There’s something very American about sitting back in the Algonquin Hotel’s legendary Oak Room listening to the music of a new American classic: Johnny Rodgers and The Johnny Rodgers Band. For city dwellers looking for some good American fun this Memorial Day weekend, Johnny “Poppy Sunshine” Rodgers and the band (featuring Brian “Mud Man” Glassman on bass, Joe “Cotton Eye” Ravo on guitar and Danny “Mad Dog” Mallon on drums) will conclude their two-week engagement at the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street this Saturday night, May 29.
The show, called What a Wonderful World (for the Louis Armstrong classic), is filled with traditional American works made famous by greats like Johnny Mercer (Too Marvelous for Words, Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home), Hoagy Carmichael (Huggin’ & Chalkin’), Ray Charles (It Should’ve Been Me) and Randy Newman (You Can Leave Your Hat On). The show also celebrates original work from Johnny, himself, including a song co-written with Richard Barone called The Best of You in Me, which Johnny dedicates to his parents whom he tells his audience, encouraged him to pursue his dreams at all cost. The original works are mostly heartfelt and optimistic – reminiscent of simpler times past and of a hopeful future. With Johnny’s sweet, boyish manner, original sound (a mix of 1950s revivalism, 1970s ballads ala James Taylor, Southern Country and a hint of early Rock’n’Roll, Elvis style) and just a spattering of cheesy, feel-good lyrics (“I’d empty these pockets to buy fancy rockets to light up your name in the air” from Sweet Georgia Smile or “When I’m buried in your golden-blossom hair” from Home to Mendocino), you can’t help but leave the joint wearing a huge grin and feeling that, somehow, tomorrow will be a great day, no matter what’s going on around us or in the world at large.
And if you think the world could use a feel-good dose of The Johnny Rodgers Band right about now, the good news is Johnny and the band have been selected by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs in partnership with Jazz at Lincoln Center as “Musical Ambassadors” – in the tradition of Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie – to Asia and the Pacific as part of the Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad series.
This November, Johnny and the band embark on a tour of the Pacific Islands performing for new audiences and engaging musicians through workshops and master classes with a decidedly American feel. Like their current series of shows, they’ll call their tour What a Wonderful World and will include a new rendition of the Louis Armstrong standard, Johnny’s original work and other American classics like Elvis’s Jailhouse Rock. “You can’t represent America without a little Elvis,” Johnny says.
Singer/songwriter/pianist Johnny Rodgers is a native Miamian who was discovered by Liza Minnelli in 2005. Johnny was introduced to Liza when she was looking for backup singers. Eventually, Liza invited Johnny to play the piano at one of her parties and while she was singing, said, “Honey, I want you to come on the road with me as my accompanist.” A few years later, while performing as her pianist, she noticed Johnny in a dance class and was surprised to learn he could dance. She said, “Honey, I didn’t know you could dance. I’m going to take you around the world.”
Johnny was cast as one of the Williams brothers in Liza’s tribute to Kay Thompson and toured the world with her for 2 ½ years. Later, the show was re-named “Liza’s at the Palace” and was awarded a Tony for its five-week engagement at New York’s Palace Theatre featuring Johnny in his Broadway debut. The show was filmed for PBS and released in February 2010 (available on DVD and CD from www.Amazon.com). In 2008, Johnny won Billboard Magazine’s World Song Contest with Home to Mendocino, The Great American Song Contest with One More Moment and the ASCAP Foundation Award. He has earned the renowned Nightlife, Bistro and MAC Awards for his outstanding performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, the Colony Hotel Palm Beach, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, Birdland and other premiere New York City nightclubs.
The band has recorded two CDs: Box of Photographs (2005) and Bound Together (2008) both available from www.Amazon.com.
For more information on Johnny Rodgers and The Johnny Rodgers Band, please visit www.johnnyrodgers.com
Upcoming New York Dates:
The Algonquin Hotel’s Oak Room
59 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)
Through Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 8:30 and 11 p.m.
425 Lafayette Street (between East 4th Street and Astor Place)
Friday, July 9 , 2010 at 7 p.m.
315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues)
Monday, October 25, 2010 at 7 p.m.
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
33 West 60th Street (Broadway at 60th Street)
Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.