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 Rock and Roll 101: The Royal Teens - "Short Shorts"

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MessageSujet: Rock and Roll 101: The Royal Teens - "Short Shorts"   Ven 22 Juin 2012, 09:07

Rock and Roll 101: The Royal Teens - "Short Shorts"





by Frank Mastropolo, June 20, 2012 and has been read 755 times.


In the 1950's, doo wop groups like the Platters, the Diamonds and the Del-Vikings topped the pop charts. Their voices blended into one,
doo wop groups perfected their smooth sound by harmonizing on street corners in cities across the US. But in Bergen County, New Jersey,
four teenagers decided in 1956 that they’d make it in music not with their voices, but with their playing.

The Royals – 14-year-old Billy Crandall on sax, pianist Bob Gaudio, 15, guitarist Billy Dalton, 16, and drummer Tom Austin, the oldest at 17
– were still in high school when they began to play gigs at Jersey-area CYO dances and firehouse parties. It was at a Battle of the Bands
in Coytesville that the Royals were asked to back up the Three Friends, a vocal group that had a regional hit with “Blanche.”

The Three Friends, who were signed to the small independent label Lido Records, were so impressed with the Royals that they asked the
group to back them on their next recording session. When the Royals arrived at Bell Sound Recording in New York City, they met Leo
Rogers, the producer and co-owner of Lido and Power Records.




Rogers quickly recognized the Royals’ talent and recruited them as session players to back up his stable of singers. Rogers, who became
the Royals’ manager, promised that soon the band would get the opportunity to record a few of their own songs for Power Records.

The group had worked on several numbers but the one with the most promise was an instrumental that didn’t yet have a name. Drummer
Tom Austin told AltSounds that the inspiration for the song’s title was seen outside Luhmann’s ice cream parlor, a popular Bergenfield teen hangout.


“Bob Gaudio and I were riding up the main street on Washington Avenue in my 1957 red and white Ford Fairlane 500 and we see these
girls walking down the street with these cutoff jeans. And they had them cut off so short! I said to Bobby, ‘Let’s call that song “Short
Shorts.”’ And he said that’s a great idea.”


With a song and a title, the band was ready the night Leo Rogers made some studio time available at Bell.

“Leo said, ‘All right, we’ll give you guys a chance to record your song, what do you want to play?’ We said, ‘We have this song “Short
Shorts.” So we laid down the instrumental track and it was a good, hot track, it was terrific.”


But there was a problem.

“Rogers said, ‘Where the hell are the words? Who’s singing?’ We said, ‘We don’t have any words, it’s an instrumental.’ He said, ‘Well, then
we can’t do that, you gotta sing something.’ None of us were singers in the group. He said ‘All right, take a break, go out and think of some words.’”


The band went into the hall, where they began throwing out ideas. Austin came up with the wolf whistle, which Dalton then mimicked on
his guitar, to open the song. Billy Crandall contributed, “Man, dig those crazy chicks!”

They even found a part for one of Rogers’ singers, Diana Lee, and one of her girlfriends who happened to be in the studio. When the band
in unison asked, “Who wears short shorts?” the two girls would answer, “We wear short shorts.”

The band continued to embellish the lyrics but Rogers cautioned them to keep it simple. Austin says that he was right. “The words in the
song are “Who wears,” “We wear,” “They’re such,” and “We like.” Everything else is “short shorts.”’

After 15 takes, “Short Shorts” was completed. Though written by Austin and Gaudio, the writing credits include all four members of the
group. Austin explained that the band had also recorded “Planet Rock,” written by Dalton and Crandall.



“We didn’t know which was the A-side or the B-side that night. We came out of there and we were just happy we made a record. Gaudio
and I wrote ‘Short Shorts’ and Dalton and Crandall spent most of their time writing ‘Planet Rock.’

“We said look, we don’t know which side is gonna get pushed, so why don’t we just all say we all wrote both sides? So we all agreed. And
that’s why we all became partners in the writing of it.”


Before “Short Shorts” was released, Rogers noted that another group was called the Royals, so he changed the band’s name to the Royal
Teens – a name they all hated. But the title of their song was brilliant. Previously, shorts had been referred to as “cutoffs”; now the
group had coined a phrase that would become part of the country’s vocabulary: “short shorts.”

“Short Shorts” became an immediate hit, reaching #3 on the Billboard charts in 1958. In a matter of months, the Royal Teens went from
playing VFW halls to touring with stars like Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Jerry Lee Lewis. But without a successful follow-up, the band’s
best days were numbered.

“Guys were dropping out of the group,” said Austin. “Billy Crandall dropped out immediately, then Billy Dalton dropped out, so we got Al
Kooper to replace him.”



Kooper would go on to fame as a member of the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, but in 1959 he was unable to help the Royal
Teens produce another hit. Bob Gaudio left the band to join Frankie Valli’s group, the Four Lovers, who would go on to sell 175 million
records as the Four Seasons. When Austin was drafted into the armed forces, it spelled the end of the group.

But the band received a jump start in 1975 when Nair premiered its “If you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts” commercials. The
ads for the depilatory ran for almost 30 years and as the writers of “Short Shorts,” the Royal Teens finally were able to profit handsomely
from their work.

A revival in interest in the song came again in 2005, when Jersey Boys debuted on Broadway. The documentary-style musical, with music
by Bob Gaudio, features “Short Shorts” in its telling of the Four Seasons’ rise to success.

Founding member Tom Austin is still rockin’ with the Royal Teens, who now include Peter La Rosa, Charles Frommer and Joey Donato.
Catch their dynamic show live on Friday, July 20, 2012 at McLoones Supper Club in Asbury Park, NJ and Saturday, August 11, 2012 at NJ’s
Fort Lee Recreation Center.


Source : HERE
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