Doo - wop

Several doo-wop stars -- most of whom have shown up on the PBS specials -- will appear tonight in Columbus as part of "The Ultimate Doo-Wop Show" in the Ohio Theatre.

You might not know their names, but you probably know their music.

Whether it's Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs crooning through "Oh, won't you stay just a little bit longer" or the Edsels belting out Rama Lama Ding Dong, doo-wop endures.

PBS concert specials as well as strong-selling doo-wop compilations on the Rhino label have helped renew interest in the 1950s musical genre, known for its innocent lyrics and a cappella harmonies.

Several doo-wop stars -- most of whom have shown up on the PBS specials -- will appear tonight in Columbus as part of "The Ultimate Doo-Wop Show" in the Ohio Theatre.

In addition to Williams and the Edsels, the performers will include Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners (Since I Don't Have You), the Contours (Do You Love Me), the Reflections (Just Like Romeo & Juliet) and the Spaniels (Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight).

The longevity of doo-wop stems in part from its appeal beyond the catchy beat, said Ted McDaniel, professor of African-American music and director of jazz studies at Ohio State University.

"There is sort of a need to return to melody and harmony once again and tunes you can hum," said McDaniel, who teaches the class "Be-bop to Doo-Wop to Hip-Hop: An Exploration of the Rhythm and Blues Tradition."

"Doo-wop offers all of those ingredients."

Nostalgia for the 1950s and early '60s -- when the music reigned -- doesn't hurt, either.

"This music that these artists sing is a first love," said Henry Farag, the 63-year-old owner of Canterbury Productions, which helps present the touring show.

"You just never forget your first love. These songs are timeless. They're in everything: They are in movies, TV shows, on the radio. They have that staying power."

The concerts, Farag said, have drawn 2,500 to 3,200 fans.

"Overall, it (the tour) is doing really well."

Tom Von Ohlen, a 58-year-old doo-wop lover from Columbus who has seen the PBS specials, plans to attend the show tonight.

"You can kind of remember what you were doing when some of that stuff came out," he said. "It's amazing that time hasn't really done anything to those classic songs."

Because doo-wop began its evolution when pop music still had regional stars, Farag said, he tailors each show to the city.

So the lineup in Columbus doesn't mirror the one in, say, Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; or Seattle.

"We know the area well, since we do a lot of shows in Toledo, Cincinnati and Cleveland," he said. "There are a lot of great groups from the Midwest, and we wanted to represent that with groups like the Contours and the Spaniels, and Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners."

Most of the acts, including Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs, have performed periodically since the 1950s.

Thanks to their ties with the audience, their shows have an intimacy they didn't before, said Williams, 67, of Charlotte.

"We grew up together (with fans), and there is a beautiful bond we have because of that," said Williams, whose 1960 No. 1 hit, Stay, was featured in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. "I think most doo-wop singers feel that way."

Kathy Young, who became a star at age 15 with the 1960 hit A Thousand Stars, took about three decades off from music to raise a family.

She returned to the stage almost 15 years ago, doing about a dozen shows a year.

These days, she performs up to four times a month.

"To walk out onstage now and to watch people's faces is just absolutely wonderful," said Young, 62, of Pasadena, Calif. "I can see their smiles. They are going back in their hearts and their memories to that first kiss. It's really special."

Some doo-wop classics have also enjoyed second lives.

The 1959 Skyliners hit Since I Don't Have You, for example, was introduced to another generation in 1993, when Guns N' Roses recorded it.

"People say they (the songs) can stand up in today's market, and that makes me feel good," said Beaumont, 67, of Pittsburgh.

Yet nothing else approaches the original groups, including those performing tonight.

"People see that not only can they still sing," Farag said, "but they're like fine wine: They sound better."

Dispatch Reporter Aaron Beck contributed to this story.

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Who's on tap?

The performers for "The Ultimate Doo-Wop Show" tonight in the Ohio Theatre:

Jimmy Beaumont (below) and the Skyliners

The Contours

Daddy G & the Church Street Five

The Edsels

The El Dorados

The Magnificents

The Reflections

The Spaniels

Maurice Williams & the Zodiacs

Kathy Young