Sha Na Na may not have invented rock nostalgia, but the group has successfully - very successfully - celebrated the music and the memories for the past three decades…in clubs and 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 the film "Grease" (the most successful movie musical), 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 centers, casino showrooms to mega corporate functions world wide.
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 turtlenecks 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 hugely 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 seventh 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 $300…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 more than 25 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 show 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 'n' roll America.
“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 original 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.
And it still makes an impact for Sha Na Na...
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 scouts! They were too young to have seen our TV show, but they had seen ‘Grease’ on video. We played a 90-minute set and they knew the words to every song from the movie.”
Working for the past three decades throughout the world – from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Ole Opry, in Asia and in Africa, Paris to London to Tokyo – Sha Na Na has had some interesting unknown performers 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 is 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.”
Broadway Show Theater Tour…
Sha Na Na starred in a national tour of LEADER OF THE PACK, the Ellie Greenwich Musical. Along with a company of over twenty performers, Sha Na Na played themselves as well as other roles and performed all the music in Ellie Greenwich’s autobiographical journey featuring some of the greatest hits of rock’n’roll written or co-written by Ellie Greenwich: Da Doo Ron Ron, Be My Baby, Do Wah Diddy, Baby I Love You, River Deep Mountain High, Chapel Of Love, Hanky Panky and Leader off The Pack.
Marcellino says, “As a band of musicians, actors, singers and dancers doing a Broadway musical was a logical progression for us.” Simon adds,” And of course Ellie’s musical legacy is legendary.”
Sha Na Na Rocks with Symphony Orchestras…
Sha Na Na, has also performed with the symphony orchestras of Columbus OH, Louisville KY, Phoenix AZ, Roanoke, VA. and the National Symphony and Choir at the Capital Fourth Celebration in Washington, D.C.
The arrangements for up to a seventy-six piece orchestra range from the staccato strings of RHYTHM OF THE RAIN, a lush rhythm and blues “wall of sound” for SOUL AND INSPIRATION and a swinging arrangement of ROCK’N’ROLL IS HERE TO STAY.
Of course Sha Na Na invites the orchestra to lose their tuxedos, open their collars and roll up their sleeves. That is, to get greased and ready to Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Recent Sha Na Na recordings…
Joining the release of ROCK ‘N’ ROLL DANCE PARTY, a collection of the greatest dance themes of the era (with THE TWIST, THE STROLL, THE HAND JIVE), Sha Na Na recorded their first Holiday CD of their career, ROCKIN’ CHRISTMAS (with SANTA’S ON A DIET, YOU’RE ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, BLUE CHRISTMAS and THE DREIDEL SONG ). Sha Na Na is now working on their first completely original Rock “N’ Roll and doowop CD, ONE MORE SATURDAY NIGHT (including SANDY from Grease co-written by Screamin’ Scott, THE CAT IN THE P.T. CRUISER by Jocko and Buzz and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME by Donny). Sha Na Na CDs are on Pat Boone’s Gold Label and available though the Sha Na Na website