Eddie Day, Joe Nardone, and The Poets still drawing crowds

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First Posted: 9/2/2013

They pack the houses, they play the songs fans want to hear, and they have been doing it for 50-plus years.

They are Northeastern Pennsylvania’s local “Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” if you will – Joe Nardone, Eddie Day (Pashinski), and The Poets.

Since the very early ’60s, all three of these iconic entertainers have been drawing huge crowds. And for them, the fun never stopped. As Nardone said, “Do you think this happens anywhere else?”

“People still love rock and roll dance music,” Pashinski said. “I’m 18 when I’m on stage, and the people dancing are teenagers again. I think we are all truly blessed that we can still go out there and relive those wonderful times again and again.”

Pashinski is 68, a retired school teacher, and current state representative from the 121st Legislative District. Nardone is known for his successful Gallery of Sound music stores (he declined to give his age). They both played all the old haunts – Sandy Beach and Hanson’s Amusement Park at Harveys Lake, the Wilkes-Barre Catholic Youth Center, Sans Souci Park, the West Pittston and Nanticoke armories, Wilkes and King’s college dances, the Starfire Ballroom, and the Stardust Ballroom.

The old venues are either gone, falling down, or not used for concerts, but the music and the three legendary acts live on.

The Poets – fronted by brothers Nick (66) and Pat Luongo (62) and childhood pal Frank Gervasi (65) – started playing together in July 1963. They grew up in the Bunker Hill section on the Scranton/Dunmore border and they were first called “The Dimensions.” The name changed to The Poets in 1966 as the British Invasion of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and others changed the face and fabric of rock and roll.

Fred Waring influence

Eddie Day had every intention of being a math teacher, but a visit to the Fred Waring Music Work Shop at Shawnee-on-Delaware in Monroe County in 1963 changed all that. Waring, a famous musician in his own right, told Pashinski that if he wanted a career in music, he had to study music, so Pashinski changed his major at then Wilkes College and became a music teacher.

“That changed my life,” Pashinski said.

Pashinski would form Eddie Day & the Starfires, Eddie Day & the Nightimers, then Thee Eddie Day Groop and later Eddie Day & TNT.

Back in 1963, the three members of The Poets never imagined they would still be playing and drawing crowds 50 years later.

“Now we can’t imagine not doing it,” Gervasi said.

“We all love it,” Pat Luongo said. “Imagine, we are paid to sing and dance and have fun.”

Deidre Miller Kaminski has been dancing to Nardone, Day, and The Poets since she was a teenager in the mid-60s – and she still does. Kaminski organizes large groups – mostly her high school classmates and other friends – that faithfully attend the dances at places like the Irem Temple pavilion in Dallas Township.

“I just love the music; I always have,” she said. “It makes me feel happy and alive. It makes me want to dance, and I feel like a teenager. I just can’t sit still when I hear it.”

Kaminski and Eddie Day have known each other for decades, going back to Mohawk Riding Stables at Harveys Lake. Kaminski would go there with her dear friend, the late Billy James, who would play guitar, and he introduced her to Eddie Day and the Harveys Lake dances at Sandy Beach and Hanson’s.

Kaminski and Day reconnected in 1976 during the Edwardsville Bicentennial celebration. She got his band to play in the parking lot of the former Vic Mar’s Restaurant.

“He’s such a talented singer,” she said. “He sings from his heart.”

Kaminski went to hear Nardone at Sans Souci “even when I wasn’t allowed to.” She remembers the crowds and the music and the kids coming from all over Wyoming Valley.

“Those were fun times,” she said, “and it’s still a fun time to go out and dance to Eddie Day, Joe Nardone, and The Poets.”

Irem’s pavilion

Nardone said the pavilion at Irem Temple is the perfect venue for the dances because it resembles the dance halls at Sandy Beach, Hanson’s, and Sans Souci with its open-air sides and large dance floor.

“I still run into people who were at those dances,” Nardone said. “They tell me when they come to the dances today, they’re kids again. They come up to me and tell me to keep playing, to keep holding the dances.”

The Luongos said they have performed at weddings, graduations, re-marriages, divorce parties, cruises – even weddings of the children of parents whose weddings they played.

“We play for two or three hours and everybody forgets about their problems,” Nick said. “They work all week, they deal with all kinds of issues, but when they come to a dance, they go back to those good times before all the stress of reality.”

The Poets play a variety of music, from polkas to Bon Jovi. They said the music, the dances, and the fans keep them young.

“We’re happy to be on stage doing it,” Pat said.

Image is important for The Poets; they like to wear matching outfits, from tuxedos to Village People garb.

“We intend to keep going as long as we can do it and it’s still fun,” Nick said. “We’ll know when it’s time to give it up. We’re big fish in a little bowl, and we like that.”

“I never thought that what we did would mean so much to so many,” said Pashinski. “It’s therapeutic for me, too. When I’m on stage, I only think of the music and the people and having a good time. It makes me feel good to see how people react.”

People like Kaminski and the hundreds of others who flock to the dances.

“It’s in my blood, my soul,” she said. “It’s in me; I love that music and love to hear it and dance to it.”

Kaminski said Eddie Day, Nardone, and The Poets are a part of her and so many others.

“They make me feel good and happy,” she said. “They’re a part of me. I truly mean that from my heart. As long as they’re playing, I’ll be there and I’ll be dancing.”

Pashinski said nobody ever knows what’s around the corner next week or next year.

“But let’s enjoy it while we can,” he said.