Popular music's most successful vocal groups achieved prominence because they created a distinctive sound that hadn't been heard before. Consider the Four Freshmen, the Four Coins and the Four Aces, just a few of the many standouts in the all-male category.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons took that familiar close-harmony formula and pushed the top voice into falsetto, thereby creating another instantly recognizable sound that helped catapult more than a dozen of their 1960s hits onto the Billboard charts.
Four decades later, many of that group's hits won over a whole new generation of listeners thanks to a Broadway musical known as “Jersey Boys.” John Lloyd Young, Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer were the Jersey Boys of the title, a quartet of singers who made you think you were hearing the original Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
When Young left “Jersey Boys” in November 2007, Michael Longoria took over that role and, together with his fellow cast mates, gave more than 1,000 performances. In much the same way that a hit television program creates an equally popular spinoff, these four singers capitalized on their success and created a group known as the Midtown Men.
They'll join the Oklahoma City Philharmonic this week to present the first pops concert pair of the New Year. And while the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons makes up the bulk of the Midtown Men's repertoire, their concerts also feature the music of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Drifters and other popular groups of the 1960s.
“Thanks to the success of ‘Jersey Boys,' we were asked to perform at various events, benefits and galas,” Longoria said recently. “One of those was a performance for Katie Couric's 50th birthday party.
“What started out as a moonlighting kind of thing for us eventually led to more and more concerts. Before long, we had an entire year's worth of bookings. It's since become a fun tour that we get to take all over the nation.”
Much like the group that is showcased in “Jersey Boys,” the popular quartet struggled to find a suitable name for their group. They tried out several possibilities before settling on Midtown Men.
“Early on, I remember being at a concert and when we announced that we were ‘The Four Hit Men,' the audience just laughed,” Longoria said. “I glanced at the other guys with a look that said ‘I told you so.' We never used that name again.”
All four singers grew up listening to music that was popular with their parents' generation. That exposure, along with some keen vocal skills that each would master, led to their being cast in Broadway's Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys.”