Friday, June 10, 2011

Sha Na Na

Can you believe that Sha-Na-Na is celebrating their 40th Anniversary of touring this year???

Most of us were first introduced to the band at Woodstock back in 1969 ... where I guess you could say they "opened up" for Jimi Hendrix!!!  (If nothing else, they certainly woke up the crowd that day!!!  What an unexpected treat THAT turned out to be amongst all the heavy metal and bad acid!!!)

While much has been made over the years about Stephen Stills' on-stage remark that night when brand-new super-group Crosby, Stills and Nash took the stage ("Man, this is our second gig ... we're scared shitless!"), their Woodstock appearance was only the SEVENTH time Sha-Na-Na had performed before a live audience ... and found themselves entertaining half a million people!

A more unlikely act couldn't have taken the stage ... sandwiched between rock and roll heavyweights like The Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana and Jimi Hendrix, Sha-Na-Na was the exact opposite of what people were expecting to see.  Maybe that played to their advantage ... their stage act was SO exciting and SO unique that most of us leaving the movie theater left talking about THESE guys and how they really tore up the stage!

(No, I wasn't at the actual Woodstock Music Festival ... I had to watch the "recap" on the big screen a year later.  But several years ago we interviewed a guy who WAS at the concert ... and up on that stage as part of Sha-Na-Na!!!  I'm talking about Henry Gross, of course, who, as an early member of the band, performed at the legendary Woodstock Music Festival way back when.)

FORGOTTEN HITS:  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.  I understand that you are currently touring the U.K. and I really appreciate your taking a few moments out of your busy schedule to talk with some of your music fans back here at home.
You obviously had a real appreciation for the rock music that started it all in order to have been involved with SHA NA NA from the very beginning.  Can you tell us how the concept for that band came about?

HENRY GROSS:  Sha Na Na started when a college glee club, "The Columbia Kingsmen", did a few oldies at a school pub called " The Lion's Den" to a tumultuous response. Seeing this, the brother of one of the members, George Leonard, had the vision and put the concept to the members. Some stayed, some quit when the new direction was taken. I was at a different college but was in a band with two of the members of that glee club. They asked me to join and I did.

FH:   The band took a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the music of the '50's in their stage act but musically and vocally were right on the money ... in other words, the music never suffered.  
How did SHA NA NA happen to be booked at WOODSTOCK?  What was that whole experience like?  There couldn't have been a less-likely audience for you to play to!!!

HG:  After playing at the hottest club in New York, The "Steve Paul Scene" and playing at "The Fillmore East" to incredible reactions, we were added to the bill at "Woodstock".   Woodstock was great fun. 

Got to drive to the stage (for about three hours) with Jerry Garcia! Great guy! I also got to spend time with Jimi Hendrix, who I'd gotten to know fairly well through a guy called Velvert Turner who sat next to me in "The Midwood High School Mixed Chorus" in Brooklyn. Velvert was very close with Jimi and I was lucky to have had the opprtunity to know both of them, as they were really great and talented guys. Also met and spoke to Alvin Lee, who is a friend of mine today, although he has no recollection of our meeting then. Why would he? It was right after he came off stage and there were 300,000 other folks talking to him at approximately the same time!

Sha-Na-Na has gone on to entertain several generations since Woodstock, introducing countless thousands to the feel good sounds of late '50's and early '60's rock and roll.  (They even had their own TV Series for several years in the late '70's!)  In fact, having missed the early days of rock and roll myself growing up, I was first introduced to some of this great music thanks to Sha-Na-Na.  (To this day "Sixteen Candles" is one of my all-time favorite oldies ... but I heard that song for the very first time when Sha-Na-Na performed it on television ... and I can remember it like it was yesterday!!!  My guess is I'm not alone.)

Feeling nostalgic?  Or just up for a really good time?  Well, next week Sha-Na-Na will be appearing at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, Illinois!  It's an authentic '50's Sock Hop ... and it's only twenty-five bucks to get in the door!!!  (Imagine that ... the same group that played at the big High School Dance in the movie "Grease" performing at YOUR sock hop!!!)

Here's the scoop:

Rock superstars Sha Na Na will bring a record of 40 years on tour and 25 million albums sold worldwide to the Chicago area for two special Sock Hop-style concerts. 

On Thursday, June 16, they will perform at the historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles for a classic sock-hop style show.  All seats are $25 and kids are free. 

On Friday, June 17 they will perform at Chicago's Festa Pasta Vino Italian Street Festival on Oakley Avenue at 25th Street.

Although they shared the stage with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, SHA NA NA is about as far from the acid rock revolution as a group can be.  Bringing back the roots of Rock 'N Roll in the fabulous 50s with their leather jackets, white t-shirts, cuffed jeans and greased back hair led this group to a hit television show.  Their appearances in the film sensation "Grease," solidified their place as one of the most popular icons in music history. 

"You want to talk fun, well this show is going to be one of the most energetic tributes to that great music of the 50s ever to be staged," said Ron Onesti, Arcada Theatre owner. "If you combine the musical experiences of Jersey Boys, Grease and Million Dollar Quartet, you get Sha Na Na.  That's why their TV show was such a big hit."

Chicago's Festa Pasta Vino is a showcase of Italian Culture and features the restaurants in the "Little Tuscany" area near Cermak Road and Western Avenue.  Continuous family entertainment, great wines and food specialties from some of Chicago most authentic Italian restaurants. 

As the 1969 Woodstock Festival was a defining moment in rock history, it was too for Sha Na Na. The show was only the seventh in the group's career. 

"We went on second to last, at sunrise on the final day, but, importantly, just before Jimi Hendrix," recalls Sha Na Na co-founder, drummer Jocko Marcellino, who said they landed a record deal immediately after the performance.  The Sha Na Na TV series successfully ran from 1977 - 1981, and original members Screamin' Scott Simon and Donny York currently perform with Marcellino in the group. 

In the 1979 musical "Grease," Sha Na Na contributed to the original music score with six Sha Na Na versions of rock classics and one original song, "Sandy," co-written by Simon. The accompanying "Grease" soundtrack album was a Grammy-nominated hit, certified eight times platinum. Other hits include "The Cat in the PT Cruiser," "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye," "The Wanderer," and "Rock N Roll Hall of Fame."

For more information on both shows, call 630.962.7000 or log onto

Sounds like a GREAT time, Ron!!!  

Feel like Sock-Hopping on a Thursday night???

Hopefully, some of our Forgotten Hits Readers can check out this show!
Please get back to us with all the details!


And the Arcada Theatre has been rockin' it BIG TIME lately!!!

In just the past ten days, Weird Al Yankovic, Kenny Loggins and Richard Marx have all taken the stage!!!

Coming to The Arcada in the weeks to come ...

Jon Anderson of Yes (August 5th)
Don Rickles (August 20th)
Patty Duke  (September 18th)  Hmm ... you think there's any chance she'll sing our Forgotten Hits Favorite "Don't Just Stand There"???   And I wonder if Cousin Cathy will be there, too!!!
Our Buddy Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits (October 15th)
The Incredible Neil Sedaka  (October 29th)
Foghat (November 5th)
and Rick Springfield (December 2nd)
(Ron Onesti also filled me in on a couple of VERY special Christmas Shows coming up ... but we'll save that for a later issue!)

But the crowing jewel has GOT to be Brian Wilson, appearing July 30th and doing a "Greatest Hits" show!!!
(Man, he could probably sell that place out for a MONTH!!!)

ALL of the concert ticket information can be found on the Arcada Theatre Website or at Ron's O-Shows site: Click here: - Onesti Entertainment - The Arcada Theatre