The Lettermen bringing their hits to music festival

The Lettermen, from left, Bobby Poynton, Donovan Tea and Tony Butala will perform this evening at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs. Photo courtesy of Shenandoah Valley Music Festival

Audiences at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs will be able to sink into the soft harmonies of vocal group The Lettermen this evening.

Concertgoers may remember some of the group’s multiple chart-topping hits of the 1960s and ’70s, including “Goin’ Out of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” “Shangri-La” and “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.”

Having performed thousands of shows at venues around the world, their performance is one that founding member Tony Butala said shifts for different audiences but is always well received.

“It’s been 50 years since I’ve not gotten a standing ovation after the show,” he said. “From day one, fans have always been important — and that’s probably one reason why 55 years later we’re still around.”

While the members of the trio changed over the years, Butala said the group has consistently emphasized the professionalism and performance caliber of each member. Today The Lettermen consists of Butala, Donovan Tea and Bobby Poynton.

Butala said their shows start off with a melody that combines some of their best-loved hits. He said the sweetness of their chart-topping songs can get a bit overwhelming for audiences when they’re played full-length and back to back.

“We learned 50 years ago that our ballads … are like big pieces of German chocolate cake,” he said.

Reminiscent fans and new listeners alike will be able to meet group members tonight.

“I made sure that … at every show we’ve been out there signing autographs,” he said. “We’ll be the last ones there to leave with the janitors.”

Butala described a legacy of loyal listeners passing the appreciation for The Lettermen’s particular kind of showmanship through their children and grandchildren. He said he loves when new people come to the show and experience a new and rare level of entertainment that features a certain dialogue and camaraderie among the trio of performers.

“We genuinely love each other and that’s exactly where we want to be,” he said. “People feel it; every one of our audience members feel it.”

At the beginning of the year, The Lettermen Society of loyal listeners transitioned into The Lettermen Friends Club, which held its 33rd annual convention last fall. Those fans and friends hold a continued appreciation for a caliber of entertainment Butala said no one can learn in a class.

“We don’t ever ask our audiences to clap,” he said. “You inspire them to clap with what you’re doing.”

It’s been 55 years since The Lettermen released their first singles, and Butala said that lately the group has been entertaining at around 100 shows across the country every year. While some musical artists may find themselves exhausted by touring, he said The Lettermen begin every show with renewed energy and anticipation.

“If I weren’t happy doing it, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Butala said. “When I get on that stage, I’m invigorated by the audience.”

The Lettermen will perform at the festival’s Shrine Mont venue beginning at 8 p.m.  The gates open at 6 p.m.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

If You Go

Two concerts are featured this weekend at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs.
• Today: 8 p.m., The Lettermen will perform music from the ’60s and ’70s. Tickets range from $10 to $39.
• Saturday: 8 p.m., Gimme Abbey, a Beatles and Rolling tones tribute band will perform. Tickets range from $10 to $35.

Information: 459-3396 or http://musicfest.org.