Medley keeps ‘Lovin’ Feelin’ alive at 75; plays Nugget
Bill Medley returns to the Reno-Tahoe area for an Oct. 17 show at the Nugget; he’ll be joined by his daughter, McKenna Medley.
When Bill Medley returns to the Reno-Tahoe area for a show this month, he’ll be joined by a bandmate that he said he’s very proud of: his daughter, singer McKenna Medley.
“There’s nothing better than working with your children,” Medley said during a tour stop in Liverpool, United Kingdom. “And especially because she’s such a great singer. I wouldn’t have her out here if she wasn’t really good. I wouldn’t do that to her or to the audiences. She’s also my personal assistant (laughs) when she’s not helping out vocally.”
Both Medleys will perform on Oct. 17 at the Nugget Casino Resort. Fans will see a show that Medley has been crafting for a while, featuring stories from his past show business success as one of the Righteous Brothers as well as the big hits he’s had from the ’60s to the ’80s.
Before his tour in the States, Medley was part of a package tour in the U.K. named after one of those hits, “David Gest’s I’ve Had The Time of My Life Tour” Medley is the headliner along with soul artists such as Denice Williams, Billy Paul, CeCe Peniston and Gregory Abbott, among others. Medley said he was having fun on the trip, his first-ever package tour.
“It’s been so much fun to get to know the other artists and spend some quality time with everyone,” he said. “I’m usually out by myself, so it’s been wonderful.”
A one-trick pony
Medley celebrated his 75th birthday this year, and he said there’s no big secret to why he’s staying on the road well past the retirement date for most people.
“Well, I just to sing, and really I’m a one-trick pony,” he said. “I love to perform and the audiences are really what keeps it alive. They feed you all that great emotion and love. It’s very addicting.”
Medley’s odyssey in music was built on emotional performances. He and his fellow Righteous Brother, the late Bobby Hatfield, started as a duo in 1962. After scoring a hit on a small label with “Little Latin Lupe Lu” in 1963, the band was signed to the Phillies label in 1964. It was there that the group had big hits with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” Ebb Tide” and “Unchained Melody.”
Medley said it was definitely a thrill to watch these big, orchestral productions unfold in the studio with producer Phil Spector and the famous “Wrecking Crew” of studio musicians.
“It was certainly inspiring, but it always starts with the song,” he said. “If it’s a great song, you are going to be inspired anyway. ‘Lovin’ Feelin’ was so dramatic. It was just thrilling to record that song with that track.”
Medley said he and Hatfield were often the last ones to be recorded, and he also had a ringside seat for the elaborate productions.
“I was the only one that Phil allowed in for the whole thing, just Phil, the engineer and myself,” he said. “It was just a pleasure and an hnor to sit there and watch Phil record the track and make the entire record.”
That observance served Medley well when the Righteous Brothers had a hit away from Spector, but in the “Wall of Sound” style, in 1966. Produced by Medley, “You’re My Soul and Inspiration” was another No. 1 smash for the group. The Righteous Brothers had one other top 10 together, “Rock And Roll Heaven,” in 1974.
The time of his life
Medley and Hatfield reunited on-and-off after they split for solo careers soon after “Heaven” was a hit. Along the way, Medley earned his own No. 1 with “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” a duet with Jennifer Warnes that anchored the soundtrack of the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing.” “Unchained Melody” also became a huge hit again in 1990, when it was featured in the film, “Ghost.”
After Hatfield’s death from a heart attack in 2003, Medley continued to play solo shows in Branson, Mo. He started touring again in 2011 and hasn’t stopped since. His future plans include a holiday tour with jazz musician Dave Koz as well as a show that puts another twist in Medley’s story: a Vegas residency starting in March in that will revive the Righteous Brothers’ name. It will feature a young singer named Bucky Heard that Medley saw in Branson in a Journey tribute band singing the part of that band’s vocalist, Steve Perry.
“I went to see him and he just knocked me out,” Medley said. “I thought, if you can do Steve Perry, then you can definitely do Bobby Hatfield.”
“He’s the first guy that could fit the part emotionally and vocally,” Medley also said of Heard. “Not by any stretch of the imagination can you replace Bobby Hatfield, and that’s not what this kid is here to do, but I think that it will just be a lot of fun, to reform the Righteous Brothers with that sound.”