Myron and the Van-Dells / the Van-Dells
Toledo/Cincinnati, 1973 -
The 1976 Van-Dells
The group Sha-Na-Na, with their cartoony but sincere vision of a 1950s vocal group, was a surprise hit in the early 70s after making their mark at Woodstock. Their success spawed a number of similar acts. In Ohio, Myron and the Van-Dells (later just Van-Dells) became the standard for a 1950s 'greaser revival' band, who are still active (with several members come and gone) today.
The group started in 1973 in Toledo with 7-8 local singers and musicians gathering to form the band. The group developed their own backstory, coming from the fictional Van-Dell High School around 1957, and performing songs from the 1950s. All the group members had a pseudonym and identity. The original members included the namesake Myron Stillman (Rick Fretter) on keyboards, and four singers - Stacey "Duke" Todd, Doug "Spider" Manley, Steven "Moose" Ricks, and Dale "Chumley" Brumley. The band included Richard "Butch Waxx" Brake (bass), "Mighty" Mike Neel (drums), "Stormin'" Norman Box (sax), Edward John "Zap" Zapleta (sax, piccolo), and "Mad" Mark Rosenberger (guitar). Mike Neel had come from Alabama, formerly the drummer for Felt, a late 60s/early 70s band that recorded a highly regarded and valuable psych-rock LP.
The band hit the road from the beginning, playing numerous shows in Florida in February, March and November of 1974, and playing Troy, NY in August of 1974. The earliest show in the papers was a Toledo gig in November 1973, the opening act for a stage production of "Grease".
The 1975 group with Myron
In the summer of 1975 they were booked for a few shows in Cincinnati where they exploded in popularity. They signed up with Cincy's J&J Management and set up home base there. From 1975-6 they were the talk of SW Ohio's nightlife. One of the clubs they played was the Beverly Hills Supper Club just outside Cincinnati, where a 1977 fire killed 165 people, one of the deadliest nightclub fires in US history.
The band's huge popularity was helped by their complete commitment to a 1950s look and style, investing heavily in costumes, props, and stage show. As the rock scene splintered in the mid 1970s, they were able to get the 50s generation, who were hitting their stride of adulthood, to come out and support them.
In 1975 the band released a live LP and 45. True to their style, the LP included 16 classic songs from the 1950s. The 45 features "Crazy Little Mama", the El Dorados hit which was one of the group's showstoppers. The flip side was "Heartaches" originally done by the Marcels. The 45 was issued on Flo-Roe records, the Cincy label that released 45s by Tony and the Bandits and Kenny Smith more than 5 years earlier. The LP was issued on Dayton's Pork label.
In the spring of 1976 Myron had a falling out with some of the members and he ended up starting a new Myron and the Van-Dells, leading to a legal showdown over the name. The original singers minus Myron became the Van-Dells and have continued to use that name. The new Myron fronted band included several members of the original band, and were billed as Myron and the Marvells. They didn't last very long. Not long after Myron graduated...errr...left, "Spider" also left to start his own group.
The group recorded another LP in 1978, a studio effort (5th Floor in Cincinnati). By this time, the group had the three original singers (Moose, Duke, and Chumley) with a mostly new band of Bobby Boyd (guitar), Grant "Smitty" Smith (drums), Joe "Fingers Frankie" Brooks (keyboards), Eddie "D" Dempley (tenor sax), Keith "Boomer" Holmes (sax, flute, organ), and holdover Butch Waxx on bass. The group had added 1960s covers to their set, including "Devil With a Blue Dress On", "Higher and Higher", and "Suspicious Minds", sung, judging from the cover, by a circa 1970 Elvis character.
The band has continued to play, taking their show all over the US. They've also released a few more LPs. As of 2021, original members Duke and Moose are still with the group, and Chumley appears occasionally. The group has a website www.van-dells.com that includes something very nifty, a series of podcast interviews with original and longtime members including Myron and Spider.
Above, two reviews of the group from November 1974 (Orlando) and July 1975 (Indianapolis)
Crazy Little Mama / Heartaches - Flo-Roe 531-15, March 1975
LP - Myron and the Van-Dells - Pork 1975, 1975
LP - the Van-Dells - no label 8035N2, March 1978
Several LPs released in the 1980s-2010s