Art deco glitz was the perfect ambiance for the sophisticated glamour of The Flamingos’ class-act performance, Sunday night, at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. The Flamingos’ old-school music has the power to enchant. It brings back romantic memories and creates some new ones. Quintessential showmen, The Flamingos delivered a pitch-perfect performance that can only be described as pure entertainment. It was a feel-good evening of great romantic love songs, with lyrics you can understand!
Hailed as the “Ambassadors of Romance,” The Flamingos are one of the most influential doo wop groups of all times. Their rhythm and blues style impacted rock, pop, soul, the Motown Sound, Philly Sound, surfer music, spanning the continent from Baltimore where it all began to Chicago to doo wop around the world.
The Flamingos’ set lineup of some 30 classic tunes included enough variety in this show to satisfy everybody’s oldie but goodie favorites. Singing many of their own classic ballads but also some of the most popular songs of Cole Porter, Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls, Ben E. King, Elvis, Santana, Tom Jones, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Sarah Vaughn, and even Pharell Williams, The Flamingos simply charmed the audience with their finesse and great vocal harmonizing.
Known for being sharp dressers, the trio was decked out in tux, bowtie, and patent leather shoes, ready to be the consummate entertainers they have been since The Flamingos first came on the music scene in the mid-1950s. The Flamingos’ cool-cat sophistication warmed up the audience during a 2-hour non-stop, show-stopping performance of simply gorgeous listening music.
The overture and the ending of the show was the beloved “I Only Have Eyes for You,” The Flamingos’ biggest seller and landmark smash hit of the doo wop era. Terry Johnson, lead tenor and guitarist, recanted the story of when he wrote his version of this 1934 Eddy Duchin song. It came to him in a dream so he knew it had to have divine potential, even though his manager and fellow musicians dissed the song. When it finally hit the airwaves, however, the court of popular appeal won out and the song went on to be The Flamingos’ signature hit.
Terry “Buzzy” Johnson, now 75 and one of the original Flamingos, Starling Newsome, and Stan Prinston makeup the group that has gone through many iterations over the years. Their backup band, hailing from New York City, included Matt Berenello on drums, Tony Ventura, bass guitar, Robin Petrie on keyboards with Musical Director, Theresa Trigg at the baton. Theresa has been producing and arranging for The Flamingos for almost 40 years. She’s still jazzy.
“Besame Mucho” opened the set in Flamingo- flavored doo wop to a cha cha beat. Starling “Star” Newsome was lead on “When I Fall in Love,” as the group picked up vocal harmonies to this classic tune that sent arrows straight to the heart. “Star” has a singing style and vocals that are smooth as silk and warm as flowing honey. “Kiss from My Lips” showcased Terry Johnson’s cool falsetto as the trio blew kisses to an imaginary lover to slow, choreographed, synchronized dance moves. A medley of tunes that Lou Rawls made famous were the next few presentations including the well-known “You’ll Never Find,” sung with an upbeat tempo but still smooth like Lou.
The dance floor beckoned to several happy couples as The Flamingos gave their lively rendition of Pharell Williams’ “Happy” song. The Flamingos are superb balladeers of the classics, but they can also pipe out the contemporary. The audience was on its feet and clapping happy hands to this one.
“Ebb Tide,” romantic ballad for-all-times had Stan Prinston on lead as he told a story about a romantic breakup only to be reconciled at the ocean’s edge with “Ebb Tide. ”Dramatic crescendos added to the passionate appeal of this timeless love song.
Elvis made a brief appearance in the form of Stan Prinston in get-up as the group performed “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” The Flamingos are consummate entertainers and their light-hearted jokes and audience banter added lots of fun to the evening.
The Flamingos released a new album last year commemorating 60 years in the business. The Diamond Anniversary Tour 2013 presents a variety of The Flamingos’ best known hits, most of which were in the show. Part of the proceeds from this album is being donated to support the American military service organization, the USO. Through The Flamingo’s official website and The USO’s website, patrons can support our men and women in uniform. The trio dedicated several songs to the military and recognized all veterans in the audience. “I’ll Be Home,” with Stan Prinston on lead, was an all-star tribute to the vets.
A top-flight guitarist, songwriter, arranger, producer and former Motown musician and composer, Terry Johnson is a force of nature in the music industry. In 2013 the Flamingos were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the group also received the Heroes and Legends Award last year. Under Terry Johnson’s leadership, the Flamingos are still playing concerts around the nation and their music still sounds fresh and new. The Flamingos truly have timeless appeal.
Terry Johnson played a guitar duo with his son Ricardo Isaiah Johnson who came onstage and joined the band to the Santana classic, “Black Magic Woman.” Father and son worked wonderful instrumental magic to this crowd-pleaser.
Starling Newsome took lead in the deep bass medley of Barry White hits. Heavy drums and a dance floor upbeat tempo embellished “Never Gonna Give You Up,” “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” and “My First, My Last, My Everything.”
A Marvin Gaye medley was up next, and the audience swayed to “Let’s Get It On” as Stan Prinston added repartee to Marvin’s sexual healing told through song. And to let the audience know that the Flamingos can really sing anything, “Never Walk Alone” and “Smile” were Broadway tunes, dramatically performed, with Terry Johnson and “Star” Newsome, respectively, on lead.
The full version of “I Only Have Eyes for You” was the next to the last presentation. This is a wonderful song that will last forever in music annals as one of the best love songs ever written.
To give the audience an energetic send-off, the trio brought all to our feet, the aisles and the dance floor to “Let’s Get Loud.” This show was so much romantic, feel-good fun.
With the remodeling and opening of the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club, music lovers have a new treasure for local entertainment. The club used to be a movie theater but reopened its doors as a music hall supper club in March 2013, and has already entertained 45,000 patrons. The ambiance is cabaret style with class offering fine food and drink in addition to first-rate musicians from all genres of music.
Check out the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club for a great evening of musical entertainment in a unique new nightclub venue in downtown Bethesda. It’s a great stop for a date night, meeting friends for dinner or just hanging out in a classy joint.
Running Time: 2 hours, without an intermission.
The Flamingos played June 1, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club – 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, in Bethesda, MD (A short walk from the Bethesda Metro Stop). For future events, check their events calendar online.
The Flamingos’ website.