Home TV by Decade TV Shows - 1970s Sha Na Na

Sha Na Na

1 9 7 7 – 1 9 8 1 (USA)
97 x 60 minute episodes

Sha Na Na‘s story is an all-encompassing one: They were in the original Woodstock Festival lineup (it was only their seventh performance), starred in the 1978 film Grease (as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers), hosted the Sha Na Na TV series for four years, and still play more than 100 concerts a year, from state fairs to performing arts centres, casino showrooms to mega-corporate functions worldwide.

Sha Na Na formed in 1968 while most of the original lineup were students at Columbia University in New York and one was a student at Brooklyn College. The name was chosen from the refrain in the 1950s Silhouettes’ song, Get A Job.

The group taped 97 episodes of the Sha Na Na music variety show from 1977 to 1981 that were seen in worldwide syndication. The exuberant mixture of 1950s good-time rock ‘n’ roll and cornball comedy sketches was one of the surprise hits of the late 1970s.

The setting was a city street, and the members of the group all played variations on the dumb-but-lovable 1950s “greaser” – like Fonzie on Happy Days – with ducktail haircuts, leather jackets, and Lamé trousers.

The emcee and unofficial leader was Bowzer (Jon Bauman), who would strike a pose and flex imaginary muscles in his skinny arm while grinning with a mouthful of crooked teeth.

The jokes were corny and the comedy skits usually silly, but it was all done with infectious enthusiasm. The boys performed energetically, and obviously didn’t take anything or anybody too seriously, which helped make this a very appealing half-hour.

Each member of the band had his own personality. Bowzer was the smarter-than-he-looks leader; Lennie (Baker), the jolly, bearded sax player; Johnny, the sexy, baby-faced Italian; Denny Greene, the only black guy in the band; Dirty Dan, another youthful good-looker; “Jocko” was chunky and a bit on the crazy side; Chico, a handsome, macho type; Screamin’ Scott, the balding piano player who looked a bit like Elton John; Santini, also balding and on the heavy side (he used to be called Captain Outrageous) and Donny, the spaced-out guy in dark glasses.

Helping out on the show were a multitude of guest stars, from Phyllis Diller and Ethel Merman to Dr Joyce Brothers (who offered to give the boys psychiatric counselling). Many were authentic 1950s rock artists such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Freddy Cannon, The Shirelles, Chubby Checker, and Brenda Lee.

A backup cast of comics, including gum-chewing dizzy blonde Pam Myers, also appeared.

The group closed each show with the slogan, “Grease for peace!”

David “Chico” Ryan
John “Jocko” Marcellino
“Screamin’ Scott” Simon
Lennie Baker
Donald “Donny” York
Scott “Tony Santini” Powell
Johnny Contardo
“Dirty Dan” McBride
Jon “Bowzer” Bauman
Frederick “Denny” Greene
Joe Witkin
Richard Joffe
Elliot Cahn
Bruce Clarke
Dora Pearson