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Tommy James & the Shondells Biography




Birth Place: Niles, Michigan
Years Active: 1963—1970, 2000—present
Genres: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock


Tommy James & The Shondells are an American rock and roll group originally formed in 1959 in Niles, Michigan. Initially known as Echoes and then as Tom and the Tornadoes, the original line-up consisted of Tommy James on vocals and guitar, Larry Coverdale on lead guitar, Larry Wright on bass, Craig Villeneuve on keyboards and Jim Payne on drums.

In 1964 James renamed the band The Shondells and they recorded the Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich song "Hanky Panky.” Released by a local label, Snap Records, their version sold respectably in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, but Snap Records had no national distribution. The single failed to chart nationally, and The Shondells disbanded in 1965 after graduating from high school.

The group’s biggest hits include “Hanky Panky” (1966) and “Crimson and Clover” (1968), along with, “I Think We're Alone Now,” “Mirage,” “Mony Mon,” “Sweet Cherry Wine” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

1966 saw James recruit the Pittsburgh quintet, The Raconteurs, consisting of Joe Kessler on guitar, Ron Rosman on keyboards, George Magura on saxophone, Mike Vale on bass and Vinnie Pietropaoli on drums, to become the new Shondells. With a touring group to promote the single, James went to New York City, where he sold the master of “Hanky Panky” to Roulette Records. With national promotion, the single became a #1 hit on the Billboard chart. Kessler and Pietropaoli left the group shortly after formation and were replaced by Eddie Gray and Peter Lucia.

As the 1960s progressed and the bubblegum music movement dominated the music charts, the group landed a #4 hit with, “I Think We're Alone Now.” A year later a #3 hit emerged with “Mony Mony.” As the 1970s ensued, excessive touring caught up with James, who collapsed after a show. The group took time off for awhile to recuperate.

1971 marked the launch of James solo career and the notable hits, “Draggin' the Line” and “Three Times in Love.” During the 1980s the group began to tour with other bands from the 1960s as part of nostalgia circuit.

In 2009, James and the surviving Shondells, Gray, Vale and Rosman reunited to record music for the soundtrack of the film “Me, the Mob, and the Music” which was released in 2010.