There aren’t a lot of local bands that have sold a million copies of any one record. Except, of course, for the Rockin Rebels.
On Saturday, an Old Fashioned Street Dance at Tonawanda’s Gateway Harbor will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Rockin Rebels' single “Wild Weekend,” which rose to fame as the theme song for Buffalo radio personality Tommy Shannon.
Two remaining band members, Jimmy and Mickey Kipler, are twin brothers who were 16 years-old when their band appeared on American Bandstand to play “Wild Weekend,” with Mickey on the sax and Jimmy on the guitar, Tom Gorman on drums and Paul Balon on rhythm guitar.
While Gorman and Balon are deceased, the Kipler brothers recently shared memories of that Band Stand appearance, when Annette Funicello performed on that show. They recalled how friendly host Dick Clark was to them. Afterward, the four went on the road playing backup to major stars that appeared on American Bandstand, including the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Freddy Cannon and Bobby Vee.
(For an interview with Tom Gorman about his memories of those days, click here:
“They recorded the first million-selling single by a band from Buffalo and when we were planning the street dance, I thought it would be really cool if the Kipler Brothers could play,” said Rick Falkowski, coordinator of the Tonawanda Gateway Harbor Concerts and the author of “History of Buffalo Music and Entertainment.”
Falkowski said that the anniversary of the song was a happy coincidence with their appearance. “They recorded that song in 1959. As we were talking we realized this is the 60th anniversary of that song being recorded. It became a hit, actually, a couple of years later,” he said.
The South Buffalo-born Kiplers started a street band with Balon and Gorman, both since deceased, in their early teens. Always an instrumental band with no vocalist, they were playing record hop for Tommy Shannon when he heard them play and asked them into the studio to record. While at the studio, Shannon heard Jimmy play a riff of his radio show theme song and when Mickey joined in, Shannon asked them to record what would become “Wild Weekend,” Mickey recalled.
It took “Wild Weekend” a couple years to catch on, but it went on to sell a million records when the tune was picked up by a major record company.
The Kipler Brothers, inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 2002, will be playing that song at the street dance on Saturday and will be celebrated by the reading of proclamations declaring it “Rockin Rebels Day” by both Erie and Niagara counties, in tribute to their role in local music history. Still performing throughout the region as The Kipler Brothers, Mickey and Jimmy will be performing on Saturday with the help of a couple of musicians from the band Crash Cadillac, which is also performing on Saturday along with Big Wheelie.
As for their long and storied music career, the Kiplers are pretty happy with the way it all played out.
Jimmy, who spent some time in the Army Reserves and who later became an Army recruiter, played for a time with Tommy Tedesco’s studio band in Los Angeles. Father of three, grandfather of four, he recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Carolyn. About his music career, he said “I’m pretty happy with it. It was a long run and we’re still at it.”
His brother, Mikey, echoed his gratitude. “I feel very fortunate. It was a nice career and we did things that took us to places we wouldn’t normally have been and met people we might never have met. It was a great experience.”
As for “Wild Weekend,” Mikey added, “It’s still being played on the air. I hear it from time to time.”
The Gateway Harbor Street Dance will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday on the Tonawanda side of the harbor, at 1 Young St. Former WKBW DJ Hank Nevins will host the show. Admission is free and there will be food and beverages on sale as well as trivia and dance contests with prizes awarded.
Matt’s Music Jersey Boys Review will also perform along with other surprise guests. For more information, visit www.tonawandasgatewayharbor.net.