Bronx band takes Abu Dhabi by storm

(L-r) Dino Rocco, Fr. Eric Rapaglia, Nicky Adinolfi, Vinny Adinolfi, Vinny Adinolfi Jr., Jerome Ragusa and Jim Fracassi.

They roam around, around, around, around. Last month, the Bronx Wanderers, a doo-wop family band, roamed to Abu Dhabi. Vinny, Dino, Jimmy, Nicky and Vinny Jr. wowed the world’s top motorists and a throng of Middle Eastern sheiks.

“It was the wildest thing,” lead singer and Belmont native Vinny Adinolfi said. “We played in the middle of the desert. We were rock stars for a day.”

It all happened so fast. The Bronx Wanderers were on the road, driving back from a gig in Florida. They got a call from Frankie Valli’s manager. The sheiks wanted Valli to wrap up the 2009 United Arab Emirates Desert Challenge, a motor sport rally outside of Abu Dhabi. When the Four Seasons front man declined, his manager recommended Adinolfi. The Bronx Wanderers are a Dion and the Belmonts tribute band. Adinolfi sings a mean Frankie Valli. The band has toured Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey and Las Vegas.

“We assumed the gig would be in the United States,” Adinolfi said. “Valli’s manager told us Abu Dhabi…where’s that? We had to be there the next day.”

The UAE Desert Challenge is a high rollers’ race across the sand. In 2005, Michael Jackson entertained the oil-rich enthusiasts. “Champagne everywhere,” Adinolfi said. It was quite a trip.

“The people in charge told us to do Four Seasons,” Adinolfi said. “But we needed to play for more than an hour. We opened with a Four Seasons medley.”

The sheiks applauded politely. Adinolfi decided to switch gears.

“I start to talk about the Bronx,” he said. “We kick into Dion’s I Wonder Why. The sheiks stand up clapping. We play another Dion song. We play The Wanderer. The sheiks start dancing.”

The Bronx Wanderers are Adinolfi, his brother – City Island resident Jim Fracassi, his cousin – Dino Rocco, and his sons – Nicky and Vinny Jr. The band formed in 2008, at the suggestion of Hollywood actor Chazz Palminteri. Adinolfi grew up with Dion DiMucci; Dion helped find Adinolfi a job in the music business. They collaborated on two albums, Return of the Wanderer and Fire in the Night.

Fracassi, also from Belmont, was one of the original members of Larry Chance and the Earls. He backed up Patti LaBelle, The Temptations and Gladys Knight. Rocco is a nightclub veteran. Nicky and Vinny Jr., raised in New Jersey, have their own band. The Bronx Wanderers play most Wednesday nights at Michael’s Italian Restaurant on Boston Road.

“They’re energetic, they’re fantastic,” Michael’s owner Paul Turchiano said. “If you want oldies, they’re the band.”

Adinolfi and his band-mates love taking Bronx melodies on the road. Adinolfi’s parents live in Throggs Neck.

“It’s such a dynamite thing,” he said. “You wonder, ‘Will people in Kentucky go for Bronx doo-wop?’ They do.”

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