'Let's go to the hop': I'm quite fond of these four high schoolers from the cracked-bell burg who identified themselves as The Juvenairs and then, with success hovering over their heads in 1957, Danny and the Juniors. Their song, as composed by solo singer Johnny Madara and Juniors member David White, had begun as "Do the Bop" but needed a logical alteration (why not take all the eggs out of one basket so as to spread them at least 12 times further?), as Dick Clark and Artie Singer reasoned if the song was going to outlast the dance of that name, already well past its prime assuming a lifespan of half-a-hundred fortnights should denote something beyond the usual music business definition of longevity, which it usually does. The slightly modified title and lyrics did the trick ('Everybody's doin' it and they're really movin' it, the bop!' was replaced by 'When the record starts spinnin', you chalypso when you chicken at the hop!'), certainly enough to improve its "Rate-A-Record" score from, say, 56 to 77 (a 33 percent increase as far as Bandstand-scale math will allow). Then again, both versions had a good beat and you could dance to 'em, so the ratings might have been identical had a test of this sort been attempted. Ultimately, "At the Hop" warranted the maximum 98: it became the number one hit of the entire year.

During the 1955-to-1956 classroom cycle, four ninth- and tenth-graders at John Bartrum High School formed the Juvenairs (simultaneously attempting to add a little "class" to the scornful way adults seemed to use the word "juvenile"). Dave White (last name Tricker) was the instigator and sang tenor (and played piano and guitar, mainly when he was writing songs). Sometimes-drummer Danny Rapp took the role of lead singer and, later, reluctant top-billed star. Baritone Joe Terranova ("Just call me Joe Terry") and second tenor Frank Maffei completed the quartet. They sang well together and demonstrated crafty dance steps on street corners (and eventually at school shows and other events).

Johnny Madara, already in his twenties, had no association with the juveniles, make that -nairs, until he chanced upon them...though it may have been they upon him when they learned he'd actually made a record for a local label. That single was "Be My Girl," a borderline-Sal Mineo imitation released in the summer of '57 while the previously Oscar-nominated actor Mineo enjoyed top ten success with his first hit, "Start Movin' (In My Direction)." Artie Singer had written Madara's song and released it on his Singular label, but it didn't catch on; Johnny considered prioritizing his own songwriting ambition over the rigors of pursuing idol-style stardom. He did, however, throw the Juvenairs a bone: soon Singer would be producing their first record.

The bop was poppin' in '56 and '57 (Carl Perkins' friends bopped to the blues, Gene Vincent supported dancing to regular and "Bluejean" variations, Ricky Nelson's "Be-Bop Baby" was the gal for him, Texas radio shouter J.P. Richardson referred to himself as a "big bopper" and would soon be making music under the name), but American Bandstand host Clark followed the trends - or even made some of them - and knew the bop's days were numbered. The Juvenairs' recording of Madara and White's "Do the Bop" had been demoed, but was changed at Clark's suggestion (subtle hint: if you want it played on Bandstand, here's a way to increase your odds!). The group's name was also abandoned in favor of Singer's preference, Danny and the Juniors.

Issued in Philly on Singular, the record quickly became much more than Singer could handle; he sold the rights to ABC-Paramount. Pat Boone's brother Nick Todd saw an opportunity and did an "At the Hop" cover for Dot Records that charted but caused little reason for concern. In December '57 it was obvious where the DATJ disc was headed; it grew with each passing day - a yard in width, then three, then a thousand - soon it would be one-third of a million, then three. Number one the first seven weeks of the year, longer than any other 1958 hit! In short order these youthful giants made another of many Bandstand appearances, this particular one more memorable than the others: Clark presented them with a gold record for their top-selling, generation-defining hit.

Unlike the difficulty that befell so many others, this wasn't to be Danny and the Juniors' lone hit. The streets of Philadelphia had bidden radiant souls stand forth...someone had to defend the music ridiculed by so many over-30-types suffering from hardening of the arteries. Dave White composed a rock anthem (lifting the title straight from Little Richard's 1956 recording of "All Around the World"), perhaps the conclusive notarization in support of a new form with far more substance than it was getting credit for. "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay" ('...it will never die! It was meant to be that way...' Wait for the next line, it's a doozy: '...though I don't know why'). Dave was onto something; despite his uncertainty, rock and roll dominated for many, many years. You've got to admire his (and the group's) audacity: 'I don't care what people say...' Yet this line can be taken two ways: 'It'll go down in history'...permanently, if the subsequent decades are any indication...but now is not the time to discuss the enigmas of music. Give Danny, Dave, Joe and Frank big points for having backbone in an era not-yet-warmed-up to rock's takeover. The bolder-than-its-predecessor single crashed the top 20 in March '58 while their "Hop" hit was still charting.

The guys spent much of the remainder of the decade on the road, traveling throughout North America by bus, commencing with Alan Freed's massive Rock and Roll Show. Saxophonist Lennie Baker joined the act for stage shows. The next single eschewed any trendiness and dealt with romance of the kind you can dance to; Madara's "Dottie" reached the top 40 in July '58 while the act was seen doing "At the Hop" in silver screen guilty pleasure Let's Rock! But several singles ("Crazy Cave," "Sassy Fran," a Christmas song and others) suffered from languid sales and the group was dropped by ABC late in 1959. The next year was difficult with no records and few live performances, but the Juniors hung tight and got signed to Swan Records in the summer of 1960.

Danny Rapp, Joe Terranova, Dave White, Frank Maffei

They hitched onto the "twist" craze with "Twistin' U.S.A." and landed back in the top 30 in October. Meanwhile, Madara continued chasing his rock/teen dreams with a couple of singles on the tiny Matt label (aping Anka with "I'm So Alone" and Dulce Suena") and received minor airplay in Philly on WIBG (there was always plenty of room for new records on the station's massive "Top 99" survey). He made one anemic single for Swan, the spoken-and-sung "Teenager's Dream," another "Wibbage" pick. Three singles on the Bamboo label included the closest thing he ever had to a national hit, "Vacation Time" (rippin' on the Gary (U.S.) Bonds sound this time), which was played in several eastern U.S. cities in the summer of '61. His best effort ("I Know, I Know") had an original sound but got lost in the shuffle. So he deserted the singing career, shortened his name to John Madara, and continued to write songs with Dave White, who quit Danny and the Juniors for similar reasons at about the same time. Billy Carlucci, another Bartrum High alum, replaced him for about a year before forming his own group, Billy and the Essentials.

Danny and the Juniors stayed busy throughout 1961 with several dance-centric singles for Swan including Bob Crewe and Frank Slay's "Pony Express," "Cha Cha Go Go (Chicago Cha Cha)," a Crewe-Slay tune that was big, strangely, in San Francisco, and the group's inevitable backpedaling move, "Back to the Hop." Madara and White finally hit pay dirt that fall when Chubby Checker buzzed his way to the top ten with their contribution to his string of dance hits, "The Fly." As the twist trend entered phase two in '62, Rapp and the Juniors offered up "Twistin' All Night Long," built around impressions (by backing vocalists) of Checker, Connie Francis, Fats Domino, Johnny Mathis and, in place of a faux-Freddy Cannon, Swan's top seller, Cannon himself stepped in as a credited "guest artist." "Doin' the Continental Walk" kept the year-old dance going through spring '62 and, moving to the Guyden label in early '63, they joined Chubby's limbo-mania with a Latinesque "Oo-La-La-Limbo."

Later in the year the group (Danny, Joe and Frank) went to Mercury Records and backed Dean Christie on his summer 1963 single "Mona," produced by Johnny and Dave for their new MWB Production company. Danny and the Juniors had one single on the label, "Let's Go Ski-ing," a new sound for them (surf and drag in a winter sports setting). As the Juniors' fortunes entered the downhill slope, Madara and White were enjoying the fruits of their songwriting endeavors with top 40 hits by The Sherrys ("Pop Pop Pop-Pie"), The Pixies Three ("Birthday Party") and The Secrets ("The Boy Next Door"), in addition to a giant hit by Lesley Gore, girl power standard "You Don't Own Me."

While Danny and his remaining Juniors hung in the "limbo" that had been their chart swan song, Madara, White and WIBG deejay Ray Gilmore formed The Spokesmen and reached the top 40 in the fall of '65 with "The Dawn of Correction" (an optimistic answer to Barry McGuire's doom-and-gloom "Eve of Destruction") while overseeing Len Barry's rise as a solo artist with "1-2-3." White recorded an album, Pastel, Paint, Pencil & Ink, for Bell Records in 1971 under his full name, David White Tricker; Danny and Joe, credited with David as Danny and the Juniors, backed him on the track "422."

Sax man Lennie Baker began a three-decade stint in 1970 with the very successful rock revival band Sha Na Na, which included a syndicated TV variety series from 1977 to '80 and appearances in the 1978 movies Grease and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Danny Rapp and senior Juniors Joe and Frank frequently made the scene throughout the '70s and early '80s. Then in 1983 Danny was found dead, an apparent victim of suicide. Joe Terranova and Frank Maffei, with Frank's brother Bob Maffei, kept the group going through wanly gleaming years, billboarding Danny's name despite his absence. But if there is truth to the belief that "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay," why not keep the spirit of Danny and the Juniors in the mix as long as possible?

- Michael Jack Kirby



At the Hop Twistin' U.S.A.