Danny and The Juniors
Performers of rock’s national anthem, “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay,” written by David White, founder and original member of Danny & the Juniors. Danny and the Juniors are remembered more for their hits than for holding a pivotal place in vocal group history. Not too many groups of the late ‘50s or early ‘60s would have cited the Juniors as an early influence. They came along when most white groups, like The Four Coins and The Four Lads, were singing straight pop, but before acts like The Elegants, The Earls, and Dion and The Belmonts were on the scene. That made Danny and the Juniors one of the first acts to interpret black music and R&B in the context of white rock and roll.
Dave White was the initial culprit forming the Juvenairs in John Bartram High School in Philadelphia during 1955. The members were Danny Rapp (lead), Dave White (Tricker) (first tenor), Frank Maffei (second tenor), and Joe Terry (Terranova) (baritone).
Influenced early on by the likes of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Four Lads, The Four Freshmen, the Schoolboys, The Ravens, and Steve Gibson and his Red Caps, the group practiced in the back of a car (just like the Freshmen).
By 1957 the Juvenairs, like many of Philadelphia’s groups, were also practicing on street corners, only they decided to kill two birds with one song by singing on a corner under the window of producer John Madara. After telling them several times, “Get lost – you’re waking my kids,” he finally went downstairs and was impressed enough to take them to local disc jockey Larry Brown and Larry’s partner Artie Singer of Singular Records. The group had a few originals including a ballad called “Sometimes” and a dance tune titled “Do the Bop.” Singer took “Do the Bop” to a friend for an opinion. The friend was Dick Clark of “American Bandstand.” He liked it, but knowing that the dance the bop was on its way out, he suggested a name change to “At the Hop.”
In November 1957 “At the Hop” written by David White, John Madara and Artie Singer came out (the group had been renamed Danny and the Juniors by Singer), but it wasn’t getting much attention. On December 2, 1957, Dick Clark frantically called Singer saying the group scheduled to appear on his show (reportedly Little Anthony and The Imperials) couldn’t show up and he needed a fill-in act immediately. Artie sent over Danny and company, who lip-synced “At the Hop.” The switchboard lit up with hundreds of callers wanting to know what that was and who was singing it.
ABC Paramount quickly became aware of the record, bought the masters, and issued the single. One week (December 9th) after their TV appearance, the record appeared on the Billboard charts, and a month later Danny and the Juniors had the number one record in America.
It stayed there for an amazing seven weeks and remained in the Top 100 for three times that. This revolutionary rocker also reached number one on the R&B charts, this time for five weeks. It became an international hit as well, charting in England (#3), Australia (#16), and other countries outside the U.S. The record sold over two and a half million copies and the Juniors soon found themselves in Alan Freed’s touring review.
Next came the song that teens over the next 10 years would sing to their parents whenever they were told to “turn that damn thing down!” – David White’s “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay.” It charted on March 3, 1958, and rose to number 19 Pop and number 16 R&B, but radio played it as if it were number one!
“Dottie,” with nothing to distinguish it, reached only number 39 as their third release in the summer of 1958, while a beautiful ballad called “A Thief” (their fourth single) never charted at all. Their next three ABC singles had the same radio reception as “A Thief.” Their next-to-last ABC disc (“Somehow I Can’t Forget”) in 1959 had the distinction of being the first stereo 45 RPM single.
In late 1960 the group joined Swan Records and issued the quality dance record “Twistin’ USA,” which charted at number 27. Once again the group’s great ballad abilities demonstrated on their excellent B side interpretation of The Heartbeats’ “A Thousand Miles Away,” were ignored.
“Pony Express” (which would have been a great record for the Dovells) rose only as high as number 60 in early 1961, indicating that the group was losing its chart grip. As usual, another strong ballad was passed over on the flip side (“Daydreamer”).
One of the best sequel records, “Back to the Hop,” came out in the late summer of 1961 and managed to climb to number 80 (though it did reach the top 20 in a variety of eastern cities).
Their last Swan charter, “Doin’ the Continental Walk,” barely made number 93 in the spring of 1962, and the group moved over to another Philly label, Guyden, for their last chart record. “Oo-La-La-Limbo” took advantage of the limbo craze (#99, 1963).
After one Mercury issue in 1964 they broke up, but re-formed in 1968 for a contemporary recording of “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” on Capitol. While at Mercury they did one vocal backup assignment for Dean Christie on “Mona.”
In the ‘70s Danny and Joe had their own oldies show on WCAM in Camden, New Jersey, with newest Junior’s member Jimmy Testa (the Fabulous Four, Chancellor, and the Four J’s, Jamie). Other notable juniors over the years include Billy Carlucci, Johnny Petillo and Bobby Love.
In 1976 “At the Hop,” was re-issued in Britain and brought the populace back to those days of yesteryear as it charted up to number 39. Meanwhile Lenny Baker, sax player, became a member of a licensed version of Danny and The Juniors and later co-founded Sha Na Na.
Frank went on to become an optometrist; Dave continued Co-writing, including hits by Chubby Checker (“The Fly”) Len Barry of The Dovells (“One, Two Three”) and (You Don’t Own Me) Leslie Gore. Danny became assistant manager in a toy factory and sadly was found dead in Parker, Arizona, of apparent suicide on April 8, 1983, at the age of 41.
The legacy of this fine vocal group is kept alive by Danny and the Juniors featuring Joe Terry still performing classic rock and roll. Joe’s Juniors include original member Frank Maffei and his brother Bobby Maffei.
– Jay Warner