The Fabulous life of Charlie Gracie

The Charlie Gracie documentary Fabulous debuted in 2006, and director/producer Shawn Swords believes it’s time for a follow-up film.

“A lot has happened with Charlie the last five years,” he said of the veteran singer and guitar pioneer.

Cannstatter’s, at 9130 Academy Road, has the honor of hosting Sunday’s re-release, which includes some material contained in the original, more than a dozen never-before-seen interviews and footage of the last five years.

Swords, the founder of Character Driven Productions, said the additional interviews add emotion and depth to the film and give viewers a better feel of Gracie’s impact on the Philadelphia music scene. The 65-minute film is 10 minutes longer than the original.

“There are more testimonials in this one,” said Swords, who finished the editing process last weekend.

Among those appearing in the new film are Chubby Checker, Tommy James, Little Anthony, Freddy Cannon and Len Barry. There is new music by Graham Nash, Peter Noone and, of course, Gracie.

The original Gracie film followed Blackthorn: It’s an Irish Thing, a documentary on the popular Philadelphia-based Irish-American rock band that was shown on UPN 57 close to St. Patrick’s Day.

In March 2006, Fabulous premiered at the Delray Beach Film Festival in Florida. Gotham Distribution picked up the documentary, which was shown on WHYY Channel 12 and is available at more than 30 retailers.

On Sunday, doors will open at 4 p.m. for a meet-and-greet session. The film will start at 4:45, followed by a concert by Gracie.

“He’s still got the goods,” Swords said of the entertainer, who turned 75 in May. “He can play.”

After the concert, there will be a screening of The Wages of Spin, a documentary directed and produced by Swords. The 65-minute film covers the Philadelphia music scene from 1952–63, primarily focusing on Bandstand and American Bandstand hosts Bob Horn and Dick Clark and the congressional payola hearings of the 1960s.

Swords said the Gracie film and concert alone are worth the $25 price of admission, adding that guests will also get a first peek at The Wages of Spin.

“By the time it gets on TV here, it will be six months,” he said.

The showcase, though, will be Gracie.

Charlie Gracie grew up at 735 Pierce St. in South Philadelphia. He signed with Cameo Records in 1956 and had his biggest hit the following year with Butterfly.

Gracie’s other Top 40 hit was Fabulous.

The film chronicles his meteoric rise, which included tours with Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers and Bo Diddley and appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand.

Gracie’s star began to fall when he sued Cameo for unpaid royalties. After a settlement, he said he was blacklisted from the radio and American Bandstand.

For many years, he played at the popular former Moore’s Inlet in North Wildwood, N.J.

Today, Gracie lives in Drexel Hill, Delaware County. He recently returned from a month-long tour of Italy, England and Wales.

The singer is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame and the Great Britain Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; has a bronze plaque on the Philadelphia Walk of Fame on the Avenue of the Arts; and is a successful fund-raiser for WHYY.

ABKCO Records has released Gracie’s latest compact disc, For the Love of Charlie, which includes music from Nash and Noone.

Gracie performed at Cannstatter’s in a March concert that also featured Bill Haley’s Original Comets. He’s also booked to play there on New Year’s Eve, so Cannstatter’s was an obvious choice for the new release of Fabulous.

“He’s got a following in the Northeast,” Swords said. “His shows always do well up there.” ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com

Have a Fabulous time . . .

The documentary Fabulous: 5th Anniversary Edition will premiere this Sunday at Cannstatter’s, 9130 Academy Road.

Doors open at 4 p.m. for a meet-and-greet session. The film will begin at 4:45, followed by a live musical set from Charlie Gracie and a screening of The Wages of Spin.

Tickets cost $25. Guests can also order dinner for an additional charge.

Tickets will be available at the door or in advance by calling 215–983–5200. ••