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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

The Hit Men play Saturday on Sondheim stage

May 08, 2018

The Hit Men bring their Time Traveler show to the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The show takes a ride through the most magnificent years of rock ’n’ roll and it’s because all five guys were part of the biggest names in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. They played with or toured with likes of Cheap Trick, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Foreigner, Sting and international stars, from Frankie Valli to Elton John. Archival photos, video footage and fascinating backstage “stories from the road” highlighting their unforgettable experiences with rock stars rounds out this trip down your personal record row.

The Hit Men are:

• Lee Shipiro, who, in 1973 at the age of 19, joined Frankie Valli as one of the legendary Four Seasons. As keyboardist/musical director, Shipiro toured the world performing top hits including “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Sherry,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Shipiro was also arranger on the multimillion sellers “Oh, What A Night” and “Who Loves You.”

• Jimmy Ryan, a founding member of The Hit Men, has been their lead guitarist, co-arranger and co-lead singer since 2010. Ryan has recorded with Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Kiki Dee, The Doors, and many others. When not performing with The Hit Men, he composes music for film and TV under his alter ego’s name, James Ryan.

• Jeff Ganz has toured and recorded with Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, Tito Puente, Chuck Berry, Melvin Van Peebles, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Dr. John, Eddie Money, Cheap Trick, Vanilla Fudge, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Ganz appeared on Grammy-nominated recordings with Johnny Winter and John Lee Hooker, as well as on the Tony Award-winning original cast album of Roger Miller’s “Big River.”

• Russ Velazquez, a first-call session singer and guitarist for more than 30 years, has performed for hundreds of recording sessions, lending his voice to a myriad national, regional and local radio and TV spots. He is a three-time Emmy-nominated composer/arranger for Sesame Street and appeared on Broadway as one of the lead singers and guitarists in the 1980s musical, “Rock & Roll! The First 5000 Years.”

• Steve Murphy is a drummer/singer/producer/engineer and has been heavily involved in the New York City music scene since the late ’80s. Murphy also toured with the Animals, Dave Mason, Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, The Turtles, Mickey Dolenz, Gary Puckett, Mitch Ryder and other major artists from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

In an article written by David Porter, and published by The Associated Press, the beginning of the Hit Men was a “Let’s see if this works,” said founding member, keyboard player Lee Shapiro. “If not, we’ll have fun and it’ll be great.”

Based on reviews, the shows are great and judged by their touring schedule that has them doing everything but slowing down, including releasing a new song, with a video shot in Fairfield ... yes, Fairfield. They’ve overcome the deaths of two group members and the fading of the “Jersey Boys” phenomenon and are carving out the pop music nostalgia scene that has seen its fair share of concerts at the Sondheim theater.

It’s not just the music that makes this a memorable experience for concertgoers it’s also the decades of experience honed while touring and recording with the who’s who of rock’s golden era and the stories they have from spending time with the stars including Carly Simon, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Ramones, Lou Reed, Jim Croce and Chicago.

Although the songs from those relationships form the backbone of the show, it’s the back stories that allow the audience to relate and connect with the Hit Men. Ryan, for example, recounts how his interest in a female co-worker at a Greenwich Village record store was thwarted because she was dating his boss. But the two kept in touch and when the co-worker, Carly Simon, needed a guitar player for her first album. she reached out, beginning a musical partnership that lasted more than 20 years.

If the music and the guys behind the music playing in small-town Iowa isn’t a story enough, try this: the star of the group and the founder of the Hit Men now calls Fairfield home.

“This show has been on our radar for more than three years, and we tried to get this in previous seasons, but we couldn’t get them to commit to a small theater in a small town,” said Rustin Lippincott, director of the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. “As we continued to darken our proverbial dot on the touring maps of agents around the country, I learned that one of the stars and founding members of the show lived in Fairfield. It has definitely personalized the sound track of people’s lives they show covers even if they don’t’ know Jimmy Ryan. Once they experience the Hit Men, they’ll know who Jimmy Ryan is, and he’ll be their neighbor, their friend. He’s that cool of a guy.”

Tickets for The Hit Men are $40 for Zone 1, $35 for Zone 2, and $25 for Zone 3 and $15 for Zone 4 and $10 for youth tickets and are available at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center Ticket Office, 641-472-2787 or visit www.FairfieldACC.com.

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