Lords of 52nd Street

Before they were “The Lords of 52nd Street,” you could find them playing at local clubs on Long Island under the band name, “Topper.” Topper was a 1960s high school rock and roll band originally formed by Russell Javors on guitar and vocals, Doug Stegmeyer on bass, and Liberty DeVitto on drums. The band was drawing a large audience at the time, but bassist Doug Stegmeyer flew out to California to audition for the “Piano Man,” Mr. Billy Joel. Joel was looking to form a new band that would record and tour with him regularly. Stegmeyer was immediately accepted into the Billy Joel Band, and Joel asked if Stegmeyer knew of any other players, specifically a New York style drummer. Stegmeyer told Joel, “You know them,” and recommended his Topper band mates, Russell Javors and Liberty DeVitto, for the part. DeVitto frequently played gigs with Joel’s high school band “The Hassles” at Plainview’s My House. To say the least, Joel and DeVitto were not foreign to each other’s playing. No one ever expected these musicians would cross paths again, and help form one of pop music’s most famous bands.

Doug Stegmeyer, Liberty DeVitto and Russell Javors joined Billy Joel in studio to record his 1976 album “Turnstiles.” Billy Joel was also looking specifically for a saxophone player who could play keyboards. Al Stegmeyer, Doug’s father, was a sound engineer on the album and recommended Richie Cannata to play saxophone and keyboards. Cannata walked into Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead, New York and heard for the first time the legendary hit, “Angry Young Man.” Joel, Stegmeyer, DeVitto and Javors recorded the tune a day earlier and Cannata was blown away by their experienced playing and speed. Cannata went into the studio and immediately recorded the unforgettable Empire State love song, “New York State of Mind.” What made the music on this album so special was the dedicated, loyal New York musicians behind its creation.

The band played on Joel's iconic albums "The Stranger," “52nd Street,” “Glass Houses,” and “The Nylon Curtain.” The band recorded and toured with Joel for over a decade, and it wasn’t until their induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame where they decided to reunite after a 30-year separation. After their 2014 hall of fame induction, “The Lords of 52nd Street” picked up their instruments once again and began performing in front of live audiences together.