Bunny Gibson, a dancer on the Philly sensation “American Bandstand” in the 1950s and ’60s, lives in Los Angeles now.
But hearing a teenager play “At the Hop” in his convertible recently took her right back home. She called her friend Joe Terry — who made the song famous with Danny & the Juniors — to tell him about it.
“He loved it,” Gibson said of Terry, who was performing his timeless rock ‘n’ roll hits as recently as two weeks ago, just days before his April 15 death at age 78.
Terry was just a teenager when Danny & the Juniors bolted to the top of the charts with “At the Hop” in 1958.
The original group consisted of Terry (born Joe Terranova), Danny Rapp, Dave White and Frank Maffei. White died just a month ago, on March 16, at age 79.
The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame, which inducted Terry in 1992, issued a statement Monday about the loss of both singers of the iconic group Danny & the Juniors,, calling “At the Hop” “one of the most iconic songs ever to come out of Philadelphia …They are true legends and true Philadelphians who were part of making our city’s music heritage as great as it is.”
Danny & the Juniors owed credit for their rocket-like launch to Dick Clark, the “American Bandstand” host who told them to change their song “Do the Bop” to “At the Hop.”
“Dick changed the title,” remembered Gibson, who’s back in show business with a nationally syndicated matchmaking show. “Did you ever do the Bop? That’s a really difficult dance. It’s like a five-hour workout.”
After “At the Hop” became a huge hit, eight more singles reached the charts through 1963, including “Rock and Roll is Here to Stay” and “Twistin’ U.S.A.”
His peers marveled at how he and other members of Danny & the Juniors continued with demanding performances through the decades.
“When you reach a certain age, there’s going to be aches and pains,” Gibson said. “But once they hit that stage, it’s like they were 18 again.”
Corky Warren of Vineland, who hosts the oldies broadcast “Corky’s Time Machine,” was with Terry at the Westbury Music Fair in New York just weeks ago.
“You could tell he was sick,” Warren said. “They even had a replacement there for him for the lead vocals, but he refused. He did it himself.”
Terry’s musical legacy is widely known, and Warren called him “an extremely talented man.”
But those close to him will remember how he touched their lives.
“He was my brother. What can I tell you?” said Warren, who became friends with Terry after interviewing the singer on his radio show in the 1990s.
Terry was a regular at Warren’s annual barbecues for Philadelphia rock ‘n’ roll royalty that include the likes of Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, the Dovells and Dee Dee Sharp.
“He was crazy for my wife’s potato salad,” Warren said of Terry.
The men would get together for lunch about once a week.
“There was nothing I wouldn’t do for him,” Warren said, and added that was mutual with Terry. “He would give me the world. He would keep a car for two years, and then give it to me.”
“It was truly an honor to know him,” Gibson said, adding that Terry had a great sense of humor. “He was a good man, a decent man and a caring man.”
And he wouldn’t only sing on stage: When the members of Danny & the Juniors took Gibson out for a birthday dinner in Marina del Rey, California, Terry sang “That’s Amore” right in the restaurant with Gibson.
The friendship spanned 60 years, from talking about each other’s dates to their blood pressure, Gibson quipped.
“If someone had told me when I first was dancing on ‘Bandstand,’ I would be a good friend of Joe Terry, I probably would have fainted,” she said.
Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay
Danny & the Juniors owes the integrity of its name to Terry, Warren said.
After the 1983 death of founding member Danny Rapp, Terry “went to court and got a copyright on the name and continued the group.”
In 1998, Terry once again took on potential copycats. He went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for stronger protection against trademark infringement.
“On some weekends, there are 40 or 50 acts” performing as popular 1950s bands, Terry told the Courier-Post at the time. “We pay a fee to the government for the trademark. What are we paying for? What kind of protection are we getting?”
Terry brought the same passion to performing his music as he did to protecting it years later, Gibson said.
“I think he was part of the rock ‘n’ roll revolution that brought rock ‘n’ roll to the mainstream of America,” she said, referencing a time when the music genre was feared and records were burned.
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