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(Just Like) Romeo And Juliet
Growing up in Redfern Township, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan in the late 40s and mid-50s, Tony Micale and his close buddy, Ed Kominsky would spend hours listening to Ed’s immense record collection. “Eddie had a huge collection of R&B records that we would listen to everyday. We also heard the latest pop records on the local radio. When Eddie would sing a part from an Everly Brothers song, I would sing harmony with him. We liked what we heard, so we started singing together,” said Micale. (1)
One of those places the two would meet was in Kensington Park, where a number of singers would strut their stuff. “When we heard someone singing, we would just join in,“ Tony remembered. “We would sing because that would attract the girls. “ It wasn’t long before Tony was part of a group called The Parisians. “Guys would drift in and out of the group, so they would be replaced,” he said. (1) Much the same could be said for other groups. Finally, when John Dean and Danny Benny joined Phil Castrodale, Ray Steinberg and Tony, the mix was right for something special.
No photo credit available.
From 1961-64, the group stayed together. John recalled how the group decided on their name, The Reflections. “We used to rehearse at Tony’s house in the living room where there was a floor-to-ceiling mirror. We would line up and watch our moves in the reflection of that mirror as we rehearsed. We referred to the reflections so much that the name stuck,” recalled John. (1)
The Reflections worked sock hops, parties and just about any venue they could. Their first song was You Said Goodbye on the Kay-Ko label. “We worked with Patsy Cline, Jackie Wilson, Ann-Margaret, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison at a local armory,” Tony recalled. “We would hype the song at one record hop, jump in the car to the next stop and do it again, sometimes as many as five a night,“ Tony remembered.
They also played Detroit’s large venues: The 20 Grand Club, the Graystone Ballroom, the Latin Quarter, Club 182 and the Fox sharing the bill with then-current Motown artists Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and the Four Tops.
The song and the local exposure caught the attention of Ed Wingate, owner of the 20 Grand Club who was just starting Golden World Records with partner, Joanne Bratton. Among Wingate's first employees were former Motown staff writer Freddie Gorman and songwriter Bob Hamilton. One of their first collaborations was (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet.
L-R Top: Phil Castrodale and Danny Benny. Bottom: John Dean and Tony Micale.
Photo courtesy of the William Morris Agency
The Reflections were the first group hired by the fledgling company. While the Detroit studio was being built, the background track was recorded at nearby United Sound Studios. The vocal track was recorded at RCA Studios in Chicago a few weeks later.
The group never took the song seriously. All they heard on the demo was a piano and the voice of Bob Hamilton, who arranged the song. “We didn’t have an idea of what his vision for the song was,” Tony explained. “We thought it was a bubblegum song. When we learned it, we mimicked the songwriters. We decided to add some falsetto ‘doo-doo-doots’ as a joke. What surprised us was that Bob turned around and told us, ‘I like that. Keep that in!’ That hook then became our trademark.” (2)
They never heard the backing track until it was played for them in Chicago. “When we heard the backing track, we just couldn’t believe how strong it was,” Tony remembered. They needed just three takes to perfect the final vocal track. “We've loved the song ever since,” recalled Tony.
There were rumors of members of the elite Funk Brothers moonlighting on the backing track. James Jamerson on bass, Dennis Coffey was on guitar, Mike Terry on sax, with Benny Benjamin on drums — are all part of speculation surrounding this hit.
(Just Like) Romeo And Juliet entered the Billboard Hot 100 on April 11, 1964 where it stayed for twelve weeks peaking at # 6. The follow-up, a near sound-alike, titled Just Like Columbus peaked at # 96 while Poor Man’s Son, the last Hot 100 single, reached #55. (3)
Maybe it was the fading pop sound of another era or the fresh sound of The British invasion hitting the U.S. shores that caused fate to bypass the vocalists. Whatever the reason, the reflection in the mirror was fading for the quintet. Tony quit the group in 1966, as Frank Amodeo became the lead singer. After a few attempts on ABC-Paramount stiffed, Tony returned to the group. He’s been there since as today’s Reflections recapture the sound of a bygone era.
This performance was lip-synched before a very energetic crowd back in the mid-60s.
Both Tony and John are part of this recent incarnation of The Reflections.
1) You Tube interview, Meros, Tom, May 28, 2013. Link
2) 94.5 Kool FM, This Song Started Out As A Joke, April 19, 2011. Link
3) Whitburn, Joel, Billboard Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, Page 586.
Photo courtesy of Golden World Records, Inc.