Vance leads new orleans' most unique Holiday program for kids, celebrates his 'Christmas state of mind'
Growing up in the French Quarter, Vince Vance is an established local name. Celebrating the 27th anniversary of the release of his hit song “All I Want for Christmas is You,” he’ll be on the minds of many as they tune their radios to holiday music this Christmas season. Vance, a New Orleans native known both for his music and attention-grabbing image, will provide family-friendly entertainment during Deanie's Holiday Kids Sing-Along & Dance Party over four dates this December at Deanie’s Seafood in the French Quarter.
Vance was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Born Andrew John Franichevich Jr., he has been a member of Vince Vance & the Valiants for 45 years. He started his career with the band under the pseudonym Andy Stone, and today, he remains the group’s last original member.
Vince & The Valiants and their talented backup singers The Valianettes, continue to perform between 70 and 100 shows up and down the Gulf Coast each year. Fitting for the holiday season, Vince & The Valiants are celebrating the official release of a new holiday-themed album, “My Christmas State of Mind.”
This year marks the 26th anniversary of the release of Vance’s megahit, “All I Want for Christmas is You,” penned by Andy Stone and Troy Powers, which went on to major release in 1993. The song has since been covered by Sammy Kershaw, Shania Twain, and Leann Rimes. From 1999 to 2005, it was the No. 1 country Christmas song and the most-requested song at Christmas each of those years. (No, it is not the song sung by Mariah Carey.) The "All I Want for Christmas is You" music video was proclaimed the 5th Merriest Christmas Video of All-Time by Country Music Television (CMT).
Vance has other strings to his bow, as the celebrated performer has traveled multiple avenues throughout his life. He majored in Music and English at Southeastern Louisiana University and became the band director for Donaldsonville High School in Ascension Parish while moonlighting as a Bourbon Street piano player. While gigging on Bourbon Street, Vance was approached by a group of waiters who enjoyed his musical performances and wished to start a band of the same style. Vince & The Valiants launched in 1971 with James Etienne Viator in the role of Vince Vance.
Stone eventually had the torch passed to him when Viator left in August 1974, and a new Vince Vance character was “born.” For these past four decades plus, he has continued as a keyboardist, composer and frontman for the group. The long standing band line-up includes Ed Doc Loftus, musical director on keys and vocals, Allan Harang on drums, David Norris on vocals and bass guitar, and Pete Marinovich on lead guitar. The Valiants also feature Jimmy Vee, “The Greatest Living Saxophonist,” who simultaneously plays alto and tenor saxes--one upside-down--proficiently.
Vance says that Christmas is a special flame he keeps burning all year long with performances--in costume--of his songs “I Wanna Be A Christmas Tree,” “All I Want for Christmas is You,” and others.
“Christmas to me is a feeling, that time of year when there’s wonder and people are excited, when children wait for Santa Claus to come,” Vance said. “I do believe in Santa Claus. If you’ve ever watched a parent stay up all night wrapping presents so their children will wake up to toys from Santa under the tree--that’s Christmas. It doesn’t matter what religion you are, or where you live, or how you celebrate. It’s the best season of the year.”
As a former band director, he enjoys giving children the chance to come up on the stage and sing a song, and hopes it may inspire some child to want to grow up to be an entertainer. Valianette Tiffany Genzer is just one such child: She sang on the stage during a Vince & The Valiants performance at nine years old. By 14, she was sitting in on occasional gigs with the band and at 15 even spent part of her summer on tour with them.. Today, more than 20 years later, she is one of the lead vocalists performing for Vince & The Valiants and is featured on his new album, “My Christmas State of Mind.”
The band has performed more than 7,000 shows, including two trips to the White House in 1994 and 1995 and recorded and released 19 albums. Three songs--”All I Want for Christmas is You,” “Bomb Iran,” and “I am New Orleans”--have reached No. 1 on the charts in their categories.
“For 45 years I have been the steward of a band that, since our inception, this group of male and female singers and dancers, actors and actresses, comedians and technicians, have traveled 19 countries and 34 states,” Vance said.
Father Joseph Mohr, a distant relation of Vance, wrote the lyrics to “Silent Night” one year on Christmas Eve. The story goes that the organ at the church in Salzburg where Mohr was assistant pastor wasn’t working, so he and his church organist stayed up all night penning a melody that could be sung to guitar. Vance also has published children’s books, The Vince Vance Rock & Roll Reader (Fullerton Books), which includes poems, songs, puzzles, trivia and bedtime stories, and The Littler Angel, which he released in 2014. Vance is a widow and father of two sons, Steven and Christopher (AKA the musician/actor/writer Ratty Scurvics). In addition, he is a Shriner, and a 32nd Mason.
Favorites and influences
Music icons: James Brown, Fats Domino, The Beatles, Dion and the Belmonts
Movies: Monty Python films, The Godfather trilogy, Groundhog Day
Books: Stephen King’s The Stand, Carl Sagan’s Contact, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robichaux series
Poets: William Butler Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson
Foods: Po’ Boys on French bread (shrimp and oyster), avocado
Restaurants: Deanie’s, Drago’s, Pascal’s Manale’s
Vance’s holiday flame still burns bright, and can be experienced during the Holiday Kids Sing-Along & Dance Party, spanning two weekends at Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant in the French Quarter. The interactive kid-friendly holiday program will run from 9-11:30 a.m., Dec. 11-12 and again Dec. 18-19.