Bill Medley will revisit his righteous pop past at T.O. show
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    Exclamation Bill Medley will revisit his righteous pop past at T.O. show

    Bill Medley will revisit his righteous pop past at T.O. show

    By Bill Locey
    Friday, January 30, 2009

    Far out, groovy, *****in’ and all of those other adjectives of approval that got tossed around in the early 1960s somehow fell short of describing the musical magic Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield created together.

    Week after week at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach, these guys were perfecting a style of blue-eyed soul that was wowing audiences. Leave it to the Marines from nearby El Toro Air Station to hit upon the perfect adjective: “righteous.”

    Soon these Marines were calling Medley and Hatfield the Righteous Brothers. The name stuck and the hits followed, including classics like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “Unchained Melody,” “Just Once In My Life” and “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” not to mention their raging debut, “Little Latin Lupe Lu” from 1962.

    The duo split up in 1968, then got back together intermittently until Hatfield’s death in 2003. Today, Medley carries on as a solo act. On Saturday night at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, he’ll mix Righteous Brothers classics with solo hits. Medley’s daughter, McKenna, will join him for (“I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” his No. 1 duet with Jennifer Warnes that was featured in the smash 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

    What’s the latest with you?

    I released a new CD a few months ago called “Damn Near Righteous.” And I’m doing a lot of work in Branson, Mo. It’s just a wonderful place. Real mellow and people are real sweet and there’s 70 theaters in this small little town and I like it. I like it a lot. My daughter, McKenna, works with me there and as a matter of fact, she’ll be at the show (in Thousand Oaks). In Branson, I’m there with Paul Revere & the Raiders and my son is their lead singer.

    He’s the Mark Lindsay re-enactor?

    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    What was it like being a kid growing up in Orange County before they paved it all?

    Oh, it was wonderful. It was a lot like Branson is now. Santa Ana was “Happy Days.”

    What was your big break that got you into show biz?

    Well, actually, there was a record label in Garden Grove, of all places, and there was a guy that had a record label, Moonglow Records, and he knew me and I knew him. I had done some background work for him, so Bobby and I got together in probably ’61 or ’62 and he came in to see us and I had written a song, “Little Latin Lupe Lu.”

    I had the 45, man.

    So, you’re the guy. I wrote that and the Moonglow guy came in and Bobby and I did it and he loved it so we went in and did it. Some of the black Marines from El Toro were coming in to see us and if they liked you as a friend, they called you “brother.” And if you had a nice car, a white guy would say that’s “cool” or “*****in’,” but a black guy would say it was “righteous.” So these Marines started calling us the Righteous Brothers. When we recorded “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” we decided to use that name. Nobody called us The Beatles.

    There’s good musicians and great bands everywhere. Why do you suppose some make it and others do not?

    It’s one of the oddest things in the world. I know guys that so should’ve made it — and they tried, they tried real hard. It’s real interesting what the public says “yes” and “no” to.

    The Righteous Brothers actually broke up more than 40 years ago?

    We broke up in ’68, went back together in ’74. My ex-wife — the mother of my son — died in ’76, so I didn’t leave the Righteous Brothers, but I retired for a few years to raise my son.

    What was it like going to the movies with Elvis?

    When he would go home to Memphis from Hollywood, Elvis was famous for bringing all these first-run movies and he would rent a theater and sit there and start one and then after about 20 minutes — if he didn’t like it — he’d stop the movie and say, “Start the other one.” So just when you’d start to get into the movie, he’d change it. I had been to a couple of nights there at Graceland and one of my claims to fame was one night, we were getting ready to go to the theater and, as we were getting into the limo, Elvis said, “No, Bill, get in the back.” Priscilla and he got into the front and he chauffered me to the theater. He did that because there were always about 150 kids at the gate, you know, dying to see Elvis, and as the limo drove through, of course, no one looked in the front — they all looked in the back.

    I read one of your interviews and you mentioned that “Rockin’ Roy” Hamilton was one of your influences. That guy was great. Ever get to see him?

    Yeah, yeah. Matter of fact, Bobby and I did once. We were out on the road somewhere and he was working at some nightclub and we went in, saw him and met him. A really sweet guy.

    “You Can Have Her.” What a great song.

    One of the best, yeah. “You Can Have Her” and “Don’t Let Go.”

    Phil Spector signed you guys from Moonglow?

    Yeah, he picked up the remainder of our contract from Moonglow, which was a couple of years. Then Phil and Moonglow got into some disagreements about what we could do and couldn’t do, so we left and went to MGM. But “Little Latin Lupe Lu” is who the Righteous Brothers really were until we hooked up with Phil and Barry (Mann) and Cynthia (Weil) wrote “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for us. I have no idea why they wrote that kind of song for us but thank God they did.

    Tell me about being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Well, it makes me walk a little taller.

    You were already way taller than Phil Spector.

    Oh, of course. But the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a great honor. I had myself convinced that it didn’t matter if we got in or not. When we got in, I was very excited and very proud. And, thank God, Bobby was still alive when we went in.

    — E-mail music writer Bill Locey at


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