Spectropop remembers

STEVE TUDANGER (1943 - 2006)

Once rumoured to be the Four Seasons in disguise, the modest chart success of the Four-Evers with "Be My Girl" and "(Say I Love You) Doo Bee Dum" in 1964 belies their reputation as one of the finest harmony vocal groups of their time.

Early in 1957 three junior high school students from Brooklyn - Marty Jolton, John Cipriani and Steve Tudanger - formed Marty & the Joltineers. Soon they met Larry and Sal Ruggiero, and the Corsairs were founded. When Larry dropped out, the group changed its name to the Vocal Lords and recorded "At Seventeen", released first on the tiny Abel logo, and then on Taurus. The disc earned the group some local fame and a spot on Clay Cole's TV show. While at Taurus, they also did back-ups on releases by Donnie & the Delchords and the Fireflies, whose song "Good Friends" Steve also wrote.

Meanwhile, in another neighbourhood, Joe DiBenedetto, Jimmy Gallagher, Tommy Saltzo and Nick Zagami formed the Paladians. After releasing "I'd Climb The Highest Mountain" the outfit disbanded, with Jimmy joining the Passions, while Nick and Joe teamed up with John and Steve of the Vocal Lords. This new quartet renamed themselves the Four-Evers.

They landed a recording contract at Columbia Records in 1961 and a management deal with Al Kasha, who produced their single, "You Belong To Me". While at Columbia the Four-Evers also sang background on 45s by Bob Halley, Gene Montgomery and Billy Casher, alias Al Kasha himself.

In 1963 Kasha introduced the group to Bob Crewe, who took the guys under his wing and secured them a new deal with Smash Records. Crewe linked the group with songwriter Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons, who produced their Smash debut, "Lover Come Back To Me". 1964 proved to be the Four-Evers' year, with "Be My Girl" and "(Say I Love You) Doo Bee Dum" both reaching the national charts.

Meanwhile the group continued working as studio singers, backing up Tracey Dey ("Teenage Cleopatra"), Bob's brother Tom Crewe ("Mighty Fine Girl"), Vinnie Monte ("Hey, Look At The Winter Snow"), Cathy Carroll ("I Don't Want To Give You Up"), Eddie Rambeau ("Concrete And Clay") and many others. Steve also had compositions recorded by the Dynamics and the Candy Girls, a group he managed. After further singles on Constellation, Red Bird and Columbia, the Four-Evers disbanded.

Steve sang as one of the loose-knit Definitive Rock Chorale for Ellie Greenwich and Mike Rashkow's Pineywood Productions stable. In 1968 he and Joey DiBenedetto teamed up with two of the former Candy Girls to form the group Bubble. Changing their name to Playhouse, the outfit cut two singles for Jeff Barry's Steed label, in addition to singing back-ups behind Andy Kim and Robin McNamara. They also supplied backing vocals for the Archies and James Darren at Kirshner Records.

In 1972 Steve and Ellie Greenwich recorded as members of the Bob Crewe Generation, and the following year he co-produced and arranged her "Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung" album. He also collaborated with Ellie on many advertising jingles. The decade saw him release solo singles on Mercury, Chelsea and Big Tree, while Steve Feldman registered a smash in South America with "Let Me Be Forever", a Tudanger composition first recorded by the Definitive Rock Chorale. It was Steve's biggest ever hit.

As a sign of the continued popularity of the Four-Evers, recent years have seen the release on CD of the group's complete recorded output by the underground label Magic Carpet, plus the off-Broadway staging of The Vocal Lords, a play by Eric Winick based in part on Steve's life and career.

Steve Tudanger, who was divorced and childless, suffered a stroke two years ago and lost much of his vision, yet retained a positive attitude. He died aged 62 on New Year's Day.

(Adapted from the Four-Evers' "Forever More" CD booklet notes and the group's chapter in the book American Singing Groups: A History From 1940 To Today by Jay Warner. With thanks to Steve Dworkin.)

Steve Tudanger, singer and songwriter: born February 7th, 1943 - died January 1st, 2006.

"Tudie": Steve Tudanger Remembered by Ellie Greenwich: http://www.spectropop.com/SteveTudanger
Steve Tudanger in the S'pop Archives: http://tinyurl.com/9glzj
The Vocal Lords, the play: http://tinyurl.com/8tk9h
American Singing Groups by Jay Warner: http://tinyurl.com/ay3od