Hey cuzz! Don't miss Phila.'s Battaglia
At The Shore, (609) 272-7017
Philip Battaglia oozes
Philadelphia. His nickname "Philly Cuzz" is a cross between his first name
and where he's from with the Philadelphia tradition of calling everyone,
"cousin," like, "Hey cuzz, you can't park there."
His accent is thick, his attitude and confidence are very present, he's
Italian, and he even wrote the jingle for the legendary Geno's Steaks,
where his picture still hangs. A Hollywood writer couldn't come up with a
more stereotypical Philadelphian. He gives Rocky Balboa a run for
Philadelphian authenticity. The main difference is that "Philly Cuzz" is
And like a lot of people from Philadelphia, Battaglia loves coming to
the shore. Although he grew up in the streets of South Philadelphia
listening to the sounds of Bobby Darin, his family always owned a house in
North Wildwood. And to Battaglia, there's nothing like coming to the
He loves it so much, in fact, that he produced a 13-song, half-original
CD titled "On the Way to Cape May" to demonstrate his passion. Sure,
Battaglia's album is titled after the revamped cover he does of the Cozy
Morley/Al Alberts classic, but there are also seven songs specifically
written about the shore, ranging from "A Shoobie Family at the Seashore"
to "Wildwood Honky Tonk."
"I've been performing down the shore since I was 17," says Battaglia,
whose album was released in May. "I was the last piano player to play the
500 Club in Atlantic City. My piano burned down with it. I was also the
last piano player to play the Atlantic City Country Club before it got
sold. I was the youngest musician playing Wildwood in 1968 when I was 17.
I love the shore, especially Cape May County."
"On the Way to Cape May" is probably what you expect from a
Philadelphia-born kid who grew up listening to Darin and similar crooners.
His three most important influences - Darin, The Drifters and The
Rascals - are heard in nearly every tune. The CD, which is available for
about $15 at most of the Hoy's 5 and 10 stores as well as some other
stores in the area, is exceeding even Battaglia's expectations.
"We've been putting 10 copies here and 10 copies there, and they're
selling out over the weekend," says Battaglia with a laugh.
"It's turning out to be one of the hottest albums from a local
songwriter around. It's selling better than I ever thought it would. It
totally took me by surprise."
"On the Way to Cape May" features Battaglia's renowned piano-playing
prowess, catchy seashore anthems and instrumentals. There's covers of "A
Beautiful Morning" by the Rascals and "I Count the Tears" by the Drifters,
as well as four other covers.
"I figured I wanted to reinvent 'On the Way to Cape May' for the new
generation," says Battaglia," who plays Westie's in North Wildwood at 7
p.m. Saturday as part of the town's Italian festival. "I arranged it how I
thought Bobby Darin would arrange it. It has a very swingy sound to it.
People love this type of music. As soon as I start playing it, people are
clapping their hands and having fun. It's a total summer party album."
All of the covers are rearranged by Battaglia, but he takes most pride
in the originals. The album, which is dedicated to shoobies, has a very
fun feel to it. For the record, the term shoobies originated from tourists
who used to come to the shore on trains and bring their lunches in a shoe
"A Shoobie Family at the Seashore" is a humorous look at shoobies at
the shore; "The Beach Club Band" is a tribute to the shore bands who seem
to last forever as generations join to listen to them; and the
instrumental "Wildwood Honky Tonk" is a virtuoso piano piece with sound
effects, including seagulls, roller-coasters and the infamous "Watch the
Tram Car Please" warning.
"I volley with the seagulls in the arrangement, and as soon as people
hear this, they know where it's from if they've ever spent any time in
Wildwood," Battaglia adds.
There's even some touches you might not expect from Battaglia.
"Summer Love" is a romantic, walking on the beach instrumental, but it
possesses a new age jazz feel.
"The album is diverse," he says. "But it's diverse like the Beatles
were diverse. When they did 'Sgt. Pepper's,' it was different, but you
still knew it was the Beatles."
Battaglia learned the piano from his mother, and he later studied music
at Temple University.
He played in The Platters and The Tymes for short periods, but he
always dreamed of being a composer and songwriter. Along the way. he took
a step away from music.
"I was sidetracked when I decided to become a real estate developer,"
"I did real well with it, but one day I realized I wasn't doing what I
should have been doing. So three years ago, I became a full-time,
born-again musician, and it's been going great. I'm overemployed."
Battaglia does everything from marketing himself on college radio
stations to playing country clubs and festivals. He often plays to
Alzheimer patients in nursing homes.
"The Philadelphia Daily News did an article on me and how I do that,"
he says. "I love it. I put them in a happy mood, and then I'm in a good
Battaglia has written music for other singers and performers as well as
jingles for a slew of Philadelphia-area businesses. When he performs, he
usually plays piano and sings to prerecorded music.
"I won't be bringing my orchestra, but it'll sound like one," Battaglia
says. "With today's technology, the possibilities are endless if you know
what you're doing."
At Westie's, he'll perform a mixture of classic covers and originals.
"I have one song called 'Let's Talk About Chicks,' " he says. "It's a
song that goes over very well about all of these middle-aged musicians
sitting backstage before a show and they're all depressed about the stock
market and things like that. And the young drummer, realizing they go on
in five minutes, tries to distract them by getting them to talk about
"That's the kind of harmless, funny stuff that people seem to enjoy.
And I enjoy it, too."