Sha Na Na…
…may not have invented Rock nostalgia, but the group has successfully – very successfully – celebrated the music and memories for the past four decades… in concert, in the movies and on TV, and on record. Sha Na Na’s story is an all-encompassing one: they were in the original Woodstock Festival lineup, starred in Grease, hosted the Sha Na Na TV Showfrom 1977 to 1981 for a total of 97 episodes, and still play more than 50 concerts a year, from state fairs, performing arts centers, casino showrooms to mega corporate functions worldwide. And through it all – flower power, hard rock, metal music, disco, hip hop, rap and more – Sha Na Na remains true to the original concept: Rock ‘n Roll is here to stay! The Sha Na Na story begins oddly for a group that, in appearance, runs the gamut from greaser to gold lame. Attired in turtleneck and blue blazers, the nucleus of Sha Na Na were undergraduate members of The Kingsmen, a glee club ensemble at New York’s Columbia University that used to perform a cappella versions of ‘50s Rock songs as part of the performances. These proved very popular and eventually Rock ‘n Roll took over, instruments were added, and Sha Na Na – the name comes from the ‘50s Silhouettes’ hit, Get A Job – was born.
Heard of Woodstock?
… If the original 1969 Woodstock Festival was a defining moment in rock history, it was also a defining moment in the history of Sha Na Na. The group’s appearance – only the eighth in Sha Na Na’s career, followed by the Woodstock album and movie, cemented their reputation and style. “We went on second to last, at sunrise on the final day, but, importantly, just before Jimi Hendrix,” recalls co-founder, drummer Jocko Marcellino. “We did 40 minutes and were paid $350…and the check bounced!” Sha Na Na was the only group at Woodstock without a record deal. Immediately afterward, they had one and today the group has released eighteen albums in total, with worldwide sales of more than 20 million.
TV was another important step for the group…
The group taped 97 episodes of the Sha Na Na music variety shows from 1977 to 1981 that were seen – and still can be – in worldwide syndication. The shows, which featured Sha Na Na’s music, plus the group in comedy skits with special guests, further established the group’s credentials as a part of the landscape of rock & roll America.
Grease is still the word for Sha Na Na…
Grease: The Movie became another significant building block in the Sha Na Na story. The group appeared in the 1979 musical, as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers, and contributed to the music score with six Sha Na Na versions of rock classics and one original song, “Sandy,” co-written by Screamin’ Scott Simon for John Travolta to sing. Between takes, Travolta also sang a little doo-wop with the group. The accompanying Grease soundtrack album was a major hit, Grammy-nominated and certified eight times platinum. Recalls Marcellino: “Whole new generations get swept up in the nostalgia craze, effectively becoming our potential audience.” For example, Sha Na Na played the immense Los Angeles County Fair in front of a special audience – 20,000 Girl 2 Scouts! “They were too young to have seen our TV show, but they had seen Grease on video. They knew the words to every song from the movie.” Sha Na Na recently rocked The Hollywood Bowl at a Grease Sing-A-Long presented by The Los Angeles Philharmonic hosted by Didi “Frenchy” Conn with special guest drummer Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. A Hollywood Bowl tradition, the event celebrated the 35th Anniversary of the beloved Grease film, the highest grossing musical film of all time.
Live in concert….
Working for nearly five decades throughout the world, Sha Na Na has performed worldwide: from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Ole Opry, in Asia and in Africa, London to Tokyo. They have had some interesting newcomers opening for their show, such as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Jay Leno! Live performances remain at the heart of Sha Na Na. Whether it’s those Girl Scouts or their baby boomer parents, the reaction to the group is the same – the discovery of a common joy in the music from a time when part of the world was “greased and ready to rock.”