,” originally done by the Platters.  There was more power on “Blessed Is the Rain,” and “Welcome Me Love.”
“Nobody can replace Johnny Maestro,” the singer said, “and we’ll never forget him.”
Villager Bruce Rossi –who attended the show with his wife, Marilyn, and Betty Balunis – understands what the music means.
“This was the music of our youth,” he said. “And it’s more special now than ever.”

Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist

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