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Sha Na Na
New York City, New York
|Genres||Rock and roll, doo-wop|
|Labels||Kama Sutra, Buddah|
|Past members||<see former members list>|
Sha Na Na was an American rock and roll doo-wop group. Formed in 1969, but performing a song-and-dance repertoire based on 1950s hit songs, it simultaneously revived and parodied the music and the New York street culture of the 1950s. After gaining initial fame for their performance at Woodstock, made possible with the help of their friend Jimi Hendrix, the group hosted Sha Na Na, a syndicated variety series that ran from 1977 to 1981.
Billing themselves as "from the streets of New York", members were frequently outfitted in gold lamé or leather jackets and sported pompadour or ducktail hairdos. The group's name was taken from a series of nonsense syllables ("Sha Na Na Na Sha Na Na Na Na") in the song "Get a Job", originally recorded by the Silhouettes.
The final lineup featured original members Donny York and Jocko Marcellino, and longtime member Screamin' Scott Simon, who joined in 1970. Everyone else from the original band and TV show had since departed. Final band members included bassist Tim Butler, guitarist Randy Hill, drummer Ty Cox, and saxophone player Michael Brown.
Conceived by George Leonard, then a humanities graduate student, who also became the group's original choreographer, Sha Na Na began performing in 1969 at the height of the hippie counterculture. Only five months after Leonard had explained his concept to the group, on the basis of excitement their performances had generated in a New York City club frequented by famous rock musicians and others from the music business, and with the help of Jimi Hendrix, a friend they had met at the club, they obtained a slot at the Woodstock festival. Their performance immediately preceded that of Hendrix, whose own performance closed the festival. As with most of their other early performances, Sha Na Na's performance at Woodstock was a "show stopper" that left the audience simultaneously "delighted and bewildered." Their set-closing song, the 1957–58 number-one hit "At the Hop", got the group a standing ovation, and they were brought back for an encore. Subsequently, the inclusion of their performance of "At the Hop" in Michael Wadleigh's award-winning documentary film of the festival made Sha Na Na nationally famous and helped spark a 1950s nostalgia craze that inspired similar groups (Flash Cadillac, Showaddywaddy, Big Daddy), as well as the Broadway musical Grease (and its feature film adaptation), the feature film American Graffiti and the TV show Happy Days.
Before 1969, the group had been singing as part of the long-standing Columbia University a cappella group called the Columbia Kingsmen. But when, based on Leonard's advice, they transformed their show and became a commercial act, they changed their name to Sha Na Na, due to the Pacific Northwest group also called The Kingsmen that had become famous for recording the 1963 hit "Louie Louie".
At the time when the group was being transformed from the Columbia Kingsmen into Sha Na Na, George Leonard's brother, Rob Leonard, was one of the group's bass singers and its official leader. Rob Leonard's performance at Woodstock of "Teen Angel", a teen-tragedy classic from 1959 to 1960, was later included in the 2009 Director's Cut of the Woodstock movie.
The group's first manager, Ed Goodgold, had 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 guest musicians such as James Brown, the punk rock band the Ramones, 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 (electric bass). 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 often returned 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 their guests and they 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); both Pamela Myers and actress Jane Dulo (the crabby Lady in the window, who watched over the street scenes from her apartment with undisguised disdain) throughout the show's run, June Gable and Soupy Sales (seasons two to four); Michael Sklar (season two); and Karen Hartman (season four).
Guests included Jan & Dean, Fabian, Chuck Berry, Chubby Checker, The Ramones, Ethel Merman, Frank Gorshin, Dusty Springfield, Barbara Mandrell, Stephanie Mills, Billy Crystal, Kim Carnes, Danny and the Juniors, Connie Stevens, Isaac Hayes, Rita Moreno, Del Shannon, Andy Gibb, Barbi Benton, Stephanie Mills and others.
The members of Sha Na Na during the TV series were Jon "Bowzer" Bauman (vocals), Lennie Baker (sax/vocals), Johnny Contardo (vocals), Denny 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), and 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", and 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 and 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.
In alphabetical order
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 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).
Guitarist Danny "Dirty Dan" McBride (born Daniel Hatton, 1945) died of cardiovascular disease in 2009.
Bass guitarist Reggie Battise was a dancer in the feature film Staying Alive (1983) and White Men Can't Jump (1992), as well as the TV series Moonlighting. He succumbed to prostate cancer on October 8, 2010.
Founding member Rob Leonard is a professor of linguistics at Hofstra University. He 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.
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 10 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.
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, California, 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. He played with a 1950s/1960s show band 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 premedical courses. He has been a member of the medical staff of US national soccer teams, and was the team physician for the Federation Women's National Team from 2005 to 2015. He is a clinical professor at the University of Southern California. While Powell was with Sha Na Na, he sang the bulk of the Elvis Presley 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 on "Tears on My Pillow", "Duke of Earl", and others. He died on September 5, 2015, after a brief illness.
Studio and live albums
- Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay [1969, US Billboard Album Chart 183] (re-released in 1973 with different cover)
- Sha Na Na [1971, US Billboard Album Chart 122] (Side A: Recorded live at Columbia University, New York and Side B: Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, New York)
- The Night Is Still Young [1972, US Billboard Album Chart 156]; certain releases omitted one of the songs ("Sleepin' on a Song")
- The Golden Age of Rock ’n’ Roll [1973, US Billboard Album Chart 38, RIAA Certification: Gold] (Double LP, sides 2, 3 & 4 live recordings probably from 1972)
- From the Streets of New York (live) [1973, US Billboard Album Chart 140]
- Hot Sox [1974, US Billboard Album Chart 165]
- Sha Na Now [1975, US Billboard Album Chart 162]
- Rock 'n Roll Graffiti – Live in Japan  (released in Japan in 1977, re-released in 1981)
- Rockin' in the 1980s 
- Silly Songs 
- 34th & Vine (1990) [eight songs]
- Live in Concert (late 1980s and early 1990s concerts) [199?] (one CD, two cassettes, or one DVD)
- 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 one additional track: "Bad Christmas Eve")
- One More Saturday Night 
- Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (Vol I, II, III, IV)  (cassette) compilation series that includes two previously unreleased songs, "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Mr. Bass Man"
- Rockin' and a Rollin'  compilation (CD) that includes one previously unreleased song, "My Prayer"
- Havin' an Oldies Party with Sha Na Na  compilation that includes one previously unreleased song, "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"
- The Sha Na Na 25th Anniversary Collection  (20 songs including the eight tracks from 34th & Vine)
- 20 Classics Of Rock 'N' Roll (mid-1990s) (compilation cassette including a few previously unreleased recordings)
- Blue Moo: 17 Jukebox Hits from Way Back Never – various artist release (book and CD) containing one song ("Gorilla Song") by Sha Na Na 
- 40th Anniversary – Collector's Edition (includes at least six previously unreleased performances) 
- Rockin' Christmas: The Classic Christmas Collection (includes six new Christmas 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 one new Christmas song: "Ugly Christmas Sweater") 
- 50th Anniversary – Commemorative Edition – CD and LP – 12 never-before-released live concert cuts, three original bonus studio cuts, and expanded 16-page behind-the-scenes story 
- Woodstock soundtrack [1970, US Billboard Album Chart 1] (includes "At the Hop" by Sha Na Na)
- Sha Na Na also appears on the festival compilation albums Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music ("At the Hop"); Woodstock 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm ("Get a Job", "At the Hop", "Get a Job (reprise)"); Woodstock – Back to the Garden: 50th Anniversary Collection ("At the Hop"); Woodstock – Back to the Garden: 50th Anniversary Experience ("Get a Job", "Come Go with Me", "Silhouettes", "At the Hop", "Duke of Earl", "Get a Job (reprise)"); and Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive
- Grease soundtrack [1978, US Billboard Album Chart 1] (includes six songs by Sha Na Na)
- "Remember Then" / "Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay" [1969, US Cash Box Singles Chart 114]
- "Payday" / "Portnoy" 
- "Only One Song" / "Jail House Rock" [1971, US Billboard Singles Chart 110]
- "Top Forty" / "Great Balls Of Fire" [1971, US Billboard Singles Chart 84]
- "Eddie and the Evergreens" / "In the Still of the Night" (from The Night Is Still Young album) 
- "Bounce in Your Buggy" / "Bless My Soul" [1972, US Cash Box Singles Chart 124]
- "Maybe I'm Old Fashioned" / "Stroll All Night" (longer version) 
- "(Just Like) Romeo And Juliet" / "Circles Of Love" [1975, US Billboard Singles Chart 55]
- The Sha-Na-Netts – (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet (No Lead Vocals) / Flint-Niks – The Flint-Nik Rock 
- "Smokin' Boogie" / "We're Still Smokin'" 
- Sha Na Na Live in Germany (TV: Musikladen), 1973 (DVD, CD+VCD)
- Rock 'n Roll Concert & Party  (VHS)
- Grunt: The Wrestling Movie (1985) -- includes "Wrestling Tonight" by Sha Na Na
- The Fall Guy TV series – "Beach Blanket Bounty" episode  – several songs performed by Sha Na Na
- "The Official Sha Na Na Website!". shanana.com. December 5, 2022. Archived from the original on December 7, 2022.
LET IT BE KNOWN: Sha Na Na will no longer tour as a concert group.
- "Sha Na Na". iTunes. April 10, 2010.
- "Sha Na Na founder helps hunt criminals". Today.com. MSNBC. October 5, 2006. Archived from the original on September 22, 2012. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- "Danny McBride: Guitarist with rock'n' roll revivalists Sha Na Na". The Independent. August 18, 2009. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
- "F.A.Q. (Frequently Asked Questions)". ShaNaNa.com. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- Leonard, George J.; Leonard, Robert A. (April 22, 2016). "Sha Na Na and the Woodstock Generation". Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2018.
- Thomas Edwards Harkins, Woodstock FAQ: All that's Left to Know About the Fabled Garden, Backbeat 2019, p. 275
- Rock 'n Roll is Here to Stay! Kama Sutra 1969, liner notes inside the original gatefold album cover
- Robert Rubsam, "Rock 'n Roll's Sha Na Na Remembers the Golden Days of Woodstock" Hudson Valley, May 30, 2019
- Michael Lang, The Road to Woodstock, Ecco 2010, p. 131
- Irwin Stambler, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul, revised ed., St. Martin's Press 1989, pp. 610–11
- Wade Lawrence & Scott Parker, "Sha Na Na: 50 Years of Peace and Music" Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, retrieved June 30, 2021
- Thomas Edward Harkins, Woodstock FAQ: All that's Left to Know About the Fabled Garden, Backbeat 2019 p. 277, stating inclusion of "At the Hop" in the Woodstock film was "enough to cement the group in the public's consciousness and keep things going"
- Jack Doyle "At the Hop, 1957–58" PopHistoryDig.com, Aug. 12, 2010, stating Sha Na Na's performance of "At the Hop" at Woodstock "helped launch their career"
- "The Nifty 1950s". Life. June 16, 1972.
Sha Na Na more or less set off the '50s kick
- Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive, Released: August 2, 2019; Recorded: August 15–18, 1969, Rhino Entertainment, Performer Notes p. 52 describing Sha Na Na as “The bleeding edge of the 1950s rock revival”
- Rock 'n Roll is Here to Stay! Kama Sutra 1969, liner notes inside the original gatefold album cover
- Hitt, Jack (July 23, 2012). "Words on Trial". The New Yorker.
- Woodstock: 40th Anniversary Edition "2009 Director's Cut"
- "The Ducktail Syndrome". Columbia College Today. New York, NY: Columbia College, Office of Alumni Affairs and Development: 36–37. Summer 1970. ISSN 0572-7820. OCLC 1084606218.
- "Alumni Authors". Columbia College Today. New York, NY: Columbia College, Office of Alumni Affairs and Development: 100. Summer 1970. ISSN 0572-7820. OCLC 1084606218.
- Amalie R. Rothschild, Live at the Fillmore East, 1999 Thunder's Mouth Press
- Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run, 2016, Simon & Schuster p. 186
- 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. August 30, 1972. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- "Xanana Gusmao: From Guerrilla goalkeeper to president". Irish Examiner. Irish Examiner Ltd. April 16, 2002. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
- The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. 8th Edition – 2003, Ballantine Books.
- Leung, Rebecca (July 10, 2004). "The Great Pretender". 48 Hours. CBS News.
- "Actor, musician Reggie Leon Battise dies". The Hollywood Reporter. Associated Press. October 11, 2010. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
- Documentary including him broadcast on New Zealand television 21 July 2010
- Too Pretty to Live: The Catfishing Murders of East Tennessee. Diversion Distribution Services. 2016.
- "Epic Mysteries: Too Pretty to Live". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
- "Alan Cooper". JTSA.edu. The Jewish Theological Seminary. Archived from the original on July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- "Elliot Cahn". Pacific Records. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
- "The Corvettes Show Band". TheCorvettes.com. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- "Meet Dr. Scott Powell". ScottPowellMD.com. January 2, 1970. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- "Dennis Greene". School of Law, University of Dayton. Archived from the original on February 5, 2015. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
- Slotnik, Daniel E. (September 9, 2015). "Dennis Greene, a Singer With Sha Na Na, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
- Clarke, Bruce (August 18, 2019). "Clarke: Sha Na Na and hazy memories of Woodstock a half-century later". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
- "Sha Na Na". USA Today. August 13, 2009. Retrieved June 27, 2021.