Dino Danelli had an amazing creative career.

He was born in Jersey City to an Italian American family and by the time he was 17 he had played drums for jazz legend Lionel Hampton then took the train south and ended up playing soul, blues and R & B in New Orleans. He found a band that he liked, convinced them to come back to Jersey and played around a bit still searching for the right mix.

Robert John, Gene Cornish, Big Joe Henry
Robert John, Gene Cornish, Big Joe Henry

In 1964, at the height of The Beatles, he found Eddie Brigati, then Felix Cavaliere and Canadian blue-eyed Gene Cornish who came to form the Young Rascals after composing some new material, they did one of their first gigs at the Choo Choo Club in Garfield, New Jersey.

The Rascals were a lightning hot Rock and Roll band that cranked out hit after top charting hit. In a five-year period, The Rascals recorded 17 singles and 8 albums, leading to tremendous pressure and meteoric success.

The Rascals after being together for 7 years were under constant pressure to continue to put out successful hit after hit. The pace and responsibility from the record company, marketing and PR was grueling and according to my friend Gene Cornish, too much for everyone to handle. Gene and Dino left the Rascals in 1972 and formed the band Bulldog put out a couple of albums and they disbanded in 1975.

Enter “Little” Steven Van Zandt, the famous guitar player from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band. Steven made it a mission to get the Rascals back together and it was no easy chore.

attachment-Dino Danelli (2)

I’ll never forget that night. I got a message, was told to keep it quiet and went to the location where there was a fairly small audience of Jersey music peeps and lots of cameras. I didn’t know why I was there. Finally, after waiting for about an hour and a half I noticed some of the guys from the Rascals and out they came. It was rough it was unrehearsed but it was the Rascals. Everyone went nuts, as the night progressed so did the band and by the end of the night they were jamming as they had in 1965.

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The smile on Dino’s face was wide and happy and he looked over to his bandmates and seemed to enjoy every minute.

Years later around 2010, Little Steven booked them on a small tour and then they went on to 6 big shows on Broadway, it was supposed to be more but it didn’t work out.

Dino was also so creative, an artist, and he designed some album covers including one for Little Steven Van Zandt and His Disciples of Soul cover.

His talent will be missed but his music will live on. Rest in peace, Dino, and thanks for the Rock and Roll.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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