by Cheryl B.

I became a Sha Na Na admirer probably around the late '70s, when their syndicated series ran on a local station every Saturday night, and I'd often put my little cassette recorder by the TV to record the sound. In the midst of all the great music and good-natured silliness, I quickly became a huge fan.

In fact, it was their renditions of the classics that turned me on in a big way to '50's rock 'n roll. To this day, it remains my all-time favorite style of music, thanks in no small part to Sha Na Na.

One thing that really impresses me about the group is that, despite all of all their wacky antics on the show, they never seemed to be mocking the oldies music they performed; it's more like they were just having great fun paying tribute to the rambunctious yet innocent joy of the '50's era.

They tend to get labeled as merely a silly novelty act, but there are some extremely talented musicians in Sha Na Na (Jocko on drums, Screamin' on keyboards, Danny and Chico on guitar, Lennie on sax) and also some truly gifted vocalists (how Johnny escaped becoming a major star still astounds me, and Bowzer's bass voice is one of the best around). Their renditions of some of those rock 'n roll tunes actually outshine the originals.

And it also didn't take very long for this girl to develop a huge crush on Johnny Contardo! It wasn't only the fact that he was devastatingly and heartbreakingly beautiful, but also his amazing dance moves, his fabulous sense of humor, and, of course, his gorgeous, angelic voice crooning those classic love songs, as his deep brown eyes burned seductively right through the screen and made every girl out there feel as though he was singing just for her. Add that incredible falsetto voice to the mix, and, needless to say, I was hooked. I'd hold my breath and pray that he'd have the lead on one of the songs that week, and was always overjoyed when I'd see that sweet face framed in the disco ball in the concert segment!

So I collected as many albums as I could find (see my album list for my mini-reviews of some of them) and had a little scrapbook of photos and articles, plus my highly amateurish sketches of the guys. I spent countless happy hours watching their show and listening to their music. And I even named my little blue parakeet Ginger, after the character that Pamela Myers played on the series!

Well, by the mid-80's, I'd moved on to other fan interests and had placed Sha Na Na on the back burner of my mind, although I never stopped thinking they were great - I always smiled whenever I'd see them in "Grease," and still got goosebumps and butterflies when Johnny sang "Those Magic Changes." But thoughts of the group were relegated to the occasional happy memory, and seeing the guys in concert a couple of times in the early '90's - it was after Bowzer and Johnny had already left, but still such terrific fun!

And then, in early 2002, a dear lady sent me a videotape of some old episodes of the show, after seeing a post I'd made at a tape trading newsgroup, and I immediately found myself thrust back into my young adulthood. All the fun and music and memories flooding back again, and I discovered that my inner adolescent girl still swoons just as hard over Johnny now in my early 40's as I did 20 years ago!

So now, I'm the moderator of a wonderful Sha Na Na fan group at Yahoo. I have a couple of cool posters of the guys on my wall. I have my original vinyl copies of their albums, plus I've got all that great music in CD format to listen to and enjoy, thanks to some great people at the Yahoo group (and finding some of the rare import CD versions on eBay). I have both of Johnny's rare, amazing solo albums - Changeover and Ballads For Lovers - and had those transferred to CD, as well. Oh yeah, and I made these little Sha Na Na and Johnny Zone websites, too!

But most importantly, some truly wonderful friendships have sprung up from this renewed fandom, and I'm finding that Sha Na Na fans are, without a doubt, some of the nicest, most wonderful people around. : )

So I've come full circle, and I'm having the time of my life! Thanks to Sha Na Na and all the years of happiness and fun you've given to all of us...