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Veteran music man Felix Cavaliere to rock the holidays

Felix Cavaliere, first found fame a half-century ago with the Young Rascals, later simply the Rascals, but even now you can sense Cavaliere’s enthusiasm for both recording and getting up in front of a live audience. “There’s nothing else like it,” said the singer and recording artist, who will bring his “Rockin’ The Holidays” show to the Genesee Theater in Waukegan on Saturday.

A member of the Rock and Roll, Songwriters, Grammy, Vocal Group and Hammond Organ Halls of Fame, Cavaliere joked that “it’s one thing to kind of slow down, but to slow down to a complete halt in this business is horrible!”

Calling from his home in Nashville, the musician explained that the Rascals “had a very early demise and breakup. It’s very difficult to establish a presence without the group that you made it with. That’s true for all of us, with very few exceptions — one being Paul McCartney, the other being Sting.

“But for the most part, people remember you for what they remember as being part of a hugely popular group. My attitude is, that’s OK. I’m going to climb my own mountain here. And trust me, it IS a mountain in this business — especially today.”

For the stage production “Once Upon a Dream” that played at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre last year, Cavaliere reunited with the Rascals, his partners on such 1960s hits as “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’ ” and “A Beautiful Morning.”

One of the challenges for an established musician these days, he said, is the fact that “we’ve got television shows preparing new talent, every single day. They are training them and sending them out into our world.

“Nobody trained me. Nobody gave me special help on how to look or how to perform. You had to learrn that the good old-fashioned way — by simply doing it.

“So, it is even harder now with these ‘American Idol’ shows, or things like ‘The Voice,’ flooding our business with new talent.”

When told that many of those ‘Idol’ contestants don’t really have a lasting impact on the music business, Cavaliere laughed. “Maybe. But for while they’re out there. When you have 21 million people watching you, it doesn’t matter!”

The current concert tour accompanies a new holiday album by Cavaliere, “Christmas Joy.”

“My manager said to me, ‘Why don’t you do a Christmas album?’ The reason I haven’t done one previously is that my old group didn’t want to. It takes a lot of time to produce, plus it’s a minimal sales period to begin with. But I always did want to do one. I was inspired by the Phil Spector album [“A Christmas Gift for You”] of the old days. I did two songs that are a tribute to that,” said Cavaliere, adding that he also wrote three new songs for the CD, plus “brought in some Chuck Berry, Jose Feliciano. … We realized that people would enjoy the new stuff but would rather hear the traditional. Now, by ‘traditional,’ I mean in the sense of rock ‘n’ roll traditional!”

Cavaliere also said that he loved the way they made the record this past August and September. “We did this album in people’s homes, because that’s how Nashville works. Everybody who writes music down here has a mini-studio in their house. Depending on their finanaces, sometimes they have a big studio. Sometimes it’s tiny.

“But I can’t believe the quality we got on this album. Of course, when you do Christmas music in people’s homes, the Christmas spirit is even more easy to have permeate the atmosphere. Even though we were doing this in August and September, it was amazing how Christmas came into the room — even back then in the summer.”