It’s the 1970’s. In the sheltered world of suburbia – Plymouth to be precise – I was growing up. Bicycle riding in the neighborhood, trading baseball cards with kids at school, and cutting the lawns of my grandparents and the homes of two other senior citizens on our block. Television was limited to two dials, with our CBS-affiliate (Channel 2), NBC-affiliate (Channel 4), and ABC-affiliate (Channel 7) on the VHF dial with a CBC-affiliate, Channel 9 out of Windsor. On the UHF dial were channels 20 (WXON), 50 (WKBD), 56 (PBS), and 62 (WGPR). Compared to today, a much simpler time for a kid growing up.
After discovering The Monkees (see Vinyl memories #4), there was nothing else that drew me musically. I listened to 800 AM, CKLW, which played popular music. On the FM dial, friends were listening to WRIF, Detroit’s legendary rock station. But I found the music to be too dark and scary for me.
In 1974, the television show Happy Days hit the air. This introduced to me the 1950’s era of music. I discovered 580 on the AM dial, WHND, Honey radio, which played the hits of the 50’s and 60’s. It was the station I locked in on in the first car I got to drive after getting my license – a 1964 Mercury Comet with a red body and white roof, despite the razzing and challenging of friends who knew the power behind the Comet’s V-8. Four or five guys I knew would take their cars late at night onto M-14 as it was being constructed, and raced. They wanted to test their Mustangs and other vehicles against my Comet. But yeah, I was a nerd, and the fear of getting caught outweighed the street cred I may have earned by taking up their challenge. Richie Cunningham I was not.
One day in the record store – most likely Harmony House – I found them. Sha Na Na. The modern day 50’s band.
The band emerged in the late 1960’s, and was actually the spark that revived the music of the 1950’s when they appeared at Woodstock, preceding Jimi Hendrix. According to the June 16, 1972 issue of Life Magazine, in an article about “The Nifty Fifties,” it was Sha Na Na that kicked off the craze, bringing forth the television show Happy Days, and the musical, Grease.
Sha Na Na covered classic 50’s hits like “Get a Job,” “Earth Angel,” “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” and “Good Night Sweetheart.” The charismatic bass, Jon “Bowzer” Bauman, tended to be the face and leader of the group. My favorite had to be Johnny Contardo. He could sing all the sweet, heart-felt ballads like “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Chances Are.” But you’d never catch me in one of those gold jackets exposing my chest, and gold tights.
It was somewhere between my junior and senior year in high school when fellow trumpet player, Mark Zamarka, asked if I was interested in joining him and his parents to a Sha Na Na concert at Pine Knob. Everyone else I knew in school was going to concerts of the rock bands of the times – The Stones, Van Halen, Eagles, Kansas, Foreigner, etc. – but my first concert was Sha Na Na. Grease for Peace, baby! Then, later when dating my wife, Sha Na Na returned to Pine Knob, and I took her to see them (and to think, she still married me!).
It seemed only natural that Sha Na Na would find themselves with a variety television show in the late 70’s. The show would feature a classic 50’s artist. I found this YouTube clip of a show, bringing back fond memories of the group.
Sha Na Na is still around today, with some of the members from the band I remember still in the group.
Spinning these records today sh-booms me back to a simpler time. Sha Na Na From the Streets of New York is a live concert recorded August 28, 1973 in Central Park. The mix of tunes on Hot Sox varied from the classic covers of these songs. And the rest, well, if it’s spinning on my record player then I’m likely singing along as I did back in the 1970’s, listening to the 1950’s radio station in my 1960’s car.
Sha Na Na: From the Streets of New York
High School Confidential
Ring Around Your Neck
Get a Job
Tossin’ and Turnin’
Come Go With Me
Sha Na Na: Hot Sox
Maybe I’m Old-Fashioned
Romeo and Juliet
Easier Said Than Done
Stroll All Night
Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)
You Talk Too Much
Too Chubby To Boogie
Don’t You Just Know It
Dreams Come True