There was a now little known band called The Treniers that began performing in the 1940′s. Led by twin brothers, Cliff and Claude, they were known for their raucous live shows that featured their considerable talents as musicians, dancers and comedians. They were simply entertainers.
They were also one of the first bands to use the term rock and roll in their songs and acted as a bridge between the pop and swing of the 40′s and the first fledgling footsteps of rock in the 50′s. They appeared on a number of early television shows as well as in a few 50′s rock movies with Alan Freed, the legendary DJ who brought rock and roll to the mainstream, such as The Girl Can’t Help It.
Personally, I only knew of them from a novelty song they cut in the 50′s called Say Hey!, which was a tribute to the great Willie Mays, whose trademark was the phrase Say Hey! It was on an old record I practically wore out as a kid about the history of baseball and was also featured on the Ken Burns Baseball documentary. But reading a book by Nick Tosches on the unsung heroes of early rock, I was introduced to them and began seeking their work online.
They were an interesting case, immensely talented but never having the huge recording careers one might expect. You see, their energy came from the interaction with an audience, from the reactions of the excited and dancing crowds before them . That never fully translated in the recording studio where the only audience was a handful of engineers. The recordings could never capture the joy and force of their live shows, for which they became famous. In fact, they performed for over 55 years in Las Vegas and other places as an act with at least a few members of the family still in place.
Here’s a great early clip of them from the Colgate Comedy Hour in 1954. It was hosted by the still partnered comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, who were both huge fans of the Treniers. It’s a wonderful bit of music and comedy that features some wild dancing that makes me understand what the French see in Jerry Lewis.