I spent all Sunday a couple of weeks ago trying to decide what is my favorite song. Not my favorite song of all time. I doubt I could do that. But my favorite song performed by the duo “The Classics” the night before at Arcaro’s, the Next Generation on Main Street, Pittston.
I settled on “I Only Have Eyes for You.”
Deb Switzer, she of the heavenly voice, introduces the song saying it is the Art Garfunkel version, but you soon realize Deb’s partner, keyboardist extraordinaire Frankie Galoardi, can’t resist laying in some of those background sounds of the original 1950s’ hit done by The Flamingos. All in all, it is nothing short of perfect.
I first heard The Classics do this song several months ago at The Marketplace Café at Wegman’s in Wilkes-Barre. In introducing it that evening, Deb also mentioned it is the Art Garfunkel version, but added she was singing it to “that guy over there” that she “only has eyes for.”
That guy was (and is) her husband of 35 years, Clark Switzer, who’s been bringing history to life in his Wyoming Seminary classes since 1976.
I’d probably like The Classics even if their music was only so-so. While I met Debbie just this past summer, I have known and admired Clark for some time, and am also a big fan of Frankie G, as Frankie Galoardi calls himself professionally. Locals most likely know Frankie for his performances over 30 years with his late wife Judy, and more recently with Pittston’s Danny Argo. To say he is a keyboardist does not do Frankie justice. Frankie is an entertainer. He’s mastered incorporating electronic music (drums, etc.) into The Classics’ songs and also adds his own unique vocals. His rendition of “Volare” (Nel blu dipinto di blu) is fabulous.
Frankie and Deb got together in March of 2017 and played their first “gig” that June at City Market on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. They’ve been playing together ever since. At first, they went by “Deb & Frankie.” Clark Switzer came up with the name “The Classics.”
“It’s because that’s what we sing. All the classics,” Deb said.
“All the classics” covers a lot of territory, basically from the 1920s to near present day. Deb particularly loves to sing Karen Carpenter songs and old jazz standards by Diana Krall. She nails the classic “At Last” by Etta James.
Deb likes to impersonate classic artists. She and Frankie sing Sonny and Cher tunes and if you close your eyes, you’d swear she is Cher and he Sonny. I’ve also heard them do The Four Season’s hit “Sherry,” and she hits those falsetto notes better than Frankie Valli ever did.
When I saw them at Arcaro’s on Main Street, they delighted my friends and me by performing “I Love You More Today than Yesterday” by The Spiral Staircase and “Call Me” by Chris Montez. Deb said she used to sing that song to herself at 14 years old as she sat by the phone wishing her boyfriend would call. Many of the songs she sings conjure up personal memories. “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” she says, reminds her of her dad.
Deb’s been singing all her life. Her many travels landed her in Kansas City, Missouri, for a spell and you can detect her love for that town when she sings the old classic ”Kansas City,” recorded by dozens of artists including Fats Domino and The Beatles.
She said she and Clark occasionally return to Kansas City for a visit.
Deb is many things besides a gifted vocalist, a gift, she says, that comes straight from God. She’s a writer, a poet, a teacher, a bartender, a care-giver, a Christian, and a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on Oct. 15, 2017, the same day she got a call asking if she’d perform at a cancer fundraiser. She had surgery last November. So far, she’s doing fine.
Whooping it up that evening at Wegman’s was a group of delightfully energetic women who call themselves “The Bravehearts.” Each has been affected in some way by cancer. Deb, who is a member, says the best word to describe them is “a sisterhood.”
Watching them was almost as much fun as listening to Deb and Frankie.
The Classics are scheduled to perform at a second cancer fundraiser on Sunday, Dec. 2, at Dupont Hose Company. The event, sponsored by Dr. Carol Sabatini, supports the cancer research of Dr. Abas Sabouni at Wilkes University.
The Classics will be joined that day by Jack Brogan, who at 90 years old still plays a heckuva sax.
For information or to reserve a table, call Dr. Sabatini at 570-239-8042 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the assistance of another talented local musician and all around good guy Chuck Paul, Deb Switzer recorded an album of Christian songs. Most are Christian “classics,” naturally, but one is an original written by her. It’s called “Grandma’s Cinnamon Buns.” Deb says it has a country sound, and “I don’t even like country.”
I asked Deb if she and Frankie perform it and she said “no,” but now she’s going to get him to learn it. Frankie is probably hearing that news right here for the first time.
With luck, maybe they’ll sing it on Dec. 2. That alone would be worth the price of admission.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week for Greater Pittston Progress. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.