a/k/a Gary Shelton From 1959 to 1961

updated: December 2, 1999

Influenced by the late Buddy Holly, Elvis, Little Richard and many more of the early rockers, Shondell began his singing career while still in high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His first recording (made under his birth name Gary Shelton), was "My Hero" on the Smash label, followed a year later by "Kissin' at the Drive-In" on Mercury Records, that became a big regional hit that gained him national attention.

Troy's fame soon spread to the Chicagoland area where he and his band made history by becoming the first rock band to ever appear at the then famous "Brass Rail" blues and jazz club in downtown Chicago. For four solid months Troy and his band had fans standing in line to watch Rock 'n' Roll for the first time in downtown Chicago. During the next couple of years he left Mercury Records and recorded a couple of other songs for two independent labels -- "Goodbye Little Darlin'" on the Mark Label and another self penned tune called "The Trance" on the Label. Both records did well, but without the proper marketing they didn't reach the heights on the national charts. In 1959 he got a chance for his band to back a GAC "Shower of Stars" tour. Not only would his band back the stars, but he would actually get to open the show. This proved to be a big break for Troy. Following him on the show was Chuck Berry, Frankie Ford, Rod Bernard, The Skyliners, The Impalas, and Frankie Avalon. The newspaper critics gave Troy great reviews, which helped draw more attention to this young new artist from the Mid West.

One cold Sunday, February 1, 1959 to be exact, Troy and his band were entertaining at a club in Davenport, Iowa. Just before closing a group walked in, sat down, and sent a note up to the stage. The note asked Troy to acknowledge them and sing a song from their show. A young and extremely nervous Troy, very familiar with the group sitting in front of him, happily fulfilled their request and performed "That'll Be The Day" " a song that to this day is still part of his repetroir.

That request had come from a group who was to give their last performance at the now infamous Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom, in Clear Lake, Iowa on February 2, 1959, starring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper. The three famous performers were killed the next evening when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff, following that show. Troy believes he was the last performer, other than the ones sharing the bill at the Surf Ballroom, they saw together.

Ten months later, October 31, 1960, Troy's father died of a heart attack. He had been a great influence in Troy's life teaching him to play the trumpet at age four, piano at age eight and handled all of Troy's musical affairs. With his father's Troy's mother inherited a small business that was her only income. In order to keep it going she asked Troy to come home and help her " he did just that. He temporarily released his band and gave up music to help so he could help with the immediate crisis. In February 1961 his mother encouraged Troy to audition for an extra part in a movie being filmed locally after seeing an ad in the local paper. At the audition a man familiar with Troy's music, said he would financed the session, if Troy would consider recording again. Happily, Troy agreed, and since he had been secretly hoping to record again, he had set aside a song just in case the opportunity again came his way. It was a song that Al Russell, a local disc jockey in Fort Wayne, had called to Troy's attention.

There was a tremendous blizzard the day of the session (April 1, 1961) in Batavia, IL, and only three musicians were able to make it -- a guitar player, sax player, and drummer. Troy played piano, vibes and tried to get a bass type sound out of his guitar, because the bass player couldn"t make it either. That song was "This Time (Were Really Breaking Up)" and the rest is history.

Every record company in Chicago turned it down. So Troy and his new partner started their own label -- Goldcrest. Visiting WJJD in Chicago, Troy was bound and determined to get air play for the record he knew represented his future, even if it meant he had to beg. Luckily that night the DJ was Stan Major, who had befriended Troy during the Shower of Stars tour in 1959. Jim Lounsbury the music director finally agreed to let Stan play "This Time" only once and it had to be on his "Rate the Record" show, airing later that evening. Troy went up against a strong opponent and won. After that, Troy and "This Time" were unstoppable and the record began to sell. In fact, 10,000 copies were sold the very first week. "This Time" topped the charts for an unprecedented 16 weeks during the summer of '61. Although other successes would follow, none of the others might ever have happened without "This Time". "This Time" went on to sell over 3 million copies that first year. By the end of July it had reached number 1 in Chicago, and just about every major station in the USA. Troy's success for "This Time" lasted until December of that year.

"This Time" has been referred to as a swamp rock sound that quickly rose to the top of the charts, making the Shondell name synonymous with 60s rock ever since. Rock & Roll historian Wayne Jancik wrote: "Troy's impact on aspiring young rockers was apparently very significant". A young Detroit guitarist, Tommy James, who had first met Troy at Shuler's Supper Club in Niles, Michigan (Tommy's home town), named his "Hanky Panky" group "The Shondells" -- after Troy. Jim Peterik, of "The Ides of March" and "Survivor" did the same with his first Chicago group; and when Rod Bernard and Rockabilly legend Warren Storm teamed up to record for the La Louisianne label, they also called themselves the Shondell's. Critic David Swift wrote; "He sings Rock 'n' Roll, mostly from the 50's and 60's, but he's not necessarily a nostalgia act."

Troy's popularity has flourished in the past few years to the point that he once again devotes most of his time to music. Troy along with wife Trina, reside in Nashville, where he continues to write, produce records and entertain at Rock 'n' Roll reunion shows, Casino's and Conventions around the country. Currently, Troy, joined by close friends Ray Peterson, Ronnie Dove and Jimmy Clanton, is being promoted as part of a new group called "The Masters of Rock 'n' Roll". He is a recording legend who continues to turn out product. Troy has released 6 albums and sold over 8 million records since 1961. His most recent albums are "Vintage Gold", featuring hits from '50s and '60s with all new arrangements, and "Rock & Roll Rebel" featuring 16 of his original recordings from '59 to '74, with new cuts of "Rockin' Pneumonia" and "Slow Down". "Slow Down" the first single from the CD is currently being played in 22 countries around the world. A new CD to be released in 2000 will feature his now famous "Swamp Rock" sound along with "Still Loving You", a number 1 country single for the late Bob Luman, penned by Troy about his mother"s feelings after his father's death. He has also just finished video taping five Rock 'n' Roll Graffiti reunion tapes along with 30 of his Rock 'n' Roll friends. The tapes will be only be sold in a 30 minute infomercial on TV.

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Rockabilly Hall of Fame