On this page you can read some memories that Chico’s friends have of him. A lot of people thought the world of Chico. He was a great guy.
Tito Mamba –
I first met Chico when Sha Na Na was auditioning for a replacement for Bowser. A friend had told me about the audition. Since I was 42 years old at the time, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be chosen, but since I had grown up in the ’50′s, I just wanted to play with the guys once. It was big fun, as I had imagined. My big surprise came when Chico called me up and said, “Your number’s up, bub!” I asked him if he knew who he was calling, he assured me that he did.
I played guitar and bass, since we all took turns singing lead, several of us doubled on several instruments. I had some trouble learning the Sha bass part for “Where the Boys Are” and messed it up for several weeks of shows when I first joined. At those times, the guys in the band would give me dirty looks, but Chico, who had played that part hundreds of times…he would just laugh and laugh.
I had heard that Chico had played with Bill Haley and the Comets but the story of how David Allen Ryan became Chico was interesting. It seems that his first gig with Sha Na Na was in Chico, California. (Good thing it wasn’t Pacoima or Covina.)
Chico loved golf. Whenever we went to a place for a few days, Chico would pack his clothes in his airline golf bag. It made for some interesting looks at baggage claim in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Chico loved his wife Sue and his daughter Kimberly. Sue is from England, and Chico had grown fond of English things. I remember a conversation once when he was extolling the comfort and quality of his underwear, which he only bought at Marks & Spencer, a very upscale shop in London.
He had an old Fender Jazz bass that he used on the road. It was the same one that he had used in the TV show, hand painted with his name in his trademark color blue. We all had certain colors and costume pieces that were ours alone, not to be copied by others. Donny had the striped shirt and sunglasses, Screamin ‘Scott favored pink, etc. Chico also played an old, valuable Gibson Flying V guitar and delighted in throwing it offstage to one of the roadies when the song was over. We often had quick changes to make. One day, something went terribly wrong and the roadie missed the guitar. It was a mess, but Chico just laughed. I never really saw him get mad…and there were plenty of instances on the road when a tired rocker could blow up.
Chico would put on roller skates for, Listen To the Rhythm of the Rain. He was pretty good at skating. He also used a yo-yo in the TV show and broke it out on tour sometimes.
He advised me early on that we would be doing so much flying that I should join every frequent flier club and read every piece of mail that they sent. He was so savvy about that he had cashed in a bunch of miles years back and joined many of the airlines Admiral’s Clubs. Sometimes, when we were stuck in an airport for hours, he would invite me into one of the clubs for a very civilized and relaxing time.
Chico was a very civilized and relaxed gent. I liked him a lot and on several occasions when we weren’t touring, my wife and I would have dinner with he and Sue. They both loved Indian food.
When I left the group, Chico presented me with a yo-yo. On one side was a photo of the group (Tito had a mustache) and on the other, he had written: To Guitar Gramps, Sha Na Na (retired) All the best, Chico.
When I first joined the group, I was asked what name I would use. I decided to go with Gary Barry, a name I had actually used in the ’50′s. When this first promo shot was taken, I decided to be funny and put up two fingers behind Lennie’s head as “horns”. After a little while, someone brought it to his attention and he was furious. The old photos were destroyed and new ones were retouched to remove the offending “horns”. By that time, Lennie had renamed me, Tito Mambo.
Len Cirelli –
Len Cirelli was a friend of Chico’s and I asked him to do a video about Chico since he likes to do videos so he recorded this. The URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVYwo6ilzMA. Thank you Len!
Doug Kupper –
I went to Emerson College in the 60′s with David and we became good friends. We worked on some of my original songs and went into a studio in CT to record them. The rest of the band was Danny McBride (Dirty Dan) and Jesse (Bob) Hendersen from the Rockin Ramrods.
It was my first experience in the studio and it wound up being my career for the last 32 years.
When David left Emerson he worked with the Happenings and another novelty act out of Woodstock. I don’t remember their name but they were a sort of jug band. David was always looking for the next good gig and he landed Sha Na Na shortly after that.
As they toured the world they would always have a gig or two in Central CT where I live and I was always invited to the show.
Mostly they would play the old Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford and then we’d wind up at the Yale Motel partying til the wee hours. Many happy memories of those days.
When David was on hiatus from the TV show or off the road he would tour with, among others, Fats Domino. he told me that he played bass for $$ with Sha Na Na and played guitar for fun when he could.
David got Danny his audition with the band and after Danny left he brought in another homey, Glen Jordan, that would also come to house jams at my place in Natick.
I know he had a home in Woodland Hills when the show was at it’s peak and enjoyed watching his daughter grow up.He had a very lovely British wife named Susan.
He introduced me to a lot of the musicians that were part of a marketing push called “The Boston Sound”. Basically it was one record company that needed to spend some money, so they spread it around Boston without doing much to promote the acts or the product.
It did, however, give a lot of hometown groups a chance to record in those heady days and Puff was one of them.
David was a very positive, hard working and affable person. I was devastated when I read about his death nearly a year after it happened. I felt badly that I never had the chance to pay my respects to his family.
Len Cirelli –
I cannot remember exact dates but it must have been around 1966-67. The Ramrods were touring a lot and on the road more and the Surf Ballroom, our home base, needed new house bands. We held auditions at the Surf and The Ramrods were the judges. That was the first time I saw Dave. He was playing bass in a group, I cannot remember the name, and he really impressed us. Dave was one of those people that may seem average to you at first but put a bass in his hands and it all changes. I believe we hired that band to play at the Surf at least once or twice. It was very obvious to us that Dave was the talent in the band.
After we got back from the Stones tour, our bass player Ronnie decided to leave. He still wanted to write songs and produce but did not want to play. We remembered Dave and although we listened to a few other bass players, Dave was the guy we really wanted and at some point we brought him into the group.
Things really changed after Ronnie left. Although Dave brought new and exciting energy to the Ramrods, and new fans also, Ronnie was the leader of the group. I hate to admit it but after he left it was never the same.
Dave fit right in and was a lot of fun. I remember him coming over to my house and my mom feeding us (she is still alive and is 100 years old and going strong). The fans loved him and as I said he brought a lot of talent and ideas with him.
I will never forget a trip to New York City that Dave and I, and our roadie Buzzy took. We went to a club to see a group called “The British ModBeats” and were just knocked out with the Beatle type look. But then they introduced this guy who came out and sang Secret Agent Man in a high and low voice. Believe it or not he was SO good. You will never guess but it was an unknown Tiny Tim who no one knew at the time. With his pale face and ukelele he was something to see. We had so much fun that weekend. I will never forget it. We spent every dime we had and could barely pay our hotel bill.
Dave continued to bring good things to the Ramrods and never ever grew tired of playing. I was getting older and realized if we had not made it after all the good press we got on the Stones tour, we were not going to make it. Also after Ronnie left we could not agree on anything. I had planned to start a new group but marriage and kids put that away for good.
The last time I played professionally was with Dave and Sha Na Na at the Surf. All of the old crowd and fans showed up and it was a magical night. I never played professionally again.
He kept in touch and of course I would see him on tv but soon we lost contact. When I saw his death notice in the paper, I could not believe it. So much talent to leave behind. I did not know Dave’s family and I did not know until he passed away that he was married.
I guess what I remember the most about Dave was his ability to have a lot of fun on stage and bring the audience along with him. You never had a “bad ” gig when Dave was on stage. I think of Dave often and of course I feel bad we did not stay in contact but I know he had the same fun memories that I do. I wish I could tell you more but that is all I can recall at this time. I am very proud to have known Dave and be a very small part of Rock and Roll history.
Mal Gray –
Chico and I performed together with Bill Haley, including at the Royal Command Performance in London in 1979. We were also together on two European tours with Fats Domino. We recorded around 30 songs together in the UK and Germany as well as writing and recording with Bill Haley. I worked with Chico as a member of Sha Na Na in the UK and USA in the early 70′s.
Apart from being a great singer and performer, Chico also played guitar, bass, and drums and a was a talented songwriter.
I met ShaNaNa on their first European tour (before Chico joined) and played in the band as a guest on several shows. I was invited to the USA the following year to perform with them again. That’s when I first met Chico (although to me, he was ‘Dave’. Because of my English accent, his mum thought I was calling him ‘Dive’!!). The band were much more powerful by this time, a lot of which I put down to Chico’s presence. (At this time, both Gino and Joffe were in the process of leaving the band.) I immediately got on very well with Chico and he organised a recording session in Boston with, amongst others, Danny McBride (Dirty Dan) and Jim Baker. I was staying with Chico’s parents when not on the road and they made me extremely welcome. Chico was always full of ideas and he encouraged me to write songs. Our first release (I sung it; he wrote it) was on Decca records
called ‘Tonight.’ One time on arriving in Boston, I was met at the airport by Chico in his limousine including a crate of champagne! (The boy had style!)
Chico knew I was an American car fan and arranged for me to have an old Chevrolet, courtesy of a friend of his, a guy called ‘Big Ed’. It seemed, everyone thought the world of Chico. Together, we gatecrashed several local bands in Boston. Working with Chico was always fun.
Towards the end of the 70′s, I asked Chico to join me on a Fats Domino European tour which he did. Everybody that worked with us thought he was a great guy. We made several recordings (most of which I still have on tape), but none of which have been released as at the time, Chico’s contracts would not allow. The tour was very successful and so I asked Chico to also play with Bill Haley on the 1979 tour which included the Royal Command Performance in London. Bill encouraged Chico to wear his leather jacket on
tour, although most of the time, it was strictly Comets uniforms. Bill’s
record company at that time, strongly objected to Chico wearing his ShaNaNa trademark leather jacket. But he wore it anyway with Bill’s agreement, apart from on TV shows, once again, impressing everyone he worked with.
I visited Martha’s Vineyard for Chico’s wedding and whilst in the USA caught a couple of ShaNaNa shows. By this time, Danny McBride was on lead guitar.
In the early 80′s Chico came to the UK to record with myself, Pete Wingfield (’18 with a Bullet’), Mick Grabham (Procul Harem), and Steve Murray (the Comets). We cut 15 tracks which I also have but they weren’t released for the same reasons. I’ve listed them below. In addition to these are a few songs I wrote with Chico which were recorded with Bill Haley, called: ‘Blackboard Rock’, ‘The King’, and ‘I Will’. Unfortunately, Bill died before the album was complete. My company (American Music Connection) still owns these unreleased recordings.
After Bill’s death, I also visited the Cannes Film Festival and South Africa with Chico. I remember Chico as a very good friend and I never met anybody that didn’t like him.
All the best,
Jesse Henderson –
David was my bandmate in the Rockin’ Ramrods… we did alot of recording together too. He recruited me in 1975 to fill in for Jocko for
a month long tour…flew me out to L.A. to do some studio recording with him as well. We were together at David’s place in Woodland Hills, CA and watching the Princess Di & Charles wedding. It’s great to see you honoring him with your project.
When David was in the Rockin’ Ramrods we got a record deal. The producer (alone) decided to name us Puff. We recorded the Puff album in a studio in NYC right off of times square. David played bass & vocals, most notably the lead vocal on “Through My Window” & a few others. We toured but mostly regionally throughout New England.
John Paiva –
He and I were close friends. I suggested him for the Happenings and he was as nuts as always on the gigs. When backless high heeled men’s shoes came out for a short time, David bought a pair immediately. One night while jumping up and down which he often did, he flew out of his shoes and flipped backwards over his amp, but never lost a beat. Lenny Baker was alslo a friend of ours and when an opening came up for Sha Na Na as a bassist, David was called. He actually asked me what he should do, and naturally I advised him to go to the audition. He did and the rest is history.
Screamin’ Scott Simon –
I have a memory of Chico that dates back to the 1980′s and one of our shows at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, the Copa Room, which was
famous for being home to the Rat Pack in the Sinatra era. The Doors movie had just been released, and Chico decided to find a wig and become Jim Morrison during an encore and we actually performed a Doors song. I think it was “Soul Kitchen” but in any case it certainly was different and a novelty. It only happened at two shows. It was also Chico’s idea to include
The Hokey Pokey as part of the show, which turned out to be a very
good idea in capping the audience participation where everyone can dance along.