|The Royal Teens|
|Origin||Bergenfield, New Jersey|
|Labels||RCA Victor, Epic, Musicor, Jubilee|
|Associated acts||The Four Seasons, Dino Take Five|
|Members||Tom Austin – drums
Bob Azzara – piano
Flip Cesario – guitar
Bill Crandall – saxophone
James "Dino" Cusumano – vocals
Bob Baran – bass, guitar
Bill Dalton – bass
Tony Federico – bass
Bob Gaudio – piano
Jimmy Guiliano – sax
Peter Imbornone - guitar
Al Kooper – guitar
Jack Kopchinski – sax
Joe Loria – Drums
Art Perlman – Drums
Larry Qualiano – saxophone
Dan Sabatino – vocals
Joe Villa (Joe Francovilla) – vocals
Gene Wasylick – guitar
Vince Cautero – vocals
The Royal Teens were a New Jersey rock and roll band that formed in 1956, consisting of Bob Gaudio on piano, Tom Austin on drums, Billy Dalton on guitar, and Billy Crandall on saxophone. They are best known for their single "Short Shorts", which was a #3 hit in the United States in 1958. The follow-up single, 1959's "Believe Me", hit #26. They recorded two albums, and broke up in 1972.
The term "Short Shorts" was a description Bob Gaudio and Tom Austin had given to the cutoff jeans teenage girls were wearing during the summer of 1957. On that musically fateful afternoon, Gaudio and Austin were driving up Washington Avenue in Bergenfield, New Jersey in Tom Austin's red and white 1957 Ford Fairlane 500, trying to figure out what to call the latest song they had written for their Rock and Roll band then known as The Royals, later renamed the Royal Teens by record producer and owner, Leo Rodgers. Just then, two girls came strutting out of Luhmann's (the local teenage sweet shop) wearing cutoff jeans that were cut so short they were almost illegal. At that point, the song "Short Shorts" was born.
On the original recording, Tom Austin did the whistle, Billy Dalton mimicked the whistle on guitar, and Billy Crandall said “Man, dig those crazy chicks.” With Tommy on drums, Bobby on piano, Billy Dalton on guitar, and Crandall on sax, along with the female vocal provided by Diana Lee a girl from Leo's stable of talented youngsters, the Royal Teens became a success.
Leo Rogers owned a label named Power Records with Lee Silvers. Before the record was released on Power, Leo made The Royals change their name to Royal Teens because there was another group called The Royals. The Royals reluctantly added Teens to their name.
Before the first rock and roll tour was launched which included The Royal Teens, Billy Crandall had to leave the group because his parents would not allow him to leave school (Crandall was only fourteen years old at the time). Tommy had just graduated from Fort Lee High School, Bob Gaudio's parents decided to allow their son to "temporarily" drop out of school to pursue his dream, and Billy Dalton took a leave of absence from All Hallows High in Manhattan.
Larry Qualiano, a 17-year-old sax player from North Bergen, New Jersey, took Billy Crandall's place and The Royal Teens became whole again, touring with greats like Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Frankie Avalon.
Over the years there have been a number of members of the Royal Teens. One long lasting combination played extensively throughout the New York metropolitan area and was co-managed by band members Bob Baran and James "Dino" Cusumano. The group traveled the U.S. with the early pioneers of rock and roll including those mentioned above and many more. It was put together by Leo Rodgers in 1961 after the original group disbanded. It consisted of Bob Baran on guitar, James "Dino" Cusumano on piano and lead vocalist, Tony Federico on bass, Jack Kopchinski on sax, and Art Perlman on drums. In 1962, they recorded “Short Shorts Twist,” for Jubilee Records as a play on "Short Shorts" and The Twist (song) by Chubby Checker. It was voted hit of the week on Alan Freed's evening show on WINS (AM) radio in New York City, but lost momentum after Freed was forced by WINS management to change from rock and roll to Sinatra music and a similar genre. The group worked major nightclubs in Manhattan, especially the famous Wagon Wheel and rock mogul Morris Levy's Camelot Lounge, often fronted by Alan Freed before he was deposed to California for his alleged involvemnet in the payola scandal.
The group made a comeback in 1969 after changing some members—Sonny Bongiorno to sax, Gene Wasylick to guitar, Bob Baran moved to bass, and Joe Loria to drums. Dino remained as lead vocalist. Executives at Musicor Records impressed with the musical and vocal drive of “Short Shorts Twist,” offered the group a contract to record an album called “Newies But Oldies.” It was produced by Les Paul, Jr., son of Les Paul, jazz guitarist and inventor of the solid-body electric guitar.
The album concept was created by co-producers, Bill and Steve Jerome. It was a compilation of sensational hits of the 1960s sung to melodies of songs that were big hits in the 1950s. The concept had never been done before so the producers were intensely concerned about the group discussing the album with anyone until its release.
In early 1970, “Newies But Oldies” was released with a single from the album, as well. The “A-side” was Hey Jude by the Beatles sung to the melody of In the Still of the Night by the Five Satins. The “B-Side” was “Smile A Little Smile for Me, Rosemarie,” done like Little Darlin by the Diamonds. In many ways, like "Short Shorts" and “Short Shorts Twist,” the album concept was a novelty and was played heavily by DJs in the New York metropolitan area.
In 1972, members of the group having long since left their teen years, changed the group's name to Dino—Take Five, and in 1973 to Take Five, when Dino left the group and moved to California. Subsequently, Bob Baran left the group to practice law as a corporate patent attorney, and the group continued to play for some years as Take Five.
Bob Gaudio later became a member of The Four Seasons. Fourteen-year-old member Al Kooper sometimes appeared with the Royal Teens on the road in 1959, and later founded the groups "The Blues Project" and "Blood Sweat & Tears" (originally known as "Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat and Tears"). Kooper also performed as a session musician on several of Bob Dylan's albums in the mid-60's. Vocalist Joe Francavilla (also known as Joey Villa) joined them in late 1958. He previously sang with the Three Friends who had a minor hit with "Blanche". With several briefly tenured members of the Royal Teens, he went on to form Joey and the Twisters which released a few minor hits ("Do You Want to Dance," "Bony Maronie") in 1961–1962 and frequently played the Peppermint Lounge in New York City as contemporaries of Joey Dee and the Starlighters. Billy Crandall would join The Knickerbockers in 1964, using the name Buddy Randell, and would sing lead vocal on the group's top 20 hit "Lies" in 1966. Crandall would later perform with the contemporary Messianic group Jerusalem Rivers before passing away in 1998.
When the show Jersey Boys came to Broadway, Bob Gaudio told Tommy that "Short Shorts" was being featured in the show. When the two original Royal Teens reunited at the August Wilson Theater the night of the premiere of Jersey Boys, Tommy said he was so proud to have traveled the first leg of Bobby's historical musical journey with him.
Billy Dalton died due to an apparent heart attack on Saturday, October 8, 2011. After his funeral Mass, Billy was interred in St. Patrick Cemetery in Rochelle, Illinois, on Thursday, October 13, 2011—what would have been his 71st birthday.
In 1974, lead vocalist for the Royal Teens, James "Dino" Cusumano moved to California and founded and led the growth of several public technology companies. One of them, Catalytica Pharmaceuticals, Inc., grew in less than five years from five people to nearly 2,000 people with sales of $500 million and a market value of $1 billion before it was sold at a premium. He then formed Chateau Wally Films where he produced the successful feature film “What Matters Most,” which was released in more than 50 countries.
His next move was to Prague in the Czech Republic where with his wife Inez, he bought and renovated a castle, Chateau Mcely into an internationally award-winning luxury hotel, spa and forest retreat. Dino and Inez used Chateau Mcely to launch Mcely Bouquet, a line of natural cosmetics and also formed Chateau Mcely Forum™, an organization that brings leading thinkers from around the world to the Czech Republic to teach Inspired Leadership to corporate executives.
Using his given name, James A. Cusumano, Dino became a prolific writer. He is the co-author of “Freedom From Mid-East Oil,” and the author of “Cosmic Consciousness—A Journey to Well-being, Happiness And Success,” and “Balance: The Business-Life Connection.” (4)
ABC Paramount Records
- 1958: Short Shorts/Planet Rock (originally issued on the tiny Power Records label)
- 1958: Big Name Button/Sham Rock
- 1958: Harvey's Got A Girlfriend/Hangin' Around
- 1958: Open The Door/My Kind of Dream
- 1959: Believe Me/Little Cricket
- 1960: The Moon's Not Meant For Lovers (Anymore)/Was It A Dream?
- 1960: It's The Talk of the Town/With You
• 1961: Short Shorts Twist
• 1970: Newies But Oldies (album)
• 1970: Hey Jude
In popular culture
- Billboard Singles, Allmusic.com
- Video on YouTube
- The Flying Machine (band)