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Jenny, He's Got Your Number -- and He's Playing Rent Party

Rocker (and Short Hills native) Jim Keller of Tommy Tutone fame will headline this Friday's concert.

 

Rent Party, the monthly live concert at the South Orange Elks Lodge that raises money for local food banks, will host its next show on Friday, Oct. 12. Performers include Tri-State, the Mungers, and Jim Keller -- formerly of the band Tommy Tutone, known for their 80s smash hit "867-5309/Jenny." 

The concert is from 8 p.m. to midnight, at 220 Prospect St., in South Orange. Suggested donation is $5. For more information visit the Facebook page.

(There's a new addition to the tried-and-true Rent Party formula: visual art. Local painter Mikel Frank will display his work.)

"We're thrilled to have Jim Keller back," said Rent Party founder Chris Dickson. "The last time he played Rent Party, from the very first note, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. He's so much more than a "One Hit Wonder" and his new stuff is incredible."

Keller's most recent album is "Soul Candy", which he recorded with members of his current live band.

Patch interviewed Keller -- a Short Hills native -- about his musical influences, working with Philip Glass -- and how he really feels about "that song."

Who are some of your biggest influences, and who are the most memorable musicians you played with?

I came up with the Beatles like so many of my generation's musicians.  Feb 9th 1964 is tattooed on my psyche; the day they played Ed Sullivan. Later it was The Band, Van Morrison and all the other American roots oriented bands.  Then songwriters like Ray Davies, Dan Penn, Doc Pomus, Nick Lowe, Graham Parker when I was schooling the songwriting craft.

What was your most exciting moment on stage?

Opening for Tom Petty at Red Rocks 1980.  His Refugee Tour and our first real date outside cowboy, hippy roadhouses in Northern California.

How do you come up with ideas for songs; from where do you derive inspiration?

I just start playing my guitar and see what comes out and hope to get lucky and not screw it up.

After Tommy Tutone, you went to work with Philip Glass. What is he like?

I (have worked with Philip) for 18 years.  I run his management and publishing company.  He is a brilliant composer, obviously, and an extremely down to earth person in general. Incredibly smart. 

What made you want to get back to recording after a ten-year hiatus?

When I die it will say "musician" on my grave stone. Not playing was crazy. Amazed I went that long without it. Starting a family had allot to do with it though.  My daughter is now 14.

Be honest: do you love or hate playing 867-5309/Jenny? (And will the Rent Party audience hear it?)

There are a few times when I feel like, "why am I doing this" but mostly it is a great song to jam on and I still enjoy it from a player's standpoint. Plus the band likes doing it so they usually egg me on. I won't rehearse it though.  

Is it true you grew up around here? Where, and what were your favorite spots to hang out?

I grew up in Short Hills on Old Short Hills Road, just up the hill from Millburn. My family was in that house until two years ago.  Favorite spot? The Millburn Deli of course.  I still get a Sloppy Joe when I'm in town.

What do you like about playing Rent Party?

The spirit of charity. That changes everything. Very sweet. My hat's off to Chris and what he and his cohorts are doing. There is so much cynicism in the world and the blast of sincerity I get from the Rent Party is priceless.

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