Manville High… Rock & Roll High School.

Hermans Hermits fleeing the stage. Click to Enlarge.

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

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22 thoughts on “Manville High… Rock & Roll High School.

  1. mike,you hit the jackpot with this one,fortunately or unfortunenately i was around for this.i was a youngster but still remember it.

  2. I was there! I blame the girls for that, it was like they lost their minds..That was my first concert. What a disappointment. I was like…WT?

  3. I have an album that Hermen’s Hermit’s released called Herman’s Hermit’s on Tour and on the back cover it mentions the Manvillle concert. What would have happened if the Beatles or Stones would have came to Manville.

  4. I was there and as a member of the church C.Y.O I got to know Fr. Dzema very well and Gene Kay the disc jockey from AM station WEAB in Allentown, PA. The truth of Hermits non performing debut in Manville, is they signed a contract before they became famous then tried to get out of the contract Gene Kay held them to it. Hermits appeared in gym but as expected, screaming 14 year old girls provided the excuse Hermits needed to leave for another concert sponsored by WAEB in Allentown. To the best of my memory most CYO dances where popular singers appeared with exception of Hermits were held in Christ the King basement. It had a low stage and the crowd could get up close to singer. I only remember one singer who lip sync all others sang live.

    • I also attended all of those concerts and I do remember they were held in the basement of Christ the King Church. I don’t think I was at the Herman’s Hermits event

  5. I am sorry to say Eddie Nixon passed away December 3,2010. Eddie and his girlfriend Sue were regulars a restaurant we all frequented for lunch. We have wonderful memories of Eddie dancing, he was captivating. Eddie and Sue were always laughing and enjoying our conversations. I hope we get to see Sue again to extend our condolences, you could tell she really loved him. Eddie will be missed he was a great talent and personality.

  6. Here is a link to an image of the back of their second album, “Herman’s Hermits on Tour”, that mentions the Manville concert.

  7. I was at this concert! Peter Noone borrowed my pen to sign autographs. I was thrilled! Unfortunately I either never got or didn’t save his autograph from that day. My aunt was involved in helping set up the concert and we got to meet the Herman Hermits before they went on stage. It was a wonderful day. The crowd – when they went on stage – was so bad I don’t even remember them singing.

  8. This was nothing, you should’ve been in town the time the Jimmy Sturr/Eddie Blasdunjek/Nicky Novicky Tour came to town in ’57 at the Falcons Club!

  9. Bobby Reydel lip sync’d…..I was there, right in front of the stage. I think he only sang one or two songs to a record playing behind stage. He signed my teen magazine

    • I was there also…after the concert, I was outside the gym by the windows when he walked by outside and we waved at each other…LOL…memories.

  10. Not a single mention yet of the other great Rock ‘N Roll joint,The
    Hullabaloo!
    I think the show was on ABC in the 60’s-70’s and had many bands with radio hits filmed there

    Location: The steak house on the corner going onto Zarepath.It was a roller rink then.

  11. I was there also, and part of the CYO and Fr. Dzema was a good friend to our family. Remembering how the platform broke, when everyone ran on stage, and trying to hold the crowd back, which was impossible !! We had great shows back then, and got to see a lot of performers . Those were great times. I will look through my old albums and see if I have anything to send you.

  12. I remember attending these concerts and CYO dances. It was a great time and this brought back a lot of good memories.

  13. I lived on North 13th at the time of the Hermits concert. Too young to go, but the traffic going to the high school was pretty crazy that night.

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