Articles

The New York Weekend (September 18, 2010)

By Len Cirelli

I wish I could recall the year but I cannot.  I know it was the early 1960′s, probably 1964.  Dave Ryan and I were playing in the Ramrods.  Dave had replaced our bass player.  I recall Dave being super polite to my parents and my mom loved to feed him.  Dave was a very gracious person.

When we auditioned for a new bass player, I was against taking Dave into the group.  I could see he could play but I just did not think he would fit.  I was outvoted and the rest is history.  I was so wrong.  Dave had talent but back then he was a shy, young guy with a big smile.  It did not take long for him to mature musically and I am so glad my other band members saw things I could not.  Dave had so much more charisma and stage presence than our former bass player.  Dave brought fun back into the group.

Dave, our roadie called Buzzy, and I decided to go to New York City for a weekend.  We would not admit it but at the time were fish out of water.  Still we acted as if we knew what we were doing as we walked around The Village and Times Square.

We went into an adult bookstore in Times Square, not something you have in conservative New England.  When the guy at the door asked us if we were interested in males or females, we almost had all we could do to keep from laughing.  Three fools in the Big Apple.

Rock groups from England had taken over the music scene.  Dave and I loved the Beatles and the English Groups.  We talked music day and night.  One night we went to a club.  A typical New York small basement place that we just picked because it looked good.  There was a group playing there called The British Modbeats who we had never heard of before but wanted to see.  We were nervous as the people in the club were pretty scary looking compared to clubs back in Boston.

The first act was introduced.  He was called Tiny Tim.  He was unknown.  We did not know what to think.  Tiny Tim had white makeup on his face, he was thin, long curly hair, and he had a ukulele!  Dave, Buzzy, and I were floored by the look.  For his first song Tiny Tim sang “Secret Agent Man”, first in a deep low voice and then in a super high falsetto.  The ukulele solo parts were awful.  Was this a joke?  After a couple more songs and a couple more drinks, Tiny won over not only us three but the entire club.  There was talent in there somewhere.  Dave and I often recalled seeing Tiny Tim for the first time.  The next time we saw him was on the Ed Sullivan show.

The British Modbeats came on stage.  A kind of glitter rock band in shiny, skin tight gold jump suits.  Dave and I often said we could not tell you if they were good or bad.  We were still talking about Tiny Tim.

Now I often recall my days in the band with Dave.  Dave really always fought for what he wanted and he was able to accomplish his dream with talent and a smile.  We all wanted to be Rock Stars but Dave wanted it more and never let go of the dream.  I miss him and wish I had listened more carefully to him.  Along the way Dave sacrificed many friends, family, girlfriends, good times and more but he seemed to know that someday it would pay off.  It did.  Dave seeing Tiny Tim as an unknown and then becoming a legend himself is a memory I carry with me.

A Night At The Surf (August 4, 2010)

By Len Cirelli

Heading south from Boston, I could smell the ocean and feel the sea breeze immediately upon turning off the highway heading for Hull, Massachusetts, and Nantasket Beach.  The Surf Ballroom was located just the tacky amusements and timeworn bars on the left, just across the street from the waves of the ocean.  Driving past the old wooden roller coaster and merry go round, I could feel the excitement and smell the sticky pink cotton candy, steaming hot dogs and irresistible beach pizza.

Pushing through the heavy glass doors to the Surf, you walked up a small flight of stairs to a short landing and then up a large flight of stairs to the Ballroom.  There was no elevator, but a myriad of musicians gladly lugged their own amplifiers, guitars, organs and drums up those famous stairs in pursuit of their dreams.  Memory fades a little more each year, but I still vividly remember ascending those stairs; there was a coat room the left, the dressing rooms and office behind the coat room, and there was a bar on the right which sold only soft drinks.

The Surf Ballroom was huge.  The hardwood floor stretched out endlessly, bordered by just a few scant tables.  Heavy blue curtains adorned the walls and provided a backdrop to the stage, which was five or six feet high and stretched the entire length of the back wall.  There was no house sound system and no fancy lighting; bands who were lucky enough to play there had to supply their own, but no one really minded – it was all about the music then.

The first time I went to the Surf, I saw the Kingsmen of “Louie Louie” fame.  that night the house band was The Rockin’ Ramrods.  Little did I know that night that I would become a member of that very band.  There was usually a line of locals out front but I got in pretty quick.  The place was packed with what seemed to be at least 300 sweating and swarming teenagers and it was nearly impossible to push my way through them to the stage, where I stood and watched the bands that, to this day, still play their music in my head.

The Ramrods played their set and looked so “cool” on the stage!  Every guy in the place wanted to be on that stage.  The Kingsmen came out and and went right into “Louie Louie” – its ambiguous lyrics and pounding beat uniting the audience into one sweaty surge of teenage rebellion.  Every one of us, with or without a partner, danced until that ancient wooden floor succumbed to the sensation and swelled up and down unable to resist our beat.  No one judged what the other was wearing, or whether their dancing was weird, or even whether they danced at all.  Nothing mattered but the music, the mood, the mob.  All anyone had to do was be there to enjoy the ambience and be swept away by the teenage tide.

The only apparent attempt at security seemed to be a couple of old guys who worked in the office, and yet, in all the years I went to the Surf either to hear the music or to play there with the Ramrods, I don’t recall a single incident where security was needed; beyond one night when someone shot off a few firecrackers, I don’t recall there ever being any fights, drugs, or need to call the police.  That was the magic of the music.  Bill Spence, owner of the Surf and manager of The Ramrods, seemed to be an honest guy who, like anyone, wanted to make money, but also wanted the kids to have a good time.  The Surf had a good reputation of being a safe place so parents had no problem dropping off their kids for a few hours of fun.

Over time, I got to see and play on the same stage as many groups who went on to claim their fame.  The most memorable for me, was The Doors.  If I shut my eyes and let my memory run, I can still see a painfully young Jim Morrison in leather pants, humping the mike stand and looking stoned.  Perhaps the most talented band I saw at the Surf was The Rascals.  They were so impressive that I did not even want to play after they were on!  Other groups I remember seeing included The Ventures, and McCoys, The Left Bank, Tommy James and The Shondells, The Turtles, The Swinging Medallions, and countless local bands “out of Boston” whose names may no longer be known, but who at least had their shining moments on the same stage at the Surf as the Rock and Roll greats.

Now the boardwalk amusements are gone and only a few rag-tag beer soaked bars remain.  The Surf closed, and the grand old building changed hands many times and was forced to morph into many other uses over the years, but it was never again the vibrant and successful dance club it was when I walked its crowded floor and stage, but I know this for sure:  beneath that building, buried in the ocean sand, are memories of faded and famous rock dreams, of romance, of good times we may never experience again except in our haunted dreams of youth.  The Surf Ballroom is true and authentic Americana and should be honored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In an era when conservative “ban the book Boston” had few places to offer where young minds and bodies could see the top rock bands of the day perform live, Bill Spence and the Surf dared to provide such a place and to promote the music and talent of that remarkable time in Rock and Roll history.  I will forever feel privileged to have been a part of it all and will never miss the opportunity to say, proudly and nostalgically, “I played at the Surf.”

Music Beat (Sept 25, 1997):

Music Beat…
By Michael P. Norton

Sept. 25, 1997:
David “Chico” Ryan has come a long way since his days in 1970 washing dishes at the Jared Coffin House.
The Emerson College grad is one of two members of Sha Na Na living east of the Mississippi and he is still enjoying the fame of the esteemed oldies cover group.
Having toured worldwide, first playing major arenas in the shadow of The Who and Led Zeppelin and then entertaining families all over, Ryan knows show biz. As he says, he has spent his obligatory 17 years in Los Angeles. He’s aware of the power of trends and the inevitability of comebacks. With the “Grease” soundtrack sitting at number one on the Billboard charts for 35 weeks this year, Ryan and his Sha Na Na buddies are watching a new generation fall in love with a capella oldies.
And what comes around goes around. Ryan, who spent a winter here and played at the former airport roadhouse club, The Surf and Preston’s, is returning with his pal Lennie Baker to entertain at a VFW benefit Saturday night in Tom Nevers.
Reached at his Massachusetts home Tuesday night while packing for a gig in Toronto, Ryan explained that Sha Na Na is still rolling along, playing casinos, private shows and family affairs.
“Our generation is now running corporate America so no we have a great niche in corporate America,” Ryan said.
Mixing the highest high notes with the lowest lows and everything in between, Sha Na Na made 97 half hour TV shows between 1977 and 1981. At one point, the show was rated second in the half hour variety slot behind The Muppets.
And as Ryan pointed out, the group’s roots, dug in the late 1960s at Columbia University, were buried in rock. After members of the college’s male choir, The Kingsmen, greased their hair and began experimenting with different singing styles, Jimi Hendrix told them about a show they might want to join in New York.
“So Sha Na Na went and did Woodstock,” Ryan said.
The group underwent rapid turnover initially as pre-med and law students abandoned the effort in pursuit of “real” careers. Their departure made room for Ryan, who joined Sha Na Na in the early 70s.
Ryan remembers Nantucket was especially isolated when he lived here.
“It was the right time for me,” Ryan recalled. “I was just out of school and it was a great place to be.”
Baker and Ryan will join island entertainers Phil and Elizabeth for the roast beef dinner and dance party, a benefit for the Joe Swain Scholarship Fund. The event starts are 6 p.m. at the VFW Post. Tickets are $25. Call 257-9804 for more details.

Darrell Scott: A True Nashville Original
Award-Winning Songwriter to Release Modern Hymns this Summer

By Jeff Eason

Grammy-nominated musician Darrell Scott can always be counted to put some spice into the gumbo of Americana music that is known as MerleFest. He’s about the only guy who brings both his acoustic and electric guitars with him when he comes to Wilkesboro and his shows are always full of surprises.

Darrell Scott and his talented band will perform at MerleFest Friday through Sunday on a variety of stages. Photo by Jeff Eason

“I’ve got my regular band with me this time,” said Scott. “It includes Casey Driesen, Gary Ogan, Matt Mangano, and Gabe Dixon.

“I rarely have a full band this size with me when I go on tour. I often go solo or take two or three musicians with me. So this will be a treat. Of course I’ll play some solo at MerleFest and some with other musicians. That’s what MerleFest is tooled to do. Some of the jamming we do is arranged in advance with musician friends and some of it is totally unrehearsed. That’s what is great about this festival.”

Scott stated that just like last year, he is bringing his father, longtime Nashville songwriter Wayne Scott, with him to the festival. Both father and son are songwriters who manage to make the personal universal and vice versa. On Darrell’s latest studio album, 2006’s The Invisible Man, he took on a number of 21st century themes. He touched on today’s politics in “Goodle, USA” (recently covered by Faith Hill) as well as mortality in “In My Final Hour.”

Originally from the coal-mining hills of Kentucky (his most covered song is “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”), Scott grew up in the Midwest and now plies his songwriting trade out of his home in Nashville.

“Unless you come and start looking around, you could think Nashville is all country radio and Christian music,” said Scott. “Then you realize that Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury wrote here.”

Unlike a lot of other Americana stars, Scott is just as big, if not bigger in other countries as is here in the States. He has toured Scotland three times recently and will travel to Italy shortly after his MerleFest appearance.

“I travel solo when I play overseas,” said Scott. “Then I meet up with American guitarist Brad Davis and we put together a trio for some shows.”

Closer to home, Scott has been a powerful force in the songwriting scene since the release of his first album, 1997’s Aloha From Nashville. Scott was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International in 2001 and ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year in 2002. Since then his songs have been covered by The Dixie Chicks, Travis Tritt and Garth Brooks, to name a few.

But if you want to hear the essence of his songwriting, you have to hear his songs as performed by Scott himself.

“For the past few years, I’ve released a new album right before MerleFest,” said Scott. “It’s a great time to release new material and try it out on the audiences at the festival. This time around I’m waiting until the summer to release a new album. It’s called Modern Hymns.”

As Scott describes it, Modern Hymns is a distinct departure from the electric and acoustic material that made up his last two studio albums, Theatre of the Unheard and The Invisible Man. Those albums featured a wealth of side musicians and a songwriting style that incorporated elements of folk, jazz, rock and country.

“This one’s different,” said Scott. “It’s the closest thing to a pure bluegrass record that I’ve ever made. It’s all acoustic and it’s all cover songs.”

Scott stated that he put together a band of musicians and recorded some of his favorite songs by songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan for Modern Hymns.

“We recorded it very quickly, in three days,” said Scott. “I wanted to do this quickly to capture the spirit of the songs. It’s not that I don’t have an album of my own new songs to record, because I do. It’s just something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.”

Although Scott is great friends with fellow MerleFest musicians such as Sam Bush and Tim O’Brien and performs with them regularly, he is one of those artists who like to stretch out and see what happens in collaboration with non-bluegrass musicians. For the past five years he has performed and recorded with British upright bassist Danny Thompson and included some spoken word poetry by Minton Sparks on his song “Goodle USA,” one of his most requested tunes from The Invisible Man.

“I love Minton Sparks and I played on her first record,” said Scott. “I’ve known her for years in Nashville. We’ve got lots of mutual friends and run in the same circles so it was natural to have her perform on my album.”

Double-bassist Danny Thompson might not be a household name among bluegrass fans but has performed with such stars as Roy Orbison, Donovan, Kate Bush, Richard Thompson and was a founding member of the legendary English folk band Pentangle.

“Danny Thompson is really such a good friend to have,” said Scott. “I love that I’ve been able to play with him over the course of the last three albums. He also plays bass on the upcoming covers album. I just like being around him.”

One of the most interesting collaborations between Scott and Thompson is on the song “The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Sha Na Na” on the album Theatre of the Unheard. With jazz-like breaks in the rhythm and an extended saxophone solo, it is about as un-bluegrass as anything recorded by a MerleFest regular…but oh so cool.

“That song is based on a true story,” said Scott. “But it was really a guy who could have played drums with Sha Na Na—I just switched instruments. It was while I was in Boston I met this freelance musician. He missed his big break by not auditioning for Sha Na Na. But just like in the song, his buddy tried out and got the gig.

“Oddly enough, later in Boulder, Colorado, I met an actual bass player who had auditioned for Sha Na Na. So after I wrote ‘The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Sha Na Na,’ I met him. That’s absolutely true!”

Darrell Scott and the Darrell Scott Band will play on a variety of MerleFest stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 27-29.

Lyrics to the song:
Artist: Darrell Scott
Album: Theatre of the Unheard
Title: The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Shanana

I walked into the lounge of the Windsor Arms Hotel
Where a band was playing Fifties songs
The ones we know so well
And they played just like the record
Not a note was out of place
Then they finished with “Goodnight Sweetheart”
By the guy who played the bass

As he walked by the table I offered him a beer
Said I was a player too
I had been for many years
And we talked about the business
All the years out on the road
How forever sweet sixteen
Was such a heluva heavy load

And he said, “Ya know I could have made it once
If I’d have listened to a friend
He had set up this audition
With a fifties group back when
But it was 1967 and I had dreams of moving on
The man who could’ve played bass for Shanana

Shanana, Shanana

He said, “I see them on the TV shows
Every now and again and I see my buddy playing
The saxophone the way he did back then
Oh we used to play the circuit
Any dive that had the pay
But we’d have done it all for nothing
Just to get a chance to play”

He said, “I talk to my family on every Sunday night
And I tell ‘em where I’m working next
And how the band is getting tight
And my children always ask me
How much longer I’ll be gone”
The man who could’ve played bass for Shanana

Shanana, Shanana

Well, we all have our stories
How we try but can’t forget
And how we sit in contemplation
And we lick our own regret
There’s the one we could’ve married
There’s the job we could’ve had
There’s the winning run we could’ve hit
If we had a more loving dad
And there’s the house we could’ve bought
When the prices weren’t so high
And there’s the loving words we could’ve said
Before that loved one died
There’s the road we could’ve traveled
There’s the one we traveled on and on and on
And there’s the man who could’ve played bass for Shanana

Shanana, Shanana, Shanana

Robin Katz Interview w/ Fumble & Sha Na Na (Feb 15, 1975):

Secondhand oldies – but goodies…

Sha Na Na are a ten piece American band who first made their presence felt when they woke up the drug laden Woodstock nation with the dazzling glare of gold lamé. Fumble are a five piece British band who earned themselves a place on David Bowie’s first American tour by the impact of their groping first album sleeve. Regardless of where they move from this second in time, both groups got their initial start by reworking musical marvels from the great dusty vaults of oldie goldies.

Both groups earned their reputations from performing other people’s hits. While Sha Na Na concentrate on the numbers most conductive to dramatic overplay, i.e. “Tell Laura I Love Her”, “Teenager In Love”, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”, Fumble prefer to bring back some of those Bobby Vee and the all American Good Guys numbers.
Both groups write original material, and both claim to be completely different from one another. Keeping contrast in mind, I sat down with Fumble’s singing drummer Barry Pike and singing bassist Mario Angelo Ernesto Ferrari (that’s his honest to goodness name) and later Sha Na Na’s guitarist Chico Ryan and gold lamé vocalist Johnny Contardo. Just for the record, Fumble’s new album is called “Poetry In Lotion”, and Sha Na Na’s last release was titled “Hot Sox”.

“We got together seven years ago,” began Ferrari, “and the original idea was more bebop. We tried a period of all wearing white suits, but gave it up because we want to be individuals. At the time we started the Fumble idea, the market was not as wide open. Nobody had been talking about oldies, The Wild Angels were around, but we wanted to play the Carole King/Gerry Goffin stuff. We didn’t want to do it note for note, but instead capture the feeling and the freshness. We wanted to sing it from the heart, not send it up.”
“After being with Sha Na Na for four years and singing “Tell Laura I Love Her” for every one of them, you can’t help but take on the attitude of an actor,” explained soft spoken Johnny Contardo. “Before a show you get into character while you grease up. We may toss in the odd thing or two, but one of the priorities for us is that we can’t be sloppy, and so with ten of us, we have to be rehearsed.”
Finding the old songs was no problem for either group. Deciding whether they could be sung or arranged wasn’t a challenge either. Deciding what is right for performance is perhaps the most notable difference between the acts. Both groups admit that their stage presence overrides their studio work in terms of reaction and success.

Competition
“In England,” declared Pike, “there is this constant urge to smash, bang and stomp everything into being a rock number. Every British rock band has either ‘Jailhouse Rock’, ‘Let It Rock’ or ‘All Shook Up’ as part of a night’s work. So when we sing ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’, we’re putting the competition at an arm’s length.
“We don’t really have any major league competition,” said Ryan. “Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids don’t have a record label any more. We keep going back to the genre of the fabulous Fifties for most of our stuff. We’re visual and that’s our greatest strength.
“More showbiz than show,”added Contardo, “And the audiences are getting younger. When we started out as college kids most of the audiences were older than we were. Now the age is about 15. But they know all the songs. There’s total recognition.”
Put that last point down to US radio. Fumblers (what else do you call them?) Pike and Ferrari agreed that their British audiences were also too young to remember most of the originals, but more often than not credited the band for composing them and even making them hits. With Sha Na Na the misguided credit happens less often.
“When it comes to gigs, you can’t really compare us to a circus of ten guys doing hilarious things. We don’t take it all overly seriously. To us, it’s innocence and fun. We don’t have choreography, and we don’t approach it as a rock and roll revival. To us it feels natural. We don’t feel embarrassed singing ‘Ebony Eyes’ sincerely. If we did, I don’t think we’d get across to all age groups,” explained Barry Pike. “In my mind, it’s the singer and not the song. For that reason our audiences fo home feeling good, but not hysterical.”
“There’s a basic format to Sha Na Na,” said Ryan. “and new members are brought in because they fit our style. But we try things. When Bowzer first joined he used to wear a complete baseball uniform on stage, and it took four or five months to get him into other stuff because it just wasn’t working out.”
Johnny Contardo rates Sha Na Na’s best stage show as the one they initiated a year and a half ago. Divided into four parts the group sang their well known street songs, did an acapella section, their audience participation dance contest and finally ended up with all those rocking numbers that mods and rockers alike, loved.
Fumble’s definitive show includes more of their own material, a step that Sha Na Na has yet to take in their stage act.
“We find people shouting out for our songs which shows we’re writing in the right direction,” said Mario Ferrari, “but all of our singles which we have written have flopped. ‘Not Fade Away’ has done well, but we’re hesitant to put out other people’s songs as records or that’s all that will be expected of us.”

Novelty
On the other hand, Sha Na Na’s new British single, is ‘Hot Sox’, a cute novelty record featuring bass singer Bowzer slinging around his best Brooklyn accent, right down to the duh, duh, duh.
And it’s theirs.
“We’ve just finished cutting three songs with Tony Camillo (composer of Gladys Knight’s ‘I Feel A Song’)” Contardo said, “and we’ve cut a new version of ‘Just Like Romeo And Juliet’ which was a big hit 11 years ago for the Reflections. We cut a version near to the original, but it’s too dated to be a single, so Tony’s rearranged it as well.”
As far as wondering how far into the future groups will exist by digging into the past, is anyone’s guess. Fumble have been together under other names for seven years, and neither hell or high water will break them up. If things get impossible – they’ll always be friends. Sha Na Na, because of their size, are much more restrictive but then all the group spemd nearly a fortnight of every month on the road, which doesn’t leave much time for anything except staying healthy. Both groups have done two dozen songs in a show, which ain’t chicken feed.
Although they’ll always be criticised by true blue oldies freaks for ‘ripping off’ originals, and knowing that their success will continue if they never compose a note of their own, Fumble and Sha Na Na have proven, by their mere existence, that the artists may have moved on, but the music never died.

This is an article from April 26, 2007. It was in The Mountain Times Online about a man named Darrell Scott. The reason why we posted this is because Doug Kupper brought it to my attention. Read all the way to the bottom.

Darrell Scott: A True Nashville Original
Award-Winning Songwriter to Release Modern Hymns this Summer

By Jeff Eason

Grammy-nominated musician Darrell Scott can always be counted to put some spice into the gumbo of Americana music that is known as MerleFest. He’s about the only guy who brings both his acoustic and electric guitars with him when he comes to Wilkesboro and his shows are always full of surprises.

Darrell Scott and his talented band will perform at MerleFest Friday through Sunday on a variety of stages. Photo by Jeff Eason

“I’ve got my regular band with me this time,” said Scott. “It includes Casey Driesen, Gary Ogan, Matt Mangano, and Gabe Dixon.

“I rarely have a full band this size with me when I go on tour. I often go solo or take two or three musicians with me. So this will be a treat. Of course I’ll play some solo at MerleFest and some with other musicians. That’s what MerleFest is tooled to do. Some of the jamming we do is arranged in advance with musician friends and some of it is totally unrehearsed. That’s what is great about this festival.”

Scott stated that just like last year, he is bringing his father, longtime Nashville songwriter Wayne Scott, with him to the festival. Both father and son are songwriters who manage to make the personal universal and vice versa. On Darrell’s latest studio album, 2006’s The Invisible Man, he took on a number of 21st century themes. He touched on today’s politics in “Goodle, USA” (recently covered by Faith Hill) as well as mortality in “In My Final Hour.”

Originally from the coal-mining hills of Kentucky (his most covered song is “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”), Scott grew up in the Midwest and now plies his songwriting trade out of his home in Nashville.

“Unless you come and start looking around, you could think Nashville is all country radio and Christian music,” said Scott. “Then you realize that Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury wrote here.”

Unlike a lot of other Americana stars, Scott is just as big, if not bigger in other countries as is here in the States. He has toured Scotland three times recently and will travel to Italy shortly after his MerleFest appearance.

“I travel solo when I play overseas,” said Scott. “Then I meet up with American guitarist Brad Davis and we put together a trio for some shows.”

Closer to home, Scott has been a powerful force in the songwriting scene since the release of his first album, 1997’s Aloha From Nashville. Scott was named Songwriter of the Year by the Nashville Songwriters Association International in 2001 and ASCAP’s Songwriter of the Year in 2002. Since then his songs have been covered by The Dixie Chicks, Travis Tritt and Garth Brooks, to name a few.

But if you want to hear the essence of his songwriting, you have to hear his songs as performed by Scott himself.

“For the past few years, I’ve released a new album right before MerleFest,” said Scott. “It’s a great time to release new material and try it out on the audiences at the festival. This time around I’m waiting until the summer to release a new album. It’s called Modern Hymns.”

As Scott describes it, Modern Hymns is a distinct departure from the electric and acoustic material that made up his last two studio albums, Theatre of the Unheard and The Invisible Man. Those albums featured a wealth of side musicians and a songwriting style that incorporated elements of folk, jazz, rock and country.

“This one’s different,” said Scott. “It’s the closest thing to a pure bluegrass record that I’ve ever made. It’s all acoustic and it’s all cover songs.”

Scott stated that he put together a band of musicians and recorded some of his favorite songs by songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan for Modern Hymns.

“We recorded it very quickly, in three days,” said Scott. “I wanted to do this quickly to capture the spirit of the songs. It’s not that I don’t have an album of my own new songs to record, because I do. It’s just something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.”

Although Scott is great friends with fellow MerleFest musicians such as Sam Bush and Tim O’Brien and performs with them regularly, he is one of those artists who like to stretch out and see what happens in collaboration with non-bluegrass musicians. For the past five years he has performed and recorded with British upright bassist Danny Thompson and included some spoken word poetry by Minton Sparks on his song “Goodle USA,” one of his most requested tunes from The Invisible Man.

“I love Minton Sparks and I played on her first record,” said Scott. “I’ve known her for years in Nashville. We’ve got lots of mutual friends and run in the same circles so it was natural to have her perform on my album.”

Double-bassist Danny Thompson might not be a household name among bluegrass fans but has performed with such stars as Roy Orbison, Donovan, Kate Bush, Richard Thompson and was a founding member of the legendary English folk band Pentangle.

“Danny Thompson is really such a good friend to have,” said Scott. “I love that I’ve been able to play with him over the course of the last three albums. He also plays bass on the upcoming covers album. I just like being around him.”

One of the most interesting collaborations between Scott and Thompson is on the song “The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Sha Na Na” on the album Theatre of the Unheard. With jazz-like breaks in the rhythm and an extended saxophone solo, it is about as un-bluegrass as anything recorded by a MerleFest regular…but oh so cool.

“That song is based on a true story,” said Scott. “But it was really a guy who could have played drums with Sha Na Na—I just switched instruments. It was while I was in Boston I met this freelance musician. He missed his big break by not auditioning for Sha Na Na. But just like in the song, his buddy tried out and got the gig.

“Oddly enough, later in Boulder, Colorado, I met an actual bass player who had auditioned for Sha Na Na. So after I wrote ‘The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Sha Na Na,’ I met him. That’s absolutely true!”

Darrell Scott and the Darrell Scott Band will play on a variety of MerleFest stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 27-29.

Lyrics to the song:
Artist: Darrell Scott
Album: Theatre of the Unheard
Title: The Man Who Could Have Played Bass for Shanana

I walked into the lounge of the Windsor Arms Hotel
Where a band was playing Fifties songs
The ones we know so well
And they played just like the record
Not a note was out of place
Then they finished with “Goodnight Sweetheart”
By the guy who played the bass

As he walked by the table I offered him a beer
Said I was a player too
I had been for many years
And we talked about the business
All the years out on the road
How forever sweet sixteen
Was such a heluva heavy load

And he said, “Ya know I could have made it once
If I’d have listened to a friend
He had set up this audition
With a fifties group back when
But it was 1967 and I had dreams of moving on
The man who could’ve played bass for Shanana

Shanana, Shanana

He said, “I see them on the TV shows
Every now and again and I see my buddy playing
The saxophone the way he did back then
Oh we used to play the circuit
Any dive that had the pay
But we’d have done it all for nothing
Just to get a chance to play”

He said, “I talk to my family on every Sunday night
And I tell ‘em where I’m working next
And how the band is getting tight
And my children always ask me
How much longer I’ll be gone”
The man who could’ve played bass for Shanana

Shanana, Shanana

Well, we all have our stories
How we try but can’t forget
And how we sit in contemplation
And we lick our own regret
There’s the one we could’ve married
There’s the job we could’ve had
There’s the winning run we could’ve hit
If we had a more loving dad
And there’s the house we could’ve bought
When the prices weren’t so high
And there’s the loving words we could’ve said
Before that loved one died
There’s the road we could’ve traveled
There’s the one we traveled on and on and on
And there’s the man who could’ve played bass for Shanana

Shanana, Shanana, Shanana

An Old Richard De La Font Agency publicity ad for booking Sha Na Na:

“The Household Name That Delivers A Great Live Show!”

Sha Na Na, Show and Dance Group Sha Na Na (shaw-naw-naw) is more than an act, more than a musical group. They present a live stage revue with musical stories of boy meets girl, lost love, romance, dancing at the hop and just good clean fun.

This group travels with more than 187 pieces of costuming and props and is more like a traveling book show.

While the group gained fame through their five year television show and movies such as “Grease,” their recognition and draw are maintained by their successful concerts for the past 27 years plus. The Greaser Olympics is one of the greatest audience participation segments of any show on the road. With members from the audience, they do the Limbo, Hula Hoop and the Twist.

Sha Na Na consists of original members: Screamin’ Scott, Jocko, Chico, Donny and Lennie (the round mound of sound on sax). Also included are bass singer Reggie DeLeon, Frankie, lead guitarist Rob Mackenzie and “Jack-of-all-trades” Jim Waldbillig.

The group began when a few undergraduates at New York City’s Columbia University decided they were having more fun singing a cappella versions of classic 1950′s rock ‘n’ roll songs than their standard glee club fare. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of crowds at a few New York clubs, the group added instruments and began touring other campuses, creating a furor with each show. Their seventh appearance, at Woodstock, made Sha Na Na into an international sensation! They have moved far beyond the 50′s nostalgia to become an American tradition.

Their hits over the past three decades include “That’ll Be the Day,” “At the
Hop,” “Romeo & Juliet” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

They have an all-new “Interactive” show. This “dance party” can either be
included in the normal concert performance, or stand on its own as a separate “dance set” in appropriate settings.

Sha Na Na members are —

* Screamin’ Scott
* Jocko
* Chico
* Donny
* Lennie (the round mound of sound on sax)
* Reggie DeLeon – bass vocals
* Frankie – lead guitar
* Rob Mackenzie
* Jim Waldbillig

Notable songs include —

* At the Hop
* Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay
* Born to Hand Jive
* Blue Moon
* Top Forty
* (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet
* Witch Doctor
* Rockin’ Robin
* Boney Maroney
* Charlie Brown
* Splish Splash
* Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
* Purple People Eater
* Teenager in Love

Sha Na Na may be available for your next special event. For booking information, click HERE!

Old page on Sha Na Na Na’s site

Singer, Bass Player Chico Ryan Passes Away
Sha Na Na Loses “The Cutest Kid on the Block”

David “Chico” Ryan, Sha Na Na’s bass player and singer, died on Sunday, July 26, at the age of 50.  As a youth, he  played with the Minutemen, a band from his home town of Arlington, Massachusetts.  He attended Boston University, and graduated from Emerson College.  During his college years, he performed with another local band called the Rockin’ Ramrods before fronting his own band called Rainface.  Chico later joined The Happenings and recorded such songs as the Top 10 hit, “See You In September” before joining Sha Na Na in 1972.  Chico became known for many songs including “Rhythm of the Rain,” “The Hokey Pokey,” “Peggy Sue” and “Travellin’ Man” (often performed on roller skates).  He was also an accomplished songwriter, and composed numerous songs including “Basement Party,” which can be heard on the group’s “Sha Na Now” album.

Chico leaves his wife, Susan, his daughter, Kimberly, his mother Marie, brother Peter, and sister Pamela.

To Chico,  From Sha Na Na
We have suffered a great loss –
Sue has lost a great husband,
Kimberly, a great dad,
The Ryans, a great son and  brother,
and Sha Na Na, a great bandmate and friend.
Brother, we will rock with you again on the other side.
As Chico would want it,
Sha Na Na will continue their concert touring schedule.

 

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