Dick Clark Cheers: Who Do We Appreciate . . .
“Boy,” said Tony Mammarella, “that Princeton team is red hot.”
“Correction,” said I—and I had to really speak up to be heard above the blare of the football game over the car radio. “Teams are red hot—or haven’t you been following the record charts?”
Tony nodded, but that was all. It was fourth down for the Tigers and Tony wasn’t about to be diverted by shop talk. But a few days later, just as if all those hours hadn’t passed between, Tony picked up the conversation. He’s producer on my “American Bandstand” and we work together closely. So if one of us starts a thought, the other will pick it up—even if it sometimes isn’t till days later.
The second time we talked about teams was just a few weeks ago. We were driving home after a record hop and we were just a wee bit tired. The “we” included myself, Tony and two of the representatives from record companies who had joined us for the outing. After rehearsing for the television show and then going on the air with “Bandstand,” we had had only just enough time to grab a quick snack before heading for the hop.
Now it was just around eleven at night and there wasn’t too much traffic on the road. One of the fellows began to hum some of the song hits of the past. I guess he was trying to keep us all awake. Anyway, we all began chiming in with our favorites and, before you knew it, we had a real big quartet going for us. “Dinah,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “Blue Moon”—you catch the picture. We weren’t always on key, and sometimes we’d sort of have to krannerfrantz the words, but it sure was fun. (And at that time of night, what can you expect?)
“We ought to form our own team,” said Tony, “and start cutting discs.”
“He’s mad,” I thought. “The witch doctor’s put a hex on him.” But then it struck me that more than one vocal group probably got started in a setting not much different from ours.
Maybe the idea has even struck you and your friends when you’re sitting around at a party or a picnic, singing or keeping time to the record player. Sound exciting? Well, it’s not as fantastic as it sounds.
Take the Four Lads. You probably have their record of “Enchanted Island” in your own collection. Well, they were four choir boys at St. Michael’s Cathedral School in Toronto, when they decided to form a quartet. Sound easy? The Lads stopped by at my office in Philadelphia and told me there’s more to it than that. “Getting together and singing is one thing,” they said, “and getting those hit records is another.” It took years of experience and hard work for Frank Busseri, Bernard Toorish, James Arnold and Connie Coderini to hit the top. And believe me, they work even harder to stay there.
At school in Toronto, the boys studied music for several years. Believe it or not—working on classics and sacred music—on hymns and chants. After hours, they’d stash their cassocks and get together to warble some of the pop standards and new hits. It didn’t take Frank, Bernie, Jimmy and Connie long to find that their musical tastes matched as well as their musical talents. It sort of hit them all together—and all at once—that maybe they ought to join up and give show business a whirl.
They were young, and there were four of them. So one of them piped up with, “Why not call ourselves the Four Lads?” “Why not?” was the answer. They took the name. Now, the next step was to get the show on the road.
Soon, local stations in the Toronto area began to find four eager young fellows parked on their doorsteps and anxiously asking for auditions. The first audition, they say, is always the hardest. The Lads will back that one up and so will I. My friends, as a fellow who has auditioned for announcing jobs at local stations—and how many times did I do that—let me tell you that these auditions are hard on the nerves.
The Lads told me about an early hearing they had at one station. “Be there at ten,” they’d been told. So, being young and ambitious, they arrived at nine-thirty. Seated in the lobby, they hummed, crooned, did anything they could think of to get over the jitters. Ten o’clock came— and they were still sitting. By ten-fifteen, they were still waiting, but no longer just sitting. They were pacing. By ten-thirty, they were ready to break for the door, if anyone would just say the word. Finally, at about fifteen minutes to eleven, they were called into the studio and a microphone was set before them.
“Sing,” a voice commanded them, and the Lads started in. But not all at once. After a few false starts, they called a halt, clenched their fists, took a few deep breaths, and started all over again. They were half-way through their number when the studio door opened. A fellow in shirt-sleeves came in, tapped the microphone and then called into it, “Can you hear me now?” No answer. Down on his hands and knees went the fellow. He crawled around looking for outlets while the Lads stood by, growing more bewildered by the minute. Finally, the man looked up with a big grin of satisfaction. “Oh, there it is,’ he said. “Sorry, boys, but we didn’t have the mike on before.”
He left and the same quiet voice as before repeated, “Sing.” Four shaky voices started off again. This time, they’d only gotten through the first few bars when the studio door opened again and a horde of women came through, laughing and pushing at each other. Following them was an impressive figure, wearing an out-of-character loud bow tie. “Sorry,” he informed our heroes, “but we need this studio. We go on the air here in three minutes.”
That did it! The Lads sprinted out of there like track stars, not even waiting to hear if they’d got the job. Guess they were scared they might be hired to work there, after all. But if they didn’t get that job, they soon began picking up others. They sang on other stations and in local clubs. They were earning money but, even shinier and more important than those coins was the polish they were gaining as a group.
“The really big break,” says Connie, “was our tryout engagement at the Ruban Bleu in New York. We were hired for just a few days, and we stayed for thirty weeks.” That was time enough for the word to get around about this red-hot new singing team. They began getting offers from the big hotels and from other lush night clubs.
Next rung on the ladder were guest spots on television and a contract with Columbia Records. You may not know it but in the beginning the Lads pitched in to provide backing for such popular “single” artists as Johnnie Ray, Doris Day and Frankie Laine. Then one of their own discs got grooved, labeled and distributed. It went. Since then, albums by the Lads have been up there in the best-selling category for years, and the boys have a real long list of singles, too. Way at the top of it is one of my all-time favorites, “Enchanted Island.”
Now, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day they introduced that on “Bandstand.” When the Lads had finished, there wasn’t a sound, and for a few minutes, the boys just stood there and looked puzzled. They’d felt sure they had a big hit. Then, all of a sudden, the studio audience let loose. They gave the Lads one of the loudest and longest hands I’ve ever heard.
Later, in my office, Frank Busseri was talking about it. “I broke out in a cold sweat when we didn’t get that immediate reaction,” he said, “but, boy, when it came it sure made us feel good.” It was applause well-earned by the Four Lads. They’re a quartet that could easily call themselves the Four Nice Guys. They are but definitely not square.
And neither are The Diamonds, that other foursome whose record of “The Stroll” brought a whole new dance to “American Bandstand.” I guess it’s a funny thing, but the Four Lads send me—send me thinking, that is, of this other quartet that’s from north of the border, too. “Not so funny,” Bernie Toorish of the Lads told me one day. “As a matter of fact, I went to high school with Tedd Kowalski, tenor for the Diamonds.”
If you ask me—and if you won’t, I bet Tony Mammarella will—all the Diamonds fit easily into the musical circles. Dave Somerville, for instance, was born in Guelph, Ontario, and studied classical music (it never hurts) for two years at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. Dave’s one of the few people who can come on “Bandstand” and know exactly what goes with the trillions of dials in the control booth. You see, he’s a whiz at that sort of thing, and he worked as a radio engineer for the CBC after he’d been graduated from Central Technical High in Toronto.
A third member of the group, twenty-two-year-old Mike Douglas, is the proud owner of a door at which opportunity knocked twice. Mike was one of the original members of the Diamonds when they were just singing for kicks at parties, benefits and local fairs. When the decision was made to turn fun into fortune, Mike couldn’t go along—he was too tied up at school. Then, after Mike had come to the last page of the textbooks, an opening came up in the group. The fellows got in touch with Mike immediately. “Interested in rejoining us?” they queried. “You bet,” was the quick answer, and soon Mike was back on the podium, vocalizing and also panicking the audience with his great impressions of celebrities.
Fourth member is Bill Reed, another former student at Central Technical High School. Before joining the Diamonds, Bill worked as a telephone-installation man. But even before that, he’d caught the yen for the musical end of show business from his father, who had his own quartet for many years. “Matter of fact,” Bill told me, “my dad and his quartet were the first vocal group to sing on radio in Canada.” Bill’s voice, incidentally, probably has as many imitators as those of the great stars Mike Douglas does impressions of. Bill’s the bass of the group and it’s him on the talking solo parts of “Little Darling” and “The Stroll.” They were the Diamonds’ biggest ones. For weeks after they came out, I can remember the gang at “Bandstand” imitating that “Little darling, ooohhh little darling . . . where are youuuu?” Have to admit I did it myself, but, honest, fellas, it was only in fun.
Getting back to Tedd Kowalski, here’s a fellow who had a rather unusual occupation before he turned to singing professionally. A grad of the University of Toronto, Tedd worked at booking acts at the Odeon Theater in Toronto. Tedd’s got a real great sense of humor and, boy, if you’ve ever caught his antics when the group does “Little Darling,” you’ll agree he could make the top as a comic, too.
The Diamonds are all in their early or mid-twenties. And, gals and guys, let ol’ Dick here tell you that youthful vigor comes in real handy when you’re dashing from stage to plane to hotel to stage just about every day of the week. These boys just thrive on it. I remember the last time they were down to see us. We were all in my office and, with four Diamonds perched on my desk, it was a full house. “Gosh, Dick,” said Tedd, “just the thrill of each personal appearance is the best picker-upper around for when you get the weary blues on a road tour.” Well, that’s fine, boys, but here’s hoping you Diamonds are in one place long enough to unwrap a few more hits like “Little Darling” for Christmas.
If you’re like me, Christmas makes you think of snow. And that takes us back to Canada. But not for long. Don’t get the idea that a singing combo has to be born in Canada to get to the top. (“No,” I can hear the Lads and Diamonds saying, “but it sure helps.”)
One of the year’s fastest-rising groups hails from nowhere else but Belmont Avenue in The Bronx. For sure, that’s Dion and the Belmonts. Dion Di Mucci, the eighteen-year-old leader of this band of four, already has more years in show business than many stars who have been shaving for twice as long.
When Dion was about three years old, he got into the act with his father, Pat Hill, a well-known puppeteer who had performed all over the world before his retirement. Dion seems to be one of those lucky guys who are just born with a natural ear for music. He started playing the guitar as soon as he was big enough to hold one. As to singing, to Dion that’s “doing what comes naturally”—to crib a phrase from Irving Berlin.
When Dion was on “Bandstand,” he got into a huddle, over Cokes, with some of the audience. “We’re a young group,” he told them. “But those three guys who make up the Belmonts and who back me up on songs, they’ve got a lot of talent for any age. Take Fred Milano,” he said. “He’s nineteen and he’s as great at classical music on the piano as he is on rock ’n’ roll vocals. Angelo D’Aleo, why he’s only eighteen, just like me. And Carlo Mastrangelo is nineteen—he sure lords that extra year over me. Anyway, he’s a mighty fine jazz drummer.”
The boys are all recent grads of Roosevelt High in the Bronx. Want to try guessing how they decided to team up? Did you say “at a party?” Well, you couldn’t be any righter. When you’re still in high school, it seems that breaking into the world of show business is just a dream. Still, every chance they’d get, Dion and his pals would put their heads together and make with the pop harmony. Parties were a good chance, all right. At one of them, a friend of Dion’s listened to the boys and decided that he could—and would—lend a helping hand. He took a demonstration record of Dion singing alone down to Gene Schwartz at Laurie Records. Gene listened, liked, and the next thing that Dion knew he was closeted in a recording studio and running through a number called “Chosen Few.”
No, “Chosen Few” didn’t sell a million. After all, how lucky can you get? But the record did move out of the record stores sufficiently fast in New York, Boston and enough other cities to convince Schwartz that Dion could make it and be real comfortable in that million-selling neighborhood.
Dion and his three buddies had been close as a quartet’s harmony in high school. Now that Dion had had his first break, he didn’t forget his pals. Before they could finish counting the profits on “Chosen Few,” the officials at Laurie Records found themselves listening to the Belmonts backing up Dion. This, too, they liked, and, in March of 1958, they teamed the boys for a little number called “I Wonder Why.”
Last summer, Dion and the Belmonts, all bachelors, kept hopping. They toured the country with the Summer Dance Party circuit, playing one-night stands in cities and towns from New York to Los Angeles. They loved it. Incidentally, there may be an opening in the group this month. Angelo is due for a date with the U.S. Navy real soon. But he’ll be back and rejoining the group in a few years—or Dion and the other Belmonts will “wonder why.”
Dion, by the way, isn’t the only young musical star to get his love of the entertainment world from his parents. Two young men who go by the name of Phil and Don Everly also take the cue from their mother and father. Margaret and Ike Everly toured the South and West, and their style of music had ’em rockin’ in the aisles. Or hasn’t anybody told you that oaeuy music is grandpappy to rock ’n’ roll?
Ike Everly taught Phil and Don how to play the guitar when they were still wee ones. The boys joined the family act and, after their father and mother retired, they decided to stay in the music business. Neither had any “school music” lessons, but they figured they could still find room at the top.
They worked everywhere they could, any time they could. “We’d just keep imagining,” Phil told me, “what a thrill it would be to see those words, ‘The Everly Brothers,’ up in lights over a theater.” Eighteen months ago, it took a lot of imagining. The boys were singing—but was anybody listening? “We sure got discouraged at times,” Don said, “and we were kind of tempted, now and then, to give up the whole idea.”
There’s a lesson in there somewhere. When you’re tempted to give up, don’t. If you have the natural talent the Everly Brothers have, you can be sure someone will be listening. In their case, it was Wes Rose, the music publisher. Wes listened and decided to become the boys’ manager. One day, he talked to Archie Bleyer, who’s top man at Cadence Records. (He’s also husband to one of the Chordettes.) Wes sounded so high on the boys that Archie decided to take a flyer. He auditioned them, and then put them to work waxing “Bye Bye Love.”
Once that was on the record racks, there was nothing but cash registers ringing in music stores around the U.S.A. The first record was a gold one, selling more than a million copies for Cadence. Next up was “Wake Up Little Susie,” and that didn’t sell a million—it sold two million! Albums have followed, too, so that now, no matter where you turn on the dial, you’re sure to hear one by the Everly Brothers.
You’re liable to see them anywhere, too, for they travel more than an airline pilot. When the boys and I were talking, that last time they were on “Bandstand,” Don told me that he figured they’d made more than 300 personal appearances in the last year. “Suzie, that’s my wife,” said Don, “teases me about it. She pretends that she’s jealous because I seem to get such a kick out of being away. Poor Phil, he isn’t married and so he’s got a flock of girls to complain about his traveling.”
The Everly Brothers are the only kin in the teams we’ve talked about. But one thing that they and all the others have in common is that determination to keep working to improve their styles and their voices. That goes double for Danny and the Juniors, winners of our annual poll on “American Bandstand” as the year’s most promising vocal group.
Those boys got their start as a vocal team harmonizing during lunch hours at John Bartram High School in Philadelphia. Can’t you just hear the jokes flying about “hams on rye”? It didn’t discourage Danny Rapp, though. With Joe Terranova, Dave White and Frank Maffei, he’d just move from the school lunchroom to after-class sodas at a neighborhood drug store. It was just a continuation of the noon show, with the boys entertaining their classmates by singing the top hits.
That was back in January 1956. That year, it just seemed that every time the boys sang, it was before, after or during mealtimes. After dinner, they’d rehearse some more, rotating homes “so no parents got too much of a bad deal,” Danny grins. They’d sing at any banquet, wedding or party that would let them. Eventually, this showcasing paid off. A guest at one party told Artie Singer, a Philadelphia voice coach, about the boys.
The boys sang and Artie listened. Artie talked and then the boys did the listening. Danny and the Juniors had been working on a number they were calling “At the Bop.” Artie began tinkering with the number and helping to write it. Soon, the title was “At the Hop” and it was going ’round and ’round on the Singular record label. It broke wild and the people who pays their money at the record counters were taking this as their choice. The record was transferred to the ABC Paramount label and became the theme for disc-ophiles everywhere.
Danny and the Juniors followed “At the Hop” with “Rock ’n’ Roll Is Here To Stay” and also with a long string of personal appearances in New England and points south and west. Wherever they go, the practice sessions go with them. In planes, trains and busses . . . in hotel rooms and in the wings waiting to go on . . . Danny and the Juniors are the same as the Four Lads, the Diamonds, the Everly Brothers, and Dion and the Belmonts. They worked hard to get to the top—and they all work just as hard to stay there. They work as teams—and, come on, gang, who do we appreciate? Two, four, six, eight. That’s right! Teams, teams, teams!
As for me, I’m rooting re you. See you next month.
DICK’S ALL-STAR LINEUP
You can’t tell your favorites without a scorecard!
TEAM: The Everly Brothers
HIGH SCORER: “Bye, Bye Love”
THREAT: “Bird Dog”
PLAY FOR: Cadence Records
Don Everly: Age 21, 5‘ 10”, 150, brown hair, gray-blue eyes, digs painting, sketching, records
Phil Everly: Age 19, 5‘ 10”, 150, blond hair, gray-blue eyes, digs foreign sports-cars, fencin
TEAM: The Four Lads
HIGH SCORER: “Moments to Remember”
THREAT: “Enchanted Island”
PLAY FOR: Columbia Records
Bernie Toorish: Age 27, 5‘ 10½”, 160, brown hair, blue eyes, likes hockey and football
James Arnold: Age 26, 5‘ 9”, 125, brown hair, blue eyes, digs reading and playing golf
Connie Codarini: Age 28, 5‘ 11”, 160, biack hair, green eyes, digs hunting, walking, hiking
Frank Pusseri: Age 26, 5‘ 6”, 160, brown hair, brown eyes, especially loves horse racing
TEAM: The Diamonds
HIGH SCORER: “The Stroll”
THREAT: “Eternal Love”
PLAY FOR: Mercury Records
Dave Somerville: Age 25, 6‘, 165, dark brown hair, brown eyes, loves tinkering with radios, classical music, collecting records
Bill Reed: Age 22, 6‘ 2”, 180, light brown hair, blue eyes, likes studying music (Bach to bop)
Tedd Kowalski: Age 26, 5‘ 10”, 175, sandy hair, blue eyes, studies electrical engineering
Mike Douglas: Age 22, 6‘ 2”, 180, black hair, brown eyes, digs all sports, the theater
TEAM: Danny and the Juniors
HIGH SCORER: “At the Hop”
PLAY FOR: Am-Par Records
Danny Rapp: Age 18, 5‘ 4”, 110, brown hair, brown eyes, likes cars, cars, cars and racing meets
Dave White: Age 19, 5‘ 8”, 145, brown hair, blue eyes, digs golf, swimming—outdoor fun
Joe Terranova: Age 18, 5‘ 8”, 135, brown hair, brown eyes, loves records and swimming
Frank Maffei: Age 18, 5‘ 7”, 130, black hair, brown eyes, likes boating and swimming
TEAM: Dion and the Belmonts
HIGH SCORER: “I Wonder Why”
THREAT: “No One Knows”
PLAY FOR: Laurie Records
Dion Di Mucca: Age 18, 5‘ 9”, 165, brown hair, blue eyes, likes New York and baseball
Angelo D’Aleo: Age 18, 5‘ 7½”, 135, black hair, brown eyes, collects classical albums
Fred Milano: Age 18, 5‘ 10”, 145, black hair, brown eyes, classical pianist, Yankee fan
Carlo Mastrangelo: Age 20, 6‘, 180, black hair, brown eyes, likes jazz drums, Dodgers
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1958