GLEN ROCK, N.J. -- For original "Jersey Boy" Lee Shapiro of Glen Rock, the musical magic carpet ride began when Frankie Valli's road manager walked into a Garfield nightclub nearly a half-century ago and heard him playing keyboards in a big band.
The next day he got a phone call, followed by an audition that brought the 19-year-old composer and arranger into the Four Seasons.
While new audiences discover the legendary band through "Jersey Boys" -- both the Tony Award-winning play and the movie of the same name -- Shapiro is still drawing attention with his band The Hit Men.
The play's "timeline of events was greatly altered, but that is a standard of practice for dramatic adaptations," he told Daily Voice.
What matters, said Shapiro, 62, is that "the success of the Jersey Boys was the catalyst to my forming The Hit Men five years ago."
He got support from Valli, his friend of more than four decades, and enlisted former bandmate and drummer Gerry Polci, who sang lead on "Who Loves You" and the Four Seasons' biggest hit, "“December 1963 (Oh What A Night).”
Rounding out the band are bassist Larry Gates, guitarist Jimmy Ryan and singer Russ Velazquez.
They're a multi-talented bunch who've individually performed with the likes of Carly Simon, Carole King, Bon Jovi, Jim Croce, Dion, Chicago, Michael Bolton and Luther Vandross, among others.
Shapiro transformed the Four Seasons' sound from Sixties doo-wop to Seventies pop hits, taking the band to stages worldwide, from sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden to the London Palladium.
Performing now, he says, is like time travel.
Videos play on a screen behind The Hit Men during some songs. In one, Polci sings with himself during "Oh What a Night" from the Midnight Special TV show of nearly 40 years ago.
Other selections include Four Seasons' favorites "Rag Doll,” “Dawn” and “Walk Like a Man,” and other artists' hits such as “Leroy Brown,” “You’re So Vain” and “Mony, Mony.”
It's still a kick for Shapiro, who smiled widely while shaking hands and signing autographs amid a crush of fans after a performance Sunday during the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters gathering at the Hilton in midtown Manhattan.
Upcoming New Jersey shows are at the Mayo Center in Morristown in March and Red Bank's Count Basie Theater in September.
TOUR DATES: http://www.thehitmenlive.com/schedule.html