Sha Na Na
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Sha Na Na is an American rock and roll doo-wop group. Performing a song-and-dance repertoire based on fifties hit songs, Sha Na Na has been simultaneously reviving and parodying the music of 1950s New York street culture since the group's formation in 1969. After gaining initial notoriety for their performance at Woodstock, the group hosted the Sha Na Na syndicated variety series that ran from 1977 to 1981.
Sha Na Na
New York, New York
|Genres||Rock and roll, doo-wop|
|Associated acts||Johnny Casino and the Gamblers from the film Grease|
Downtown Michael Brown
Screamin' Scott Simon
|Past members||See Members|
Billing themselves as "from the streets of New York", members were frequently outfitted in gold lamé or leather jackets, and sporting pompadour or ducktail hairdos. The group's name is taken from a series of nonsense syllables in the song "Get a Job", originally recorded by the Silhouettes.
The current lineup features original members Donny York and Jocko Marcellino, as well as longtime member Screamin' Scott Simon, who joined in 1970. Everyone else from the original band and TV show has since departed. Current band members include bassist Tim Butler, guitarist Randy Hill, drummer Ty Cox, and sax player Michael Brown.
The group began singing as part of the long-standing Columbia University a cappella group the Kingsmen, but changed their name due to the Pacific Northwest group of the same name that became famous for recording "Louie, Louie".
Conceived by George Leonard, then a graduate student in humanities, Sha Na Na began performing in 1969 at the height of the hippie counterculture, and achieved national fame after playing at the Woodstock Festival, where Rob Leonard, the president and bass singer of the band, sang the lead on “Teen Angel” when the band opened for their friend Jimi Hendrix. Their 90-second appearance in the Woodstock film brought the group national attention and helped spark a 1950s nostalgia craze that inspired similar groups in North America, as well as the Broadway musical Grease, the feature film American Graffiti and the TV show Happy Days.
The group's first manager, Ed Goodgold, codified trivia as a nostalgic quiz game and conducted the nation's first trivia contests with Dan Carlinsky in 1965. The future Sha Na Na/Kingsmen were featured singers at these contests. Four years later, he co-authored "Rock 'n' Roll Trivia" just as he and the William Morris Agency began steering Sha Na Na's career.
From 1969 until 1971, the band played at, among other places, the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, opening for such bands as the Grateful Dead, the Mothers of Invention, and the Kinks. When Sha Na Na began headlining at other venues, one of their opening acts was Bruce Springsteen. In 1972, Sha Na Na was one of just four acts invited by John Lennon and Yoko Ono to perform with them at their One-to-One benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. Subsequently, the group appeared in the 1978 movie Grease, and from 1977 to 1982, the group reached perhaps the height of its success with its own hit syndicated television show Sha Na Na, featuring guests such as James Brown, the punk rock band the Ramones, and musicians such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, the Ronettes, and Chubby Checker.
The original band line-up featured 12 performers: Robert A. Leonard (Rob Leonard) (bass vocals), Alan Cooper (bass vocals), Frederick "Dennis" Greene (Denny) (vocals), Henry Gross (guitar), Jocko Marcellino (drums), Joe Witkin (piano), Scott Powell (also known as Captain Outrageous and Tony Santini) (vocals), Donald "Donny" York (vocals), Elliot "Gino" Cahn (rhythm guitar), Rich Joffe (vocals), Dave Garrett (vocals) and Bruce "Bruno" Clarke. The initial act had three up-front performers in gold lamé and the other nine in "greaser" attire (rolled up T-shirt sleeves, leather jackets, tank tops). On their album The Golden Age of Rock and Roll, the lead singer taunts the audience on one of the live tracks by announcing, "We've got just one thing to say to you fuckin' hippies, and that is that rock and roll is here to stay!" The act usually ended after several encores, and closed with "Lovers Never Say Goodbye". The closing song was changed to "Goodnight Sweetheart" for the TV series. In concert, they would often return for up to seven encores, and this included when performing in Toronto, at Ontario Place and performing "Hound Dog" after announcing Elvis Presley's death earlier that same day (August 16, 1977).
Sha Na Na hosted the Sha Na Na syndicated variety series that ran from 1977 to 1981. It was among the most watched programs in syndication during its run. The show was produced by Pierre Cossette and originally distributed by LBS Communications.
The show featured the group performing hits from the 1950s and 1960s, along with comedy skits. The "tough guys" road act from their original road shows was adapted for TV and the group moved to a comedy and self-deprecating routine. The mainstay continued to be the 1950s song and dance routines. The show opened in a typical concert scene, and then moved through various street and ice cream parlor scenes where they and their guests performed several songs. That was followed by a comedy-oriented song ("Alley Oop", "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah") and closed with a slow song, again in their concert format.
Among the supporting members featured in the series were Avery Schreiber, Kenneth Mars and Philip Roth (all of them in the first season); Pamela Myers and actress Jane Dulo (who played the crabby Lady in the Window, who watched over the street scenes from the window of her apartment with undisguised disdain) (both throughout the show's run), June Gable and Soupy Sales (Seasons 2 to 4); Michael Sklar (Season 2); and Karen Hartman (Season 4).
The members of Sha Na Na during the TV series were Jon "Bowzer" Bauman (vocals), Lennie Baker (sax/vocals), Johnny Contardo (vocals), Frederick "Dennis" Greene (vocals), Danny "Dirty Dan" McBride (guitar/vocals) (left after third season), Jocko Marcellino (drums/vocals), Dave "Chico" Ryan (bass/vocals), 'Screamin' Scott Simon (piano/vocals), Scott "Santini" Powell (vocals), Donald "Donny" York (vocals). Every member was featured with a solo vocal spot during the course of the series. Each was introduced only by his nickname or his first name in a voice-over by Myers at the beginning of each show.
Sha Na Na also appeared in the 1978 film Grease (an adaptation of the 1971 Broadway musical of the same name) as a 1950s band called Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. Their tracks on the film and Grease soundtrack include two songs from the original 1971 musical: "Those Magic Changes" and "Born to Hand Jive"; as well as four songs from the early rock and roll era: versions of Elvis Presley's covers of "Hound Dog" (1956) and "Blue Moon" (1956), a cover of the Imperials' "Tears on My Pillow" (1958), and a cover of Danny & the Juniors' "Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay" (1958). The song "Sandy" sung by John Travolta in the film, was co-written specifically for the film by Sha Na Na's Screamin' Scott Simon.
Vinnie Taylor (1949–1974) (born Chris Donald), who replaced Larry Packer as the lead guitarist in 1970, died of a drug overdose in 1974. Escaped child killer Elmer Edward Solly assumed Taylor's identity and performed as him, though not with Sha Na Na, which eventually led to his discovery and capture.
Bass player Dave "Chico" Ryan, among the television show lineup, died in 1998; while remaining in Sha Na Na, he joined Bill Haley & His Comets for the group's fall 1979 tour of Europe (Haley's last major tour before his death). Former Sha Na Na guitarist Danny "Dirty Dan" McBride, of their TV show lineup, died of cardiovascular disease in 2009. Member Reggie Battise died of cancer in October 2010.
Founding member of the band Robert Leonard is a professor of linguistics at Hofstra University, and had an appearance as a qualified expert in linguistics for the murder case of Charlene Hummert in the episode "A Tight Leash" of the TV medical detectives series Forensic Files in 2004, as well as for the Tennessee "Facebook Murders" on the Investigation Discovery crime show Too Pretty to Live in 2016.
Another founding member, Alan Cooper, the lead singer in the group's performance of "At the Hop" in the Woodstock film, went on to pursue an academic career. He taught religious studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, for ten years, then became a professor of Bible studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, and now serves as the Elaine Ravich Professor of Jewish Studies and provost at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
Longtime member Jon "Bowzer" Bauman replaced Alan Cooper and became a recognizable member of the group as he taunted audiences while he flexed his muscles, burped and spat in the direction of the bass player. In the 1980s he had a brief career as a game show master of ceremonies. He continues to tour.
Joe Witkin, who was replaced by "Screamin'" Scott Simon, was the original keyboard player and singer of "Teenager in Love" on their first album. Witkin left the band in 1970 to finish medical school, and subsequently moved to San Diego in 1975 to do his internship and residency at the University of California in San Diego. He worked at Scripps Hospital East County from 1978 to 2000 as an ER physician, and held the same position at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa until retiring in 2013. Witkin lives with his family in San Diego, California. He played with a fifties-sixties show band called "The Corvettes" in San Diego for 23 years.
Scott Powell is a specialist in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine. He performed on the TV show under the stage name "Santini" (another alias was "Captain Outrageous"). Powell left the band in 1980 and returned to Columbia to take pre-medical courses. He is a member of the medical staff of U.S. national soccer teams, and is the team physician for the Federation Women's National Team and an associate clinical professor at USC. While Powell was with Sha Na Na, he sang the bulk of the Elvis revival songs.
Frederick "Denny" Greene left the group to pursue studies in law. After graduating from Yale Law School, he became the vice president of production and features at Columbia Pictures. He was a professor at the University of Dayton. Greene was known for his skilled dancing, and sang the lead in "Tears on My Pillow", "Duke of Earl", and others. He died on September 5, 2015 after a brief illness.
Richard Joffe is currently a class-action litigator for a law firm in New York City.
Original Sha Na Na vocalist Dave Garrett ran Earth Sound Research, a Long Island-based musical instrument amplifier company, during the 1970s. He now is a businessman, and lives in New York City.
In alphabetical order
- Woodstock Soundtrack  (includes "At The Hop" by Sha Na Na) (later releases include "Duke Of Earl", "Book of Love", "Teen Angel", "Get A Job")
- Rock And Roll Is Here to Stay  (re-released in 1973 with different cover)
- Payday / Portnoy (single)  ... Also Payday / Payday (Promo SINGLE) ... Also Payday / Young Love (Japan single)
- Sha Na Na  (Side A: Recorded live at Columbia University, New York and side B: Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, New York)
- The Night Is Still Young  *certain releases missed one of the songs (Sleepin' On A Song)*
- Eddie and the Evergreens - In The Still Of The Night (from 'The Night Is Still Young' album) (single) 
- Live in Belgium, With Francis Bay & His Orchestra (Bootleg)
- Live in Central Park, New York City, NY (radio broadcast)  (Bootleg)
- Live in Winterland, San Francisco, CA  (Bootleg)
- The Golden Age of Rock ’N’ Roll  (Double LP, sides 2, 3 & 4 live recordings probably from 1972)
- Sha Na Na Live in Germany (TV: Musikladen), 1973 (DVD, CD+VCD)
- From The Streets Of New York (live) 
- Hot Sox 
- Maybe I'm Old Fashioned / Stroll All Night (longer version) (single) 
- Sha Na Now 
- The Sha-Na-Netts - (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet (No Lead Vocals) / Flint-Niks - The Flint-Nik Rock (single) 
- Smokin' Boogie / We're Still Smokin' (single) 
- Rock 'n Roll Graffiti – Live In Japan  released in Japan in 1977, re-released in 1981
- Grease Soundtrack  (includes 6 songs by Sha Na Na)
- Rockin' In The 80's 
- Silly Songs 
- Live in Long Island, N.Y.  (Bootleg)
- The song "Wrestling Tonight" by Sha Na Na included in the movie Grunt (1985)
- Yeah, Yeah, Yeah  (cassette) compilation that includes 2 previously unreleased songs: Da Doo Ron Ron and Mr. Bass Man.
- Rockin' And A Rollin'  compilation (CD) that includes 1 previously unreleased song: My Prayer.
- The Fall Guy TV series - Beach Blanket Bounty episode  - several songs performed by Sha Na Na
- Rock 'n Roll Concert & Party  (VHS)
- 34th & Vine (1990) [8 songs]
- Havin' An Oldies Party With Sha Na Na  compilation that includes 1 previously unreleased song : Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.
- The Sha Na Na 25th Anniversary Collection  (20 songs including the 8 tracks on the previous 1990 album)
- Live in Concert (late 1980s and early 1990s concerts) [199?] (1 CD, 2 cassettes, or 1 DVD)
- 20 Classics Of Rock 'N' Roll (mid 1990s) (compilation cassette including a few previously unreleased recordings)
- Rock 'n Roll Dance Party (20 tracks in 1996; re-released with only 16 tracks in 1999)
- Then He Kissed Me (with Conny) , Japan
- Live in Japan (with Conny) , recorded In November 1999, Japan
- Rockin' Christmas  (re-released in 2003 with different cover and 1 additional track: Bad Christmas Eve)
- One More Saturday Night 
- Blue Moo: 17 Jukebox Hits From Way Back Never - Various Artist Release (Book + CD) containing one song (Gorilla Song) by Sha Na Na 
- 40th Anniversary – Collector's Edition (includes -at least- 6 previously unreleased performances) 
- Glendale Cruise Night (7/19/2009) Live (Bootleg)
- Rockin' Christmas: The Classic Christmas Collection (includes 6 new Xmas songs) 
- Grease High School Hop - 25 Dance Songs Of The '50s & 60s (Compilation) 
- Grease High School Hop Karaoke - 10 Sing-Along Favorites Of The '50s & 60s (digital release) 
- Rockin' Christmas: The Classic Christmas Collection (re-release that includes 1 new Xmas song: Ugly Christmas Sweater) 
- 50th Anniversary - Commemorative Edition - CD & LP - 12 Never-Before-Released LIVE Concert Cuts, 3 Original Bonus Studio Cuts, and Expanded 16-Page Behind-The-Scenes story 
- "Sha Na Na". iTunes. April 10, 2010.
- "Danny McBride: Guitarist with rock'n' roll revivalists Sha Na Na". The Independent. April 10, 2010.
- "The Official Sha Na Na Website! F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)". Shanana.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- Leonard, George J.; Leonard, Robert A. (2016-04-22). "Sha Na Na and the Woodstock Generation". Archived from the original on 2016-04-22. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
- Hitt, Jack (2012-07-23). "Words on Trial". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2019-04-13.
- "Sha Na Na founder helps hunt criminals". today.com. May 10, 2006.
- "The Nifty Fifties", Life Magazine, June 16, 1972 (stating Sha Na Na "more or less set off the '50s kick").
- Columbia College (Columbia University) 1970, The Ducktail Syndrome. pp. 36–37.
- Columbia College (Columbia University) 1970, Alumini Authors - RocK 'n Roll Trivia. p. 100.
- Amalie R. Rothschild, Live at the Fillmore East, 1999 Thunder's Mouth Press
- Marc Dolan, Bruce Springsteen and the Promise of Rock 'N Roll, 2012, W.W. Norton & Co.
- "Sha Na Na Madison Square Garden New York, NY Aug 30, 1972". Wolfgangsvault.com. 1972-08-30. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. 8th Edition – 2003, Ballantine Books.
- July 10, 2004 The Great Pretender Leung, Rebecca. CBS News
- Documentary including him broadcast on New Zealand television 21 July 2010
- "Sha Na Na founder helps hunt criminals - today > entertainment - Music - TODAY.com". Today.msnbc.msn.com. 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- Too Pretty to Live The Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee. N.p.: Diversion Distribution Services, 2016. Print.
- "Epic Mysteries: Too Pretty to Live". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
- "The Jewish Theological Seminary - Alan Cooper". Jtsa.edu. Archived from the original on 2014-07-26. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- "The Corvettes Show Band". Thecorvettes.com. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- "Meet Dr. Scott Powell". Scottpowellmd.com. 1970-01-02. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
- "School of Law: Dennis Greene". Archived from the original on 2015-02-05. Retrieved 2015-01-31.