By : Ray Smith

Ray Smith, Jerry Blavat, and Arlene Smith

Arlene Sullivan and I were in Philadelphia last weekend to take part in the Philly Pops’ celebration of American Bandstand and its decades’ long association with Philadelphia at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll. Bandstand, as many of you readers know, began in 1952, and the orchestra opened with the Bandstand Boogie, the show’s theme song. That was quickly followed by a medley of hits from the early 1950s like How Much Is That Doggie in The Window and Que Sera Sera. As nice as these songs are, there is no question why kids turned to the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll. In a tribute to Doo Wop, the Doo Wop Project traced the evolution of this street-corner singing style. The six guys of the group were without question the stars of the show. The men are Broadway performers and it showed; they sang, they danced, they talked, and they got the audience moving and singing along.

Arlene Sullivan, Dee Dee Sharp and Ray Smith

Capping off the weekend was seeing some of the regulars for the first time in years. It was nice to see Frank Spagnuola (whom I see frequently, but not enough), Eddie Kelly, Carmen and Ivette Jimenez, Marlyn Brown, Terry DeNoble, Steve Colanero, Diane Iaquinto and Lou DeNoble. Jerry Blavat was there, too, telling his story. On Friday night, we participated in a panel discussion of our years on the show. On Saturday afternoon, the platform was taken over by the singers, Dee Dee Sharp (Mashed Potato Time), Frank Maffei (the last remaining Junior from Danny & the Juniors-At The Hop), Billy Carlucci (Billy & the Essentials-Maybe You’ll Be There), The Tymes (So Much in Love), and Jerry Gross of the Dovels (The Bristol Stomp). The audience was, of course, a sea of grey hair accompanied by a robust enthusiasm for what has become the music of our youth. Arlene, Jerry and I were hawking books and meeting the concert goers; that was the most fun. Many thanks to the Philly Pops for putting on this fun three-day event.

Some of the Regulars from American Bandstand

On a personal note, I have to say rock ‘n’ roll is a whole other animal when played by a 60-piece orchestra. The rawness we craved in the 50s gets ironed out and replaced with grandness. The effect is quite different, enjoyable but different.

Photos from Ray Smith and Arlene Sullivan