tampabay.com

A taste of vintage rock 'n' roll

Sha Na Na, which got its big break at Woodstock, comes to harmonize in Hudson.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN
Published March 16, 2007


From their high school dropout greaser looks and zany antics, you might never guess that the 1970s nostalgia rockers Sha Na Na started out as the Kingsmen, a glee club ensemble at New York's Columbia University, where they got their academic degrees and their musical start.

But that is indeed the background of the three original members of the eight-member group appearing Monday at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre, the latest show brought to the Hudson venue as part of its agreement with Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Sha Na Na is expected to sing a wide range of rock tunes, including their signature song, Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay right up to one of their latest, The Cat in the P.T. Cruiser.

Sha Na Na (named for the backup rhythm line in the Silhouettes' hit Get a Job) was formed in 1969, just in time to be the next-to-last act at the original Woodstock Festival. Fortunately, the last act was Jimi Hendrix, and the crowd had stuck around until near daybreak just to hear him.

So had some top record label executives. One of them quickly signed the unknown group, a smart move since Sha Na Na went on to make 25 albums, sell more than 20-million records, tape 97 episodes of their own television series, appear in the movie version of the musical Grease and become a household name.

For nearly 40 years, the group has been headliners at casinos, corporate meetings, fairs, festivals and performing arts halls. Some of their opening acts in the early days were Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and Jay Leno.

The three original members who will be at the Show Palace are John "Jocko" Marcellino, who, when not touring with Sha Na Na, is a television and movie actor (NYPD Blue, Rain Man) and songwriter; Screamin' Scott Simon, who wrote Sandy, the John Travolta hit from Grease; and Donny York, who teaches at the Vocal Power Institute in Los Angeles and raises dogs and horses that appear in TV and video productions.

Others in the group performing Monday are Reggie Battise, who once sang with the Houston Grand Opera in Paris and was a principal dancer in the movie Stayin' Alive; Paul "Paulie" Kimbarow, who played with Chuck Berry, among others; "Downtown" Michael Brown, who performed with Buckwheat Zydeco; guitarist Gene Jaramillo; and the "Rockabilly Romeo," Jim "Billy" Waldbillig.

IF YOU GO

Sha Na Na

Where: Show Palace Dinner Theatre, 16128 U.S. 19, Hudson.

When: 1:30 and 8 p.m. Monday. Doors open two hours before each show for dinner and cash bar.

Tickets: $49.50, plus tax and tip. Call 863-7949 in west Pasco; toll-free elsewhere at 1-888-655-7469.