Northeast Times

The Fabulous life of Charlie Gracie

The Charlie Gracie doc­u­ment­ary Fab­ulous, which is be­ing re-re­leased at Cannstat­ter’s, will in­clude more than a dozen nev­er-be­fore-seen in­ter­views and foot­age.

The Charlie Gracie doc­u­ment­ary Fab­ulous de­b­uted in 2006, and dir­ect­or/pro­du­cer Shawn Swords be­lieves it’s time for a fol­low-up film.

“A lot has happened with Charlie the last five years,” he said of the vet­er­an sing­er and gui­tar pi­on­eer.

Cannstat­ter’s, at 9130 Academy Road, has the hon­or of host­ing Sunday’s re-re­lease, which in­cludes some ma­ter­i­al con­tained in the ori­gin­al, more than a dozen nev­er-be­fore-seen in­ter­views and foot­age of the last five years.

Swords, the founder of Char­ac­ter Driv­en Pro­duc­tions, said the ad­di­tion­al in­ter­views add emo­tion and depth to the film and give view­ers a bet­ter feel of Gracie’s im­pact on the Phil­adelphia mu­sic scene. The 65-minute film is 10 minutes longer than the ori­gin­al.

“There are more testi­mo­ni­als in this one,” said Swords, who fin­ished the edit­ing pro­cess last week­end.

Among those ap­pear­ing in the new film are Chubby Check­er, Tommy James, Little An­thony, Freddy Can­non and Len Barry. There is new mu­sic by Gra­ham Nash, Peter Noone and, of course, Gracie.

The ori­gin­al Gracie film fol­lowed Black­thorn: It’s an Ir­ish Thing, a doc­u­ment­ary on the pop­u­lar Phil­adelphia-based Ir­ish-Amer­ic­an rock band that was shown on UPN 57 close to St. Patrick’s Day.

In March 2006, Fab­ulous premiered at the Delray Beach Film Fest­iv­al in Flor­ida. Gotham Dis­tri­bu­tion picked up the doc­u­ment­ary, which was shown on WHYY Chan­nel 12 and is avail­able at more than 30 re­tail­ers.

On Sunday, doors will open at 4 p.m. for a meet-and-greet ses­sion. The film will start at 4:45, fol­lowed by a con­cert by Gracie.

“He’s still got the goods,” Swords said of the en­ter­tain­er, who turned 75 in May. “He can play.”

After the con­cert, there will be a screen­ing of The Wages of Spin, a doc­u­ment­ary dir­ec­ted and pro­duced by Swords. The 65-minute film cov­ers the Phil­adelphia mu­sic scene from 1952-63, primar­ily fo­cus­ing on Band­stand and Amer­ic­an Band­stand hosts Bob Horn and Dick Clark and the con­gres­sion­al pay­ola hear­ings of the 1960s.

Swords said the Gracie film and con­cert alone are worth the $25 price of ad­mis­sion, adding that guests will also get a first peek at The Wages of Spin.

“By the time it gets on TV here, it will be six months,” he said.

The show­case, though, will be Gracie.

Charlie Gracie grew up at 735 Pierce St. in South Phil­adelphia. He signed with Cameo Re­cords in 1956 and had his biggest hit the fol­low­ing year with But­ter­fly.

Gracie’s oth­er Top 40 hit was Fab­ulous.

The film chron­icles his met­eor­ic rise, which in­cluded tours with Chuck Berry, the Everly Broth­ers and Bo Diddley and ap­pear­ances on the Ed Sul­li­van Show and Amer­ic­an Band­stand.

Gracie’s star began to fall when he sued Cameo for un­paid roy­al­ties. After a set­tle­ment, he said he was black­lis­ted from the ra­dio and Amer­ic­an Band­stand.

For many years, he played at the pop­u­lar former Moore’s In­let in North Wild­wood, N.J.

Today, Gracie lives in Drexel Hill, Delaware County. He re­cently re­turned from a month-long tour of Italy, Eng­land and Wales.

The sing­er is a mem­ber of the Rocka­billy Hall of Fame, the Phil­adelphia Mu­sic Hall of Fame and the Great Bri­tain Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; has a bronze plaque on the Phil­adelphia Walk of Fame on the Av­en­ue of the Arts; and is a suc­cess­ful fund-raiser for WHYY.

AB­KCO Re­cords has re­leased Gracie’s latest com­pact disc, For the Love of Charlie, which in­cludes mu­sic from Nash and Noone.

Gracie per­formed at Cannstat­ter’s in a March con­cert that also fea­tured Bill Haley’s Ori­gin­al Comets. He’s also booked to play there on New Year’s Eve, so Cannstat­ter’s was an ob­vi­ous choice for the new re­lease of Fab­ulous.

“He’s got a fol­low­ing in the North­east,” Swords said. “His shows al­ways do well up there.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

Have a Fab­ulous time …

The doc­u­ment­ary Fab­ulous: 5th An­niversary Edi­tion will premiere this Sunday at Cannstat­ter’s, 9130 Academy Road.

Doors open at 4 p.m. for a meet-and-greet ses­sion. The film will be­gin at 4:45, fol­lowed by a live mu­sic­al set from Charlie Gracie and a screen­ing of The Wages of Spin.

Tick­ets cost $25. Guests can also or­der din­ner for an ad­di­tion­al charge.

Tick­ets will be avail­able at the door or in ad­vance by call­ing 215-983-5200. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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