Any Billy Joel fan lucky enough to have seen him tour his album Turnstiles will never forget the band he had behind him. Dubbed by Joel “The Lords of 52nd Street”—drummer Liberty Devitto, guitarist Russell Javors, saxophonist Richie Cannata and bassist Doug Stegmeyer—the group would go on to tour and back Joel on such classic albums as The Stranger, 52nd Street, Glass House, Songs in The Attic and the Nylon Curtain.
In 2014 The Lords of 52nd Street were inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and, after a 30-year hiatus, performed together as a group, minus Stegmeyer, who committed suicide in 1995. Since 2016 the group has been touring regularly and has been welcomed back with great affection. A new film about the history of the group, titled Hired Gun, directed by Frank Strine, has just been released. The Lords of 52nd Street will perform at the Suffolk Theater on July 28. We spoke with Russell Javors recently to discuss all things 52nd Street.
Was the Long Island Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony the impetus for getting back together?
Yes. I really hadn’t imagined our getting back together before that. I was amazed at the level of interest there was when we did the Long Island Music Hall of Fame event.
Did everyone stay in touch over the years?
Not really. And now that we’re a part of each other’s lives again, I realize how much these guys mean to me and how much I missed them. We always had a lot of fun together and we fell right back into it. Lots of shenanigans.
What’s the secret to the group’s chemistry?
There’s no secret. You either have it or you don’t.
Did you keep in touch with Doug Stegmeyer through the years and how did his death affect you?
Yes. We would talk on the phone. I knew he was down, but I had no idea how deep. To this day I have a hard time dealing with it. I don’t think I’ll ever understand or make sense of it. I was the one who got the call and who called the other guys. What a loss.
Does the group have other upcoming plans other than playing live?
I’m thinking of running for president.
Was there ever the possibility over the years that any of you would play with Billy Joel again?
Well, Richie was back for a while. I sat in with him a bunch of times, but that was it.
How did you get involved in the Hired Gun film?
I got a call from Frank [Strine] one day. Liberty had given him my number. He told me about the film and wanted me to give some color on some of the stories Liberty had told. As we got to talking, I found out that Jay Graydon was also in the film and he was talking about his solo on “Peg.” Well, I told Frank that I was actually at that session. He figured I might be a good fit and sent a film crew to talk to me. So, I wound up being in the film. I was happy to do it because this film is celebrating guys like Liberty and me. My interview in the film was about the chemistry we had as a band and our contribution to the records and tours. It’s about us.
The Lords of 52nd Street perform at the Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street, Riverhead, on Friday, July 28 at 8 p.m. For tickets and other information call 631-727-4343 or visit suffolktheater.com.