The Vogues and Gary Puckett & The Union Gap to bring '60s harmonies to The Maryland Theatre
People young and old are likely to recognize the tunes of songs like “Five O’Clock World,” “My Special Angel,” “Moments to Remember,” and “Earth Angel,” if not by name then by hearing.
The Vogues, the vocal group that began topping the charts with those hits in the 1960s, toured internationally, appeared on American Bandstand, The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show, and in 2001 was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The songs live on through popular culture in appearances in films like “Good Morning, Vietnam” and as the theme song for “The Drew Carey Show.” On Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m., The Vogues and the Latshaw Pops Orchestra will perform at The Maryland Theatre as special guests with Gary Puckett & The Union Gap.
Troy Elich, 43, of The Vogues spoke with a Herald-Mail reporter from his home in Pittsburgh, Pa., the town from which his band hails. Troy’s father, Stan Elich, who passed away in 2010, was one of the longest-standing members of the group. The band’s original lineup consisted of lead baritone Bill Burkette, baritone Don Miller, first tenor Hugh Geyer, and second tenor Chuck Blasko. Bill Burkette just passed away in 2018.
“My dad was not an original member, but if you calculate the cumulative time, he was in the group longer than the originals were,” Troy Elich said. “He sang with Bill and Hugh for almost 10 years. So he was not on the earliest recordings, but everybody in the world that was a fan assumed he was an original.”
Elich, who began singing with The Vogues 19 years ago when he was just 24, grew up surrounded by the band and its music.
“My earliest memories at like age three are of me playing a little drum set, playing along to recordings. I always knew what I wanted to do. Going to college and becoming the CEO of an industry was not going to happen for me. I wanted to be in music,” he said.
While Elich enjoyed the music of the ’80s hair bands of his day, he was “always a vocal harmony guy.”
“I always had an appreciation for people who can sing harmonies and do it well. I knew about it personally because it was my dad’s livelihood,” he said.
When Elich began touring with The Vogues, the group was on the road around 250 days a year.
“We could come home, do laundry, try to sleep for a day, then head back out for a week or ten days,” he said.
Performing in the Hagerstown area is special and memorable to Elich, he said, because one of the first gigs he played with The Vogues was in Garrett County, Md., and the next gig was near Hagerstown.
The music of The Vogues continues to resonate with people over the decades, Elich said, because it’s happy.
“Sometimes, you look out into the audience and see a smile on their faces while they are singing. You think, ‘They are back at senior prom right now.’ Sometimes we joke, ‘Thankfully you are out there singing. We are watching you for the words,’” Elich said.
Other times, the walk down memory lane is bittersweet.
“Sometimes we see people crying, tears running down their face,” Elich said. “People will tell us after the concert, ‘That was our song. My sweetheart was killed in Vietnam. We danced to “Turn Around Look at Me,” at senior prom, and he was gone a year later.’”
Overall, though, the music was upbeat and simple, “not trying to make any kind of political message.”
“‘Five O’Clock World’ is about a working stiff. Everybody hates to get up to go to work. You don’t want to. The only thing that keeps you going is coming home to a wife or girlfriend,” Elich said. “Even the later hits are that way. The ballads and love songs have these big, fat vocal harmonies that are pleasing to the ear. If you play the records backwards, there is no hidden message. They are happy and simple.”
The messages are simple, but the harmonies are not.
“Not everyone can sing these songs. You have to be trained. That’s why we usually recycle the same people. Not any guy singing karaoke in a bar is going to be able to sing them. You need to understand the dynamics to understand the complexities and the nuances,” Elich said.
While The Vogues do not tour regularly with Gary Puckett & The Union Gap or The Latshaw Pops Orchestra, he said, the three groups are complementary and do perform together from time to time. Gary Puckett & The Union Gap garnered six gold records and is known for such hits as “Young Girl,” “This Girl Is a Woman Now” and many more. Elich said Puckett’s voice is powerful and remains strong.
The Latshaw Pops Orchestra is a group of 30 professional musicians that formed in 2004 and performs American standards, Broadway show tunes, swing songs, and tunes from Hollywood films.
Top photo: Troy Elich, 43, of The Vogues, grew up around the group. His father, Stan Elich, who passed away in 2010, was one of its longest-standing members. (Submitted photo)