Wednesday, June 10, 2009

North Brunswick Magazine Summer 2009 Issue Now Available

The Summer issue of North Brunswick Magazine, published by Carolina Marketing Company, is now being distributed on the eastern Carolina coast and includes a new feature story on The Buckinghams, written by Marybeth G. Cale. Story link is found at All Buckinghams' fans should visit this link to get a Special Collectors Cover of the NBM as a limited number of covers are available.

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With The Buckinghams Back on the Carolina Coast, Ever Youthful, Showing 60 is the New 40

Story by Marybeth G. Cale

The power of good music. How is it that a single song or guitar riff can transport us back to an entirely different period of our lives? All it takes is a certain melody in the background and there we are, back at the high school prom or dancing on our wedding day or driving around in our first car. Great music is a real art form — bringing emotions to the surface and transforming our world for a moment in time. And fantastic music goes so far beyond that moment. The true artists in the music world create sustainable, timeless pieces that appeal to the masses. Great music gets children out on the dance floor and encourages the sick to smile — it helps each of us live our lives more fully.

This kind of power that music has in our lives is nowhere more evident than in the “oldies” phenomenon. The songs of an era that exemplify agelessness illustrate a mastery of songwriting and involve harmonies that engage everyone who is listening. Sure, there is power in numbers — the “baby boomers” obviously make up a huge part of the population (especially here in southeastern North Carolina) — but there is more to the ongoing success of “oldies” songs than the volume of people who grew up during the time when that music was first hitting the scene. There is a mystique about the “oldies” — the songs make all of us feel a little younger and a lot more free-spirited. The songs have energy, excitement and an innocence that we all yearn for.

On June 20 at Odell Williamson Auditorium, the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce will give us a unique opportunity to enjoy that special spirit of those old-time songs when The Buckinghams perform.

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As the revolutionary group who first made “the horn rock band” sound famous in the 1960s, The Buckinghams have worked tirelessly ever since to make music that has universal appeal. From their hits like “Kind of a Drag” to band leader Carl Giammarese’s favorite, “Don’t You Care,” The Buckinghams were catapulted into success as they became one of the centerpieces of the 1960s American music scene. With their regular appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and concert tours alongside other musical greats such as Neil Diamond and Sonny and Cher (among countless others), The Buckinghams really captured the spirit of that era. And, they continue to do so today with hectic tour schedules and the recent release of a new album, “Reaching Back,” which has already become incredibly popular among their fan base, including first, second and even third generation followers.

Carl Giammarese, co-founder of The Buckinghams with Nick Fortuna, took some time away from his ever-busy schedule to speak with me about their journey so far. Admittedly, I was quite star-struck when he first answered the phone — but as he shared his story with modesty, humor and a sense of purpose, I became more awe-struck at the achievements of this man and the rest of his band.

“When I started high school,” he explains, “I thought I’d be a commercial artist or an automobile designer. I actually went to a specific high school in Chicago to prepare me for automotive design.” Giammarese pauses now and again, clearly feeling grateful for how things evolved in his life. “I guess I had started playing guitar at about the time I was 13 – I kept getting more and more involved, listening to a broad spectrum of music that ranged from Howie Roberts, Coltrane and other jazz players to Elvis and the rock groups. I never imagined I could make a career of it. But once the British Invasion took place, I knew that this was what I wanted to do — to create music and excitement around that music.

“All of a sudden I was going from playing guitar as a fun hobby to a career that took off. It was overwhelming, really — we were all young and went from playing around Chicago to getting invitations to play throughout the country. It really changed everything,” Giammarese shares.

When I ask what it is like to have attained such national fame, Giammarese chuckles and says, “For those who want to go into the music business I say, ‘Become a doctor’.” And then, with a palpable joy in his voice he goes on, “Seriously, there is nothing greater than making your life’s work about what you love. I have been so fortunate to do just that — and there are so many sacrifices we have all had to make, but we have all enjoyed every moment along the way. We don’t really socialize much since we are rehearsing so much, but we really have a good time being together and that helps keep it all strong.”

So, that was the perfect segue for me to ask the inevitable question in a dialogue with any baby-boomer: Are there any forthcoming retirement plans? And to that, he began to tell me more about the motto of The Buckinghams — “60 is the new 40.”

“For us”, he says, “we are still having a great time. I would have thought it was crazy, back in the day, to play for this long. Now I hope I won’t retire for a very long time, as long as I can do it with the quality that we’ve had all along. I certainly don’t want to be the last one to leave the party — I hope someone will tell me if I’m embarrassing myself!” he says with a charming, self-deprecating humor.

“When I need a rider built into a concert contract to build ramps that might not only get expensive, but if we need caregivers, we might need to consider ourselves done! Seriously, though, 60 really is the new 40. People are living longer because they are taking good care of themselves — and the music is all about helping people stay young and feel good and happy.”

And that was the part that made me go from star-struck to awe-struck. Here is a group who has used their talents to give people happiness and a sense of well-being in their lives.

George Murray, owner of Murray Art and Frame in Leland and chair of the Concert Committee for the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce, seems to agree.
“The 60s music is about relationships, love and having a good free spirit about things, and I think that’s what baby boomers remember — a lot of time for friends to get together and listen to some great tunes and have fun,” says Murray. “That is what The Buckinghams are all about.”

Murray went on to describe the deliberate philosophical decision of the business community to develop this type of event for the community.
“The concert tradition of the chamber started last year when we invited Steve Boone, a friend of mine and a Waterford resident to perform for the area with his band, The Lovin’ Spoonful,” says Murray. “There was a party on the Friday evening before the concert for VIP ticket holders at Murray Art and Frame – 250 people came – and then the next day we all enjoyed the concert. It was so much fun, bringing the oldies songs to our area. We immediately started talking about 2009.”

“One of my favorite bands from that period is The Buckinghams,” says Murray, “so I looked at their website, emailed Carl, got their agent’s address, started correspondence, formed a committee and forged ahead. So many 60s bands are still touring. I was so excited to find out that The Buckinghams were part of that group. I looked at their videos and was very impressed that they are very much a show band. It’s incredible how they have stood the test of time.”

Murray, a board member for the chamber, continues: “We’re hoping to get a sellout crowd at 1,500.”

Without a doubt, everyone who attends The Buckinghams concert, regardless of age, will be transported to those light-hearted days of the ’60s. We all need that now more than ever, don’t we?

See the Buckinghams
The VIP tickets for The Buckinghams show on June 20 are $45 per person and include the VIP party at Murray Art & Frame on Friday, June 19 as well as preferred seating at the concert on Saturday. Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna are slated to attend the VIP party. NBM readers are encouraged to buy their VIP tickets early to guarantee entry to meet Carl and Nick for photos and autographs. CDs will be available that night and again after the concert. A general admission ticket for the concert costs $25 per person. Contact George Murray at Murray Art and Frame at (910) 371-3833 for tickets or more information. Or contact the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce office, (910) 383-0553, or the Odell Williamson Auditorium, (910) 755-7416.

The Best of North Brunswick County, NC

North Brunswick Magazine is published by Carolina Marketing Company, LLC. Copyright 2005-2009 Carolina Marketing Company, LLC. Thanks to publisher Justin Williams for permission to include the story here.