Rock Band

In 1989, Ted Nugent, the infamous "Motor City Madman" joined forces with two other veteran rockers: Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Tommy Shaw of Styx. These three added drummer Michael Cartellone and Damn Yankees was born.

The bandmates were careful to avoid some of the traps that other supergroups of the period fell into. For one thing, they played almost entirely original compositions, rather than falling back on the hits that they had created with previous bands. Their sound had some very strong blues roots and an obvious love of the Beatles; the result was very listenable and hard-rocking music far above the norm. Their sound has been compared favorably to Whitesnake and/or Dokken. Several different sources mention that they are edgier than Night Ranger without ever going as far as Nugent often prefers to go.

Their initial album, Damn Yankees (1990) was a double-platinum success. The combination of Shaw and Blades' songwriting with Nugent's frantic guitar made for a sound unlike anything else, and critics and fans alike were delighted! The hits Comin' Of Age, Damn Yankees and High Enough, featuring Shaw and Blades on vocals showed up on the radio everywhere. An 18-month tour followed in support of the album.

Their second album, Don’t Tread, was released in 1992. It was also hugely successful, although to a somewhat smaller degree than the previous one. The hits, Mister Please, Where You Goin' Now and The Silence Is Broken received much radio play and the title song was played at the Olympic Games in Barcelona. More touring followed.

They are supposed to have been an amazing show, although Nugent's onstage antics apparently got out of hand a few times. Eventually, the wearying routine of constant touring and the musical differences between the members caused them to move off in different directions, and in 1994, Damn Yankees went on permanent hiatus. There are rumors which I have been unable to confirm that the political differences between Shaw and Nugent (or perhaps Blades and Nugent, I'm really not sure) may have hastened the breakup.

Shaw and Blades made a very good album together, then Blades re-formed Night Ranger with his former bandmates to great success. Shaw reunited with Styx (sans Dennis De Young) and Nugent went back to doing what Nuge do best.

2003 saw a Damn Yankees compilation album released. It is entitled High Enough and Other Hits. Surprisingly for a band with only two albums, the ten-track collection may actually be appropriate, given the number of hits these guys had.


Play

Damn Yankees! is a musical comedy based upon the The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop. The book for the play was written by Wallop and George Abbott and the music and lyrics were created by the team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Damn Yankees! was first produced on 5 May, 1955 at the 46th Street Theatre. Adler and Ross collaborated once before, on The Pajama Game.

The plot is a sort of combination of baseball and Faust. It is the tale of Joe Hardy, a big fan of the Washington Senators. Hardy is so depressed about his favorite baseball team's lack of success that he is willing to make a deal with the devil. The most unholy one appears to him in the form of a man named Applegate, and offers him a sweet deal. Joe becomes young and fit and acquires miraculous baseball powers with which he will be able to help the Senators win the World Series.

As with most infernal bargains, it does not take Joe long to figure out that this is not quite as great as it had initially seemed. He has to abandon his beloved wife Meg in order to make the plan work, and of course, he misses her painfully. Applegate decides to "help Joe out" by getting a lovely witch named Lola to steal his heart. She comes on strong, with sexy songs like Whatever Lola Wants and Who's Got the Pain?

Despite all the temptations of Lola and a fantastic baseball career, Joe misses his wife. In a flash, he realizes that if his team does not make it to the World Series, then his bargain with the Evil One is null and void and he can keep his soul. He manages to pull it off and the musical ends with him thwarting Mephistopheles just as Faust did so many years before.

The most successful song from Damn Yankees! was You Gotta Have Heart. The show ran on Broadway for over 1,000 performances, a feat shared by The Pajama Game and only seven other musicals at that time. A recent touring production of Damn Yankees! starred Jerry Lewis as the most unholy one.

Review (show)

A friend who loves musicals has seen this show and gives the following review: Damn Yankees! is solid and enjoyable, but the plot is rather spare and secondary. It is strictly a lightweight musical show in the spirit of fluffy 50's style fun, full of the (sometimes tacky) zeitgeist of that period.


Film

The musical was made into a motion picture in 1958, directed by Abbott and Stanley Donan. It starred Tab Hunter as Joe Hardy, Gwen Verdon as Lola, also Ray Walston and Jean Stapleton. Choreography was by the famous Bob Fosse. The film version was nominated for several awards, including an Academy Award, BAFTA, Director's Guild and a Golden Globe.


References:
Info from my research done for Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades
and Segnbora-t's excellent Ted Nugent writeup
It's Just Them Damn Yankees: http://www.wiu.edu/users/muprs4/yanked.html
Artist Direct info on High Enough album: http://www.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/0,,2748329,00.html
Polyphonia shop review: http://polyphonia.co.uk/Damn-shop-group-music.asp#B000002LL1
imdb writeup on the Movie: http://imdb.com/title/tt0051516/
American Musicals: http://www.theatrehistory.com/american/musical017.html for more about the musical
and a shout out to my pal JCP for all the info about the musical

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