March 12, 2008

Tom Austin: Artist, Drummer, and More

March 12th, 2008

Claudia Perry of The Star-Ledger notes that Tom Austin is comfortable — on a Harley or a boat, with a paintbrush, behind a drum set.

Austin, 68, who is having his first solo show at the Fieldstone Fine Art Gallery in his hometown of Ramsey starting tomorrow, was bitten by the music bug when his father worked as a bouncer at Bill Miller’s Riviera club on the Palisades in Fort Lee.

“My dad worked backstage,” Austin recalls. “I played at the local Police Athletic League dances and things like talent shows. When I was about 14, I met some excellent musicians.”

Those musicians were Dumont sax player Bill Crandall, Bill Dalton from Fort Lee on guitar, and keyboard player Bob Gaudio, also from Fort Lee. Gaudio went on to produce records for Neil Diamond and play a major role in the formation of the Four Seasons.

Their group originally began in 1956 as the Royals, but since there was another band with that name, they became the Royal Teens. While they were still the Royals, a band called the Three Friends asked them to sing backup on a recording date in New York.

“We were very excited about it,” Austin says. “We got to the recording studio and they had some extra time so they allowed us to cut one of our songs.”

The song was “Short Shorts,” which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its release this year. Austin was one of the writers on the song, which is used in a hair removal commercial and is played regularly on oldies radio.

Gaudio left the Royal Teens to join the Romans, the precursor to the Four Seasons. He was replaced by Al Kooper, also famous as a producer and member of Blood, Sweat and Tears.

In his artwork, Austin has commemorated that era with a painting titled “Short Shorts Season.” The city scene depicts the marquee of the Broadway show “Jersey Boys” and classic cars on the street. Each car represents the first one purchased by the members of the Four Seasons. Frankie Valli and Gaudio also autographed prints for sale in the exhibit.

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  1. Al Kooper replaced Bob Gaudio in the Royal Teens? Now that’s interesting! ‘Dja ever notice that toward the end of everybody’s favorite, “Cry For Me,” an organ comes in in the background; I think it’s a Hammond, with that ‘skating rink’ sound — it always reminded me of the sound of the organ Al Kooper played behind Bob Dylan on “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Positively Fourth Street.” Could there be some kind of connection? Talk about “six degrees of Bob Gaudio!”

    Comment by stubbleyou — March 14, 2008 @ 10:27 am

  2. According to Joel Whitburn’s “Top Pop Singles” timeline, there appears to be some overlap between the times Bob Gaudio and Al Kooper were with The Royal Teens. Recently, Al Kooper credited Bob Gaudio for his first big break. The Four Seasons’ use of horns from “Big Girls Don’t Cry” forward could have been one inspiration for Al Kooper’s later works.

    Comment by Ted Hammond — March 14, 2008 @ 7:57 pm

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