Tommy James & The Shondells have easily sung "Mony Mony" and "I Think We're Alone Now" thousands of times over their 50-year career - and for them, the hits are still as fresh as they ever were.
"For one thing, we're very lucky to have the fans we have," James says in an interview from his home in Cedar Grove, Essex County. "I see literally three generations of people (in the crowds). The music has never not been on the radio, and it's always been available to people. When we started out, I never thought we'd be doing it for 50 years - honestly, I thank the good Lord."
James & The Shondells, singer Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night and The Happenings will headline the upcoming Sensational Spring Concert Weekend in the Wildwoods on Friday, April 26, and Saturday, April 27. The Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce presents the two-day celebration, which features the Wildwoods' role as the birthplace of rock 'n' roll music.
The weekend festivities kick off 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 26, with a dance party in the Oceanfront Arena at the Wildwoods Convention Center. The dance party, featuring the Sensational Soul Cruisers, will include hits from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and today.
On Saturday, the free Sensational Street Fair takes place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fox Park, located at Burk and Ocean avenues directly across the street from the Wildwoods Convention Center. The Street Fair will include food vendors, a classic car show, a Doo Wop bus tour and contests, along with free live entertainment featuring the Rocktologists, Green River and Who's Next.
James & The Shondells, Negron and The Happenings will take to the stage 7 p.m. Saturday.
"We're going to play the hits, of course, and maybe even sneak in a new one or so," says James, who is currently working with producer Barbara De Fina to turn his bestselling book, "Me, the Mob and the Music," into a movie.
James, who often visited Wildwood when he was young, says he has great memories of the resort from the original doo-wop years.
"Wildwood is one of those places that's sort of magical," James says. "The last time we played there we had a great time. It's one of those places that when you play it, everyone sort of lets their hair down and just has a great time. I have great memories of Wildwood."
Negron, too, promises fans a nonstop string of hits when his Chuck Negron Band takes to the Wildwoods stage.
"Well, they're going to hear about 16 of the 21 hits that Three Dog Night had - one hit after another," Negron says. "What is going to happen is these people are going to go, 'Oh my God, I forgot they sang that!' or they go, 'Oh, that's right, they did that!' So, it's a wonderful walk down memory lane."
As for playing his band's most famous songs - almost anyone knows the famous first line "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" from "Joy to the World" - Negron keeps his sense of humor.
"The thing is, the benefit of this is old age - I don't remember doing any of these songs," Negron says, laughing. "What I do is, I change it up, the arrangement, and I extend solos. I don't do anything to the songs people remember, but I do add to solos and throw some harmonies in, and I call out the songs, so everyone is on their toes, and I'm on my toes. I'm reading the audience, and that keeps it fresh and exciting and keeps the songs new.
"But I have to tell you, another thing is, I do these songs in the original keys," Negron says. "I warm up an hour before. I really have to be ready and prepared. It's an adventure, because it's not easy. And especially with 'Joy to the World,' that's in high D."
For Negron, who has overcome decades of drug addiction that he claims nearly killed him, being on the road is all part of his second chance at life.
"To go out and (perform) six nights a week is a challenge," Negron says. "It's a mental and physical challenge, and you must prepare. So I'm actually working out and doing stuff to get ready to see if I can pull it off - the way I want to, not just mailing it in.
"But you know what - I have a good thing. I'm so grateful that I was given another chance. Now, I'm a little beat up and the waiter has kind of come with the check, you know? But, at least I look good. Every day, in some way, I say, 'God, thank you.'"