AMOA-NY Honors Pop-Rock Legend Tommy James As Top Jukebox Artist, TouchTunes' Jamie Sura As Man Of The Year

Posted On: 5/8/2019

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NEW YORK CITY -- Legendary singer, songwriter and producer Tommy James of Tommy James and the Shondells was crowned New York's Jukebox Artist of the Year, and Touchtunes senior vice-president of sales Jamie Sura shared the limelight as Man of the Year at the Amusement & Music Owners of New York's 2019 gala awards dinner here last night.

Patrizia's restaurant, one of New York's most famous Old World Italian restaurants, played host to last year's gala and once again won general applause. Professionals from all sectors of New York's amusement industry packed the house for the festivities and camaraderie over an extraordinary 13-course dinner.

AMOA-NY president Ken Goldberg of Emerson Amusement Co. (Woodside, NY) emceed the awards presentation, acclaiming James as this year's shining star among the singers and songwriters who have close connections to the jukebox.

LEGEND IN OUR TIME: AMOA-NY president Ken Goldberg (center) of Emerson Amusement Co. (Woodside, NY), and vice-president Joe Bossolina, McGee Amusements (Ridgefield, NJ), present Jukebox Artist of the Year award to pop rock icon Tommy James, of “Hanky Panky” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” fame, who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

James, who's celebrating his 50th year in the music business by recording a new album, has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, and has received five BMI "Million Air" awards in recognition of 22 million broadcast spins of his songs. He is still performing his many timeless hits to sellout crowds across the country.

Upon accepting the 2019 Jukebox Artist of the Year award, James recalled his fond memory of encountering his first jukebox at the age of three.

"My mother lifted me up," he said. "It was a Wurlitzer 1050 with bubbles going up the side," the pop-rock legend reminisced. "It also played 78s. I think the first record I played on a jukebox was 'Mule Train' [Frankie Laine, 1949], which shows how old I am!" He also shared that he owns and treasures two classic jukeboxes, a Seeburg V200 and a Wurlitzer 2100, which he regards as the "most elegant" juke ever made.

Standing in front of TouchTunes' Angelina digital jukebox, James expressed his awe at the evolution of jukeboxes. "This is the R2D2 unit, and I'm just absolutely amazed," he quipped. "I guess it was bound to happen with all the digital technology. I'm thrilled to still be a part of it – and thank you all for this."

James' road to superstardom began when a nightclub DJ in Pittsburgh discovered a two-year-old record by The Shondells and played it at his weekend dance program. The crowd response had radio DJs spinning it, and an enterprising record distributor bootlegged  the song, selling 80,000 copies in 10 days. By May 1966, "Hanky Panky" was the number one record in Pittsburgh and Tommy James was a sensation.

He went on to sign a record deal with Roulette Records that led to "Hanky Panky" becoming a smash hit in 1966, which led off one of the longest strings of nonstop hits in recording industry history. Two more million-selling singles promptly followed – "Say I Am (What I Am)" and "It's Only Love"– along with the Hanky Panky album, which went gold just four weeks after its release.

With three hits under his belt, James brought in producers Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell, and the three produced seven back-to-back smash singles: "I Think We're Alone Now," "Mirage," "I Like The Way," "Gettin' Together," "Out Of The Blue," "Get Out Now," and the party rock rave-up "Mony Mony." The trio also produced three platinum albums.

In 1968, James became one of the first artists to experiment with music videos, creating a mini-film around "Mony Mony" for theatrical showings 13 years before MTV hit the airwaves.

In 1969, James's "Crimson and Clover" went multi-platinum and spawned two more mega hits: "Do Something To Me" and "Crystal Blue Persuasion," followed by "Sweet Cherry Wine." His four 1969 hits topped those of the Beatles that year, and his second volume of greatest hits – The Best Of Tommy James and The Shondells (featuring "Ball of Fire") – also appeared and ultimately sold over 10 million copies.

In 1970s, James released the gritty rock-and-roll Travelin' album that included the gold singles "She" and "Gotta Get Back To You." He also produced the million-selling single "Tighter, Tighter" for the group Alive And Kickin'. Over the next four years, James scored an additional 12 chart singles, among them "Come To Me," "Ball and Chain," "I'm Comin' Home" and "Draggin' The Line."

In the 1980s, he racked up three more chart singles, including the million-selling Billboard Adult Contemporary chart-topper "Three Times In Love." In the 1990s, James scored three Top 5 AC hits from his "Hold The Fire" album.

James' songs have become pop culture classics and have been covered by everyone from punk rockers to country icons. In 1987, Tiffany's and Billy Idol's versions of "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Mony Mony," respectively, battled for the top spot on the pop chart for a solid month, and each eventually went to No. 1.

In the following years, Bruce Springsteen, Kelly Clarkson, Prince, Dolly Parton, Santana, R.E.M., Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Billy Idol, and many other artists recorded his songs and performed them live.

The tale of Tommy's career and his tumultuous relationship with the "Godfather" of the music industry, Morris Levy, is on its way to becoming a major motion picture.

Last year, AMOA-NY paid tribute to the punk rock music movement by bestowing its Jukebox Artist of the Year honor on C.J. Ramone of The Ramones and "Handsome" Dick Manitoba of The Dictators.

Previous Jukebox Artists of the Year have included B.J. Thomas in 2017 and Tony Orlando in 2016, as well as folk music icon Judy Collins, five-time Grammy award winner Dionne Warwick, and Peter Yarrow of the legendary trio Peter, Paul & Mary. The identity of the annual honoree is a closely-kept secret prior to the event.

MAN OF THE YEAR

Charles Goldstuck, former executive chairman of TouchTunes Interactive Networks, presented AMOA-NY's Man of the Year award to TouchTunes' Sura, hailing his many accomplishments and dedication over his 10-year tenure with the company.

Sura has been part of the TouchTunes team since 2009 and has been instrumental in helping to build TouchTunes' network to more than 65,000 locations, while serving in leadership roles for national accounts, technical services, inside sales and the Canadian market.

WELL DONE! Charles Goldstuck (l.), former executive chairman of TouchTunes; AMOA-NY president Ken Goldberg, second from left; and AMOA-NY vice-president Joe Bossolina, McGee Amusements (Ridgefield, NJ) present Man of the Year award to TouchTunes’ Jamie Sura at festive awards gala at Patrizia’s restaurant in Manhattan.

Prior to joining TouchTunes, Sura was vice-president of small and medium business at Bell Canada, where he was responsible for driving sales to 25,000 enterprises. His career credits also include management roles at both IBM and Snap-On Tools. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Physics and French Literature from Colgate University (Hamilton, NY). He is a member of the American Amusement Machine Association's Industry Promotion Committee, and also takes part in most Amusement and Music Operators Association special events, including the annual state council meeting and local operator associations.

"Jamie is a well-liked executive, widely known throughout the amusement/music operator industry," said AMOA-NY president Ken Goldberg, Emerson Amusement Co. (Woodside. NY).

Past honorees have included Richard Kirby, Robert Geschine, Kevin Fritz, David Cohen, Michael Maas, Eugene Jarvis, Charles "Chuck" Peitz, Allen Weisberg, Phil Cohn, Nina Byron, and John Margold.

Goldberg thanked industry members for their support of the industry by taking part in the event and hailed the many legislative victories AMOA-NY has won that have helped advance the industry. At the state level, the association was instrumental in repealing a gambling law prohibiting amusement devices from awarding free credits, and in Nassau County it worked effectively to rescind a coin-operated amusement device (COAD) tax.

In New York City, it has racked up more than a half-dozen legal wins. These include raising the number of pool tables and amusement games allowed in a location without requiring billiards and arcade licenses. It also succeeded in replacing the term "coin-operated amusement device" with "player-operated amusement device" in the city's administrative code.

"All of these accomplishments took time and hard work. We were persistent and relentless until all of our goals were met which brings me to the present," Goldberg said. "The nation is exploding with legalized gaming; state by state, it either has been legalized or is on the verge of having that happen. New York AMOA has been active in trying to get this done in our state as well. If and when the time comes and gaming becomes a reality, AMOA-New York members will be the first to reap the rewards: that much I can promise.

"Jukeboxes and games have survived for more than a century; it's the responsibility of the people right in this room to take our industry to the next level."

Founded in the 1940s, AMOA-NY Inc. is a nonprofit group that represents the interests of businesses that own and install coin-operated amusement and music equipment in locations throughout New York State.

MUSIC TO THEIR EARS: AMOA-NY Man of the Year Jamie Sura and Jukebox Artist of the Year Tommy James share the spotlight while taking in some of James’ many greatest hits cranking out on TouchTunes’ Angelina digital jukebox throughout gala celebration.


ALL FOR ONE: Showing national support for New York’s amusement operators and AMOA-NY president Ken Goldberg (c.) of Emerson Amusement Co. (Woodside, NY), are past AMOA presidents Andy Schaffer, Shaffer (l.), Shaffer Services (Columbus, OH), and Gaines Butler (r.), Metro Distributors Inc. (Duluth, GA).


IN TUNE: AMI Entertainment Network Inc. chief executive Mike Maas and senior vice-president of sales John Margold congratulate legendary singer, songwriter and producer Tommy James and thank him for his decades of chart-topping hits enjoyed on its jukeboxes.