Gene Pitney hailed from Hartford but grew up in Vernon. Not only was Pitney a future member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2002), he was an accomplished songwriter, guitarist, pianist, and sound engineer. Pitney enjoyed much success as a performer, cranking out more than twenty Top 40 hits at a time when most other American acts were being pushed aside by the British Invasion.
He didn’t fight the trend, he joined it by working on several of the earliest recordings of the Rolling Stones. Pitney’s first hit came in 1961 with “Town Without Pity” from the film of the same name. He sang it at the Academy Awards ceremony, being the first pop singer to perform at the event.
His hits as a singer or songwriter continued with a vengeance. He can count the following as his own (as a writer or singer): “He’s A Rebel,” “Hello Mary Lou,” “Rubber Ball,” Today’s Teardrops,” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” He even gave songwriters Mick Jagger and Keith Richards their first Top 10 hit with his version of “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday.”
Pitney continued to record and perform throughout the rest of his life until he died of natural causes in his hotel room while on a tour of the UK in 2006. He was 66.