Very few youngsters are aware of Manvilles early contributions to rock & roll. Being a music nerd myself, I had a hard time wrapping my head around how awesome this era was. Sadly I was too young to participate. The main story everyone knows about is when Hermans Hermits showed up to play the Manville High School gym on April 1st, 1965 and couldn’t even get off a note due to the 2000 screaming fans ready to tear them to shreds. The story goes that, that the adoring crowd bum rushed the stage, scarring the bejeesus out of the band and every adult in the building, while reducing the Gymnasium’s urethane coated floor to the bare boards. After 3 unsuccessful attempts at playing the band had to leave. It was Herman’s Hermits first American show… and the British Invasion was pounding down the doors of American teenage culture.
Unbelievably, the source of Manville’s right to rock and roll was a Christ the King Church priest named John A. Dzema. Father Dzema was a friend of Allentown, PA Disk Jockey Gene Kay. Gene Kay hosted the shows along with ex-American Bandstand hosts Monty Montez and Eddie Nixon. The Hermits weren’t Manville’s only claim to it’s contribution to rock & roll culture. The Manville High Gym had a weekly dance/show that boasted performances by The Four Seasons, Patty LaBelle and the Blue Bells, the Duprees, Ronnie and the Hi-Lites, Lesley Gore, Chubby Checker, Shirley Ellis, and Bobby Rydell. It must have been a phenominal time, unfortunately in the end the kids let violence and racism destroy probably the best thing the town ever had going in terms of entertainment.
I had been looking for some newspaper coverage of this event for awhile, and I know some folks have asked if I had any. Thanks to the Ogiba family for contributing this Gemm. Here is a link to download a flashback article from the Courier News that printed in 1979. DOWNLOAD