The Grass Roots and the Buckinghams to Star in “American Pop” this Saturday at the Great Auditorium!

By Spotlight Central. Grass Roots photo by Love Imagery

(Ocean Grove, NJ) On Saturday, July 30, 2016, The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association will present two of the most beloved “American Pop” groups of the 60s — the Grass Roots and the Buckinghams — at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ.

For the past three decades, the Buckinghams, featuring founding members Carl Giammarese on lead vocals and Nick Fortuna on bass and vocals, have toured the nation with their great pop sound. Once called by Billboard magazine “The Most Listened to Band in America,” they’ve had seven national chart hits including “Don’t You Care,” ‘Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and their #1 smash, “Kind of a Drag.” These days, the Buckinghams continue to fill performing arts centers, ball parks, and cruise ships with their nonstop, high-energy performances.

Sharing the stage with the Buckinghams in “American Pop” will be the world-famous Grass Roots. In the entire history of rock n’ roll, only nine bands — including The Beatles — have charted more hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 list than the Grass Roots. With classics like “Let’s Live For Today,” “Midnight Confessions,” “Sooner or Later,” “Temptation Eyes,” “I’d Wait a Million Years,” and “Two Divided By Love,” it’s no wonder the Grass Roots have sold over 20 million records worldwide and average over 100 live performances each year. In fact, the Grass Roots still hold the all-time record for a single-act U.S. concert by performing for 600,000 people on July 4th, 1982, in Washington, DC. Currently, the Grass Roots line up includes Dusty Hanvey on lead guitar and vocals, Mark Dawson on lead vocals and bass, Larry Nelson on keyboards and vocals, and Joe Dougherty on drums.

Spotlight Central recently had an opportunity to catch up with long-time Grass Roots guitarist, Dusty Hanvey, and talk to him about the group’s upcoming concert at The Great Auditorium, his musical influences growing up, and even about his stint as a back-up musician for The Monkees!

Spotlight Central: What are your thoughts about playing for your New Jersey fans at Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium?

Dusty Hanvey: We’ve played the Shore countless times. We’ve actually played the Great Auditorium before — I think this is going to be our third trip there. The last time we were there we did a double bill with America. It’s a great spot in the country; we like going to the shore. And that auditorium with that wood ceiling and the wood beams and all that; it’s a unique spot. The staff is great, too, so we’re looking forward to it.

SC: What should audience members expect from the Grass Roots portion of the show this Saturday night?

DH: Many fans have probably seen us on the Happy Together Tour with the Turtles and other groups, but on the Happy Together tour we don’t even get a chance to touch the catalog of the band — only four or five songs. And we’ll get to do 18–20 Grass Roots songs in our set at the Great Auditorium, so you’re gonna hear a lot of stuff.

SC: What are some of your favorite Grass Roots songs?

DH: Well, obviously, the hits are great because they’re such great compositions and the reaction from the audience is instant and positive and it takes ’em back. Personally, I like playing “Come On And Say It.” And even though “Temptation Eyes,” “Midnight Confessions,” “and “I’d Wait a Million Years” are more on the pop side of things, this band has some rock and roll blood in it. So some stuff we play in the longer show is edgier and a little more rock-oriented. I think people will be surprised.

SC: As a youngster, what got you interested in music?

DH: My dad, who was born in Oklahoma and raised in Texas, actually used to play honky-tonk bars and square dances down there — I still have his old dobro guitar from the 1930s — and I suppose that’s what introduced me to it all. I started playing pretty seriously when I was eight years old. And I was playing in a band and actually out making money when I was eleven or twelve years old. We would play — we’d do, like, a dance in the park — and I’d get five bucks! And with my dad being a musician, I would hear him play and I would play — and it just took off from there.

SC: As a guitarist, who are some of your guitar heroes?

DH: I draw from many many different guitarists like Pat Metheny — I’ve been listening to him for decades; he’s got such a fresh approach. George Benson. Robben Ford, with his blues approach. There’s too many to name. One of my favorites is Guthrie Govan — Google him and listen to him play and you’ll get what I’m talking about — he’s incredibly melodic and talented. And Angus Young from AC/DC — his rock and roll approach has been as pure as you can get to playing rock guitar.

But, also, for guitar playing and phrasing and melody and harmony, I listen to a lot of saxophone players because I love the way they approach melody and improvisation. Sonny Rollins is one of my favorites, ever — just his phrasing. I also love keyboardist Lyle Mays from the Pat Metheny Group — I love the way he plays, so I’ll pull from that. And Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Return to Forever — I wore those albums out listening to those guys! I mean, even though I’m kind of in a pop and rock band and I’ve played every kind of music possible, that kind of progressive jazz-based harmony and melody really grabs my ear.

SC: How did you originally become involved with the Grass Roots?

DH: I met Rob Grill of the Grass Roots back in the 70s — we were both living in LA — and I was playing with the Righteous Brothers and the Mamas and the Papas. But I didn’t join the Grass Roots at that time; I didn’t want to go on the road, so I just kind of stayed local. And then Rob approached me in the early 80s and said, “I’m looking to put a band together to go out” — Rob was still carrying the Grass Roots torch as their lead singer — so he contacted me and we put the thing together and the keyboard player that I got to play in the band is still there today.

SC: And is it true you played backup for The Monkees?

DH: Yeah — at that time, The Monkees borrowed me to play. Rob and the Grass Roots were on the show and I just played with them to have some fun. They wanted me to do it and I did it and it was fun — absolutely — those zany Monkees!

SC: How does it feel to have the Grass Roots honored this year with inclusion in the American Pop Hall of Fame with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, Dion, The Lettermen, The Temptations, 3 Dog Night, The Association, and Paul Revere & The Raiders?

DH: We’re inducted. It’s a really new young foundation — and there was supposed to be a September bash and I believe they’ve delayed it — but it’s kind of cool.

SC: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding your upcoming “American Pop” concert this Saturday with the Buckinghams at The Great Auditorium?

DH: Come out and have a party!

The “American Pop” party starring the Grass Roots and the Buckinghams takes place this Saturday, July 30th, at 8:00 pm at the handicapped-accesible Great Auditorium, located at 54 Pilgrim Pathway in Ocean Grove, NJ. Tickets are $35 for general admission seats and $40 for reserved seats and may ordered online at www.oceangrove.org or by phone at 800–590–4064. Be there or be square!

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