Philadelphia Music Alliance Mourns the Passing of Walk of Fame Inductee and Pop Music Pioneer Dave Appell
Cameo/Parkway Records writer/producer/arranger helped score hits for Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp, Bobby Rydell, the Dovells, the Orlons, many others; also produced No. 1 hits for Tony Orlando and Dawn
PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Music Alliance (PMA), the non-profit organization which creates and maintains the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame, mourns the passing of Walk of Fame inductee DAVE APPELL, best known as a pioneering producer, co-writer and arranger at the legendary Cameo/Parkway Records for the likes of Chubby Checker, the Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, Bobby Rydell, and Charlie Gracie, and later, producing a trio of #1 hits for Tony Orlando and Dawn on Bell Records.
“With Dave’s passing, we’ve lost one of the true pioneers of Philadelphia’s pop music scene,” said PMA Chairman Alan Rubens. “He was very much a part of the Philly pop explosion in the late ’50s and early ’60s, due to his work with Chubby Checker, the Dovells, Bobby Rydell, the Orlons, and many more through the Cameo/Parkway record label. And as a member of the Walk of Fame, he continued to support the Philadelphia Music Alliance, and show up at our events even into his 90s. Dave also mentored another legend on our Walk, board member Joe Tarsia, the great Sigma Sound Studios founder and Sound of Philadelphia engineer. Our condolences go out to the Appell family. He was a treasure, and will be sorely missed.”
Relatives and friends are invited Friday, beginning 10:30 a.m. EST, to Platt Memorial Chapels, Inc., 2001 Berlin Road, Cherry Hill, NJ, where funeral services will begin promptly at 11 a.m. EST. Internment is at Crescent Memorial Park, Pennsauken, NJ. Shiva will be observed at the home of Roslyn Appell Purdy and Robert Purdy.
Contributions may be made to the American Heart Association (www.heart.org), or MusiCares (www.grammy.org/musicares).
Appell (pronounced “AP-el”) is associated mainly with the Cameo-Parkway record label, in whose history he played a substantial part. He started working as an arranger for several United States Navy big bands in the mid-1940s during his service in World War II, including Jimmie Lunceford’s black orchestra. He later arranged for dance orchestras, including Benny Carter and Earl “Fatha” Hines. He recorded for a while on Decca Records as the Dave Appell Four, until Paul Cohen of Decca suggested he change the group name to the Applejacks. Appell also became a publisher, joining ASCAP in 1955, collaborating with Max Freedman.
He appeared prominently in the 1956 Alan Freed film, Don’t Knock the Rock, and worked for a while as the studio band and music director on the Ernie Kovacs TV and radio shows in Philadelphia. Next Appell and the Applejacks were playing in Las Vegas, but they soon began to pine for their hometown and returned to Philadelphia, where they started working for Cameo Records, a label founded by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe.
Appell became a jack-of-all-trades at Cameo, doing background vocals, session work as a guitarist, engineering, arranging, and producing. The first hit artist on the Cameo label was Charlie Gracie, the singing guitarist who hit Number One nationally with “Butterfly.” Appell and his band backed Gracie on that million-seller in 1957, and on the singer’s subsequent hits, “Fabulous” and “Ninety-Nine Ways” and “Wanderin’ Eyes.” In 1958 Appell and his group backed John Zacherle on his Top 10 novelty hit “Dinner With Drac.”
In the summer of 1958, Appell got an idea for a song from the Philadelphia String Band of a marching-type song with a dance beat. He wrote an instrumental song called “The Mexican Hat Rock,” a jumped-up version of the old “Mexican Hat Dance,” that he had his studio band record. The song was released under their own name on Cameo that fall and became a big dance hit on American Bandstand, reaching # 16 on the charts. The Applejacks also charted with “Rocka-Conga” (# 38) later in the year.
Appell went on to become the leader of Cameo-Parkway’s house band, backing such artists as Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, and The Orlons. Their records Appell also arranged and, in many cases, produced, and even co-wrote with Kal Mann, like “Let’s Twist Again,” “Bristol Stomp,” “Mashed Potato Time,” and “South Street.” These were the years of the twist and other dance crazes, in the launching of which Appell played a vital role. Appell left Cameo in 1964.
In the 1970s he had success with his productions for Tony Orlando and Dawn, including the # 1 hits “Knock Three Times” (1970) and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” (1973), on Bell Records in New York. Appell’s co-producer was Hank Medress, a founding member of The Tokens musical group.
ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA MUSIC ALLIANCE
Established in 1986, the Philadelphia Music Alliance is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Philadelphia’s rich musical legacy by increasing awareness of the city’s great musical tradition and supporting the current music scene. As Philadelphia’s music authority, The Philadelphia Music Alliance promotes the vast contributions of Philadelphians to all music genres, and encourages emerging artists and students toward achieving musical excellence. In addition, The Alliance creates, supports and sponsors programs and events that enrich and strengthen Philadelphia’s musical community. Our best-known creation is the Walk of Fame, a must-see tourist attraction on Philadelphia’s dazzling Avenue of the Arts.