Doo-Wop Aficionados Now Have a Home in Stafford 

Nov 08, 2017
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Four years ago, Waretown resident Ray Ricci began hosting a doo-wop radio program on WBNJ-FM (91.9). Known on the air as DJ Rockin’ Ray – the Doctor of Doo-Wop, Ricci has developed quite a following, and that has resulted in his starting a monthly gathering at the Bay Avenue Community Center in Stafford Township of fans of the style of music that dominated the 1950s.

At the recent inaugural get-together of the Ocean County Doo-Wop Club, Ricci said, approximately 40 people showed up.

“And I’m sure it will grow because there are a lot of fans, and many of them are like me, people who have moved to Southern Ocean County from the New York area and grew up listening to doo-wop music,” he said.

Doo-wop is a style of rhythm and blues and rock ’n’ roll vocal music that was popular in the 1950s and early ’60s. The structure of doo-wop generally features a tenor lead vocalist singing the melody of the song with a trio or quartet singing background harmony. The term doo-wop is derived from the sounds made by the group as they provide harmonic background for the lead singer. The 1955 hit “When You Dance” by the Turbans has been credited with the song that actually used the word “doo-wop” in the vocals.   

“Most of the doo-wop groups started out singing on the street corners,” Ricci said. “That was done a cappella, without any instruments. It’s all voices, and it is wonderful to hear such great harmonies.”

At the community center, where Ricci partners with Joey D’Angelo (who performs in the area as Joey D’s Rockin’ Oldies), guests can sit at tables reminiscing about their favorite groups and songs, with doo-wop hits playing in the background. Refreshments are available. 

“There is no admission charge,” said Ricci. “It’s a social time, very informal.”

“For our first time, it was a very good turnout,” said DeAngelo. “Whenever you hold an event for the first time, you might worry if enough people are going to show up. We found out quickly that it was not going to be a problem. The people were real enthusiastic, and toward the end, a few people got up and danced.”  

For the opening day, there was an added attraction featuring live music by members of the Passions, known for their hits “Just to Be With You,” “This Is My Love” and “I Only Want You.”

“I might bring in some special guests from time to time,” said Ricci. “In February, I’m thinking of having a Valentine’s themed dance.”

A retired bank executive, Ricci grew up in the Bronx, the same borough that spawned his favorite artist, Dion, who rose to fame first with the Belmonts and later as a solo artist.

Hits like “I Wonder Why,” “Who Knows Where or When,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Runaround Sue,” “Lovers Who Wander” and “Love Came to Me”  are staples heard on his radio show, which airs from 7 to 8 Friday night, with encores on Sunday at the same time and Thursdays from 9 to 10 a.m. 

During that hour, listeners might catch a tune by legendary groups and artists such as the Cadillacs, the Five Satins, the Flamingos, the Drifters, the Harptones, the Chantels, the Clovers, the Coasters, the Skyliners, the Diamonds, the Duprees, the Monotones, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Lee Andrews and the Hearts, the Spaniels, the Penguins, Larry Chance and the Earls, the Passions,  the Moonglows, the Silhouettes, the Regents, the Marcels and Johnny Maestro (with the Crests and later the Brooklyn Bridge.)

“While I play a lot of the hits, I also like to throw in some lesser known songs, which are still great tunes,” said Ricci, who occasionally will give a brief bio of a group.

He is also a big fan of Kenny Vance and the Planotones, a group that formed more than 25 years ago and specializes in covers of doo-wop classics. They are known best for “Looking for an Echo,” which Vance (an original member of Jay and the Americans) recorded in 1975 in a tune hearkening the days of singing on street corners and school hallways. (“We were playing oldies, but they were newies then”).   

Ricci and his wife, Christine, moved to Waretown eight years ago.

“I’m a people person,” he said. “Wherever I go, I talk to people.”

One time he had a chance meeting with Bill Clanton Jr., general manager and program director of WBNJ.

“He could see that I really knew my music,” said Ricci. “After some more conversations, he asked me if I would be interested in doing a radio show, and I said I would.”

Clanton, who attended the inaugural club gathering,  said Ricci’s program fits WBNJ’s format of adult standards, which includes doo-wop hits. Some of the genres played include soft rock, jazz, swing, country, blues, soul, R&B, Broadway and novelty tunes.

“Ray has developed quite a following, so I felt very strongly that this monthly group would go well,” said Clanton. “There are a lot of doo-wop fans, so this will be a fun time to get together on an afternoon and relax and reminisce.” 

The doo-wop club plans to meet on the first Wednesday of each month at 1. However, December’s get-together will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5, due to the unavailability of the hall on Wednesday, Dec. 6

For more information, call Ricci at 609-971-7676.

— Eric Englund          

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