The Kings of New York, Sha Na Na
Those of you that are of (ahem) a certain age will certainly remember faux-50’s band Sha Na Na not only for their music but also for their syndicated television show that ran from 1977 to 1981. I was absolutely obsessed with that show, and adored the band’s goofy antics and faithful fashion homages to the 1950s from the top of their greased back hair, to the seams on the famous gold lamé pants worn by Frederick “Dennis” Greene, Johnny “Kid” Contardo, and Scott “Tony Santini” on the show—one of the most popular in TV syndication at the time.
In addition to appearances in the film 1978 Grease (where the band was depicted as a fictional 1950s band called Johnny Casino and the Gamblers), Sha Na Na was also featured on the films wildly popular soundtrack, and the tearjerker “Sandy” (sung by John Travolta) was co-written by Sha Na Na’s Screamin’ Scott Simon, who got his start with the band playing piano back in 1970, and still performs with them to this day. In this footage (which I’m pretty sure is gonna blow your mind), the band performs nineteen songs for the enthusiastic studio audience in attendance for a taping of German music television show Musikladen in 1973.
From the minute they hit the stage, it’s clear that we are all in for some high-octane doo-wop, class-act choreography, and the visual treat that is the gangly, rock-and-roll Frankenstein known as “Bowzer” (Jon Bauman)—he’s probably the most recognizable member of the group, too. Since departing Sha Na Na, Bauman continues to tour as his alter-ego “Bowzer” with his group The Stingrays and was also instrumental in helping the passage of the Truth in Music Act—a law that protects musicians and bands from identity theft. Now that’s fucking rock and roll.
The gold lamé suits worn by Sha Na Na that drove my young libido into overdrive back in the late 70s
And what about those skin-tight gold lamé suits (pictured above)? While conducting my very important “research” for this post, I discovered that all three of them are currently up for sale (along with the matching gold lamé boots and belts, thank you very much) for the tidy sum of $2,500. A small price to pay for a piece of rock and roll history that I’d do almost anything to squeeze myself into (those boys were tight back in the day, to say the least). I’ve probably watched this footage at least five times since stumbling on it and every time I do, it gets better. As one commenter on the Youtube page said, “this deserves a million likes.” To which I say AMEN, brother. If you dig it as much as I do, you can get your very own DVD of the show, here. Enjoy!
Sha Na Na on German music television show, Musikladen in 1973.