“You are the boy that danced with me in Astoria.”
“I was educated in a different way,” says Greg Chavez, who was born and raised in Astoria. He dropped out of high school to travel around the world with The Shirelles, the first major American girl band, which landed their biggest hit, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” in the early sixties. After a rapturous life in show biz, Greg returned to Sunnyside three years ago to care for his 86-year-old father.
At a concert in Astoria in the early seventies, Greg, then 16, sprang into action when Addie “Micki” Harris asked if anyone in the audience could dance “The Bump.” Greg’s bump made such an impression on Micki that she recognized him a few months later at a concert in Florida. “You are the boy who danced with me in Astoria,” Micki said, according to Greg. From then on the two were inseparable. For a decade, Greg worked as a road manager for The Shirelles, carrying their luggage, making sure no one entered the dressing room and buying pantyhose and super glue when the need arose. In return he was slipped $50 bills in his pocket during their many flights.
“I was a gopher,” he says laughing, as we recently sat talking at “The Haab” on 48th Avenue. “You know, not the animal, but ‘go-for-this’, ‘go-for-that’.” Eventually Greg was promoted from “gopher” to “manager,” booking shows for the band, but his new position didn’t last too long. In 1982 the band broke up after Micki died of a heart attack on stage in Atlanta.
Greg says he was treated “very bad” after that. He followed Shirley, who had begun a solo career in the mid-seventies, and later worked as a freelance booking agent for South Florida clubs and for individual artists, among them Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Bonnie Pointer from the Pointer Sisters and Grace Jones.
As the music scene changed and as he felt the tug of family, Greg decided to return to the apartment in Sunnyside he had bought 30 years ago, where he now lives with his brother and father. Until recently he worked as a barkeeper at Daizies Restaurant, but the job didn’t allow him enough flexibility to continue his career in the music business.
“I had the time of my life,” Greg says about his previous career, “but I could have done a little bit more of mine. I always put myself out for somebody else.” Currently Greg works with the 10-year-old granddaughter of Mary Davis, who once toured with The Shirelles and with whom Greg has stayed very close over the years. “As a tribute to the girls” he shows the child old video footage and teaches her the songs and moves of Billy Holiday and Dinah Washington. His dream is to get a young R&B group together and act as their manager. “What they call R&B today is not R&B,” Greg says. “I don’t want to see a girl grabbing her crotch on stage. It’s not classy, it’s trashy. I call it bootie-shake music. I want to bring the respect back to girls.”