Jim Beckerman of NorthJersey.com has a terrific feature about Tom Austin, former member of the Royal Teens with Bob Gaudio, who is now a successful artist.
According to Beckerman, Tom Austin has come a long, long way since “Short Shorts.”
Remember “Short Shorts”? If you weren’t around in 1958, when the Royal Teens shot to No. 3 on the charts with one of rock’s most provocative fashion statements (“Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts”), then you probably remember the song from the Nair commercials that, starting in the 1970s, put it back on the radar.
Or perhaps you know it from the hit show “Jersey Boys,” where it appears early in the back story of the lads who become the Four Seasons. Either way, Austin gets royalties.
“It’s funny, because young people think the song was just a commercial,” says Austin, the Ramsey resident who co-wrote the song in 1957. “They don’t know it was a hit song.”
Austin, 68, was one of the original Royal Teens, the Bergen County-based band (Austin of Fort Lee on drums, Bill Crandall from Dumont on sax, Bill Dalton of Fort Lee on guitar, Bob Gaudio of Bergenfield on keyboards) that turned a paean to cutoff jeans into one of rock’s most unlikely hits.
“It’s part of the culture,” he says. “Very rarely does a song stay so popular for 50 years.”
These days, “Short Shorts” still figures in Austin’s life — if nothing else, as a kind of calling card for people who come into contact with him through his Ramsey business, Austin Real Estate and Appraisal Co., or through another of his endeavors, fine art.
“In my art, I like to reconstruct times and places that interest me,” says Austin, who is having his first solo gallery exhibition at Fieldstone Fine Art Gallery in Ramsey from March 13 to April 14. Visit the gallery’s website for more details.
“Short Shorts Season” is among the 16 oils, watercolors and pen-and-ink drawings, created over the last 10 years, that will be on display. Most — not all — are for sale (“Short Shorts Season” is not, though numbered prints are available).
Some of his pieces, like “Gasoline Alley” or “The Riviera” (a famous, defunct Fort Lee nightspot), are the kind of golden ’50s scenes one might expect from a guy who, at age 17, had the privilege of touring with Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Avalon, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.
Others, like “Amistad” and “Wednesday Night Race,” pay tribute to another of his passions, sailing.
“Music and art are both done to please people,” Austin says. “Artists are always putting their emotions at risk in hopes of entertaining people.”
For the full story of Tom Austin’s career with the Royal Teens and his career as an artist, visit NorthJersey.com.