February 18, 2010
As “Shadow” Mann I only had one album release, one single release, and a follow up that barely escaped. After performing at a Hubert Humphrey Rally in Times Square with Tommy James and the Shondells topping the bill, Morris Levy dropped me as an artist from the label.
It’s been 42 years since I’ve been in touch with Tommy, and was excited when I heard he had dared to write a book about his experiences with Morris and Roulette Records called, “Me, The Mob, And The Music”. He gave me an exclusive “no holds barred interview” where he made even more revelations than he did in his astonishing tell all autobiography!
Tommy- “in 1969, when crime boss Vito Genovese died in prison things were tense up at Roulette. All of a sudden they were having a lot of meetings with all the “boys”, figuring out who his successor would be. Were they going to shoot up the place? Was there going to be a challenge? Morris brought me into his office I shook hands with Vincent “The chin “Gigante, “Fat Tony” Salerno (who Tony Soprano character was based on). I also shook hands with Quiet Don Cirillo, and Tommy Eboli (a/k/a) Tommy Ryan.
Morris had his hands on my shoulders and as he is introducing me to of these (notorious people) I felt like a puppet! I couldn’t believe it and said to myself oops…this must be Hell!”
Artie – WOW!”
Then Tommy said he always wondered whatever happened to the “Shadow” Mann? When I told him that I moved to California in 1970, he asked if I heard about the gang wars in New York, between crime families, where 400 gang members were killed…I told him no and confessed that I hadn’t finished the book.
Tommy – “It got so bad that Morris hid out in Spain for a year and left me and everybody at Roulette holding the bag. I had to make myself scarce and went to Nashville. All the details are in the book.”
Artie – “Our pal, Brooks Arthur wanted me to ask you if you remember working on a album with him, while you’re in the middle of re-negotiations and Morris comes into the studio and demands that you sign a new contract .
Tommy – “ Yeah”, Morris said, ” Okay, the contract will say twelve percent, you’re makin’ eight,…I’m paying’ you six!”“
Artie – “I know you had a problem with drugs, and my friend, Gary Stromberg, who’s written several books on addiction and appeared with Dr. Drew Pinsky VH1 on “Celebrity Rehab” Specials, wanted me to ask you , “Many artists falsely believe that drugs and alcohol are the sources of their creativity, and when they stop drinking and using they must confront their creativity without these substances”
Tommy – “ I went into the Betty Ford Center for six weeks and have been clean since 1986! Being straight has been like floating on a pink cloud…I can accomplish so much more by being clear”
When Tommy speaks of his complex love/hate relationship with the late Morris Levy, who passed away 20 years ago he still gets emotional.
Tommy – “He asked to see me on his death bed, but I wasn’t able to get to the hospital in time…something I’ve always regretted. If it wasn’t for a Morris Levy,there wouldn’t have been a Tommy James.”
It’s easy to understand what the excitement surrounding “Me, the Mob, and the Music” is all about. Tommy told me a deal has just been signed to bring his story and his music to Broadway by the producers of “Jersey Boys”, and negotiations are nearly complete to bring it to the big screen.
After I thanked him for the interview, I took the opportunity to pitch an idea to develop a series of five minute segments for “Classic Hits” and college radio stations, with my friend, “Country” Paul Payton.
I’m happy to say that Tommy loves the idea and wants to work on it with us when he gets back from his promotional book tour.
Copyright 2010 by Artie Wayne http://artiewayne.wordpress.com/about-artie-wayne/
YOU CAN BUY TOMMY JAMES’ “ME, THE MOB, AND THE MUSIC” ON HIS WEBSITE http://www.tommyjames.com/
Thanks to members of Spectropop , Forgotten hits, Alan O’Day, “Country” Paul Payton, Brooks Arthur, Ed Salamon, Alan Karr, Jim Cassidy, Kent Kotal, Dee Trane, Patti Dahlstrom, Ayrton Mugnaini, Robby Leff, Art Munson, AJC, and Matthew David, for the questions this article is based on..
IF YOU MISSED PART ONE OR TWO OF MY TOMMY JAMES INTERVIEW JUST CLICK ONTO
To reach Gary Stromberg http://www.garystromberg.net/
To reach Spectropop http://spectropop.com
Forgotten Hits http://forgottenhits.com
Special Thanks to Carol Ross – Durborow and Ed Osborne for their assistance in putting this article together.
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