Niles music legend Tommy James talks movie, future projects

Published 8:58 am Monday, February 3, 2014

Tommy James. Submitted photo

Tommy James. Submitted photo

One of Niles’ most successful musicians, Tommy James, is keeping busy.

In addition to helping turn his memoir into a major motion picture, James is about to go on tour this month with the Shondells and begin recording videos that will be released every couple of weeks on his YouTube channel.

“I’m definitely busy — there’s a lot going on,” said James, who grew up in Niles as Tommy Jackson.

James, whose popularity soared in the mid-1960s, has 23 gold singles, nine platinum albums and has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. His hits include “Crimson and Clover,” “Hanky Panky” and “Mony Mony” to name a few.


Me, the Mob and the Music

James, 66, said great headway is being made turning his autobiography, “Me, the Mob and the Music,” into a movie produced by Barbara De Fina, who also produced “Good Fellas,” “Casino” and “Cape Fear.”

The book, penned in 2010, tells the story of his tumultuous relationship with Morris Levy, the head of Roulette Records, a ‘front’ for the Genovese crime family in New York. It also provides a unique perspective on the history of rock and roll music.

James said they are in the screenwriting stage of development and that it would be another 1 1/2 to two years before it will be in production.

“It looks like Universal will distribute the movie,” James said. “It really is a thrill watching it all come together.”

James also said Matthew Stone (not to be confused with South Park co-creator Matt Stone) would likely write the screenplay. Stone’s credits include writing “Soul Men,” “Intolerable Cruelty,” and “Man of the House.”

When asked if Stone had signed on, James said, “It is happening right now.”

James said the movie would contain several scenes not in the book.

“Both Morris (Levy) and Tommy Eboli (mobster) will be developed a lot more because they are going to turn out to be important characters in the movie,” he said. “Being one of the eye witnesses to the whole situation I’m going to be heavily involved (in the creation of the movie).”

A musical based on the book would come out sometime after the movie, he said. James described the movie as very dramatic, dark and serious, and said the musical would be lighthearted with “mob guys breaking into song.”

“It is a very different creation than the movie,” he said.


Inside Tracks

James said YouTube came to him about six weeks ago and asked if he would create new content for a YouTube channel.

“I said ‘sure, what’s that?’” he said.

Starting Feb. 10, James will be airing 7 to 10-minute videos on the channel. He said a new video would be released every two to three weeks. It’s called Inside Tracks with Tommy James.

The first three episodes will focus on the evolution of his song, “I Think We’re Alone Now.”

“We talk about and play the three different versions (of the song),” he said.

To watch, click the link found on or go to YouTube and search Tommy James channel.


Hitting the road

Tommy James and the Shondells will begin a nationwide tour starting at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Ill., Friday, Feb. 14.

“This show is one that I have been looking forward to for a while,” said James. “I have so many great memories playing in the area over the years. I cannot wait to be back in the Chicago area.”

Tour dates can be found on his website.

In addition to getting ready for his tour, James also struck a deal with Sony/ATV to manage his publishing company — Tommy James Songs.

“I’m very excited about the new opportunities that this latest deal with Sony/ATV will open up for my music,” said James. “They are clearly the major player in music publishing and I’m thrilled with this expansion of our ongoing relationship.”

For more information, please visit, or follow him on Twitter at