Some folks have noticed similarities in "Hands Across America" and the Plymouth ad campaign "The Pride Is Back." New York jingle writers Marc Blatte, John Carney and Larry Gottlieb are responsible for both. Some people also have noticed similarities in the lead vocals, and here it gets interesting: Joe Cerisano, a session singer, does the lead vocals on "Hands." He also did the demo vocals for "Pride," which ended up being sung in the commercial by superstar Kenny Rogers. On "Pride" Rogers also sings a duet with Sandy Farina, who sings a duet with Cerisano on "Hands."
Unfortunately, neither Cerisano nor Farina is identified on "Hands," which is credited to Voices of America. Cerisano does a lot of jingles (Lee Sensations jeans, Miller Beer) and was in a group called Silver Condor that did two forgettable albums for Columbia. Farina played the female lead in the film "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"; she also does a lot of commercial work (Wheaties, Coke Classic) and has written songs for Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton and Shannon. She'll be going into the studio with Zack Smith of Scandal soon, but you'll probably be hearing her voice first on the title cut of Kenny Rogers' next album: "The Pride Is Back." Yes, already having cut the song as the jingle, Rogers will now recut it for his album.
Nighthawks' Swan Song
When the, Nighthawks bring their rugged mix of blues and rock to the Carter Barron Amphitheatre July 5, it will be not only one of their rare Washington dates, but also their grand finale. After 15 years, 14 albums and apparently too many miles on the road, the Blue Wave champions are breaking up.
"That's basically true, although we're not putting it in quite those terms," says harp player and vocalist Mark Wenner. "We're going to still be doing some things as the Nighthawks, but they'll be rare -- New Year's at the Bayou a Washington tradition for six years , Mardi Gras in New Orleans."
Over the past decade, the Hawks have been one of the hardest-working bands in the business, touring 10 months of the year. They've played from Maine to Florida, throughout the South and Midwest and on the West Coast, also doing three tours of Japan and Europe. They've worked with just about every great contemporary blues figure, and this month they'll include dates at New York's Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia's Tower Theatre with such artists as George Thorogood, John Lee Hooker and Robert Cray. Their new album, appropriately titled "Hard Living," has been getting good reviews and even garnering airplay on major stations like DC-101.
But, says Wenner, "it's been financially tough to be a national road act. You put 3,000 miles on a rented Ryder truck and put gas into it, you'd be amazed at what that will cost you. Some places people will have heard of you, and 50 miles away, nobody's heard of you. For some of the people, it seems that just one more one-nighter is a bit of a burn. Personally, I could go on doing it but I'm also enjoying the idea of not doing it."
"The band has such an overhead, we had to stay on the road constantly just to tread water," says guitarist Jimmy Thackery. "We were going to too many places too often just to pay the rent. If we get back together for special events, then it gets back to the fun part, which is why we did this in the first place. Nobody's mad about this, we've had a hell of a lot of yucks. The pressure's been let off and everybody seems to be laughing and scratching a little bit more."
The Hawks have been playing for so long it's unlikely they'll just disappear. "As far as home, people might get to see us more since we hardly get to play here," says Wenner. "I'm looking forward to playing around town with people I don't get a chance to play with" -- possibly recombining the rockabilly band Switchblade, doing blues with guitarist Bob Margolin or working with Hawks drummer Pete Ragusa and bassist Jan Zukowksi in a new format. "All I have to do is show up with my harp." Thackery may be teaming up with another local guitarist, Tom Principato; the two worked together as the Assassins and recently finished a second album under that name.
One of Washington's great music legends will now be permanently honored through the Marvin Gaye Jr. Memorial Scholarship program. A fundraiser will be held tonight (starting at 5) at the Ibex Club (5832 Georgia Ave. NW) under the auspices of the local chapter of the Black Music Association. It's in cooperation with the general scholarship fund at Cardozo High School, Gaye's alma mater, and will provide financial assistance for Cardozo grads pursuing music degrees. Many local entertainers will participate, including members of the Moonglows (the group Gaye was with before linking up with Motown), Marquees, Orioles and Clovers; Johnny Gill, Frankie Kelly, Al Johnson; and the groups Khemistry, the Deuce, the Uptown Rhythm Kings and Milton Smith and Stimulus.