The Story and Music of Dave Appell and The Applejacks


Introduction to The Applejacks

The Applejacks were a recording group created by musician, songwriter, producer and arranger, Dave Appell, born March 24, 1922 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Applejacks consisted of various studio musicians including Dan Dailey, Joe Shur and Joe Mack, along with other musicians.  Appell started his career as a musical arranger while in the U.S. Navy where he worked as an arranger for several United States Navy big bands.  After the Navy he started a quartet called the Dave Appell Four, but with the emergence of rock and roll he changed the name to The Applejacks.  Appell went to work for Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, founders of the very successful Cameo Parkway Record Company, where he recorded records. He became a jack-of-all-trades for the company providing background vocals, guitar session work, arranging, producing, and songwriting for such artists as Charlie Grace, Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, The Dovells, The Orlons and many more Cameo Parkway artists.  In 1961 Appell began recording under the name of Dave Appell and His Orchestra, dropping the Applejacks name altogether.  His last 45 was the 1970 “The Son of a Preacher Man’ and “Girl of the Skies” and were recorded on B.T. Puppy Records under the name Dave Appell.  In 1970 Appell produced for Tony Orlando and Dawn, including the hit songs “Knock Three Times” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon around the Old Oak Tree”.  The Applejacks had three Billboard Hot 100 instrumental hits, “Mexican Hat Rock” (#16), “Rocka-Conga” (#38) and “Bunny Hop” (#70), as well as other popular songs such as “The Rock and Roll Story,” “Ring Around My Baby,” “Honey Bunch,” “Country Dance,” “Sweet Patootie Pie,” “Ooh, Baby, Ooh,” “Teenage Meeting,” “The Love Express,” “Ookey Ook,” “Smarter,” “Reunion,” “Alrighty,” “Apple-Jack,” “No Name Theme,” “Chitter Chatter Baby,” “Circle Dance,” “Theme from the Young Ones,” “Mexican Hat Twist,” “Let’s Continental,” “Happy Jose,” “Noivous,” “Back in Sixty Seconds,” “Hippies Waltz,” “Theme from The Untouchables,” “Cherry Valley,” “Hot Toddy,” “Night Train Stroll” & “Love in the Jungle.”

The Applejacks’ early career

Formed during the early 50s music era in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Applejacks were a group of studio musicians gathered and led by Dave Appell In the mid-1940s, Appell served the US Navy during the World War II and at the same time, he worked as an arranger for the US Navy big bands.

After his time in the Marines, he continued arranging music for dance orchestras such as Benny Carter and Earl “Fatha” Hines. Later, he formed the group the Dave Apple Four which was signed to Decca Records. But as the rock and roll genre became more popular at that time, Decca Records’ executive Paul Cohen insisted Appell to change their name to the Applejacks.

The Applejacks’ heyday

The Applejacks were signed to a couple of labels, (Tone-Craft and President) where they released several 45’s. In 1958, they returned to their hometown and began recording for Kall Mann and Bernie Lowe’s label, Cameo-Parkway. They had their first hit with the single “Mexican Hat Rock,” peaking at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for 15 weeks. The following year, the group charted with their two singles “Rocka-Conga” and “Bunny Hop, reaching #38 and #70 respectively. Numerous records were released after the success of these singles. However, these singles failed to repeat to enter the Billboard chart.

Appell after the Applejacks

Dave Appell went on to lead a house backing band for Cameo-Parkway, accompanying popular  artists during that time like Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp and The Orions. He also produced artists such as Tony Orlando and the Dawn, of “Knock Three Times” and “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” fame.

Appell, who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 24, 1922, died on November 18, 2014 in New Jersey. He was 92 years old.

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