BEST BETS: Eddie Bruce salutes Tony Bennett at Milton Theatre

Philadelphia’s Eddie Bruce will perform a tribute to music legend Tony Bennett Saturday night at The Milton Theatre. (Submitted photo)

Those of a certain age may remember Eddie Bruce as host of the popular 1980s Philadelphia-based TV music show “Dancin’ on Air.”

The program featured acts such as a young Madonna, Duran Duran and Stevie Wonder as well as local bands The Hooters, McFadden and Whithead and Beru Revue.

From 1981 to 1984, Mr. Bruce was the first emcee of the program that later became USA Network’s “Dance Party USA.”

“I am really proud to say I was the first host of that show. There were a million hosts after me. But no one can say they were the first,” he said.

“A couple years after I left the show, I bought a Philadelphia Trivial Pursuit game that had 500 cards full of questions in it. On the first card I drew, I was the question.

“My kids thought I had planned it. It was unbelievable. In one respect, it’s fun to be a trivia question. But in the other, my long career in music is what I’m most proud of.”

Mr. Bruce, who leads his own band, has been singing and entertaining since he was a young teen. He brings his tribute to Tony Bennett to the Milton Theatre Saturday night at 8.

Despite presenting the music that was popular back in the 1980s on television, that wasn’t really Mr. Bruce’s thing. He loved jazz standards — and still does.

“As a child of the 60s, I was out of touch with the contemporary music. While my friends were listening to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, I was listening to Ella (Fitzgerald), Frank (Sinatra), Tony and Nancy Wilson. I loved that music the minute I first heard it,” he said.

“I’m not sure what determines what kind of music a kid takes to. It was later on that I appreciated acts like The Beatles and The Stones.”

His love of the standards took hold at 6 years old. He can remember the exact day vividly.

“For my sixth birthday, my mother took me to the old Latin Casino when it was still in Philadelphia. It hadn’t moved to New Jersey yet.

“We were there to see The Three Stooges. I was so excited. But then I realized they were just the opening act. Ella Fitzgerald walked on after them and I was stunned.

“As a 6-year-old, she and her music touched me and I’ve loved jazz ever since. I didn’t even think about leaving. I stuck around for the whole show.”

As a youngster, he went on to perform in local talent shows and clubs and was on the first episode of the long-running Philadelphia program “Al Alberts Showcase” where he performed until the age of 18.

“I learned a lot from Al and that show. I learned how to rehearse. He was a wonderful teacher,” Mr. Bruce said.

Since then, Mr. Bruce has performed around the country with his own orchestra and as a solo act at places like Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, Atlantic City’s Resorts International and New York City’s Feinstein’s Cabaret.

He’s been performing the Tony Bennett show for a couple of years now and was reminded of Mr. Bennett’s greatness while seeing him perform at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia in 2009.

“I hadn’t seen him in a while and I began to realize how close I was to his music and how his music had intersected with so many important points in my life,” Mr. Bruce said.

“After that I would buy a first row ticket every time he was in the area and it was like paying tuition for a class. It was so worth it to watch him up close and personal to see how he worked and his breathing techniques. All of it.”

Although he doesn’t try to impersonate him, he does perform the songs associated with Mr. Bennett during his tribute show. Mr. Bruce said he tells stories about his connection to the 91-year-old legend and tales about Mr. Bennett himself, along with a “couple of surprises.”

He’ll be joined in Milton by the Tom Adams Trio.

Mr. Bennett, who Frank Sinatra called the “best singer in the business,” has enjoyed a resurgence of fame late in his career.

“Since Frank died (in 1998), there is no question that he has taken that spot. He’s the only survivor of that genre still working. He’s been touring with Lady Gaga. They recorded an album together (“Cheek to Cheek” in 2014),” Mr. Bruce said.

“His son Danny helped him stay relevant. He did an MTV ‘Unplugged’ special. He made appearances on The Grammys where you had all these rock and pop and rap stars and he brought the house down.

“He had his son take over his career and he just said ‘Dad, just sing what you love.’ And he was packaged in a way that just made him cool. Then he did these ‘Duets’ albums with young stars and that positioned him beautifully.”

Tickets for Saturday’s 8 p.m. show are $15-25 and available for purchase online at MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038, or at the event itself.

The Milton Theatre is at 110 Union St.

St. Patrick’s Pub Crawl

This being St. Patrick’s Day weekend, a host of Irish-themed events are on tap.

Aside from Dover’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade featured elsewhere in this section, Saturday will see Downtown Milford Inc.’s eighth annual St. Patrick’s Pub Crawl from 6 to 9 p.m.

Each business will feature a sampling of a unique drink or food and celebrate the holiday with a twist that reflects their specific business.

“It’s great to see so many people come out and enjoying downtown Milford,” said DMI President Sara Pletcher.

“The Pub Crawl is a great way for DMI to kick off the year, get people downtown and showcase many of our merchants and craft breweries, distilleries and wineries. We have some new merchants and vendors participating this year so it will give people an opportunity to go somewhere new and taste something new.

“The money raised through our generous Pub Crawl sponsors, hosts, and vendors also helps us fund DMI’s economic development activities in support of downtown. The Pub Crawl brings many to downtown Milford each year, with the opportunity to see the town’s beautiful and historic merchant district. Even if they don’t shop the night of the crawl, people get a great sense of the community and hopefully will come back and visit again.”

Bib prices are $20 for bibs purchased prior to the event and the evening of the Pub Crawl, the price goes to $25.

To volunteer or for more information on the event, contact DMI at 302-839-1180.

St. Patrick’s Day Party

The Irish Society of Delmarva will hold its annual St. Patrick’s Day Party on Saturday at Fraizer’s on the Water, 9 E. Loockerman St., Dover, from 6 to 11 p.m. and includes a corned beef and cabbage buffet with a dessert table.

The event also includes dancing and singalongs with music provided by disc jockey Alex Vaughn from 7 to 11 p.m. There will also be raffles, door prizes and a free Irish music CD.

Tickets are $30. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact Phyllis Marsh at 302-674-9037.

Celtic Harvest in Smyrna

The local band Celtic Harvest will perform at the Smyrna Opera House Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Formed 20 years ago, Celtic Harvest is Kathy Doyle (piano and vocals), Bob Frazier (guitar and vocals), Jan Crumpley (concertina, flute, whistle), Jim McGiffin (bass, banjo, silly songs) and Mike Nielsen (harp, bouzouki).

Their sets are eclectic and cover a wide range of emotions and tempos.

Tickets are $8-$16 and can be obtained by visiting smyrnaoperahouse.org, calling 653-4236 or the box office at 7 W. South St.

Dover Symphony concert set

The Dover Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Donald Buxton, will launch the second half of its 2017-2018 50th anniversary season on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center.

The centerpiece of the Spring Classical Concert will be a performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto by concertmaster Stefan Xhori. Additional works for this concert are Shostakovich’s Overture Festivo, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, and Sibelius’ Finlandia.

Valet parking will be available. Sweet treats will continue to be offered at the bake sale.

Admission prices are adults $20, seniors, students, military, first responders $15. Young people under 18 are free with a paying adult.

For ticket sales, visit www.doversymphony.org or call 302-270-1903. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

For further information check the DSO website at www.doversymphony.org.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the remake of “Tomb Raider” with Alicia Vikander and the dramas “Love, Simon” and “I Can Only Imagine.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Jumanij: Welcome to the Jungle,” “Pitch Perfect 3” and Matt Damon in “Downsizing.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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