Once described as “the best thing that happened to romance since moonlight,” vocal group The Lettermen make their third visit to the Bankhead Theater on Friday evening, July 21, 2017. Their hits “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Put Your Head on my Shoulder” launched The Lettermen to the top of the charts in the 1960s and their sweet, smooth harmonies have continued to endear them to audiences for more than five decades. With their inimitable style, they have sung and recorded love songs in over fourteen languages. Their renditions of such Tagalog favorites “Dahil Sa Iyo” and “Sapagka’t Kami Ay Tao Lamang” have earned them a place in Filipino hearts worldwide.
Founding member Tony Butala first brought The Lettermen together in Southern California in the mid-1950s, a golden time and place in the evolution of popular music. Although all three of the original group members were individually strong soloists and stage entertainers, it was their ability to meld their voices into sleek harmonies and a unified sound that made them special. Their musical style found a new place between the big band vocals of the 1940s and the early R&B “Motown” sound that was just beginning to emerge.
Although The Lettermen had already released singles, “Two Hearts” and “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring,” it was their 1961 rendition of “The Way You Look Tonight” that launched them to fame. The soulful ballad was just the B-side of a doo-wop single released during the heart of the rock and roll era, so they were surprised when listener requests sent it up to the top of the radio charts. Subsequent songs, including “When I Fall in Love” and “Theme from a Summer Place,” kept them on the pop charts well into the 1970s. Their debut album “A Song for Young Love” reached the Top 10 and was just the first of 32 straight Top 40 albums.
According to founding member Tony Butala, at the time the group formed many of the other young vocal groups had school-oriented names and so their choice, based on the letter sweaters worn by student athletes, fit perfectly. By the time they outgrew the name and had put away the sweaters, they had already achieved several hit singles and released their first album. Reluctant to confuse audiences, they kept the name and it has become synonymous with the romantic songs and ballads of the era. Over the decades, the group has evolved but the three current members, Tony Butala, Donovan Tea, and Bobby Poynton, first began singing together in 1989. The Lettermen were named to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Bankhead Theater showcases acclaimed performers in music, dance and other performing arts across a wide range of styles and genres each year. The 2017 Summer Season includes the return of another popular vocal group, The New Christy Minstrels, on Sunday August 13th. Led by Randy Sparks, the New Christy Minstrels have offered a fresh folk sound since the 1960s with their lighthearted style and rich harmonies. On September 9th, the 2017-2018 season opens with the “Brilliance at the Bankhead” Gala featuring Grammy Award-winning folk-pop duo Indigo Girls, accompanied by the Livermore-Amador Symphony.
The Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center offers wide-ranging programs that provide access to the arts for the Tri-Valley community and beyond. The Bankhead Theater, which houses the Livermore Visitor’s Center and Gallery, together with the Bothwell Arts Center, are home to nine resident performing arts companies and over 40 studio artists and cultural arts instructors. The Bankhead Theater ticket office at 2400 First Street in Livermore is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. On performance days the ticket office is open from two hours before to 30 minutes after the scheduled start of each show. Tickets are also available by calling (925) 373-6800, or online at www.lvpac.org.
Event: The Lettermen
Date/Time: Friday, July 21, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.
Venue: Bankhead Theater, 2400 First Street, Livermore
Price: $40-$80, $16 students and active military personnel
Tickets: Visit lvpac.org or call 925-383-6800