Before Richard Lanham scored a hit as a pre-teen in 1957 with "On Your Radio," the Lindenhurst native would skip Sunday school and hit the local diner on Sunrise Highway.
When a car pulled up, he'd take a nickel and drop it in the jukebox so he could sing and dance along. That's how he fell in love with music and performing.
"I used to make more in tips than the quarter my mother gave me for school," laughed Lanham who was back on Long Island performing Sunday afternoon.
As a featured performer in the Long Beach Public Library’s Artists in Partnership Series, the renowned jazz vocalist paired with long time collaborator and jazz pianist Tony Regusis for a show that featured classic tunes from Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and others.
Working with everyone from doo-wop legends The Drifters to jazz giant Jimmy Cobb during a career that spans a half century, Lanham’s humility and musical joy keep him going strong.
“I perform for a lot of different audiences,” said Lanham minutes before taking the stage in the packed library auditorium. “It doesn’t matter if I’m playing for one person, 300 people or 3,000 people – the show is still going to be the same.”
Naomi Garfinkel of Cedarhurst grew up listening to big band, swing and show tunes, so she jumped at the chance to see Lanham perform in Long Beach.
"We love this music and we love this place," Garfinkel said. "They have great programming here, we're never disappointed."
Lanham and Regusis met in the 1980s when they both performed with String of Pearls, a regional touring jazz revue. They clicked immediately, started gigging right away and have been collaborating on and off ever since.
From the first notes of Ray Charles' take on “Let the Good Times Roll” during Sunday's performance, the chemistry between these two old friends was palpable. Lanham was languid and smooth as he got the crowd singing and clapping while Regusis played nimbly behind him, creating a deft backdrop of good vibes.
“I’m just very fortunate that I still have this very youthful thing in my life,” Lanham said. “I just love it.”
As a featured performer in the Long Beach Public Library’s Artists in Partnership Series, renowned jazz vocalist Richard Lanham paired with long time collaborator and jazz pianist Tony Regusis for a show that featured classic tunes from Harry Belafonte, Duke Ellington, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. (Feb. 6, 2011)