High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Mother of All Dell Songs

The Shady Dell was like the Pied Piper.
She stood atop Violet Hill playing her music and the rats came a runnin' from all over York, York County and beyond.

There was Ling Ting Tong from China, Long Tall Sally from Carolina. We had 007 the private eye and he was bringin'
all the guys from I Spy.

During the 1950's and 60's, Friday and Saturday nights saw the Dell packed to the rafters. The joint was jumpin', Jack. The closest parking space was way down at York Hospital!
Well, I might be exaggerating just a tad. Suffice it to say that the Dell's main parking lot was jammed.

The rough, rut riddled parking area farther out was also full. It was there in no man's land that I put a football size dent in the fender of my dad's car trying to squeeze into a parking slot that was only wide enough for a bicycle.

It was there in tombstone territory where you had to dodge tumbleweed and sagebrush...

so far away from the Dell that you wished John provided shuttle service to transport you to the front entrance...

that I actually witnessed a Dell rat trying to push his clunker over the cliff after repeated attempts at starting it! I suspect that firewater played a role in that scenario.

After wasting an hour of valuable Dell time circling the primary and secondary lots searching in vain for a place to park, frustrated Dell patrons usually found themselves back out on Starcross Road; but that too was lined with cars practically the whole way down to South George!

On a typical Friday or Saturday night the little parking annex across the street was also overflowing with vehicles.

It was the small lot located at the point where the bumpy, gravel lane known as Shady Dell Road began cutting a primitive trail through the woods to Grantley, providing a suspension punishing yet viable escape route for Dell rats when police set up roadblocks on Starcross to check for curfew violations and underage drinking.

With the loudness control on the Dell jukebox cranked to the max on those wild, wacky and wonderful Shady Dell nights it was easy for the distinctive voices of James Brown, David Ruffin, Levi Stubbs, Martha Reeves, Wilson Pickett, Mitch Ryder, Dave Bupp and Buddy King to penetrate the walls of the old barn and drift on the breeze to the parking lot and surrounding countryside.

As I climbed the steps to the admission booth I could also
hear the songs blasting from loudspeakers above my head.
John Ettline rigged a series of remote speakers throughout the Dell complex enabling the music originating in the barn to follow you wherever you went...even into the little boys room!

Some Dell songs like "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box"...

brought out the beast in a Dell rat.

Other songs like these by our blue-eyed
and brown-eyed soul brothers...

brought out the best.

The most cherished Shady Dell classic of all time is that kind of song. This music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak. This gentle song had the power to turn pugnacious Dell vikings into acolytes and choirboys.

"Close Your Eyes" by the Five Keys
is the Mother of all Dell songs!

"Close Your Eyes," ranked #1 on my survey of The 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell, first charted
in March of 1955. It was one of the first records
that I heard on my very first visit to the Dell. It is certainly one of the finest. It is also the record of greatest longevity, logging more time on the Dell jukebox than any other.

By the time I arrived on the Dell scene "Close Your Eyes" had already been playing on
the jukebox in the barn for more than a decade. That’s an incredible feat when you consider all of the changes that music and society had undergone since the mid 50's!

In the wake of Beatlemania a massive transformation had taken place in attitudes, styles and tastes; yet this tender, innocent, romantic mid 50's doo-wop ballad had not only survived the British invasion and the changing times, it had remained a perennial favorite at the Dell. The enduring popularity of this Eisenhower era recording proved that
a great song is indeed timeless.

Whenever this Five Keys golden classic played at the Dell, a hush spread across the room. The noisy crowd fell silent out of respect for the Shady Dell history and tradition that the song epitomized. "Close Your Eyes" was a guaranteed dance floor filler for two generations of young couples eager to hold each other tight, close their eyes, open their hearts, and whisper “I love you!”

Listen now to the Five Keys singing "Close Your Eyes" preceded by the seldom heard jump side, "Doggone it, You Did it."

My choice was simple.

Although the field was crowded with worthy contenders my ultimate Pick to Click selection as The Greatest Dell Song of All Time is "Close Your Eyes."

Have a Shady day!


  1. The wonderful way you describe what was going on makes me feel like I was almost there. Enjoying the great music, feeling the frustration of no parking in the lot and the excitement of the times. As always the music made my morning. Thanks for all the hard work you put into your posts.

  2. Odie, I'm very happy to know that my post made your morning. Your supportive comments made mine, good buddy! Have a great day!

  3. Your parking experience was like the mall at Christmas (like yesterday for me). Must have been frustrating since you could have been dancing.
    "Doggone it, You Did it," had me moving. I really liked it. And I can see why you chose "Close Your Eyes," as #1. You have a romantic heart Shady.

  4. I don't believe I was ever at the Dell wothout hearing "Close Your Eyes" play at least once.


  5. Belle, thank you for recognizing that about me. I appreciate it! Yes, the Dell's parking lot resembled that of a busy mall around the holidays. The only difference was that nobody ever left the Dell! (LOL) Have a wonderful day in British Columbia!

    Jerre - The same could be said of "Human," your Pick to Click! Both ballads had couples locked in embrace with bodies steaming and tears streaming. Thanks for your comment, Jerre!

  6. Oh I do love your writing style Shady Del, your analogies always have me rolling on the floor laughing. And thanks for the great music! You were spot on when you said old things have a special sort of character.

  7. Alabee, your compliments mean a great deal to me because I recognize the quality of your work as well. Thank you very much for your comments and enjoy the rest of your weekend in California!

  8. you really made me laugh with those pictures! the part about the parking is super,not to name the man crying in the desert!!!!!!
    have a nice sunday xx *K*

  9. It always pleases me when I can make someone smile or laugh (at the right time). Thank you very much for your kind remarks, friend Katia, and enjoy your Sunday evening in Italy!


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