Sha Na Na to mark 50 years of classic oldies at Palace Theatre
Sha Na Na’s 50th anniversary coincides with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the monumental rock festival in the summer of 1969 that Rolling Stone magazine includes in its list of “50 moments that changed the history of rock and roll.”
The festival was pretty monumental for the classic rock and ’50s oldies band, too. Sha Na Na’s co-founder and drummer Jocko Marcellino still remembers the day they were invited to play at Woodstock — not long after the group started playing together.
Even better, they were selected as the second-to-last group to perform, before the legendary Jimi Hendrix would close the history-making festival on the fourth day of a scheduled three-day event.
“We went on second to last, at sunrise on the final day, just before Jimi Hendrix,” Marcellino told the Tribune-Review. “We played for 40 minutes and were paid $350 — and the check bounced!”
The concert gig wasn’t for nothing for the guys who started as an a capella group known as the Kingsmen at Columbia University in New York that same year.
Quite the contrary, they had a record deal after Woodstock and would go on to release 18 albums with worldwide sales of more than $20 million, according to their website.
A remarkble weekend
Sha Na Na is celebrating its milestone year with a 50th Anniversary Tour that comes to the Palace Theatre in Greensburg for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 presented by Rich Engler. Also performing will be Pendulum: A Tribute to Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Since its appearance at Woodstock, Sha Na Na went on to film 97 episodes of a syndicated television variety show that aired from 1977 to 1981. The group also performed in the 1978 movie “Grease” as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers. One of the songs sung by John Travolta in the film, “Sandy,” was written by Sha Na Na member Scott Simon.
Marcellino said Sha Na Na originally played a mixed bag of songs, but their fans wanted more of their music from the ’50s, so the group decided to stick to the oldies.
“We were celebrating the golden age of rock and roll from 1955 to 1962 and the fans and the musicians appreciated what we were doing,” he said. “We figured, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The band has had several different members throughout the years.
“Donny (York), Scott (Simon) and I and four great musicians are carrying the flag now,” Marcellino said. “Our job is to present a great show that delivers what the fans are expecting.”
Fifty years after Woodstock, Marcellino said, “We’re still jumping — only maybe not as high.”
Sha Na Na released its 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition CD in June, which includes their “behind-the-scenes” story, “The Band that was Born at Woodstock: How Ivy League Greasers Made it to the Most Infamous Hippie Festival in History.”
In time for the holidays, they also have a “Rockin’ Christmas” album available at iTunes and Amazon.”
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.