Back in the late 1950s, it was no surprise to see his name on a poster for a rock and roll concert along with Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, but nowadays, Gerry Granahan is happy when people ask him if he’s related to one particular someone who gets far more recognition than him.
“When my kids were this [knee-high] tall, people used to ask them if they were any relation to Gerry Granahan,” said Granahan. “Now, when I meet people they ask me if I’m related to Tara Granahan.”
But that could turn around again, and people will be asking the WPRO radio personality and producer if she’s related to Gerry again, after Granahan is inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Rhode Island Popular Music Archive during a performance at the Park Theater in Cranston on Oct. 15.
Granahan’s work doesn’t get as much airplay as it used to, but for people of a certain age, his name still evokes a great deal of nostalgia as people associate it with Dicky Doo and the Don’ts. From 1958 into the middle of the 1960s, Granahan had a number of songs on the charts as a singer and songwriter, like “Click Clack” and “No Chemise Please,” and produced a few classic hits, like the Angels’ teen revenge tune, “My Boyfriend's Back.”
When he wasn’t hitting the charts himself, Granahan was one of the more influential producers of pop and rock on the East Coast. Phil Spector became more famous than Granahan, but it is Granahan who has a core of fans who trace his recording history with the care and dedication usually reserved for genealogy.
“I have these two guys who know more about my recording career than I do,” he said. “I get a kick out of meeting collectors who know every record I ever made. They tell me who I was.”
It’s not that Granahan is particularly forgetful. It’s that he was so busy back in the day that it becomes nearly impossible to remember what name he was recording under.
“At different times, I was Jerry Grant, Tony Rome, Mark Anthony [not the latest one] and Christopher Sunday,” he said. “I think it was Christopher Sunday who came closest to becoming a big hit.”
Big hit or not, as more people begin to follow the archives of rock and roll, the more likely they are to come across Granahan in their research. He was one of the first producers to use “bouncing,” or mixing multiple tracks on one track. He said the layering of sound he was doing with a two-track recorder was done by Phil Spector and became Spector’s famous “wall of sound” on the records he produced.
“But he kept piling them on too heavily and it began to get muddled,” said Granahan. “I tried to get a cleaner sound. I once did a record with Samantha Jones that was just one girl singing all the parts. People thought it was The Ronettes, but it was just Samantha.”
Gerry Granahan was born in Pittston, Pa., in 1939. He became interested in music at an early age but didn’t seriously consider becoming a professional singer until people overheard him singing for a niece who had spina bifida.
“I used to sing to her to get her to go to sleep and people heard me and someone said I got a voice and could sing for a living.”
As a teenager, Granahan worked in radio as a disc jockey and got more encouragement about his voice, which was adaptable to a marked degree. He landed a recording contract with Atlantic in 1957, working under the name Jerry Grant, but his career really wasn’t going anywhere fast, so he went back into the studio and tried again.
“I think that’s why I can’t remember all of the things I’ve done because, if something wasn’t selling, I’d just go back into the studio and try again,” he said. “That’s why the collectors are able to surprise me. I just kept putting things out.”
Granahan did a novelty record for Sunbeam in 1958 and "No Chemise Please" caught on with radio stations and rose to number 23 on the Billboard chart that summer. Granahan cut four further singles for the label, none of which sold nearly as well.
Granahan co-wrote a song called "Click Clack" in partnership with Dave Alldred, the drummer with the Rhythm Orchids, the band Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen played in. A demo got to Dick Clark, then the host of American Bandstand, a daily record hop out of Philadelphia that made lots of people famous, including the kids who danced on the show. The song was released by Dick Clark’s record company but under yet another alias to avoid legal complications. Granahan was Dicky, of Dicky Doo and the Don’ts fame. The song caught on in Philly before it went national for a 14-week run. The problem facing Granahan now was that he needed a group to appear as Dicky Doo & the Don'ts. The group was popular in concert and Dicky Doo & the Don'ts had hits with “Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu,” “Leave Me Alone” and “Teardrops Will Fall” over the next year and a half.
By the 1960s, the group was with United Artists, where the band made two albums and remained under contract through 1965. Granahan was also active as a producer for the Fireflies on “The Crawl” and “You Were Mine,” which were on the hit list for 16 weeks.
Beginning in the early and mid-’60s, Granahan began making records that were more adult pop, including recordings of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “You'll Never Walk Alone” from the musical "Carousel." Granahan also produced for girl group acts, including The Angels who had a major hit with “My Boyfriend's Back.” He produced recordings of Jay and the Americans and actress Patty Duke at United Artists.
In 1960, a talent agent told Granahan about a beautiful woman he met who was just voted Miss Providence.
“He asked me, ‘Are you still looking for a girl? Because I met this girl,’” said Granahan. “She worked at WPRO at the time and I auditioned her. She sounded good. She looked good and we got married in 1960.”
Mary Kiernan of Providence became Mrs. Gerry Granahan of Warwick and Gerry began splitting his time between New York and Rhode Island. Now, with the children all grown, it’s not likely that Granahan will be getting on the tour bus again.
“At my age, it’s just too grueling a life,” he said. “But I’m trying to put something together right now that’s really unusual, but I can’t talk about that. It’s a surprise.”
Now, after all these many years, Gerry Granahan will be in the spotlight once more as The Legends of Rock ’n’ Roll and Doo Wop take to the stage at 7:30 p.m. at The Park Cinema, 848 Park Ave. in Cranston, on Oct. 15. For tickets and information, call 467-7275 or visit www.parktheaterri.com.