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Performing Arts

Rick D'Amore brings Sinatra, Elvis to life on stage
Veteran singer has covered multiple hits, multiple groups in long career

By SHANNON VENEGAS - Special to TimeOut

September 19, 2013

WAUKESHA - Take advantage of one of the last nights of Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live.

Venture down Clinton Street to hear WFFNL regular Rick D’Amore as he croons out hits from Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley outside Mia’s Italian Restaurant.

D’Amore has been playing in the area since 1964, when he first sang “I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles. After playing every major hotel, restaurant and bar with his band - all with no real agent - D’Amore worked his way into places all over the country by hooking up with the right people. He had the chance to play in San Francisco and in New York when he lived in Connecticut for three years.

D’Amore finally settled in Milwaukee and played a variety of genres and venues, including the lounge scene. He also headlined the Leinenkugel’s stage at German Fest for 28 years.

Although D’Amore sings a variety of hits from the 1950s and 1960s, his personal favorites are Presley and Sinatra with hits such as Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Luck be a Lady” and Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.” Some of his other favorites include songs from Neil Diamond and Tom Jones.

“It’s stuff that I grew up listening to,” D’Amore said. “That’s what I’ve enjoyed the most. Plus, it’s been the most successful.”

One thing D’Amore hears from listeners is that he sounds like whatever music artist he is emulating.

“You know, I’m so into the music, sometimes subconsciously I am trying to do that but I don’t realize I’m doing it,” D’Amore said.

D’Amore grew up listening to Elvis on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Ricky Nelson on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.”

“I’d run in the bedroom and take my sister’s hairbrush and pretend I was them,” he said.

D’Amore was raised in a musical family. His mother had a voice like Ella Fitzgerald, D’Amore said. Unfortunately, she was not able to pursue a career, but always strongly supported D’Amore’s aspirations.

“She was always there in the front row,” D’Amore said. “She was my biggest influence.” 

D’Amore’s son, Peter, has also made quite a musical name for himself and is a regular at WFFNL. Their first performance together was “Wipeout” at Festa Italiana, and the duo played regularly at Mia’s.

“As a kid, I grew up watching my dad singing on giant stages,” Peter said. ”Ten years ago exactly, my dad gave me a chance to play gigs with him, so we would be like a ‘D’Amore Duo’ - father and son. I was not an experienced musician back in ‘03, but he stuck by me.”

Rick D’Amore has even taken the opportunity to involve his entire family in his career. One year, his wife and six children joined him on stage at Festa Italiana to sing Three Dog Night’s “Celebrate.” His wife even serves as his manager.

“She’s been with me all these years putting up with all the stuff,” Rick D’Amore said.

Rick D’Amore prides himself on being an entertainer and making his listeners happy.

“The integrity he brings to the stage (after 50 years as an entertainer) is staggering,” Peter D’Amore said. “He gives his audience 200 percent, and with scientific-turned-artistic precision, he is there only to enrich their lives and make them happy.”

Another musical endeavor Rick D’Amore is known for is his radio and TV jingles, mainly from the 1970s and 1980s. In addition to AT&T and Yellow Pages, Rick was part of the jingle for the original launch of McDonalds’ Chicken McNuggets.

Currently, Rick D’Amore owns Name That Card, a baseball card shop on West Bluemound Road in Milwaukee, and he is looking forward to future work as the emcee for some doo-wop groups. He also performs regularly with his band at the Italian Community Center and continues to enjoy the outdoor  atmosphere at WFFNL. 

“I like the variety,” Rick D’Amore said. “I like the spontaneity. If you can keep people there for a little while, while there’s a thousand other things going on, that’s real rewarding.”

Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live presents the following local acts this week:

 Big Kenny & 3D’s at Cuddles and Martha Merrell’s, 231 W. Main St.

 Looking Back at Allo! Chocolat, 234 W. Main St.

 Elena Cramer at the Waukesha Civic Theatre, 264 W. Main St.

 River Park Community Church at ReBorn Wellness, 259 W. Broadway

 Michael Sean at The Freeman-Thomas Press stage, 801 N. Barstow St.

 Richard Holly at The Steaming Cup, People’s Park and Almont Gallery, 340 W. Main St.

 V Square at Hannon’s Fine Food & Cocktails, 357 W. Broadway

 Rick D’Amore at Mia’s on Clinton, 800 Clinton St.

 Memphis Connection at Magellan’s on Main, 370 W. Main St.

Waukesha’s Freeman Friday Night Live runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each Friday in downtown Waukesha through Sept. 27.