A themed variety show, in which the skits and music centered around Sha Na Na (a '50s-style "greaser" rock band) and the neighborhood in which they lived (an unidentified inner city ... See full summary »
A themed variety show, in which the skits and music centered around Sha Na Na (a '50s-style "greaser" rock band) and the neighborhood in which they lived (an unidentified inner city neighborhood reminiscent of the Bronx). Written by
Sha Na Na were a group of Columbia University students who formed in 1968 and rose to popularity after performing at Woodstock, but it was their appearance in the blockbuster success GREASE that led to the creation of this variety show built around the band. The comedy sketches performed by the band were all based in a 50's "West Side Story" reality (on a sound stage) and in front of an "almost live" audience. Likely formulated to cash in on the 50's revival movement begun with American GRAFITI and HAPPY DAYS, it's perhaps surprising that it lasted as long as it did -a brief three and a half seasons. It may not have been as professional as Donnie & Marie or even the Mandrell Sisters, but what it lacked in budget it more than made up for in chutzpah. The "greaser" styled ensemble did a fair job on the comedy, which clicked mostly with youngsters, but the real highlight of this regional weekly program was the music., which appealed to older audiences nostalgic for the uncomplicated rock 'n roll music of the 50s.The band always performed at least one song in a straight-forward live manner, and usually several other songs throughout the program during the comedy vignettes (ala the Monkees). The writing was simple (perhaps even juvenile) but entertaining, as the program's target audience was probably also watching the (superior) Muppet Show, and the (inferior) Hudson Brothers, and Sha Na Na fit neatly between the two in terms of quality, and provided an alternative to the nursing home muzak of Lawrence Welk. The breakout star of the group was Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, whose basso profondo vocal register was so low as to be a novelty in and of itself. He went on to numerous acting roles and game show gigs. The television show helped the band sell a handful of records, and bushels of live concert tickets throughout its late 70's / early 80's run. For better or worse, Sha Na Na served as a cultural bridge for the generation between the New York Dolls (with whom they shared the Filmore East stage on more than one occasion) and new wave; it's hard to imagine the success of rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats, without giving a little credit to the relentlessly touring Sha Na Na. All in all, it was good clean fun for the whole family -a sort of doo-wop version of HEE HAW.
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