Classic musicians unite to form ‘The Hit Men’

Five musicians came together to play the hits that made them famous.

Four years ago, Lee Shapiro, former member of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, called up his bandmate Gerry Polci with what Shapiro called “the offer of a lifetime.”

The former stars got together with a few other big names in the music business whom they’ve known for more than 40 years to form a new music group and relive their glory days of rock ‘n’ roll.

“The Hit Men,” a group of five musical experts, take its audience on a trip down memory lane, performing original hit music from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. This group of musicians, producers, composers, arrangers and more has reunited to bring back classic hits the members have performed for decades.

“As I look across the stage, I think about how I’m doing the same things I was in my 20s,” Shapiro said. “To be doing those same things now with some of the best guys I know, it’s truly amazing.”

The group was originally scheduled to perform at the Temple Performing Arts Center on Oct. 9, but the show has been postponed until a later date.

Unlike most cover bands, many of the songs that the group performs are original songs that members made famous decades prior.

Polci, drummer and vocalist, was the original lead singer of the classic ’70s hit, “Oh What a Night” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and Shapiro was the original arranger.

Other members of the band have also worked with some of the biggest names in music.

Larry Gates, vocalist, composer and lyricist, has worked with Desmond Child, who made music for Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Kiss and Cher. Gates, a studio musician and vocalist, has also been featured on many national television commercials.

Jimmy Ryan, vocalist, guitarist and composer and Russ Velazquez, vocalist, composer, arranger and producer, also worked with well-known names.

Ryan was formerly a lead guitarist for groups like The Critters and singer Carly Simon, and his music is still currently playing on the air for CNBC.

The Hit Men transports its audience through time by projecting images in the background as the band performs.

“We show snippets of our history and legacy from back in the day,” Shapiro said. “We like to call them our baby pictures. We are the only group that does that. Because we were actually there, we can talk first person, whereas tribute and cover bands are talking third person.

“We don’t do any songs someone in the band didn’t have something to do with. If we do Elton John, it’s because Jimmy Ryan was involved in that Elton John song and so on,” he said.

Shapiro highlighted the connection between different eras of music and said all generations can relate to the songs, whether people grew up in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, or have grown up listening to their parent’s music.

“Original oldies are classic tunes that everyone sings along with – the melody and lyrics are so memorable, they stay with you,” Shapiro said. “Today’s performers are great, but I don’t really hear a record. Besides the occasional song like ‘Happy’ by Pharrell, you don’t really walk around singing it all the time. It’s not profound, it’s still pertinent. If you play Iggy Azalea, it’s good and all, but if you play it without the record, you can’t truly sing along to it.”

The Hit Men tour all over the country and perform various television specials and holiday shows in New York. They have also released two CDs, live and recorded, and have a holiday album on the way.

Shapiro sums up the experience of The Hit Men’s live performance with one expression: “I guarantee that you leave the concert happier and younger than when you got there,” he said.

Alexa Zizzi can be reached at

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.