Navigate Our Site
Search Site

Gary Rue & 14 fellow musicians and vocalists pay homage to Rue’s former idol and boss

Composer/Arranger Gary Rue and 14 top musicians and vocalists from McNally Smith College of Music performed a poignant, personal salute to Gene Pitney, the 1960s singer/songwriter who created such memorable classics as “Hello Mary Lou,” “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “Town Without Pity” and more.

The pop orchestra played in concert Tuesday, November 10 in the McNally Smith Auditorium (19 E. Exchange St., Saint Paul) as part of the ongoing Faculty Performance Series held every month.

In addition to idolizing Pitney as a child and later as his boss, Rue shared his experiences as Pitney’s Music Director in North America for nearly 20 years — including not only the music and arrangements from the last show they performed together (Valentine’s Day, 2006), but a litany of great insider stories from the road. The intimate concert was a truly singular opportunity to appreciate again the powerful pop icon dearly beloved in the U.S. and abroad, in a special evening designed by a longtime collaborator to pay homage to the genius of Gene Pitney.

“His music appealed to me on so many levels,” Rue says. “As a songwriter I appreciated how well the music was put together by great tunesmiths such as Bacharach/David, Goffin/King, and Mann and Weill. And man, could he pick ‘em. I loved his voice. What an extraordinary gift!”

Rue has been writing music for a wide variety of applications since his early teens. Recording credits include “Lost in the Shuffle” performed by Helen Reddy on the European release of her greatest hits compilation, and “Everyone”, recorded by Nick Lowe on his Columbia Records release The Rose of England (the song found its way to Nick via pop idol Elvis Costello, a fan of Rue’s band, Rue Noveau).

Rue has over 70 theater musicals to his credit, among these, Painting It Red by Steven Dietz (author of the Pulitzer Prize nominee Last of the Boys), which enjoyed wide exposure nationally, including a very successful six-week run at Berkeley Repertory  Theater’s Second Stage in Berkeley, California.  He is also composer-in-residence at SteppingStone Theatre of St Paul. One of these commission, The Stinky Cheese Man recently completed a national tour (including a series of performances in Shanghai, China) with the Dallas Children’s Theatre.

An accomplished lineup of players joined Rue, including:

Quartet: Gary Rue, Peter Johnson, David Singley, Gary Raynor
Vocals: Judi Donaghy, Peggy Larson, Jen Park
Violins: Randy Sabien, Cierra Hill, Lexi Yakin, Joe Cullen
Horns: Pete Whitman, Dave Jensen, Sten Johnson, Benjamin Link

(For individual bios of the musicians, see the Faculty Pages of the school’s website.)

For more information and key links to Pitney websites, visit