Rock and doo-wop group Sha Na Na, which started as a Columbia a capella group, will return to campus for Reunion 2016 on Friday, June 3, 47 years after the group’s Columbia debut in 1969.
Sha Na Na, a spin-off of the Columbia Kingsmen singing group, went on to worldwide acclaim, performing before Jimi Hendrix at the original Woodstock Festival, in the mega-hit film “Grease,” and in its own television series, “The Sha Na Na Show.”
“Should be a fun evening,” said Donald “Donny” York CC’71, who will return to campus with 10 of the other band members who performed at Woodstock, including Elliot Cahn CC’70, Bruce Clarke CC’74, Alan Cooper CC’71, provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Dave Garrett SEAS’70, Henry Gross, Rob Leonard CC’70, John “Jocko” Marcellino CC’72, Scott Powell CC’70, Rich Joffe CC’72 and Joe Witkin CC’70, as well as current band-member Screamin’ Scott Simon CC’70.
The group, conceived of and founded by brothers George J. Leonard CC’67, GSAS’72 and Robert A. Leonard CC’70, GSAS’82, emerged after a 1969 concert, “The Glory That Was Grease,” when the Kingsmen, outfitted in gold lamé and sporting Elvis Presley hairdos, performed original dances while singing classic Fifties rock ’n’ roll. That led to a memorable “Grease Under the Stars” concert on Columbia’s Low Plaza.
Soon after, the group opened for Hendrix at Woodstock, performing 1950s classics like “Teen Angel” and “At the Hop.” Named Sha Na Na, the group became regulars at rock venues Fillmore West and East and appeared in the Oscar-winning Woodstock movie.
The band rose to stardom with its portrayal of “Johnny Casino and the Gamblers” in the movie “Grease,” which its act had inspired. The group performed six songs on the “Grease” soundtrack and the song “Sandy,” sung by John Travolta, was co-written by band member Simon.
The band’s latest release “Sha Na Na – Greaser High School Hop,” features 25 signature songs, including “The Bop,” “The Twist,” “The Stroll,” “The Hand Jive,” “The Monkey,” “The Jerk,” “The Cha Cha,” and “The Hokey Pokey.”
The Reunion 2016 concert, which will feature band members who haven’t played together in decades, will feature songs from the golden age of rock ’n’ roll, including hits from the band’s first album. The concert is sponsored by the Columbia 1971 Reunion Committee, as several members of the band will be celebrating their 45th college reunion.
Reunion 2016, organized by The Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA), in collaboration with other Columbia offices, will draw alumni from around the world to reunite with Columbia classmates and reconnect with their undergraduate experiences from Thursday, June 2–Sunday, June 5.
The Columbia College Alumni Association (CCAA) helps to strengthen the connection between alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends. All Columbia College students enter into the CCAA upon graduation and remain part of the community for life.