Tommy James (born Thomas Gregory Jackson; April 29, 1947) also known as Tommy Tadger, is an American pop rock musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, widely known as leader of the 1960s rock band Tommy James and the Shondells.
Tommy James and the Shondells are an American rock band, formed in Niles, Michigan in 1964. They had two No. 1 singles in the U.S., “Hanky Panky” (July 1966, their only RIAA Certified Gold record) and “Crimson and Clover” (February 1969), and also charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the Hot 100’s top ten: “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mirage”, “Mony Mony”, “Sweet Cherry Wine”, and “Crystal Blue Persuasion”.
In February 2010, an autobiography Me, The Mob, and The Music was published. James announced that deals were in hand to turn the story into both a film and a Broadway play. Barbara De Fina is producing the film.
It was evident when James first met Morris Levy, the head of Roulette Records, that Levy was willing to strongarm others when necessary. Those signed to Roulette were there to produce money for the company, having their needs met only when it pleased Levy. Asking to be paid meant intimidation; to survive, those under contract to Roulette needed to find a means of generating income that did not involve the record company, such as personally booked tours. While a Roulette artist had great creative control when recording for the company, the lack of payment for those efforts was difficult to take.
James estimates the company owed him royalties he never received. Roulette was used as a front for organized crime, also functioning as a money laundering operation, as Levy was closely allied with the Genovese crime family. In the early 1970s, the Genovese outfit found itself in a bloody gang war with the Gambino family, which saw victims not only among mobsters (such as Levy’s close friend and business partner Thomas Eboli), but increasingly among non-mob figures on the periphery of the organizations. Levy had taken a somewhat fatherly shine to James, and worried that he might be a target for those who wanted to get at the Genovese family through Levy, so he warned Tommy to flee New York for an extended period, until the war was over. James settled in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Mafia had little presence or influence. While there he began jamming with local country music session players, and was inspired to record a country-rock record in 1971. He did not feel comfortable writing his book until all those deeply involved with the record company had died. It was only after Roulette Records and Levy’s Big Seven Music publishing company were sold (the record company to an EMI and Rhino Records partnership, the music publishing company to Windswept Pacific Music which was later sold to EMI) that James began to receive large royalty checks from sales of his records.