Gerry Granahan

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Gerry Granahan is not a name that elicits instantaneous recognition, in the manner of more well-known contemporary Phil Spector. But from 1958 into the mid-'60s, Granahan charted several hit records as…
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Gerry Granahan is not a name that elicits instantaneous recognition, in the manner of more well-known contemporary Phil Spector. But from 1958 into the mid-'60s, Granahan charted several hit records as a singer and songwriter, and also produced a string of hit songs by the likes of the Angels and Patty Duke, including the signature tune of the former, "My Boyfriend's Back." From the mid-'50s until the end of the 1960s, Granahan was one of the more influential producers of pop/rock on the East Coast, as well as a highly successful recording artist working under several different aliases.

Gerry Granahan was born in Pittston, PA, and as a teenager worked as an announcer for WPTS in Pittston. He began playing music after getting bored announcing sports, and a fellow disc jockey for a rival station convinced him -- correctly, as it turned out -- that Granahan had a potentially popular singing voice. Among his other talents in those days, he could make himself sound like Elvis Presley, and did a convincing enough job at it to land a job at Hill & Range (the publishers contracted with Presley to handle his repertoire) singing demos of songs being submitted to the latter, including "Teddy Bear" and "Jailhouse Rock." He landed a recording contract of his own with Atlantic in 1957, working under the name Jerry Grant, but his attempt at rockabilly fell flat, and his next effort at recording, "Love's Young Dream," for the tiny Mark label, disappeared without a trace as well. It looked as though Hill & Range would keep Granahan's services for a while longer when he found a new opportunity. Granahan hooked up with Tommy Volando, a publisher (closely associated with Perry Como) who had just started up a new label called Sunbeam Records. He made his debut on the label in mid-1958 with "No Chemise Please," a novelty song that quickly caught on with radio stations and rose to number 23 on the Billboard chart during the summer of that year. Granahan cut four further singles for the label, none of which sold nearly as well.

Granahan next found himself in a bind, when he co-wrote a song called "Click Clack" in partnership with Dave Alldred, the drummer with the Rhythm Orchids, the band of which Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen were members. He'd cut a demo and gotten it to Dick Clark, the host of American Bandstand, and Tony Mammarella, a business associate of Clark's who (with Clark as silent partner) had just started up a new label, Swan Records. They loved the record, which Granahan and Alldred had made extraordinarily elaborate as a demo (going to more than a dozen tracks in an era when two-track recording was the norm) and Swan was willing to release it, and Clark willing to play it -- if it went to Swan. By that time, however, Granahan had so many overlapping contractual relationships, including Sunbeam and Atco, that he was running a major risk of major legal troubles. He could've brought it to Sunbeam, but Swan wanted it and would promote it, and with Swan came Clark's wholehearted support and the clout of American Bandstand. Granahan solved the problem with an alias suggested by Mammarella: Dicky Doo & the Don'ts, the name an "in" joke referring obliquely to Dick Clark. Clark was very circumspect about promoting the record on his program, only presenting the single on the Philadelphia part of his program. The song broke out gradually once it was heard in Philadelphia and rose to number 28 nationally during a 14-week run.

The problem facing Granahan now was that he needed a group to appear as Dicky Doo & the Don'ts. He recruited a quartet -- Harvey Davis (bass), Al Ways (sax), Ray Gangi (guitar), and Dave Alldred (drums) -- backing him. The group proved extremely popular in concert, and had an unusual feature to its configuration; in addition to being a singer, Granahan had a talent as a drummer, and the band always had a second drum kit on-stage, allowing him to play alongside Alldred during an appropriate featured number -- the results, based on the recorded evidence ("The Drums of Richard A. Doo," a variation on "When the Saints Go Marching In"), could be pretty impressive. Dicky Doo & the Don'ts took on a life of their own, charting more singles, including "Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu," "Leave Me Alone," and "Teardrops Will Fall," over the next year and a half. By the 1960s, the group had left Swan and gone to the new United Artists label, where the band cut two albums and remained under contract through 1965. Granahan was also active as a producer throughout this period, most notably with the vocal group the Fireflies, on "The Crawl" and "You Were Mine," which reached number 21 nationally and charted for a very impressive 16 weeks. Granahan also cut one regional hit single of his own, "Let the Rumors Fly," for the New York-based Gone label. His other records from this period included "Where's the Girl" and a stylized, rather upbeat version of "Unchained Melody."

Beginning in the early and mid-'60s, Granahan began making records that were more adult pop, including recordings of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." During the early '60s, he also devoted time to producing several successful girl group acts, including the Angels, who, after several failed tries, had the only major hit of their careers with "My Boyfriend's Back" under his guidance. He was also responsible for producing the recordings of Jay & the Americans and actress Patty Duke at United Artists, which included several hit singles. Granahan's musical judgment wasn't always flawless, however -- in 1966 he was also producing a group called Jordan Christopher & the Wild Ones when he asked songwriter Chip Taylor if he had anything for them to record during an upcoming session. Taylor wrote "Wild Thing" in response that afternoon and gave it to them; Granahan and the band, however, changed the tempo and added horns to the arrangement, altering the song and failing to hit with it, thus giving the opening for the Troggs to score with the song. When Swan went out of business in 1967, Granahan, like Freddie Cannon and the Royal Teens, bought back his masters, thus taking control of his history with the label as both Gerry Granahan and Dicky Doo & the Don'ts. Granahan later served as a vice president at Dot Records, and then at Paramount Records, and during the 1990s he resumed performing when the time and opportunity afforded him the chance.