Gene Pitney Biography
It takes great talent to reach the very pinnacle of success in international showbusiness... and then stay firmly entrenched at the top of the tree for over thirty-five years! Outstanding Talent!!
But then... GENE PITNEY is a very talented guy. Not only is he a singer of great range and perception, and a musician of rare versatility, he is also a supreme professional at his chosen craft of entertaining... and no mean songwriter, either, with a string of million-selling international hits to his credit.
Since first breaking through to outstanding acclaim at about the same time the BEATLES were beginning to make waves internationally, GENE PITNEY has continued to travel the world delighting audiences year after year.
GENE PITNEY’S unique voice and presentation has ensured that the likes of “TWENTY FOUR HOURS FROM TULSA”, “ TOWN WITHOUT PITY”, “I’M GONNA BE STRONG”, and “LOOKIN THROUGH THE EYES OF LOVE” still sound fresh , vibrant and relevant for the nineties. In a career spanning almost forty years, during which time he has worked with artists ranging from THE ROLLING STONES, to BURT BACHARACH and PHIL SPECTOR, GENE PITNEY has maintained an appeal which has encompassed every spectrum of the record buying public, once again finding success in 1990 in an entirely new contemporary market with his worldwide Number One duet with MARC ALMOND, “SOMETHINGS GOTTEN HOLD OF MY HEART”.
Surprisingly, the single gave GENE his first Number One hit in the U.K.- his 1967 original version only hit Number Five, one of ten Top Ten British hits. Tagged as “The Odd Couple”, with GENE dressed in an immaculate white tuxedo and MARC in black leather, it was the fact that the pair were such opposites which made for a perfect combination and created one of 1990s biggest selling single records.
Although the single gave GENE his first hit for several years, he has always maintained an incredible touring profile with sell out tours throughout the world, working for an average of six months in every year. With an audience ranging from 5 to 105 years old, GENE enjoys the most diverse fan base that an artist could wish for. His fans are very loyal, and follow his shows each and every year.
The success of the “SOMETHINGS GOTTEN HOLD OF MY HEART” single resulted in a massive demand from the contemporary market for GENE’S sixties hits, whilst older fans wanted new recordings. A pleasant dilemma now being solved with GENE returning to his studio, which he has built at his home in CONNECTICUT.
Born of February 17th 1941 and raised in the small New England village of ROCKVILLE CONNECTICUT, GENE initially had no real ambitions to be a singer. He was more at home collecting stamps and coins, trapping mink and muskrat, and experimenting with electronics. He did however play in his own local band called “GENE PITNEY & THE GENIALS”. From this start he began to compose songs, gleaning inspiration from the beautiful New England countryside. An excellent student, GENE graduated to the WARDS ELECTRONICS SCHOOL ,where he started to study electronic engineering. Music would stop the electronics career but not before GENE would gain an insight into how the technical side of a recording studio worked.
GENES spare time, meanwhile was devoted to music and when his songwriting started to interfere with his electronics theory classes, he soon realized that music was taking over his life. In 1959, he started singing with a young girl called GINNY ARNELL and shortly afterwards he made his first single recording called “CLASSICAL ROCK & ROLL”. The “B” side was a duet called “STROLLIN THROUGH THE PARK”. Says GENE, “We called ourselves “JAMIE AND JANE”. I knew, however, I didn’t want a professional career in music with only a first name, or to be half of a duet, so I moved on to record “CRADLE OF MY ARMS” the next year under the name of “BILLY BRYAN”. In actual fact the record company had wanted to call me “HOMER MUZZY” he says. “Well, that was it.....I wasn’t going to go through life with a name like that! I decided it was time to start using my real name, GENE PITNEY!”.
GENES first real success as a writer came when the KALIN TWINS recorded his song, “LONLINESS”. “ And from that point, he says, I decided to concentrate more on writing songs instead of singing them”. It was exactly the right move for GENE to make at that point in his career as several of his songs were quickly recorded by some of the biggest stars of the day. STEVE LAWRENCE recorded “TEARS FROM HEAVEN”, TOMMY EDWARDS covered “BLUE HEARTACHES”, BILLY BLAND cut “HARMONY”, and ROY ORBISON released PITNEYS “TODAYS TEARDROPS” as the “B” side to his million selling 1960 single “BLUE ANGEL”. The same year “RUBBER BALL” became a world wide hit for U.S artist BOBBY VEE and U.K. artist, MARTY WILDE. They each went on to become MILLION SELLERS!
Now in heavy demand as a songwriter, GENE began to realize that he could sing his own songs just as well, or better, than the artists he was giving them to. In a small four track studio on 7th avenue in New York, and at the cost of about $30.00 he made a demonstration record of a self-penned song titled “I WANNA LOVE MY LIFE AWAY”. Although made on a shoestring budget, the record nevertheless had a very big sound. Utilizing his electronics experience and experimenting with multitracked vocals and over dubbing, GENE created a mini masterpiece in record production for the period and revolutionized recording techniques in the process. GENE actually sang SEVEN VOCALS on the recording, and played PIANO, GUITAR, AND DRUMS to keep the session costs down!
The actual 30 dollar demo was released as a single - the first to be released as GENE PITNEY - and reached No. 39 in the US charts and hit No. 26 in Britain. Says GENE, “I had just turned twenty and suddenly I was doing every television show, radio show and record hop they could book me into. When the hits really started coming, I was recording and touring almost simultaneously”.
At the same time GENE’S composition of “HELLO MARY LOU”, released by RICK NELSON, became a Top Five hit in America and all of Europe selling two million copies in the process. “HELLO MARY LOU” received a second “BMI MILLIONAIRE” award in 1997 having been performed over 2 million times in the U.S. market. GENE scored a second hit with “ EVERY BREATH I TAKE”, produced by PHIL SPECTOR, before achieving his first American top 20 hit and his first million selling single as an artist with “TOWN WITHOUT PITY”- taken from the movie of the same name for which GENE sang the title song. The song won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Song In A Motion Picture” and was nominated for an Oscar. GENE was invited to sing the song at the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, which was the very first time a POP artist had been invited to do so! It was an important performance for GENE as it established his name once and for all throughout America .
“The film was initially a box office disaster” comments GENE, but after the success of the record the film was re-released and became a huge hit. That’s the kind of power records had in those days !” Another movie theme, “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE”, gave him an immediate follow up hit, reaching Number 4 in the US chart to register his second Gold Disc. This song to this day is one of GENE’S most requested in concert performances.
The floodgates really opened at this point to an avalanche of further hits: “ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK A HEART” (his third million seller) “IF I DIDN’T HAVE A DIME” - which was the “B” side of “ Only Love Can Break A Heart” and actually made the US top 100 on it’s own merits; “HALF HEAVEN-HALF HEARTACHE”; “MECCA” ; “TRUE LOVE NEVER RUNS SMOOTH” AND “IT HURTS TO BE IN LOVE”.
GENE and PHIL SPECTOR consolidated their mutual admiration for each others work in the summer of 1962 when Spectors group THE CRYSTALS recorded the GENE PITNEY song- “HE’S A REBEL”. Within weeks of its release, the song stormed it’s way to the top of the American Hit Parade, sold a million... and actually deprived GENE PITNEY of making the coveted Number 1 spot himself. At the same time that “HE”S A REBEL” was at Number 1, GENE’S single “ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK A HEART” was stuck at Number 2!”. “HE’S A REBEL” received a “BMI MILLIONAIRE” award in 1998 for having surpassed one million airplays in the U.S..
In 1963 Pitney had great success throughout the world with his recording of “TWENTY FOUR HOURS FROM TULSA”. This song was the beachhead from which GENE PITNEY’S fame spread rapidly - and before long, he had established his name worldwide, developing huge followings in Italy, France, Germany, Latin America, Mexico, Japan, The Far East, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. He maintained a simple, but shrewd philosophy - “If a record breaks in any particular territory, then go there, show yourself, meet people - and make as big an initial impact as you possibly can”. This has paid off time and time again! Today, GENE PITNEY is one of the most traveled artistes in international showbusiness, regularly touring the world for concerts, cabaret and television appearances. He has been faithful to his maxim... and has enhanced his popularity in many countries further, by re-recording many of his English speaking hits in various native tongues.
With “TWENTY FOUR HOURS FROM TULSA” riding high in the British charts in November of 1963, GENE went to the country for a promotional tour. While appearing on the “THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS PROGRAM” he met the ROLLING STONES who were later to provide him with his next single. Although a seemingly unlikely combination, GENE and The Stones struck up an immediate rapport. MICK JAGGER and the band admired Pitney’s polish, his professionalism and were totally fascinated by his tremendous knowledge of recording techniques. Gene, on the other hand, liked the groups freshness and gutsy attitude. It was through PITNEY’S endorsement of the group in America, that certainly helped them to break through to U.S. success shortly afterwards. For their part, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards penned Gene’s next U.K. and U.S.A. hit record “THAT GIRL BELONGS TO YESTERDAY”, which became the first JAGGER/RICHARDS composition to hit the American Charts.
GENE returned the compliment by playing piano on the Stones “LITTLE BY LITTLE” which made up the flip side of “NOT FADE AWAY”. With Phil Spector playing maracas, and Gene on piano, they appeared on the groups first Decca album “THE ROLLING STONES”! The track “NOW I’VE GOT A WITNESS” is sub-titled “LIKE UNCLE PHIL AND UNCLE GENE”! Lying in the vaults are two further Stones songs- “AND THE ROLLING STONES MET PHIL AND GENE” and “MR. SPECTOR AND MR. PITNEY CAME TOO”- which have never been released commercially.
The success of “THAT GIRL BELONGS TO YESTERDAY” confirmed GENE PITNEY’S worldwide status as a singer and for the next few years he embarked on an extensive series of sell-out international tours, including exhausting coast to coast tours of America. An example of this is the 72 day “DICK CLARK CARAVAN OF STARS” tour which covered the U.S. north, south, east, and west including Hawaii and Canada! The hit singles followed with amazing regularity, reaching the charts not only in America and Europe, but all over the world - “IT HURTS TO BE IN LOVE”, “I MUST BE SEEING THINGS”, “I’M GONNA BE STRONG”, “LOOKIN THROUGH THE EYES OF LOVE” (yet another million seller), “PRINCESS IN RAGS”, “BACKSTAGE”, “NOBODY NEEDS YOUR LOVE”, “JUST ONE SMILE”, “SHE’S A HEARTBREAKER”, “SOMEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY”, “24 SYCAMORE”, “TRANS CANADA HIGHWAY” and “ BLUE ANGEL”.
His albums too, made large dents in international Hit Parades, including “JUST FOR YOU”, “BLUE GENE”, “GENE PITNEY’S BIG 16”, and “I’M GONNA BE STRONG”. In a unique marketing move, several albums were recorded specifically for individual markets including “GENE ESPANOL” and “GENE ITALIANO”.
He also broke through the barriers of country and western music, recording a number of country albums including “GENE PITNEY WITH GEORGE JONES”, “IT’S COUNTRY TIME AGAIN”, “GENE PITNEY & MELBA MONTGOMERY” AND “FAMOUS COUNTRY DUETS”, which once more opened up a brand new market! GENE also performed at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in Nashville with some other country greats such as Eddie Arnold, Buck Owens, Roy Clark, and Connie Smith. Says Gene, ”I like things to keep changing. I’ve seen too many artists left out in the cold because they relied on the same old sounds and same old type of songs”. At one time-as if to prove his point- he scored simultaneous hits in Europe, Britain, and on the American Pop and Country charts with four completely different songs.
Other highlights included many appearances at the celebrated San Remo Song Festival in Italy. GENE finished in second place twice with the songs “ QUANDO VE DRAI LA MIA RAGAZZA” and “NESSUNO MI PUO GIUDICARE”- the highest position awarded to a non Italian artist in the history of the Festival. “NESSUNO” went on to become a giant European hit and entering the American charts in the native language, selling over 1,000,000 copies. The same year GENE appeared at the Royal Variety Show in London and was presented to the Queen Mother. Several Shows followed for such royals as Princess Alexandra, Princess Margaret, and the Duchess of Kent.
In 1970 after spending nearly a decade on the road, for eleven months of every year, GENE decided to drastically cut back on his touring commitments. “I had a family at home, two boys starting to grow up, and I was getting a guilt complex about not being there with them. So, I decided to make a six month commitment to touring and spend the rest of the time at home with the family”. He decided to quit the long tours of the U.S., and without meaning to, found himself more and more in countries other than America, due to his love of traveling to places with different language, food, culture, etc.. “There is nothing more exciting to me than to get on that airplane and know I’m going to get off in a totally different country in a different part of the world”. His annual tours of Britain, Europe, and Australasia became a way of life. The plan was an outstanding success with every tour proving a sell out.
However, in 1983, when an agent gently twisted the PITNEY arm, GENE embarked on his first North American Tour in over a dozen years. It became a huge personal triumph. GENE PITNEY was back with a vengeance, though really, he’d never been away. He still keeps up a relentless touring commitment and it’s a tribute to his professionalism that his voice is now in fact stronger than ever before. GENE has always put total commitment and energy into his emotion charged live performance and always comes off stage completely drained. GENE keeps fit by working out in his gym at home, doing a 3 to 4 time a week upper body and cardiovascular program, involving weights and Nordictrack, and devised to keep him ready for the road. A necessity when touring is that every hotel must have a gym and swimming pool.
In the last few years many exciting things have happened to GENE both in the studio and performing. In 1993 GENE played the prestigious CARNEGIE HALL in New York City. It was on the very day of the bombing of THE WORLD TRADE CENTER. Gene Says, “ New Yorkers being New Yorkers, we still had a sell out show- No one stayed away”! The tour of the U.K. in the same year was another sell out and the closing show was at the beautiful LONDON PALADIUM. 1994 saw tours in the U.K. and Australia, the latter closing at the BURSEWOOD CASINO in PERTH. 1995 had GENE working the crowds at THE TAJ MAHAL in ATLANTIC CITY NEW JERSEY and doing a two part marathon 46 day tour in the U.K. in May/June and Oct/Nov. 1996 had GENE at the UNIVERSAL AMPHITHEATER in Los Angeles in February, followed by a 20 Concert tour of AUSTRALIA, and then a quick trip to Catania Italy. AND THEN HE RESTED!
1997 was another busy year with shows in LAS VEGAS, ATLANTIC CITY, FOXWOODS RESORT, ST. LOUIS, KANSAS CITY, BOSTON, THE NEW YORK STATE FAIR, and yet another 20 concert tour of AUSTRALIA finishing at the new MELBOURNE CASINO. 1998 started once again at THE FOXWOODS RESORT, followed by shows in LAUGHLIN NEVADA, MILWAUKEE SUMMERFEST, JONES BEACH LONG ISLAND, and DOLLYWOOD TENNESSEE. GENE performed songs in english and Italian on the prestigious television show “Ci Vediamo in Televisione” in MILAN in May. 1999 saw another sellout tour of Australia and ended with a 24 concert tour of ENGLAND, finishing at the beautiful LONDON PALLADIUM.
The year 2000 was a milestone for GENE with the PBS video recording of the live concert at the FOXWOODS RESORT. The first airing of the concert was in GENE’S home state of CT. and the pledge night was a huge success. This was followed by airings in BUFFALO, PITTSBURG, AKRON, and INDIANA. The national exposure to the concert was in December of 2001 on the PBS Network. All the mixing and audio work on the concert were done at GENE’S Recording studio by son Todd using the fantastic PRO TOOLS system. 2003 saw the release of the two CD set of the BRONZE/PITFIELD SONGS which include 24 titles including BLUE ANGEL, KILLING ME SOFTLY, IT’S A HEARTACHE, TRAIN OF THOUGHT, AND SKYLINE PIGEON. It can be found on Sanctuary Records.
The website www.genepitney.com has now been redone and Chad Evans has brought it up to date with a great new layout. The fotos on the site are from various parts of the world and include pics from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction and Gracie the new Akita puppy! 2005 has been a very exciting year with shows set all over the U.S., at Turning Stone Casino, Mohegan Sun Casino, Bushnell Performing Arts in Hartford, Kravis Center in Florida, Half Hollow Performing Arts in Long Island, Hershey Park Pa., and 23 concerts in Australia. 2006 is already busy with shows at Casino Rama in Canada, and 24 concerts in the U.K.. Work has begun on a Christmas CD, and things look exciting with a discussion going on for a return to Las Vegas in the near future.
Gene still lives in Connecticut, not far from where he was raised, in a big rambling Dutch Colonial house, set in an apple orchard, with his wife Lynne. Sons David, Todd, and Chris all live in Connecticut now so there is a lot of family life going on all the time!!
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