The Hit Men perform in Wilkes Oct. 11

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Article Published: Oct. 3, 2013 | Modified: Oct. 12, 2013
The Hit Men perform in Wilkes Oct. 11

The Hit Men, featuring Lee Shapiro, Gerry Polci, Jimmy Ryan, Larry Gates and Russ Velazquez, will perform Oct. 11 in Wilkesboro.

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The Walker Center, on the campus of Wilkes Community College, will present The Hit Men on Friday, Oct. 11, at 8 p.m.

This super-group is comprised of musicians, vocalists, arrangers and composers who actually were the Four Seasons who sang with Frankie Valli.

They have played with The Critters, Carly Simon, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens, Barry Manilow and Elton John, and their legacy includes hundreds of hit records from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

Lee Shapiro is a music producer, arranger and musician who has been involved in the New York music scene for more than three decades. After Valli’s road manager saw him perform at a club in New Jersey, Shapiro became one of the celebrated Four Seasons as both an arranger and on keys.

He toured the world with the band, performing classic hits and acting as the musical director and arranger on others, including “Oh, What a Night” and “Who Loves You.” These experiences gave Shapiro the vehicle to meet and collaborate with a wide variety of stars, including co-producing the score to “Copacabana the Musical” with Barry Manilow and collaborating with music icons Bob Gaudio, Charlie Calello, Jimmy and Jerry Vivino, Paul Shaffer and Will Lee.

Gerry Polci began his professional career at 14, playing drums and singing at private parties and nightclubs throughout the Tri-State area. After studying as the protégé of renowned drummer and technician Joe Morello, Polci became one of the Four Seasons in 1973.

His recordings with the group became worldwide hits, most notably “Who Loves You,” “Silver Star” and “Oh, What a Night,” on which he sang lead. As one of the Four Seasons, Polci also recorded music with various artists in New York and Los Angeles for television shows and commercials and worked as the musical director on a series of Manilow television specials.

Jimmy Ryan began his career in the ’60s as lead guitarist, vocalist and one of the songwriters for The Critters. The band went on to become a national phenomenon with three top hits, including “Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me,” which Ryan wrote. After The Critters dissolved, Ryan continued his career in the ’70s as the lead guitarist, backup vocalist, arranger and occasional co-writer with Carly Simon.

He has also recorded albums with many other artists, most notably Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Kiki Dee, receiving gold and platinum records in the process. Currently, Ryan composes music for film and TV. To date, he has scored 38 films, two award-winning documentaries for NBC, music for the 1998 Winter Olympics and the theme for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney.

Larry Gates has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business. As a composer and lyricist, he has co-written songs with multi-Grammy Award-winner Desmond Child, Tony and Emmy award-winner Larry Hochman, Izzy James and platinum record and Grammy-winner Daniel Freiberg.

At The Hit Factory in New York City, Gates worked with artists Janis Ian, Rick Derringer and others. He is currently working on a vocal album of his own, alongside his duties in The Hit Men, that will include original songs, as well as covers of favorite classics. Long-time friend, former Four Seasons member and Hit Men band mate Shapiro is co-producing.

Russ Velazquez, an award-winning and Emmy-nominated singer, composer, arranger and producer, is the latest addition to The Hit Men. He is a highly sought-after studio musician who has performed on thousands of studio sessions.

Velazquez has worked with many diverse artists, including Sting, Carole King, the Ramones, LL Cool J, Luther Vandross, Korn and Paula Abdul. He is a four-time Emmy-nominated composer and arranger for his work on the children’s television show, “Sesame Street,” and had a No. 1 record on the children’s charts and Radio Disney for his song, “2BA Master,” the “Pokemon” CD title song.

Additionally, Velazquez has composed, arranged, produced and performed several popular TV themes and shows.

A limited number of tickets are available for The Hit Men’s Walker Center performance. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Walker Center box office at (336) 838-6260 or (walker.boxoffice@wilkescc.edu)

The Walker Center is located on the campus of Wilkes Community College, located at 1328 S. Collegiate Drive in Wilkesboro. For more information, call (336) 838-6260 or visit http://www.walkercenteronline.org.

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