Singer strives to reignite embers of once-hot doo-wop

By LOGAN NEILL, Times Staff Writer
Published January 11, 2008

SPRING HILL - It's Tommy Mara's passion to keep alive the music that made him so happy as a youngster. So much so that it makes the Spring Hill singer wish he had been born about 10 years earlier, when doo-wop singing was at its zenith - back when '50s-era groups such as the Moonglows, Danny and the Juniors, the Platters and the Flamingos could be heard in every malt shop around the country.

Though Mara cannot turn back the hands of time, he regularly gets to do the next best thing by sharing the stage with some of the best voices in doo-wop. As lead singer with the Legends of Doo Wop, Mara stands front and center in a sonorous quartet that includes doo-wop originals Frank Mancuso the Imaginations, Steve Horn (the Five Sharks) and Jimmy Gallagher (the Passions).

For the Brooklyn-born Mara, it's like having his own slice of music heaven.

"I get a big thrill singing with these guys," Mara said. "To me, the music they created is timeless, something that should never be allowed to die. As long as I'm around, my goal is to see that it keeps going."

The group, which will perform two shows Saturday at Mariner United Methodist Church in Spring Hill, has a worldwide following and regularly draws sellout crowds. Mara, who joined the Legends two years ago as the replacement for original lead singer Tony Passalaqua, believes that doo-wop is the true essence of what rock 'n' roll was originally meant to be.

"It was community music," said Mara, who was born Tommy Marasciullo 52 years ago in Brooklyn, N.Y. "You didn't need guitars, drums or keyboards. You rounded up four or five friends from down the street and just started harmonizing. You just kept working on it until it sounded good."

During the mid 1950s, doo-wop ruled the airwaves, particularly in the Northeast, where radio stations broadcast songs such as Frankie Lymon's Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, the Marcels' Blue Moon and the Crests' Sixteen Candles, a 1958 smash hit that so enchanted Mara as a youngster that he revived the group in the late 1990s and became its lead singer.

In addition to his vocal role with the Legends of Doo Wop, Mara also stages several doo-wop concerts each year, including an upcoming all-girl-group show at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at Springstead High School that will feature the Bobbettes, the Chiffons, Barbara Lewis and Shirley Alston Reeves.

Said Mara: "Doo-wop is on fire right now, and I think it has to do with the fact that the people who used to listen to it as kids realized how much they missed it."

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.


Legends of Doo Wop

The Community Performing Arts Guild will present the Legends of Doo Wop, a vocal group featuring singers Jimmy Gallagher, Tommy Mara, Frank Mancuso and Steve Horn, at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Mariner United Methodist Church, 7079 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. A limited number of free tickets are available. For information, call Phyllis at (352) 544-1068.