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The Royal Teens

The Royal Teens are, by one definition, a hard-luck band. They could play hard and loud, but they also sang well and knew how to harmonize. They were one of the better rock & roll bands of their period, nicely self-contained and with a great beat and hard attack on their instruments, which included sax, electric guitar, and piano. But for all of that, they're virtually a one-hit group, and that one hit, "Short Shorts," isn't too representative of their sound. And, yet, without it, it's unlikely that a version of the Royal Teens would still get gigs in the Northeast in the summer of 1999, 40 years after the group's last decent chart placement.

Bill Crandle, Bill Dalton, Tom Austin, and Bob Gaudio formed the original band, then known as the Royal Tones, in Fort Lee, NJ in 1957. Crandall left the band and was replaced on sax by Larry Qualiano, and in 1958, Joe Francovilla (aka Joey Villa) joined the lineup as singer. A name change followed to the Royal Teens, when they got a shot at recording on the tiny Power Records label. Their first two singles, "Sitting with My Baby" and "Mad Gas," didn't chart, and they were in the process of cutting a couple of new singles in 1958 when their producer, against the wishes of the band, decided to use some leftover studio time to cut an instrumental jam that they'd done on-stage, to which they'd improvised some words. So the story goes, a couple of girls hanging around the studio were brought in and told to repeat the same line at the designated spots in the song, as the band sang and played.

Out of that session, "Short Shorts" was born, which, after initial success in New York City, Power quickly sold to the ABC-Paramount label. With help from American Bandstand and lots of radio stations that jumped on the song, "Short Shorts" spread quickly over the airwaves, and the band suddenly had a number three national hit. The record, often perceived as one of the dumbest of novelty tunes, is actually better than most people remember it, and has everything a great rock & roll song needs to transcend its simplicity -- the sax part is thick with places for the soloist to have fun, there's a hot guitar break, and the beat is relentless and intoxicating, especially as punctuated by the honking sax, a song you can laugh at, dance to, and play variations on for five minutes or more. (If Lenny & the Squigtones had really wanted to generate a hit in the late '70s, they'd have cut "Short Shorts" with Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, or their soundalikes, backing Michael McKean and David Lander).

Unfortunately, the Royal Teens were never able to follow it up with anything remotely as popular. "Harvey's Got a Girl Friend" charted very low, and "My Kind of Dream" stiffed, after which the group left ABC-Paramount. A short stay on the Mighty Records label, and a similar lack of success, brought them to Capitol, where they made the Top 30 in 1959 with the romantic, doo wop style number "Believe Me." That was their last chart record, however, and also the last record on which Bob Gaudio played -- he exited the Royal Teens and soon hooked up with a singer named Frankie Valli, together forming the Four Lovers, soon to become the Four Seasons.

The Royal Teens spent the next few years bouncing between labels, including Jubilee, Blue Jay, and Swan, and still appeared on shows like American Bandstand occasionally, even as their membership slowly shifted. Al Kooper spent much of 1959 playing guitar with the Royal Teens before moving on to much bigger things. They still cut good sides, and they were even adaptable to the doo wop vocal sound; in fact, as "Believe Me" (which sounds more like Dion & the Belmonts than Dion & the Belmonts did) proves, they were better at it than a lot of bands, and they still came up with great riffs and bracing solos (check out the guitar break on "All Right Baby"). But not even follow-ups like "Little Trixie," patterned after "Short Shorts," or pure exploitation like "Short Shorts Twist," could crack the charts for them again.

The group has continued in some form into the '90s, however, partly with help from the use of "Short Shorts" in a commercial for Nair, and the original record's continued popularity on oldies radio and in compilations. Those who've heard their other records, however, also know that this band had a lot more to offer, and may still. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: '50s & '60s Lost & Found Records, Vol. 1

Disc 1

1. Hully Gully Guitar

2. Sweet William

3. A House, A Car And A Wedding Ring

4. It's Almost Tomorrow

8. Fried Onions

9. Midnight Oil

10. Desafinado (Slightly Out Of Tune)

11. Cry

12. English Country Garden

13. Move Over Rover

16. The Taste Of A Tear

18. No Arms Can Ever Hold You (Like These Arms Of Mine)

19. Milord

21. From A School Ring To A Wedding Ring

22. Gidget Goes Hawaiian

23. At The High School Dance

24. Like Columbus Did

25. I Like Your Kind Of Love

26. I've Got A Secret

27. If You Want This Love

28. All I Want To Do Is Run

31. Frankie And Johnny

32. Hello Josephine

33. Almost Paradise

35. His Lips Get In The Way

36. The Crusher

40. Big Name Button

Disc 2

3. I'm In Love

4. Shame On Me

5. Halfway

6. Soul Meeting

9. Midnight Beach Party

10. The Guns Of Navarone

14. Just Once More

16. The Masquerade Is Over

17. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On The Bedpost Overnight)

18. Boppin' In A Sack

19. The Happy Muleteer

20. What Are Boys Made Of

21. To A Soldier Boy

23. Don't Cross Over

24. One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)

28. Sole Sole Sole

32. Feelin' No Pain

34. What Am I Gonna Do

35. Count Every Star

37. Watch Your Step

38. Blue Serge & White Lace

39. Ridin' The Wind

x

Track List: Sounds Of The City: New York Area Doo Wop 1956-1966

Disc 1

1. Sherry

2. Little Star

3. The Lion Sleeps Tonight

4. Barbara-Ann

5. Rip Van Winkle

6. Big Girls Don't Cry

7. He's In Town

8. Runaround

9. Ding Dong

12. Angel Face

14. Darling Can't You Tell

16. Canadian Sunset

17. Echo

19. Unchained Melody

Disc 2

2. Hushabye

3. Denise

4. Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home)

6. Come A Little Bit Closer

7. Tonite, Tonite

8. Imagination

10. Be My Girl (Please Be Mine)

11. I Remember

12. She Cried

13. Runaround Sue

15. Pizza Pie

16. Wake Up

17. Teardrops Follow Me

18. Believe Me

19. Donna Lee

Disc 3

2. Remember Then

3. 16 Candles

4. Tell Me Why

5. There's A Moon Out Tonight

6. Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)

7. Have You Heard

10. Baby Blue

11. Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me Of You)

12. Coney Island Baby

14. Please Love Me Forever

17. You

18. Life Is But A Dream

19. My Own True Love

20. Teenage Vows Of Love

21. Looking For An Echo

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Believe Me -
Report as inappropriate
Shorts Shorts by the Royal Teens was a big hit but Believe Me was MUCH BETTER!
Report as inappropriate
bobchandler3 3
Great 50's group. Big Hit - Who wears short shorts. The writer of this hit was Bob Gaudino who was writer and singer for Frankie Vallei and the Four Seasons. Gaudino wrote many hits for The Four Seasons. Break through hit was Sherry Baby featuring Frankie Valli circa 1965. Robert C.
Report as inappropriate
djjp1049
THEIR REMEMBERED FOR THEIR BIG SONG WHO WEARS SHORT SHOERTS GUESS WHO SANG IN THIS GROUP KENNY VANCE
Report as inappropriate
The Royal Teens, were a group that you didn't hear of too much, but they made songs come alive, great in their our right!
Report as inappropriate
jbergenfeld
very good words and good composition
Report as inappropriate
jbergenfeld
very good words, good composition.

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