Monday, December 28, 2009

The History Behind the Title

Some of you may be wondering why I named my blog "The Dapper Dan Daily." I decided to name it after a famous barbershop quartet that you would find exclusively at the Walt Disney Theme Parks. Some of my family and friends probably know that my favorite vacation destination is Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I enjoy Disney World for many reasons; the great hospitality, customer service, the rich history, and most of all enjoying the many talented performers entertaining the guests, especially the Dapper Dans. In this post, I will provide you with a brief history of the quartet and hope that next time you visit Walt Disney World or Disneyland, take some time to listen to their performances on Main Street USA. You will not be disappointed.

The Dapper Dans first started to perform at Disneyland in 1959 when the Director of Entertainment, Tommy Walker (born in Milwaukee), contacted Park talent supervisor Chuck Corson and told him that Disneyland needed a barbershop quartet. Corson, a former stage manager for the Fred Waring Chorale, contacted some of the singers from that group to be the first Dapper Dans. The first group consisted of John Borneman (tenor), Roger Axworthy (lead), T.J. Marker (bass), and Ted Nichols (baritone). For subsequent years, new members were primarily recruited from nearby Champman College's strong music department that also trained future musicians to perform at the park. The quartet held performances along Main Street USA, either standing or riding a four-seater custom built Schwinn Bicycle commissioned by Walt Disney himself. They continue to do this method today.

As the Walt Disney Company built more theme parks for the next several years following Disneyland, the Dapper Dans made their debut at Disney World in 1971, Disneyland Hong Kong in 2005 and a brief apperance at Disneyland in Paris but cut due to budget issues. At Disney World, the Dapper Dans perform nine sets per day, seven days a week up and down Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom to the smiles of many guests. Sometimes they sing Happy Birthday to guests that are celebrating their birthdays (of course when other members of their party tip off the quartet) and even allow guests to sing along with them.

When they sing, the Dapper Dans just do not stand still and sing but sometimes they tap dance, waive their arms, or play the Deagan Organ Chimes (made by the J.C. Deagan Company in Chicago, IL circa 1901) all choreographed to the song they are singing. The music library consists of over 100 songs that include 19th century American folk songs, turn-of-the century barbershop classics, ragtime, jazz, swing tunes, modern pieces from musical theatre and Disney animated films. The two most popular songs the guests enjoy listening to are "Mr. Sandman" written in 1954 by Pat Ballard and also "My Irish Rose" based off a musical from 1947.

As you can see, the Dapper Dans have a long tradition of performing at the Walt Disney Theme Parks ever since 1959 at Disneyland and continued as more theme parks developed over the years. This is only a brief history about the quartet and there are two ways you can listen to some of their spectacular performances, either by YouTube or in person the next time you take a trip to Disney World or Disneyland. If you have any questions or comments about the Dapper Dans or my other postings, please feel free to e-mail me at Thanks for reading my blog.

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