Did 70's Singer Peter Lemongello Invent Social Media?
The Public Made Him A Star.
Before Kim Kardashian showed the world her assets, before people associated the name Hilton with anything more than a hotel chain and years before The Fat Jew was just a gleam in his mother’s eyes, there was a skinny kid from Jersey City whose name would later become a punchline for so many jokes. Decades before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Peter Lemongello used the power of mass persuasion to make himself a star. A recent blog piece called him “The Original Instant Celebrity” and that’s probably more than accurate.
For the uninitiated and those not part of the baby boom generation, Peter Lemongello was a singer who, in the mid to late 70’s, started to make a name for himself. Although he appeared on The Tonight Show numerous times and played to sold-out audiences at New York venues like The Rainbow Grill, the Copacabana and The Living Room, it wasn’t until 1976 when he took matters into his hands that his career exploded. Tired of various record labels making promises their promotion department had no intention of keeping, he decided to take his talents directly to the public and spent a good sum of money blanketing late night TV (first in the Northeast) and later in other areas, with a series of TV commercials starring himself.
The first spot was all of 15 seconds with an authoritative voice saying “Peter Lemongello. (the text on the screen broken into 3 separate frames to make more of an impact, Peter… Lemon…Gello) Love ’76. Watch for It!” It was accompanied by a video of a handsome male singer with a Prince Valiant haircut and white teeth that would pass the tissue test, clutching a microphone. The day after it aired people were asking “Who the Hell is Peter Lemongello” and why haven’t I heard of him before?” You see, in 1976 an artist never went directly to his audience to sell an album on television, it just didn’t happen. After two weeks of that teaser running about 100x a week, Peter dropped the big payoff, a two- minute spot that began with an almost ominous tone “you are about to witness a new dimension in entertainment…Peter Lemongello. Cast in silhouette, the lights go up and he fills the frame with his perfect for TV looks, an open jacket that reveals a patch of chest hair that Simon Cowell would be proud of and a voice that was smooth, comforting and inviting.
He decided to create a new genre of music as well and he called it “Mood Rock.” In a year that saw Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Eagles, Peter Frampton and Led Zeppelin top the album charts, this unabashedly adult contemporary artist would go on to sell 1.8 million copies…of a double record set and appear on every major talk show, newspaper and magazine. He is to this date, the first recording artist to appear on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
A renown professor, Dr. Scott Testa, formerly at Philadelphia’s Cabrini College was quoted as saying “He opened the gates for QVC and The Home Shopping Network. What Peter did was very innovative, QVC has a lot to thank him for.”
Peter’s career didn’t end after the Love 76 project, he signed with a major independent label, Private Stock Records, and released the Do I Love You album which didn’t live up to expectations, the label went out of business soon after. Like many other artists his career had his share of ups and unfortunately, several downs but what he was able to do is still the subject of conversation to this day. Currently living a quiet life in Florida, he recently reconnected with many of his fans on various social media platforms. Once again going directly to the people without anyone standing in his way.