On Lou Christie’s huge hit, “Lightnin’ Strikes,” back-up singers interject the word “Stop!” while Christie’s driving falsetto insists “I can’t stop” and “No, I can’t stop myself!”
They’re just lyrics. But in real life, too, Christie has been known to insist on doing things his way.
“You’ll lose your voice by the time you’re 20,” Christie remembers one of his high-school teachers said, in an attempt to persuade young Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, as he was then known, to stop hitting the high notes.
Christie, whose voice can also delve octaves lower into the bass register, didn’t stop singing falsetto, and he didn’t lose his voice.
“I can still sing in the same key,” the singer, now 75, said in a telephone interview, laughing as he admitted he didn’t want to specify which key it is. “I don’t want to jinx myself.”
Fans can hear Christie’s distinctive voice for themselves when Gallery of Sound owner Joe Nardone Sr. brings The Ultimate Doo Wop & Rock Show to the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre at 7 p.m. June 9.
Also taking the stage will be The Duprees, The Happenings and The Chantels, three acts whose nostalgic sound likewise hearkens back to the ’50s and ’60s.
Christie came of age back then, growing up on a farm outside of Pittsburgh in a family of six brothers and sisters where “everybody sang.”
“My mother sang like Peggy Lee. She sang with big bands back in the 40s and never talked about it,” he said. “My dad had perfect pitch, and he had an old, beat-up Italian guitar. He played about four chords and sang wonderful Italian folk songs.”
Christie’s dad also worked rotating shifts in a steel mill and maintained a farm.
“Everything my dad planted, we ate,” Christie reminisced. “Our house was like a bus stop. We always had people over. There was always something on the table for them.”
The generosity of Christie’s parents extended to sheltering neighbors who had lost their home and breadwinner in a fire. “My father eventually gave them an acre of land and built a house on it for them.”
As much as the future entertainer appreciated his family and was fond of the chickens he fed and goats he milked on the farm, he was eager for a different kind of life. He especially wanted something different from the steel mills.
Fortunately, Christie’s talent led to success as a singer and songwriter that began not long after his 1961 graduation from high school. In February 1966, the month he turned 23, “Lightnin’ Strikes” hit the No. 1 position for record sales.
Some of his other well-known hits are “The Gypsy Cried,” “I’m Gonna Make You Mine,” “Rhapsody in the Rain” and “Two Faces Have I,” all of which he expects to sing at the Kirby.
“Just like Frank Sinatra has to sing ‘My Way,’” he said. “You don’t want to disappoint the fans.”
When he’s not performing, Christie hosts a Sirius radio show and maintains a website called itshouldhavebeenahit.com
“I pick songs that never had a chance, songs I’ve loved since I’ve heard them,” he said. “There’s a Supremes record on there that was never released as a single, and something by Roy Orbison.
“How I know a lot of these people, I traveled with them on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars,” he said. “We’d do 70 one-nighters in a row and sleep every other night on a bus.”
For the past 30 years or so, Christie has lived in a duplex on the top of an apartment building in New York City, where the one-time farm boy trucked in soil so he could plant herbs, tomatoes and evergreens high above the street. He also has a “wine garden,” but it no longer has any grapes. “The darn pigeons ate most of them,” he said.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.