Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sha Na Na & 1950s Doo Wop


I freakin' hated the Sha Na Na syndicated series (1977-1981) that was on weekdays in the early evenings, I think it was the overbearing fake laugh track that bugged me most, that and the over acting. It seemed at a glance to be too contrived so I never gave it a chance. Fifties music wasn't real high on my Hit Parade either, they didn't call me 'Disco Billy' for nothing.

I realize now that, like Hee Haw, another show I rejected from the outset, Sha Na Na hosted an amazing array of musical guest stars, especially singers from the neglected era of fifties Pop and Doo Wop. Thankfully the shows look like they exist somewhere, clips are on You Tube.

WIKI: The members of Sha Na Na during the TV series were Jon 'Bowzer' Bauman (vocals), Lennie Baker (sax), Johnny Contardo(vocals), Frederick 'Dennis' Greene (vocals), 'Dirty Dan' McBride (guitar) (left after third season), John 'Jocko' Marcellino (drums), Dave 'Chico' Ryan (bass), 'Screamin' Scott Simon' (piano), Scott 'Santini' Powell (vocals), Donald 'Donny' York (vocals).

Here are some examples of the great retro-tunes the series had to offer. An incredibly versatile group, each member could sing lead vocals and bring on a different feeling. Here is the guy in the gold lame, Johnny Contardo, performing a rousing, 'Just Like Romeo and Juliet'.

Teresa Brewer singing 'New Orleans'.

Sha Na Na fed off of the fifties nostalgia that got underway after the phenomenal success of Happy Days, an extension of the 1940s nostalgia boom earlier in the decade. A lot of moribund careers heated up suddenly, much to the delight of stars like Soupy Sales (a regular on the show), Chubby Checkers, Teresa Brewer and Little Richard.

Besides the stellar guest stars the group members themselves were pretty darn fine. They'd been entertaining audiences for years before the TV series, Sha Na Na opened for The Grateful Dead and played Woodstock. They had a way of making the material sound fresh, unlike, say, Lawrence Welk who seemed to sap the life out of any musical number.

Sha Na Na was the most watched syndicated program in the late 1970s.

More Las Vegas Legends!