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Sha Na Na

As rock music reached the end of the 1960s and began to ‘grow up’, Sha Na Na became a big success by revisiting rock and roll’s early days with a new energy.

Their combination of classic sounds and modern showmanship made them popular with rock music’s older fans and also helped them win over plenty of new ones.

As a result, they became fixtures on film, television and the concert stage and also paved the way for future rock-revival groups like The Stray Cats.

Sha Na Na started as The Kingsmen, a group of college students at Columbia University.

The band became a local hit with their versions of 1950s doo-wop songs and their authentic 1950s look, complete with ducktail hairstyles, gold lame jackets, and drainpipe trousers.

The group renamed themselves Sha Na Na after a line from the doo-wop classic Get A Job and got their break when they performed before Jimi Hendrix at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.

Their set became a highlight of the Woodstock film (1970) – Dressed in gold from head to toe they covered nostalgic hits like Duke Of Earl and Yakety Yak – and earned them a record contract.

Sha Na Na released their debut album, Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay, in late 1969. It set the tone for their sound by combining energetic remakes of oldies classics with a few original tunes done in the style of their old favourites.

The albums Sha Na Na (1971), The Night Is Still Young (1972), From The Streets Of New York (1973) and Hot Sox (1974) followed and meanwhile, they became a smash hit on the concert circuit.

Their shows included choreographed dance routines by the singers and a jiving contest that allowed audience members to join in the fun.

They also became popular with their fellow rockers: Keith Moon of The Who sat in on drums at one of their shows and John Lennon chose them to open a 1972 concert.

Guitarist Vinnie Taylor (real name Chris Donald) died of a drug overdose on 17 April 1974, in his room at the Charlottesville Holiday Inn after a performance at the University of Virginia. He was 25.

In the late 1970s, Sha Na Na moved into television and film. Between 1977 and 1981, the group starred in their own syndicated television show, also called Sha Na Na. It successfully combined music with comedic skits and is still seen on television today.

The group also appeared in the film Grease (1978) as the dance band Johnny Casino and the Gamblers (pictured below).

They contributed several oldies covers to the film’s soundtrack and Scott Simon co-wrote one of the film’s hit songs, Sandy. The movie went on to become the most successful film musical of all time and its soundtrack album became a monster hit.

Sha Na Na have sold 20 million albums over the years and continue to release new albums today. They also maintain a busy schedule of concerts that takes them to concert halls all over the world. In short, Sha Na Na is living proof that “rock and roll will never die”.

Bass player Dave ‘Chico’ Ryan died in 1998. Guitarist ‘Dirty Dan’ McBride died of cardiovascular disease in 2009.

Scott Powell (Captain Outrageous/Tony Santini)
Johnny ‘Kid’ Contardo
Frederick ‘Denny’ Greene
Richard ‘Ritchie’ Joffe
Jon ‘Bowzer’ Bauman
Vocals, piano
Don York
Alan Cooper
Rob Leonard
David Garrett
Chris ‘Vinnie Taylor’ Donald
Elliot ‘Gino’ Cahn
Guitar, vocals
Henry Gross
Guitar, vocals
‘Dirty’ Dan McBride
Leonard ‘Lenny’ Baker
‘Screamin’ Scott Simon
Joe Witkin
Piano, vocals
Bruce ‘Bruno’ Clarke
Bass, vocals
Dave ‘Chico’ Ryan
John ‘Jocko’ Marcellino
Drums, vocals
Elliott ‘Enrico Ranzoni’ Randall