By Tim Kelly
Elvis has left the building. Or has he?
“The Fabulous Gabriel,” an Ocean City man whose real name is Gabriel Maciocia, has a long and distinguished career in music as a performer, songwriter and producer.
With platinum and gold records to his credit, he’s worked with such musical icons as the Four Tops and Tommy James. But Gabe’s biggest fame came in 1989 when his spoof song “Somewhere Elvis is Smiling” and an on-air practical joke by a Las Vegas disc jockey sent the national tabloids and rabid Elvis Pressley fans into a frenzy.
“It was unbelievable,” said Gabe, 70. “My friend Bill Goodman was a popular DJ who liked to joke around on the air.”
Goodman arranged to have a “psychic” in the studio when he played Gabe’s song.
“The psychic said there was no body in the grave and that Elvis was working at a Burger King in Peoria, Illinois. As soon as he played my song, the phones in the studio started ringing off the hook. He kept talking, and after a while I looked out the window. There were dozens of people out there including a bunch of guys dressed in Elvis costumes.”
Soon, the National Enquirer and other tabloids jumped on the “story” and Elvis “sightings” were reported all over the world. The recording industry trade journal Cash Box named “Somewhere Elvis is Smiling” as Single of the Week, and his album of the same title was named one of the “most entertaining” records of the year.
Gabriel, who resides in the Gardens section with longtime companion Rita Boyle, chuckles at the thought his legacy seems to be for a novelty record about Elvis. Perhaps that is because at a time when many of his peers are retired or no longer with us, The Fabulous Gabriel is still going strong and is still, well, fabulous.
He recently released a greatest songs CD, “The Fabulous Gabriel: The Ultimate Collection” and several summers back authored his first book, “Marilyn Monroe, the Lost Diary.” He has a website, www.fabulousgabriel.com and a YouTube channel showcasing his talents.
With all that going for him, Gabe is most excited about his current project: producing “Damaged,” the debut CD of 2017 Ocean City High School graduate Amanda O’Connor.
Amanda and her father Bill are former neighbors of Gabe’s who now reside in New York City. Amanda is attending the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute in Manhattan and Bill is teaching in the city’s public school system.
“I heard she could sing and the idea was to produce a single for her resume that could help advance her acting career,” Gabe said. “I thought producing a song could help her get acting jobs. But when I heard Amanda for the first time and saw the depth of the lyrics she wrote, I was blown away by her talent.”
He sent the single off to Parliament Records in Los Angeles, and less than a week later, Amanda was offered and signed a three-year deal.
They are currently hard at work arranging and producing the 12-song album, expected to be completed in September and on sale just in time for the holiday gift buying season.
The original plan was for the O’Connors to head out to the West Coast to record the songs, but the company executives were so impressed, they told Gabe and Amanda to continue as they had, recording at a studio in Cherry Hill.
“Gabe is a fun guy,” Bill O’Connor said, “but when you see him in the studio, he is clearly in his element. He and Amanda work really well together.”
Gabe brings a wealth of experience to the project. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, he is a graduate with masters degrees in music and history from Rhode Island College. He also attended the Barklee College of Music, Boston Conservancy and Brown University.
Prior to all that education, he performed on stage playing the clarinet with his brother Mike, now 71.
“We used to play before the PTA meetings. After that I never got stage fright or became nervous performing in front of people.”
He knew that he wanted to pursue music as his life’s work after hearing Dion and the Belmonts on the radio in the 60s. “I just liked their songs and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Gabe moved from the clarinet to the saxophone as “my main instrument “and played in bands and recording sessions with Tommy James and the Shondells, Wilson Pickett, Gary US Bonds, among others. He also performed live on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars tour.
In 1990, Gabe met Levi Stubbs and Lawrence Peyton of the Four Tops in Las Vegas and promised the Motown superstars to write them a hit song.
The result was “Sexy Lady” which the Tops recorded and released years later. The song has the distinction as their very last single. It was released in 1997 and was picked up by HBO for the soundtrack of the movie “Swimming Upstream.” Gabe is still receiving residual payments every time the film plays on TV.
Not bad for a guy who helped turn Elvis “sightings” into an international phenomenon.