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Posted on Thu. Jun. 19, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

The Hit Men will play songs they helped make pop-rock hits during concert Saturday at Foellinger Outdoor Theatre

Hit Men members played with The Four Seasons, Carly Simon and others.

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Playing the hits

What: The Hit Men, a group of musicians who performed with bands whose songs were big hits in the '60s, '70s and '80s, will play the music they helped make famous.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Foellinger Theatre, 3411 Sherman Blvd. in Franke Park

Cost: $15, $20, $25 and $30. Tickets are available at 427-6000 or 427-6715 (day of show), 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays at the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department, 705 E. State Blvd., and 6-10 p.m. on concert days at the Foellinger Theatre box office.

The band

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Band members:

•Lee Shapiro has performed with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Barry Manilow, Bob Gaudio and Paul Schaffer.

•Gerry Polci has performed with Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and Barry Manilow.

•Jimmy Ryan has performed with The Critters, Carly Simon, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Elton John and Kiki Dee.

•Larry Gates has performed with Desmond Child, Phoebe Snow, Carole King, Janis Ian and Rick Derringer.

•Russ Velazquez has performed with Sting, Carole King, The Ramones, LL Cool J, Luther Vandross, Korn, Paula Abdul and Chicago.


The Hit Men are coming to Fort Wayne.

No, they're not the Tony Sopranos type of hit men. The Hit Men are a five-piece music ensemble composed of former hit-makers from the '60s, '70s and '80s, and they are more than just a tribute band.

Back in the day, these guys played the original music. Leading the Billboard charts, they played with bands including Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Tommy James & The Shondells, The Critters, Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Barry Manilow, Elton John and Kiki Dee.

Today, these great musicians have united to go on tour again and relive the magic they created on stages around the world and in recording studios years ago. The Hit Men will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday as part of the summer concert series at Foellinger Outdoor Theatre, 3411 Sherman Blvd. in Franke Park.

At the concert, the audience can experience the hits of the '60s, '70s and '80s the way they were first heard.

Lee Shapiro, formerly of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, said the music will take you back in time.

“People that come to us after the show sometimes come with a tear in their eye because they feel young again,” Shapiro said. “They say they remember the time in high school hearing the songs, and it brings them back to that moment. It creates quite a mood.”

He said a Hit Men performance is more than a tribute band.

“There are plenty of bands that are tributes, but the difference between them and us is that we were there,” Shapiro said. “When we tell a story, it's something the audience hasn't heard and it's gospel — absolutely the truth.”

And does Shapiro love to tell stories about the golden oldies.

He recalled the moment he knew he wanted to be a musician:

“I started taking piano lessons as a young boy at 8 years old. And then, when I was 11years old, I was watching 'The Ed Sullivan Show' with my mother and The Four Seasons came on, and I said to my mother, 'Look, this group is not just guitars! They have a piano player, and I could be in a band like that someday.' Then, eight years later, at the age of 19, I replaced Bob Gaudio on keyboard (in The Four Seasons).

“Honestly, the whole thing was surreal,” he said. “I was just a kid from Glenrock, N.J. Then I found myself with my name on the marquee playing on the strip in Las Vegas, and I thought to myself, 'Isn't this something. This is just like how it's supposed to be,'”

The Hit Men will perform classics such as “Oh, What a Night,” “Who Loves You,” “My Eyes Adore You,” “Leroy Brown,” “Mony, Mony,” “Hanky Panky” and much more.

All in all, Shapiro said the most important part of the performance is in the message.

“The message is that you will leave happier and younger than when you walked in,” he said.

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