Dino Danelli

Dino Danelli, born July 23, 1944 in Jersey City, New Jersey, is an American drummer, best known as an original member of the rock group, The Rascals (aka The Young Rascals).

Dino Danelli began his career as a teenage jazz drummer, playing with Lionel Hampton's band then switching to the R&B music genre while working in New Orleans, later returning to New York to accompany such R&B acts as Little Willie John. It was in New York that Danelli met Eddie Brigati, a pickup singer on the local R&B circuit. Felix Cavaliere had studied classical piano before becoming the only white member of the Stereos, a group based in his suburban hometown. While a student at Syracuse University, he formed a doo-wop group, the Escorts. After leaving school, Cavaliere moved to New York City, where he met Danelli, and the two migrated to Las Vegas to try their luck with a casino house band. On their return to New York, Cavaliere joined Joey Dee and the Starliters (sometimes spelled Starlighters), which included Brigati and Gene Cornish.

The Rascals came together in 1964 after Cavaliere, Brigati, and Cornish left Dee and formed a quartet with Danelli. In February 1965 they began gigging in New Jersey and on Long Island. By year's end they had changed their name to the Young Rascals (after The Little Rascals) and released their first Atlantic single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" (#52, 1965), sung by Brigati. The group took a turn when Cavaliere sang the followup, "Good Lovin'" (#1, 1966), one of the year's biggest hits. In the following two years, the group had nine more Top Twenty hits, including "You Better Run" (#20, 1966), "(I've Been) Lonely Too Long" (#16, 1967), "Groovin'" (#l, 1967), and "A Girl Like You" (#10, 1967), most of them Cavaliere-Brigati compositions. Established hitmakers, the group tried to get serious in 1967, dropping the "Young" from its name and the Edwardian knickers from its onstage wardrobe. With Freedom Suite, the Rascals' music took on elements of jazz, but the quartet continued to score with "How Can I Be Sure" (#4, 1967 and sung by Brigati), "A Beautiful Morning" (#3, 1968), and "People Got to Be Free" (#1, 1968). Cavaliere and Brigati wrote the latter song shortly after the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Though they never brandished their politics like some bands, the Rascals truly lived theirs, demanding that a black act appear on the bill at each of its concerts. The principled stand cost them dates in the South.

Dino Danelli

The Rascals never had another Top Twenty hit after "People Got to Be Free." With Search and Nearness, their songs made room for lengthy instrumental tracks by jazzmen like Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, and Joe Farrell. Record sales and concert attendance plummeted. In 1971 they signed to Columbia, but Brigati and Cornish left before their label debut. Filling their shoes were Buzzy Feiten (Butterfield Blues Band), fresh from sessions for Bob Dylan's New Morning; Robert Popwell, whose session credits included work for Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Eddie Floyd, and Tim Hardin; and Ann Sutton, who had sung with various soul and jazz groups in Philadelphia. The band broke up in the early Seventies. Brigati recorded an album with his brother David in 1976; Cornish and Danelli started a group called Bulldog and later were part of Fotomaker with former Raspberries guitarist Wally Bryson. Feiten joined Neil Larsen in a duo in 1980. Cavaliere has continued as a solo artist and producer (Laura Nyro, Deadly Nightshade), and in 1994 released his first new album in nearly a decade and a half for producer Don Was' Karambolage label. In 1982, Danelli joined Steve Van Zandt's Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. He, Cornish, and Cavaliere reunited in 1988 for a U.S. tour, but the following year Danelli and Corish sued Cavaliere to prevent him from using the Rascals name. In a Solomonlike ruling, a judge allowed Cornish and Danelli to call themselves the New Rascals, and for Cavaliere to advertise himself as "formerly of the Young Rascals." In 1991 Eddie and David Brigati were featured on The New York Rock and Soul Revue, an all-star live album spearheaded by Steely Dan cofounder Donald Fagen.