Note from Steve Vassallo, HottyToddy.com contributor: Lou Christie is one of the most exciting singer-songwriters/entertainers there has ever been in the history of American pop music. Lou is a product of the “baby boomer” generation who continues to perform regularly throughout the country and beyond. HottyToddy.com caught up with Lou recently in New York City between performances.
HottyToddy.com — Lou, You are a fabulous “on stage” entertainer. Are there special places you have performed that stand out where you enjoyed the most?
Lou Christie — I like to live in the moment and, rather than focus on places, I relish most, those audiences who give me standing ovations because I know how hard is for people to stand up these days. (LOL) The baby boomers have been so wonderful to me and continue to appreciate my performances. It just keeps getting better and better for all of us!
HottyToddy.com — Have you ever performed in Mississippi or on the Ole Miss campus?
Lou Christie—Mississippi for sure. Possibly not on the campus. I recently performed in Biloxi with Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell (The Golden Boys). When I was touring with the Dick Clark Caravan we may have included the Ole Miss campus, but I do not recall offhand.
HottyToddy.com — Lightning Strikes is an all-time classic. How did this hit come about?
Lou Christie — I wrote it! I wrote most all of my hits with Twyla Herbert who was a classic pianist. Together we made a fabulous team. We would start with a title and go from there. We enjoyed telling stories through the music and, creativity was paramount in our thought process. I was passionate about obtaining the right sound for the record and creating that certain magic which was critical to the success.
HottyToddy.com — Tell us a little about the early years when you were first getting started. Was there a key break that occurred, which was significant?
Lou Christie — Yes! The 15 minutes it took to write “The Gypsy Cried” with Twyla. We would start out on the piano. We wanted to create a certain sound for the girls who sang the backgrounds…my sister Amy, Twyla’s daughter, Shirley, and a high school friend Kay were my original background singers. I had fun in making records. I always worked backwards from the title but the hook was always the most important part.
HottyToddy.com — You have made some great friends throughout your career. Are there a few extra special individuals among the many?
Lou Christie — Dickey Lee is definitely one of these. Such a great individual! There are just so many that singling out several is very difficult. Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Gene Pitney, Roy Orbison and Diana Ross were all close friends and I treasure all the great times. Even now, Neil Sedaka, Jay Siegel (from the Token), Dion and I have dinner together regularly.
HottyToddy.com — What is life like for you in 2014? Are you still excited “about the music”?
Lou Christie — Absolutely! I recently had two sold-out performances in Lancaster, PA. (I am a native of Pennsylvania.) I am not slowing down by any means and I’m also continuing to do writing on the side. I am frequently on Sirius Radio with my own show and guest on the Cousin Brucie Show from time to time where I enjoy telling stories and spinning records. Coming up real soon is an Italian Festival in New Jersey where I’ll be performing. Then, it’s on to Denver and California.
HottyToddy.com — The 1960’s was the greatest decade for music according to many. How did the Beatles impact this era in your opinion?
Lou Christie — They turned everyone’s head around. Paul and Paula first told me about the Beatles. They actually changed the world in so many ways. The hair, clothes and even the way we thought all were impacted. This was the beginning of the sexual revolution. They accomplished a mix of “our stuff” from the 50’s with their own style.
HottyToddy.com — Are there any of their songs you enjoyed most?
Lou Christie — There were so many songs that’s it very difficult to pick…everything was so creative. “The Long and Winding Road”, “Hey Jude”, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and The Sgt Pepper album were extra special to me. I was glad to hear John Lennon’s comments about loving my music. He used to call me “Lightning Lou” and loved my sound.
HottyToddy.com — Who was the most interesting individual or group you ever performed for?
Lou Christie — Probably the Royal Family of England. However, the average person who really enjoys my shows is the most meaningful to me as I came from this “working class” environment. I like regular people who are into the top 40 songs and who purchased these 45’s once upon a time as I did. This is who I am and who I was!
HottyToddy.com — Of all the other entertainers, who influenced you the most and why?
Lou Christie — Everyone influenced me! I picked up things from watching and observing the best. Performers such as Chuck Berry; Diana Ross; Jackie Wilson; James Brown; and Brenda Lee are among those who left a “lasting impression” with me. And the list goes on…
HottyToddy.com — When you were at the peak of your popularity were there famous female vocalists who got your attention?
Lou Christie — Diana Ross, Annette Funicello and Connie Stevens were all in that group. Annette and I were featured once in a teen magazine because of a party we attended together. I thought I had arrived! Connie Francis and I recently performed a tribute to the music of Neil Sedaka in New York at Lincoln Center
HottyToddy.com — What is the most favorite song that you have recorded? Everyone else?
Lou Christie — My own songs are all very important to me. Each one has it’s own special memory. “Lightning Strikes” actually went to No. 1 on my birthday, February 19, 1966. One that I did not write, “Beyond The Blue Horizon,” is a song that so many people identify with and constantly tell me that it holds a special meaning for them. As far as songs by other artist, there are just so many. How does one single any out? Diana’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is one of the greatest records ever made. The Skyliners, “Since I Don’t Have You” is right up there in my top ten.
HottyToddy.com — Did you ever meet Dean Martin? If so, what was he like?
Lou Christie — I actually never met him, but I knew his son, Dino, (of the group Dino, Desi and Billy), quite well. We played a show in Hawaii together. Last year I worked with his daughter Deana at an Italian Festival. Both were incredibly nice people.
HottyToddy.com — Your sound is so unique. At what age did you realize that you had a special “God-given gift”?
Lou Christie — I didn’t realize it all. There was always music and singing around our house. The entire family sang so I thought everyone could. I never realized that it was a ‘special gift’. My family had 109 acres which was an escape for me where I could work and sing. I used the falsetto voice in order to get the DJ’s attention right out of the box. There were so many records being released and I knew I needed some special sound to capture people’s attention…and it worked!!!
HottyToddy.com — Where can Mississippians travel to coming up soon to see you perform?
Lou Christie— I travel most of the year. I’ll be in New Jersey, then I head out to Colorado, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland…and the list goes on. My touring schedule is constantly being updated but you can get the latest information by checking my website www.louchristie.com . Thank you Steve, I really enjoyed speaking with you. I appreciate your interest in my music & career. Lou Christie
If you have never seen this incredible talent perform, you owe yourself this favor! My wife and I were fortunate to see Lou in Nashville years ago on the same program with Lesley Gore. I have never forgotten it! He is one of the greatest “on stage performers” ever and is right up there with Jagger and the rest!
Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. In addition, he is a certified economic and community developer and currently, a highly successful leader in the real estate business with Premier Properties of Oxford. Steve’s lifelong dream has been to live in Oxford full-time. “I am now living my dream daily as is my wife Rosie, who works with the Oxford Chamber of Commerce,” Steve said. You can contact Steve at email@example.com or call him at 985-852-7745.