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An Interview with Frank Jeckell of 1910 Fruitgum Company

On this episode of All Access, we sat down with Frank Jeckell of 1910 Fruitgum Company who are performing in the Golden Oldies Spectacular! Jeckell talks about working with Dennis Tufano, his Fruitgum family, and more! Check out the Golden Oldies Spectacular on August 29 at 7pm featuring 1910 Fruitgum Company, Jay & the Americans, BJ Thomas, Lou Christie, and Dennif Tufano!
 

read the transcribed interview below

with Kelly from All Access and special guest Frank Jeckell from 1910 Fruitgum Company


Kelly: And welcome to All Access with State Theatre New Jersey. This is the show that takes you behind the scenes and behind the curtain of the legendary State Theatre in downtown New Brunswick. I'm your host Kelly Blithe, and we have an awesome concert lineup this spring. One of those concerts on Saturday, March 21* at 7pm is the Golden Oldies Spectacular, a fan favorite every year at the State Theatre coming through in the spring. We are so thrilled about this year's lineup. It's featuring Jay & the Americans, BJ Thomas, Lou Christie, Dennis Tufano, and 1910 Fruitgum Company. With us today to open up All Access is actually the opening act of Golden Oldies Spectacular, and that is original founding member of 1910 Fruitgum Company, Frank Jeckell. Welcome Frank!

Frank: Welcome, welcome!

Kelly: So, Frank this is so exciting! You've been on All Access before so thank you for coming back! Am I right, you guys opening up Golden Oldies Spectacular on March 21?*

Frank: Yes, we are! And we're really looking forward to it. It's always fun to do shows at the State Theatre. You guys have a professional staff and great acts. It's just a load of fun.

Kelly: Awesome, awesome! So Frank, tell us about—since we've last talked to you which was probably about two years ago—how's it been? Just touring? Going all over?

Frank: We're keeping out there. We're having fun. Playing wherever we can. We did a cruise last year. This year we got a great show coming up out in—of all places—Deadwood, South Dakota. 

Kelly: Wow, okay! Nice! Frank, I got to tell you, I heard great things after the show last time you guys opened. There's some great photos that just really showcase that evening of you guys. I remembered last time we talked you said you were actually backing Dennis Tufano. Will you be doing a little bit of that this time as well? 

Frank: Yes, we will be. We love backing Dennis. He does such a wonderful show, and it's just an honor and a privilege to be able to play behind him. We look forward to that.

Kelly: Before this, and before last time, you've been working with Dennis for a while now, right?

Frank: Yeah, we first backed Dennis probably more than 10 years ago. We do it fairly often.

Kelly: Nice, very nice. I remember we had talked about how 1910 Fruitgum Company came to be. I remember the name you said, everyone at that time had a garage band, and your garage band was Jeckell and the Hydes. Did I get that right?

Frank: You got that right. Seemed like a nice name at the time. For reasons you might imagine, I wanted to keep it when we started putting out records, but I got voted down. 

Kelly: Aww, well I got to tell you, it seems that when you guys are on stage, when all the groups are onstage for the Golden Oldies Spectacular, that it's like you're one big, happy family. Tell us about your family of folks in the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Tell us about each of the members.

Frank: Well we've got five members in the group. My partner, Mick Mansueto, and I actually reformed the group 20 years ago, and we've been going strong for 20 years. Mick does the lead vocals and he's our MC as well. We have Glenn Lewis on bass guitar. Glenn has been with me, and been my friend, for over 50 years—so a lot of lineage there! Glenn's a fabulous vocalist also. Our newest member is Eric Lipper. Eric is a keyboard player who came on board with us about a year and a half ago when our keyboard player of the last 20 years moved to the Philippines—Bobby Brusha—so, Eric is with us. On drums we have Keith Crane, and Keith has been with us over 10 years. He's a fabulous drummer.

Kelly: Nice, quite the group. So, of course, we can expect to hear "Simon Says," right, and the other hits?

Frank: Yes, "1, 2, 3, Red Light," and "Indian Giver." Those are our three gold records. We play them at every show.

Kelly: I've read a fun fact about "1, 2, 3 Red Light," you got to tell me if this is true. Did the Talking Heads cover "1, 2, 3 Red Light"? Do you know anything about that?

Frank: I've heard that that's a true statement.

Kelly: Wow, okay, I find that very interesting. I guess it popped in my head because David Byrne was on Saturday Night Live recently and I remember reading about that. That's quite interesting. How do you feel about that? That's quite a different group to be covering "1, 2, 3 Red Light," right?

Frank: We're very pleased because we get a lot of, I don't know, less than positive press about being a bubblegum act. But, the fact of the matter is, our songs were pretty cool songs. Obviously if they're cool enough for a group like the Talking Heads to feel like they could cover us—we also had a band cover "1, 2, 3 Red Light" as well—they must have been pretty good songs. 

Kelly: I would say so. I mean, three records that went gold, that sounds like a pretty good thing to me. 

Frank: Absolutely. 

Kelly: So Frank, what else can we expect at this show? Are you going to be doing other covers from that time?

Frank: We are, but unfortunately that list doesn't come to mind at the moment. But, I was thinking of coming out with a little dog act I have, and have like a dog that jumps through hoops. Do you think that would work out? 

Kelly: [Laughs] I mean, I guess?

Frank: [Laughs] I'm kidding of course.

Kelly: I know, I know, of course. We are talking with Frank Jeckell of 1910 Fruitgum Company, going to be opening up the show for Golden Oldies Spectacular on Saturday, March 21.* It's a 7pm show, so make sure to note that. But, this is a concert that features multiple bands so it's like your seeing multiple shows all in one night. It's featuring Jay & the Americans, BJ Thomas, Lou Christie, Dennis Tufano (former lead singer of The Buckinghams), and of course 1910 Fruitgum Company. So Frank, BJ Thomas, you know him as well. You've worked with him, as well, right?

Frank: Yes, we have. As a matter of fact, we've worked with him at the State Theatre.

Kelly: Okay, great! Just a very cool lineup of guys. Who do you think you go the furthest back with? Is there anybody in this lineup you go the furthest, furthest back with?

Frank: Not in this lineup. Most of these players I've met over the last 20 years. But, the fellow, I know he's been at the State Theatre many times, that I go back to 1968 with is Peter Noone from Herman Hermits. 

Kelly: Yes, we love Peter! Hopefully he'll be coming back to the State Theatre sooner rather than later. Good guy, great show. So Frank, tell me. When you're not touring with 1910 Fruitgum Company, what else do you do? Do you have some hobbies? Do you do other things?

Frank: I do, I have a couple of hobbies. I do collect antique clocks. So I like to go to different shows where they feature antique clocks to find new pieces. That's a lot of fun. I also love antique pinball machines from the 1950s. Unfortunately, I had to downsize, and I don't have room for a pinball machine right now, but my wife recently told me, even though we're tight for space, I can have one machine. So, I'm on the hunt now looking for a pinball machine from the 1950s.

Kelly: Oh, okay! Something tells me New Jersey is a good source.

Frank: Oh, there are lots of them. There are lots of them around. Matter of fact, I hooked up with a group of guys who each have individual collections. Every month they have a little open house, and I've been going to several of their houses. It's been heaven for me because I get to play all these different machines at all these different houses. It's almost like I'm nine years old back in the '50s again.

Kelly: Awesome, that sounds great. Frank, I know that you've had some folks say that you're a bubblegum group, and you've had your doubts about that and going back and forth emotionally. Like we've said, you've had three hit records, gold records, and that's pretty awesome. But, what I want to say is, I read that you've re-recorded some of the old hits?

Frank: Yeah. We didn't re-record them necessarily  for commercial release, but we do have CDs that we sell at the merchandise table that have re-recorded versions of our hits. Yes, we have.

Kelly: Nice. How did you feel when you re-recorded them versus originally recording? What was the difference? Did you feel a difference when recording them? Did the songs mean something different to you?

Frank: Yeah, I guess so. Back in the day when we first recorded them we did it without a lot of interest or joy on our part because the music wasn't the music we wanted to play, it was kind of forced on us. But, today, and lately, when we recorded them they've been big hits. It's fun to do it again because we've had gold records with those songs.

Kelly: Sure, sure. We are talking with Frank Jeckell of 1910 Fruitgum Company. Going to be the opening act for Golden Oldies Spectacular at the State Theatre on Saturday, March 21* at 7pm. You can get your tickets at STNJ.org. So, make sure you check it out. So Frank, did this tour take you on an east coast tour? What other places to do you go from here?

Frank: Most of the shows are local, in the New Jersey area—south Jersey, Springfield, New Jersey—different places in Pennsylvania. We kind of stay in the tri-state area of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and I guess a little bit of Connecticut as well. The one exception this year, so far, being the show out in South Dakota, which is in Deadwood. It'll probably be the most interesting show we play, being out in the middle of nowhere, they have this little festival every August. They bring in acts three nights in a row, and they close the town down. They build a big stage right in the middle of the main street and you can't even drive through town. They attract 16,000 people! It doesn't matter who you are, they attract 16,000 just because there is a show. So, you stand onstage to this massive crowd, which you don't normally see and you lie to yourself a little bit and say, "they're coming to see me."

Kelly: [Laughs] Wow! That sounds like an amazing experience! 

Frank: It absolutely is. There is even a mosh pit in front of the band. Not like a mosh pit that you'd think. Nobody is up in the air getting thrown around on hands. But, there is 20 or 30 people deep right in front of the stage, a big crowd grooving with the music. It's a lot, a lot of fun.

Kelly: Awesome, well there you go. Frank, we look forward to seeing you on Saturday, March 21* as part of Golden Oldies Spectacular, and with the rest of your group of 1910 Fruitgum Company. Thank you for being on All Access.

Frank: Thank you, Kelly. We are really looking forward to it, and can hardly wait. We're hoping that you'll be there.

* = this show has since been rescheduled to Saturday, August 29, 2020 at 7pm

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