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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Tommy Facenda born 10 November 1939

Tommy "Bubba" Facenda (born November 10, 1939) is an American rock and roll singer and guitarist. He is best known for his one-hit wonder single, "High School U.S.A."

Facenda, born and raised in Portsmouth, just a few miles from Norfolk across the Elizabeth River, was 16 in 1956 when his childhood friend Dickie Harrell landed the enviable job of playing drums for Norfolk's own rock sensation Gene Vincent. 

As members of Gene's band The Blue Caps came and went, an opening for a backing vocalist materialized; in early '57 Tommy was hired atDickie's recommendation. He and Paul Peek became known as "Clapper Boys" as they frequently flanked Vincent on either side while performing onstage, singing, finger-snapping and hand-clapping. 
Tommy's baby face was the cause of some friendly ribbing from the other members, who nicknamed him "Bubba" (as in the band's "little brother"), a name that has remained with him permanently. His year as a cap-wearing rock star, spent mostly on the road, was hectic but lots of fun.
Usually on Vincent's right in band publicity shots, you can spot Tommy in full `50s coolness with upturned collar, slicked-backed hair, and JD sideburns. During concerts, Tommy would show off his patented "Facenda Freeze" when, during a Johnny Meeks guitar solo and with Vincent rolling in full frenzy on the floor, Facenda would begin shaking from head to foot as if totally overcome by the Dark Demons of rock-and-roll.
He appeared with Gene and the group in the film Hot Rod Gang and contributed backing vocals in the studio on landmark Vincent tracks including "Lotta Lovin'" and "Dance to the Bop." By 1958 he had left Vincent to seek a solo career. He signed with Nasco Records and released his first single, "Little Baby" b/w "You Are My Everything".

The single received no attention, and Facenda headed to New York City, where he met Frank Guida, the head of Legrand Records. Guida asked him to record a novelty song entitled "High School U.S.A.", using names of high schools in his home state of Virginia.

Atlantic Records picked up the song for national distribution and had him record 28 different versions of the tune, using regional high school names from various parts of the United States. The song became a nationwide hit, reaching #30 on the Black Singles Chart and #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. All 28 regional versions were combined into one chart listing. The national version was not in the combined list. 

He recorded a follow-up single, the self-penned "Bubba Ditty", which was released in 1960; after this he served in the military through 1962 and then returned to Portsmouth, where he worked as a fire-fighter for the Portsmouth Fire Department until his retirement, and then worked as a part-time hospital security guard.  He toured again with the Blue Caps beginning in 1982, including in Europe. Facenda also later did some stage acting, performing in a play entitled Just Us.

In 2012, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Facenda as a member of the Blue Caps by a special committee, aiming to correct the previous wrong of not including the Blue Caps with Gene Vincent. "Man, I was shocked," said Facenda, 72. "I thought they'd forgotten us." "My favorite time ever was with Gene and the Blue Caps," he said. "We had fun and made good music. Right on, man."
(Info edited mainly from Wikipedia &

Gene Vincent - Baby Blue - Hot Rod Gang – 1958. 
Dig the moves by Gene the Clapper Boys! "Clapper Boy" Tommy Facenda is trying to steal the show...and doing a pretty good job! The band really "digs in" to the song and delivers and terrific visual. 

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