Dovells still in step with ‘The Bristol Stomp’

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Jerry Gross and Mark Stevens of the Dovells and their band Sleepless Knights will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 at the Lou Booth Amphitheater to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bristol Stomp.  Jerry Gross and Mark Stevens of the Dovells and their band Sleepless Knights will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 at the Lou Booth Amphitheater to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bristol Stomp.

50th anniversary celebration concert to feature ’60s style dance contest

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced his goal to put a man on the moon, New York Yankee Roger Maris hit his 61st home run to break Babe Ruth’s 34-year-old record, the movie “West Side Story” was released, and America’s involvement in the Vietnam War escalated.

It was also the year that a dance craze called “The Bristol Stomp” swept the nation.

Created by a group of Philly guys who called themselves The Dovells, the song had teens all over the country stomping to a new beat and turned The Dovells into a rock ’n’ roll legend.

Jerry Gross and Mark Stevens of the Dovells and their band Sleepless Knights will perform 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13 in North Wildwood to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bristol Stomp.

The free concert will take place at the Lou Booth Amphitheatre at Second and Ocean avenues. But the best part of the event just might be the dance contest scheduled to take place toward the end of performance.

The contest will open the floor to concertgoers to dance their best rendition of the stomp, with cash prizes being awarded for first, second and third place. Dancers will be judged, and contestants will be eliminated until the top dancers remain on the floor. Participation in the dance contest is free.

The Dovells formed in 1957, singing at school functions in the Philadelphia area under their original name, The Brooktones – after Overbrook High School, where they went to school. According to a press release from the group’s publicity firm, Creative Entertainment, the original members were Jerry Gross (Jerry Summers), Mark Gordesky (Mark Stevens), Len Borisoff (Len Barry), Mike Freda (Mike Dennis), Arnie Silver (Arnie Satin) and Jim Mealey (Danny Brooks).

After signing with Chancellor Records in 1960, they changed their name to The Dovells. They released their first single, "No, No, No,” written by Len Barry, in March of 1961.

In late spring, the group was at the Cameo Records studio on Locust Street in Philadelphia recording the 1957 teen ballad "Out in the Cold Again" when promoter Billy Harper of Parkway Records, a Cameo subsidiary, burst in, talking excitedly about a new dance teens were doing at the Goodwill Fire Hall in Bristol, just outside Philadelphia. The dance was called “the stomp.”

Jerry Gross recalled that Harper played the record the teens were dancing to, a tune called "Everyday of the Week."

He said Cameo-Parkway executives Kal Mann and Dave Appell said, “Hey, we should write a song called ‘The Bristol Stomp,’” and they did it – overnight.

“We came in the next day and they said, 'Let's record this,' and we did,” Gross said.

"Out in the Cold" became the "B" side.

"The Bristol Stomp" spent the most of the summer of 1961 in relative obscurity, and then it caught on big in the Midwest. On Sept. 11 the song gained enough momentum to go national, and by Oct. 23 it was the number 2 seller in America according to Billboard, and the number 1 seller according to Cash Box. It also reached number 7 on the rhythm and blues chart.

Other hits by The Dovells include “Hully Gully Baby,” “Bristol Twistin’ Annie,” “Do the New Continental,” “You Can’t Sit Down” and “The Jitterbug,” all with a similar type of dance orientation.

Sounding much like the black groups of their time, the Dovells performed more often at shows and theaters frequented by blacks than in “white” venues, according to their biography. Their first large-scale performance, upon the release of "The Bristol Stomp," was at the Fox Theatre in Detroit with Ray Charles, Timi Yuro, Gloria Lynne and Fabian.

Group differences later reduced the group to a trio, and they returned to Philadelphia and recorded three singles for Parkway in 1964: the Beach Boys-styled "Be My Girl," the Lettermen-influenced "Happy Birthday Just the Same," and the harmony-filled Four Seasons-styled "What in the World's Come Over You," a blending of pop, rock and folk.

During their tenure at Parkway, they recorded as an uncredited vocal group behind Chubby Checker on his hit "Let's Twist Again" and as backup to Checker and Fabian, and with Jackie Wilson at the Brooklyn Fox.

In 1974 the Dovells charted with the rock dance record "Dancin' in the Street," a Martha and the Vandellas hit from 1964.

The trio performed until a gig at Hershey's Lodge in Hershey, Pa., when Arnie Silver gave his notice. Gross and Stevens continued on, developing a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis style stage act to go with their song hits. They continue to perform nationally and internationally.

 

 


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