SONG: At the Hop
ARTIST: Danny and the Juniors
Listen to it here:
Like many of today’s pop songs, “At the Hop” was written by committee (three writers), and performed originally by Danny & the Juniors. The song was released in the fall of 1957 and became one of the top selling singles of 1958.
When the three writers first wrote “At the Hop”, it was called “Do the Bop”, but Dick Clark expressed some concern that the fad of doing the Bop was on its way out the door. He suggested the chorus change from “Let’s all do the Bop” to “Let’s go to the Hop”. After Danny & the Juniors performed the song on American Bandstand, it gained popularity and topped the charts for 5 weeks.
There was a small involvement with payola in this song’s history: Dick Clark would not play “At the Hop” without receiving half of the publishing proceeds. They agreed to this because they owed their success to Clark, and because payola wasn’t illegal at the time. When the payola hearings started happening in 1960, Dick Clark sold the song.
Danny & the Juniors consist of Danny Rapp, Dave White, Frank Maffel, and Joe Terranova. They were founded in 1955 in Philadelphia. The group formed in highschool and called themselves the Juvenaires (I, for one, am glad they abandoned that name). A local DJ discovered them and signed them to his small record label, and had them record a song called “Do the Bop”. This DJ took the record to a fellow DJ, Dick Clark, who liked the song, but suggested changing the group name to Danny and the Juniors, and renaming the song “At the Hop”. This proved to be a very successful idea, and the song became a local hit.
Their big break came when a scheduled band was a no-show to the American Bandstand. The group got a last minute call from Dick Clark and were able to perform “At the Hop” to a national audience. This skyrocketed them to success, and Danny and the Juniors were able to record follow-up hits like “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” and “Dottie”.
Through the 1960s, the group stayed mildly popular, and then sort of drifted into obscurity from there.
“At the Hop” was commercially used for the Canadian National Exhibition, changing the words to “Let’s go to the Ex”. It was also parodied by a band called Dash Rip Rock, which changed the words to “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot”.
My first foray into At the Hop was when we (a musical ensemble which I used to be a part of and will not be named) used to perform it as the first song in a medley, and I really liked it because it’s kind of doo wop-y and I love doo wop. But that was 2001 Kelly and this is 2022 Kelly, so listening with fresh ears. I still like the doo wopiness of it, because I still like doo wop. But is it the first doo wop song I would run to? Absolutely not. It’s a little too…wonderbread for me. The first thing that really struck me was the piano – boogie woogie pianists were really paying the bills in the 1950s weren’t they? For the instrumental musicians here there isn’t much to write about, except maybe the drummer is doing an excellent job and I like his snare fills. Now the voices. The beginning of the song is Danny and his fellow Juniors each taking a note of the broken up chords in the ever popular I-vi-IV-V progression, and I have to say, whoever has the second note has some abrasive tone. But as I listened more I was like wait…is that Danny (I’m assuming the lead singer is Danny)? His tone is nasal, why is he the lead? Also the more I listened I realized how uncool these nerds actually sound. To me it almost sounds like it’s an ABBA-type situation where a bunch of Swedish monoglots were given the lyrics spelled out phonetically and sang it that way having no idea the words they’re actually singing about (a dance sensation!), because there is negative soul in this song. Having said that, I don’t hate it.
Another song that I’ve heard a million times but have never really listened to. What stood out through this listen is that the boogie-woogie piano is just so repetitive and jackhammer-like up until the solo. Also, it’s definitely a high energy song, and catchy, but the melody is just really nothing too special. The lead singer, who I’m assuming is Danny, has a very weird voice. It sounds super unpolished and it feels like he couldn’t very successfully pull off a ballad, or a blues, or really anything that isn’t a high energy tune with his buddies harmonizing behind him. The building of the chords at the beginning and end with the voices is kind of cool, but some of the singers are a little unstable on it which gives it a bit of a feeling like it’s a Jenga tower that might fall down. I think this song is still a really enjoyable listen, even if it’s dated, and the musicians aren’t the strongest, but it’s not about to change anyone’s life.
Average mark out of 10:
Other notable versions of this song:
Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids from American Graffiti:
Sha-Na-Na at Woodstock:
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Link to 1,001 Songs to Hear Before You Die spotify playlist: