The man who invented ‘mood rock’ comes to Resorts to begin the new year
Flashback to 1976. A young soldier back from a tour in Vietnam in 1968 wants to start a career as a singer.
However, the crooner style he favors is no longer in favor as stars like Sinatra and Bennett are being supplanted in the pop ranks by rock ’n’ roll, Motown and the British Invasion. Struggling to find a record deal, and even after opening gigs with Don Rickles, and signing with Epic records, Peter Lemongello’s career is going nowhere. Instead he comes up with the idea of a genre of music called “mood rock,” selling a self-produced album called Love ’76 strictly through a television ad campaign.
Long before the infomercial was officially invented, Lemongello got the ball rolling by bombarding New York area cable channels with his two-minute infomercial. He become a sensation, the first person to sell a million-plus records with a direct marketing TV campaign. He went on to 25 appearances on The Tonight Show, a spot on 60 Minutes and, perhaps the biggest honor of all, being spoofed on Saturday Night Live by Chevy Chase as “Peter Lemon Moodring.”
Flash forward to 2013. Peter Lemongello never completely expanded his 15 minutes of fame into sustained stardom, but he continued to sing — at Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Branson, Mo. The former native of Jersey City is now based out of Florida and still appears there regularly. Although he hates the cold weather, he is coming to Atlantic City for an extended mid-week engagement at Resorts from Jan. 8 through Feb. 13.
Lemongello, who last performed here in 2010, tells Atlantic City Weekly about his direct marketing bid for fame and how he used a clever billboard to break into the Atlantic City market.
You helped invent the TV infomercial. Tell us about that.
It was unheard of for a singer to do it. I opened for Don Rickles. I signed with Epic Records, but after a year they dropped me and once you’ve had a major label, to try and get another one is almost impossible. I was watching a TV commercial for Crazy Eddie [an electronics store] and they said they had two stores. How could they afford to be on TV? That’s what I wanted to do. I figured even if the album doesn’t sell, everyone will find out who I am and I’ll get work. I did it and I was the last one to expect to sell 1.8 million records, more than anybody could have possibly predicted.