Hilliard Northwest News

Oct. 26 at the Makoy Center

Doycheff Vocal Jam Dance Party is a family affair

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Jimmy Doycheff has been singing doo-wop and soul songs for as long as he can remember.

He has been keeping that music alive in central Ohio for 15 years, presenting the Doycheff Vocal Jam Dance Party in what has become, in addition to an annual tradition, a family affair.

This year, the dance party will be held Friday, Oct. 26, at the Makoy Center, 5462 Center St. in Hilliard. Tickets are $10. Visit doycheffvocaljam.com.

"It's really a family event that I started with my wife and our two daughters," Doycheff told ThisWeek.

Drawing on their experience as nightclub singers, Doycheff and his wife, Elaine, recruited friends and folks they had seen or with whom they had shared a stage through the years to put together a musical revue of tunes from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Among the featured groups is the Jam Girls, a trio of Elaine and the Doycheffs' two daughters, Ramona Richards and Nicole Sanger, who cover the great girl groups such as The Ronettes and The Supremes.

Last year, Richards' son, Brandon "Big Head" Richards, a student at Hilliard Darby High School, joined the show.

"It's his 'blues' name," Doycheff joked, adding that Brandon, who sings in his high school choir, does soul and R&B tunes such as Sweet Home Chicago and songs by James Brown.

This year, 14-year-old Alexis Richards will join her brother as a live performer at the Dance Party. Doycheff said she has been begging him to sing on the show since she was 2 years old.

"The thrill I get from watching my daughters and now my grandchildren is way more thrilling and fulfilling than any any time I do a song," Doycheff said.

The Doycheff Vocal Jam Dance Party is a four-hour show that fills the floor from start to finish.

Doycheff said the show attracts folks from swing dance clubs and others who enjoy music to which they can dance.

"If it's not danceable, it's not in the show," Doycheff said. "This is music I've always done, and not many people do it any more, so we have a really faithful audience who loves this music and wants to come out and dance."

* * * * *

It was a heady time to be in a rock 'n' roll band in the mid-1960s.

The Beatles had arrived in the U.S. and American Bandstand was on the TV.

Many cities had a local Bandstand-style show as well, and Columbus was no different, with Jerry Rasor's Dance Party on WLWC-TV (now NBC4).

Two local bands to rise to prominence were The Dantes and The Fifth Order.

They scored No. 1 local hits (WCOL-FM was the rock 'n' roll tastemaker at the time), played hundreds of local and regional shows (in particular at the Valley Dale Ballroom on Sunbury Road), opened for a number of national acts such as The Byrds, Them and Jimi Hendrix, and played local music shows from Baltimore to Chicago.

"We were high school students by day, rock stars by night," Jeff Johnson, late of The Fifth Order, told The Beat jokingly.

"Long hair and blue jeans weren't happening at school. We greased our hair back and strapped on our books. But we were looking for something to do besides go to football games."

Johnson and Lynn Wehr, a member of The Dantes, both told The Beat that there was little thought to fame and fortune, despite the success of their records and popularity of their shows.

"Everybody made records and nobody saw a penny from them," Johnson said.

"It was the music that drew us to it in the first place. And the girls."

Last year, Wehr and Johnson brought their current bands, The Neighborhood Boys and The Pat Malloy Band, respectively, along with The Professors, led by former Dantes singer Barry Hayden, together for a gig they called Dance Party, and ended up rekindling acquaintances made 45 years prior.

"It wasn't about The Dantes or The Fifth Order, but about these guys who are still doing it, and playing those old songs," Wehr said.

"It's so much fun to bring back those memories, like a big class reunion."

Johnson said that, while The Fifth Order was mostly kids from Upper Arlington and The Dantes was mostly a Worthington band, the scene was from all over the city. In that way, Johnson said, Dance Party was as much of a reunion as any high school-specific gathering.

Last year's event was so much fun, they're doing it again this year, with Dance Party 2012 on Friday, Oct. 26, at Villa Milano.

2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Jerry Rasor's Dance Party, and Donna Marsh, the original Miss Dance Party, will make an appearance at this year's event.

"It's a good time with this music and these bands who still know how to put on a show," Johnson said.

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