I'm very pleased that I can present to you this new find. Aside from the fact that "You Can't Can't Sit Down" is a red hot 45, The Dovells are entwined with Bruce Springsteen in more ways then Springsteen doing the tune live. The Dovells is a vocal group that was born out of the Brooktones, who formed in Philadelphia somewhere around 1957, inspired by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. As a group they were one of the first self contained R&R bands, not unlike the Beatles would be a few years down the line. Self contained bands were still very rare those days, an act would often have a distinct front man. But both the Brooktones and the Dovells were. When the Brooktones fell apart in after about two years, its core members went on as the Dovells. The name came as a suggestion from Bernie Lowe, executive at Cameo/Parkway records who signed the Dovells, although he had the Deauvilles in mind. The band decided that name was to hard to spell, hence the Dovells.
While recording their first single for Parkay, the group ad libbed a hot little rocker called "The Bristol Stomp", named after a popular dance at the time, the stomp. As you can imagine the stomp wasn't very hard to do and mostly involved stomping your feet. Perfect for rhythmically challenged teenagers. After a slow start the song caught on and became a huge hit. The group managed to follow up with quite a few dance graze inspired tunes and the featured single of this post is at the tail end of that string. After "You Can't Sit Down" hit #3 on the charts in 1963 the group's fortune started to change. The group recorded a single of an English group that was leased to Swan records. Cameo/Parkway was a little slow to release the 45 and before they knew it the Beatles had their own hit with "She Loves You". Though the Dovells wouldn't have any chart success of their own, their past success would allow them to keep on touring for quite a while. During one of their gigs the Castiles (featuring a very young Springsteen) opened for them during a battle of the bands.
I'm sure Springsteen picked up a thing or two during that evening on how to whip an audience into a frenzy. But Springsteen wasn't the only one paying attention. Little Steven van Zandt was a fan as well. A few years down the road the Dovells proved to be just the therapy Steve needed. By the time Springsteen's early bands had been disbanded, van Zandt had become disillusioned with R&R. The long drawn out guitar solos that were in vogue around the early seventies didn't have anything to do with the Steve-Cropper-Keep-It-Short-And-Keep-It-Simple school of guitar playing van Zandt belonged to. Also, Mike Appel allegedly didn't want some R&R Punk messing with the coffee shop singer song writer image he was trying to create for Springsteen. Back then Appel still had Colonel Parker like illusions of grandeur. Van Zandt did construction work for a while, building the New Jersey Turnpike but came out of hibernation when he was asked to become part of the Dovells. That gig reignited the R&R fire in van Zandt, so I guess we owe the Dovells a little thank you from our part.
Available on The Best of the Dovells 1961-1965
An interview with the Dovells.
More on Little Steven's rise to fame.
More background information on the song courtesy of the fine people at BTX.