Lou Christie is not a one hit wonder, but his career is defined by one song sung in a way only he and perhaps one other person could possibly do it.
“Lightnin’ Strikes represents my career,” said Christie, still going strong at age 69 and booked for two nights this week (Dec. 28-29) at Suncoast. “I was a shy person, never a businessman. I never found that great manager. I was always able to take things in, watching the world from the outside.”
Lightnin’ Strikes went all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1966 on Feb. 19, which happens to be his birthday. Christie’s ability to hit extreme high notes drew many comparisons to Frankie Valli, then lead singer of the Four Seasons.
“I’m fine with the comparison to Frankie,” Christie said. “I don’t know how I do it. Extra long vocal chords perhaps. My voice dropped an octave lower at age 12, but I could always sing falsetto.”
While the voices were similar and both were Italian, their backgrounds were not. Valli was a Jersey boy, Christie grew up on a farm in the Pittsburgh area.
“My dad had 109 acres,” Christie said. “My family all sang great and I loved to sing. I didn’t lead a very sophisticated life. No sandlots. When I was young I thought everyone could sing. I was Lugee, not Lou Christie.”
Lightin’ Strikes is a rock and roll classic and Christie’s only No. 1 song, but he did have four make the top 25, including I’m Gonna Make You Mine, which reached No. 10 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the UK back in 1969.
“I’m Gonna Make You Mine was a monster record,” he said. “Everybody calls it Every Trick In The Book because that’s how the song starts. My sister sang background. I didn’t want to be the Beatles. I wanted to be original. I wanted our titles to be interesting.”
Christie was part of the Dick Clark traveling tour that included the Supremes, Four Seasons, Ruby and The Romantics, and the Crystals. Today he is based out of both Los Angeles and New York City.
“I live in Hell’s Kitchen, three blocks off Broadway on the West Side,” Christie said. “I’ve lived in Hollywood. I’ve lived in London. I’ve done shows in Las Vegas with Frankie Avalon and Fabian. I have been performing in Vegas for years, but I am not a gambler. Haven’t bet in 30 years.”
The Suncoast adds to his list of Vegas gigs, joining the Tropicana, Orleans and MGM Grand. The demand to hear Christie is the same, but his view of Vegas is not.
“It’s always about the show for me,” he said. “Vegas now is so corporate. I remember those who ran the Trop treated it as a community of entertainers. They were a family. It’s hard to think of a corporation as a family.”
Christie said it took him over 20 years before he began to feel comfortable with his stage name. Privately he is still Lugee and always will be.
“I grew to accept it,” he said. “I am from a different era. Everything is so hi-tech now. I just enjoy singing with no thoughts of retiring. It’s all I know.”
Christie was frequently written off by critics as an imitator of Frankie Valli, as both men possessed similar falsetto vocals and the ability to change almost effortlessly between their falsetto and normal registers. Later reviewers have been less harsh, noting Christie was one of the first singer-songwriters of the era, a status later noted by John Lennon, who referred to Christie as “a truly creative person.”
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].