The Royal Teens
The Royal Teens
|Origin||Bergenfield, New Jersey|
|Labels||RCA, Epic/CBS, Capitol/EMI, Musicor, Jubilee|
|Associated acts||The Four Seasons|
|Members||Tom Austin - drums |
Bob Azzara - piano
Flip Cesario - guitar
Bill Crandall - saxophone
Bill Dalton - bass
Bob Gaudio - piano
Al Kooper - guitar
Larry Qualiano - saxophone
Dan Sabatino - vocals
Joe Villa (Joe Francavilla) - vocals
Vince Cautero - vocals
The Royal Teens were an American rock and roll band that formed in New Jersey in 1956 and consisted of Bob Gaudio on piano, Tom Austin on drums, Billy Dalton on guitar, and Billy Crandall on saxophone. The group is best known for its 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 never recorded an album, and broke up in 1965.
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 wolf 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 group reluctantly added Teens to its name.
Power Records, being an independent record label, couldn't afford to handle the success of "Short Shorts", so Leo licensed the master copy to ABC-Paramount Records, also headquartered in New York City. ABC-Paramount released the song to a nationwide audience, and as a result, "Short Shorts" soared to popularity. It peaked at #3 on what became the Billboard Hot 100.
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 Dumont High School because he was only 14 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 complete again, touring with greats such as Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Frankie Avalon.
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. Kooper also performed as a session musician on several of Bob Dylan's albums in the mid-'60s. Vocalist Joe Francavilla (also known as Joey Villa) joined the group in late 1958. He previously sang with the Three Friends, which 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 Starliters. 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 of 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.
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: "Sittin With My Baby" / "Mad Gass"
- 1959: "Leotards" / "Royal Blue"
- 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"