In the 70's, it seemed like everyone and his brother was getting a variety show. Today, they're getting talk shows, but it's pretty much the same.
Sha Na Na, a 10-man ensemble, had their first big break at Woodstock in 1969, then made the rounds of guest appearances on other variety shows, appearing with Flip Wilson and Andy Williams, among others. In 1977, Pierre Cossette, better known for having produced a myriad of awards shows, such as the Oscars & Emmys, decided to take a chance on producing a weekly series. The end result was Sha Na Na getting 4 years worth of fun with a weekly comedy-variety show that rode the tidal wave of nostalgia that started with George Lucas' "American Graffitti", and continued with Happy Days & Laverne & Shirley.
Everyone has their favorites among the band members, and a large number of posters on YouTube favor Johnny Contardo, who covered the Reflections' "(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet", The Tymes' "So Much in Love", and the Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", just to name a few. However, it was Bowzer (Jon Bauman) who was being posited as the star of the show. He opened most episodes, and closed them all with his signature tag line, "Grease for peace". After the series, Bauman shed the grease and tried his hand at being a game show host, after having appeared in character on Match Game, Password Plus, and Celebrity Charades, among others. However, both of his game shows, The Pop 'N' Rocker Game & The Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour, which launched within weeks of each other in 1983, were cancelled in a year's time. From there, Bauman signed on with VH1 as one of their first on-air talents, and began doing voice work at Hanna-Barbera on a few projects. These days, he's gone back to the grease and his Bowzer persona, but the years have not been kind, as a recent Time-Life informercial reveals. Once skinny as a rail, Bauman has packed on the pounds since leaving VH1.
Saxophonist Lennie Baker made a guest appearance on the 1979 revival of Make Me Laugh, but my memory is hazy on whether or not any of the others got to spin off on their own during the series' run. Their only other movie appearance, aside from the "Woodstock" feature film, was in 1978's "Grease", in which they appeared as Johnny Casino & the Gamblers. Subsequently, the band, with Contardo on vocals, covered the theme from "Grease" during season 2.
Not every classic oldie was done straight. In some cases, songs were used to build some comedy sketches, such as the one in the video following shortly. To help the boys have an understanding of television comedy, veterans Avery Schreiber (ex-My Mother The Car) and Soupy Sales were part of the repertory company. Schreiber, who had his own series with long-time partner Jack Burns and had been a Saturday morning foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, left after 1 season, presumably replaced by Sales, who stuck around until the series' end. Announcer Pamela Myers also appeared in front of the camera as Ginger, the femme fatale foil/love interest for the boys. There were a couple of occasions where she was also called on to sing, and covered Lesley Gore's "It's My Party", then teamed with Contardo to do "Hey, Paula", proving she was more than an equal to the guys. A vastly overlooked talent.
Sha Na Na, while airing during the week on local television, also aired on weekends on the NBC affiliate in Utica, WKTV, which is why it's included here in the Archives. Foofsmom, one of the devoted fans I referenced earlier, uploaded this skit, in which the guys toss in some bad gags to pad out the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley Oop".
A slightly smaller version of the ensemble still tours today, but with only two of the classic lineup, Screaming Scott Simon and Jocko Marcellino, still on the road.