By Danny Schrafel
With Oct. 23’s Long Island Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony at The Paramount just one week away, a pair of performers with deep ties to Paumanok are reflecting this week on their looming enshrinement.
Longtime Billy Joel band drummer Liberty DeVitto, a Brooklyn native, will be joining Russell Javors (rhythm and lead guitar) and Richie Cannata (keyboards, saxophones) as they’re inducted next Thursday. The late Doug Stegmeyer (bass guitar, backing vocals) will also be inducted.
Joel himself was inducted in 2006.
The only drawback, DeVitto said in an interview Friday, is that he’ll miss the annual charity gala for Little Kids Rock, a charity he supports which trains public school teachers and donates all of the resources needed to run pop/rock-based music education classes.
“As close as Little Kids Rock is to my heart, I had to go with my buddies from the past,” DeVitto said.
Also being inducted are Northport native Patti Lupone, who will not be in attendance, and former Lloyd Neck resident Debbie Gibson, as well as record producer Clive Davis, concert promoter Ron Delsner, lyricist Gerry Goffin, and rapper and producer Kurtis Blow. The 2014 Harry Chapin Award recipient is previous inductee DMC of Run DMC.
The re-formed Billy Joel band will perform during the ceremony; DeVitto said he’s not sure how many numbers they’ll have time to play, but “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is the likely first choice.
DeVitto, an expressive presence on the stage – “I have Lib on the drums because I need to have the focus taken off of me,” DeVitto recalled Joel saying – learned to play by ear. The talents he developed brought him around the world, including on a groundbreaking 1987 tour of the former Soviet Union, an eye-opening experience which will be celebrated during the ceremony.
“When I got off the plane, I thought I was going to meet three-headed dragons who breathe fire. But they were just like us,” DeVitto said.
As DeVitto and his compatriots prepare to dip into the Billy Joel songbook, Gibson, who cited Joel as one of her top influences as a native Long Islander, will be soon standing shoulder to shoulder with DeVitto and other luminaries.
“I’m in the most amazing company,” she said. “I’ve met Patti. We actually study with the same voice teacher, and I grew up idolizing her work on Broadway. To me, probably Clive Davis is the honoree I’m in awe of the most. He’s a visionary and has brought so much music into my life that helped shape who I am.”
Gibson said she’s excited to see the “classy, cool” venue for the first time. Huntington is never far from her heart, she said.
“I get back there periodically so I don’t actually feel so removed,” she said. “When our family moved to Lloyd Neck in the early 1990s, Huntington was my train station. I always love coming back. It’s my roots!”
For more information about the Hall of Fame, visit www.limusichalloffame.org.