Why Tommy James sang for the mob but not at Woodstock

Scattershooting … and wondering what happened to Tommy James. (“Scattershooting and wondering what happened to …” was a journalistic trademark of the late great sports writer and columnist, Blackie Sherrod who wrote for The Dallas Morning News.)

Why Tommy James? I haven’t a clue. Maybe it was so I could get “Crimson and Clover” stuck in my head until I go to sleep tonight. 

Tommy James of the Shondells fame as pictured in 2010.

Yeah. La la la la la la. My mind’s such a sweet thing. La la la la la la. I want to do everything. La la la la la la … over and over.”


James career kicked off with a little “Hanky Panky.” Actually, that was the name of his first hit song.

His songs weren’t what you were called “deep.” In fact, they seem to have tread the netherworld of pop bubblegum with a touch of psychedelia thrown in. Apparently though, James and the Shondells were cool enough to have been invited to Woodstock. They didn’t make it. Supposedly his manager didn’t want him playing at some stupid pig farm.

It was okay, he was in good company. The list site, 11points.com, says in a list titled “11 Bands That Skipped Woodstock For Incredibly Lame Reasons,” Jethro Tull didn’t play because band frontman Ian Anderson reportedly said in an interview that he didn’t like hippies and he feared naked women “unless the time is right.” Roy Rogers, who had been invited to sing “Happy Trails” at the end of the festival said the reason he didn’t take part was that he would have been “booed of the stage by all them (expletive) hippies.”

Tommy James was much more well known and had more hit records than some of the other bands that did play at Woodstock. Take for instance, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Quill and the Keef Hartley Band. Most younger people today also would have no idea who some of the bands were of the day that enjoyed some measure of popularity and played at Woodstock, yet were not huge names to all. I use for examples Melanie Safka, who was known only by “Melanie,” and had several big hits back then including “Brand New Key” and “Lay Down.

Plenty of folks, both old and young, have probably heard in commercials or films the flute and guitar intro of “Going Up The Country” by Canned Heat but do not know who or what the band was. Even many rock and roll fans may not have known of or heard of Tim Hardin back when he played at Woodstock. Songs Hardin, who was a folk singer and composer, had written are much more well known than he was. Among those tunes are the beautiful ballad “Reason To Believe” recorded by Rod Stewart.”

Back to Tommy James once more, I found out doing this Internet scattershooting that he released a book in 2010 in which he revealed that the record company that recorded his songs, Roulette, was actually a front for the Genovese crime family in New York. James tells in his book that his deal was he would make the records and the company would keep the money. Great deal, huh? The book is called “Me, The Mob And The Music.” Give it a read. I plan to do so.

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