Bobalou Romano helped keep the doo-wop sound alive in The Villages for the past eight years, but he will soon be singing a farewell oldie.
This summer, Romano and his partner, Stephanie Reilly, will be moving to the Jacksonville area. They, along with Doug Skinner, made up one of The Villages’ popular acts – Bobalou’s Oldies But Goodies.
“It’s hard to leave, but it’s time,” Romano said. “I don’t want to be one of those rock and roll guys who comes on stage with a walker.”
Romano, best known for his spot-on sound singing Dion’s hits, grew up singing doo-wop on street corners in Brooklyn. Right after he moved to The Villages, he formed a group and has been performing here ever since.
“I’m going to miss this place a lot,” said Romano, who played Savannah Center, Katie Belle’s, the old Church on the Square and numerous clubs. He also has appeared with Rocky and the Rollers, among other acts.
“Most of all, I’m going to miss the people and the fans who came to see us,” Romano said. “For me, the greatest thrill was singing on stage and looking out into the audience and seeing people listening with their eyes closed. I felt like I was taking them back to a place they had forgotten.”
Reilly and Romano met during a show in The Villages nearly eight years ago when he was singing – and she had her eyes closed.
“He was singing ‘Unchained Melody,’” Reilly said. “It was awesome. I just shut my eyes and listened. It was so beautiful.”
About a year later, Romano and Reilly were both in an “American Bandstand” show at Savannah Center when he came up to her and said, “Aren’t you the lady who was listening to ‘Unchained Melody’ with her eyes closed?”
“We went out to dinner and have been together ever since,” Reilly said.
They also had something else in common besides singing. Both attended the 1965 Beatles concert in Shea Stadium. “We didn’t know each other then, but we were there,” Reilly said.
It didn’t take them long to form a doo-wop group in The Villages. There was one problem – Reilly didn’t know what doo-wop meant.
“I thought it was people who sang gospel songs on street corners,” she said. “I used to sing Broadway and show tunes. I didn’t know doo-wop.”
Romano taught her the meaning of doo-wop, which loosely can be defined as soulful, rhythm-and-blues harmony. It was exemplified by such performers as Little Anthony, Johnny Maestro, Dion and the Belmonts, the Orioles, the Flamingos and many others from the 1950s.
“It wasn’t easy for me,” Reilly said. “I have a high-soprano voice. But I learned to love it. The guys let me sing falsetto.”
Reilly also had another problem. “On stage, she was stiff as a board,” Romano said. “She wouldn’t move. I kept telling her to loosen up. Now, she gets up there and you can’t stop her.”
Reilly and Romano are engaged and ready for the next chapter of their lives.
“I always wanted to live near the beach,” Reilly said. “Our new place is only a few miles from the beach. We want to travel and do different things. We’re going to miss The Villages, this is where we met and so many good things happened for us. But we just feel this is the right time to go.”
Romano said their third group member, Skinner, “wants to do other things, too. We had awesome chemistry working with Doug. I’m going to miss him.”
Doo-wop followers in The Villages will miss Romano’s group.
“Since moving to The Villages four years ago, I got to know and work with Bobalou Romano many, many times,” said DJ Al Brady, an authority on oldies and doo-wop music. “I’m sad that’s he’s leaving the area and I know anybody in The Villages who cares about doo-wop wishes him the best.”
Brady said Bobalou helped keep the music of the doo-wop era alive.
“He did it by singing or just talking about the great harmonizing groups that we all know and love,” he said.
Brady also appreciates Romano’s singing style.
“I love his high vocal range and style of artistic doo-wop arrangements,” he said. “Stephanie Reilly and Doug Skinner filled out some great singing in the group.”
Romano isn’t sure if his future will include singing.
“I have no idea,” he said. “Right now, I don’t know. But I will always love doo-wop music.”