Danny McBride: Guitarist with rock'n' roll revivalists Sha Na Na
Tuesday 18 August 2009
Their appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 might have gone against the grain of the "peace and love" generation, but the US group Sha Na Na started a rock 'n' roll revival craze which lasted through the Seventies and took in American Graffiti by George Lucas, the long-running Happy Days sitcom, and inspired British acts such as Showaddywaddy, Rocky Sharpe and the Replays and Darts. The guitarist "Dirty Dan" McBride was a mainstay of Sha Na Na between 1975 and 1980, the high-watermark years of the group, as they hosted their own series on American television and also became part of the Grease phenomenon.
Billed as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers, Sha Na Na appeared in the Randal Kleiser film adaptation of the Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey musical, and contributed half a dozen songs to the soundtrack album, which topped charts around the world in 1978 at the height of the Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta fever. Alongside their interpretations of the Casey and Jacobs compositions "Those Magic Changes" and "Born to Hand-Jive", tongue-in-cheek versions of doo-wop and rock 'n' roll standards such as "Blue Moon", "Rock'n'Roll Is Here to Stay", "Hound Dog" and "Tears on My Pillow" introduced a new generation to the Fifties' genres.
Born Daniel Hatton in 1945, he grew up in Reading, Massachusetts, where he would entertain his childhood friends with puppet shows. In the late Sixties, he graduated from Boston University's College of Communication and went into broadcasting, starting as a news reporter on a North Carolina radio station.
In 1975, he took up the McBride alias and joined Jon "Bowzer" Bauman (vocals), Lennie Baker (saxophone), Johnny Contardo (vocals), Frederick "Dennis" Greene (vocals), John "Jocko" Marcellino (drums), Dave "Chico" Ryan (bass), "Screamin'" Scott Simon (piano), Scott "Santini" Powell (vocals) and Donald "Donny" York (vocals) in the classic line-up of Sha Na Na, in time to record the Sha Na Now album. McBride had his work cut out as the group had featured two guitarists for its first five years, and his predecessor as sole axeman had been "Enrico Ronzoni" – né Elliott Randall – between Steely Dan engagements.
Originally formed as an a cappella group at Columbia University in 1968, Sha Na Na had taken their name from a line in the Silhouettes' hit "Get a Job" and still introduced themselves as coming "from the streets of New York". They wore gold lamé or leather jackets and greased their hair back like the Fifties rock 'n' rollers, but their act was as much send-up as homage.
They had attracted celebrity fans such as The Who's drummer, Keith Moon, and built a live following in the US and overseas. Their dance routines and comedy skits made them television naturals, and they followed Happy Days from 1977. With guests ranging from Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Del Shannon to Paul Anka, Chubby Checker and Jan & Dean via Milton Berle, Ethel Merman and Zsa Zsa Gabor, the series proved a hit and went into syndication. McBride left in 1980, before taping on the fourth series began, and was replaced by "Guitar Glenn" Jordan.
Over the next three decades, McBride found a niche as a broadcaster and voice-over artist, as well as a writer of humorous, opinionated and music-related articles for magazines and websites in the US. He also released a solo album, 16 Tunes... And Whaddaya Get... A Songwriter's Portfolio. Sha Na Na still tour the US with three of the mainstays, Marcellino, Simon and York, at the helm.
Daniel Hatton ("Dirty Dan" or Danny McBride), guitarist, singer, songwriter, broadcaster and writer: born Somerville, Massachusetts 20 November 1945; married; died Los Angeles 23 July 2009.
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