Short Shorts

Album: Golden Classics (1958)
Charted: 3
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The Royal Teens were a teenage quartet from New Jersey who fell into the New York City songmaking scene after playing various battle of the bands competitions. A producer named Leo Rogers had them play background for various acts and released their first single, "Short Shorts," on his Power Records label. The song took off, and the group got a distribution deal with ABC Paramount to meet demand. The group went on tour and had two more hits: "Harvey's Got A Girl Friend" (#78, 1958) and "Believe Me" (#26, 1959). They broke up before releasing an album, but "Short Shorts" was a sensation, earning the group appearances on most of the big music shows in America, including the Saturday Night Beechnut Show and American Bandstand.
  • Unlike the miniskirt, there was no fashion trend related to short shorts - it was a title members Bob Gaudio and Tom Austin came up with. On the Royal Teens website, it tells the possibly apocryphal story that Gaudio and Austin had the music written for the song and were driving around trying to think of what to call it when they spotted two girls wearing short cutoff jeans (later known as Daisy Dukes), which provided inspiration for the title.
  • Lyrically, there's not much to this song: just this stanza repeated three times:

    Who wears short shorts
    We wear short shorts
    They're such short shorts
    We like short shorts
    Who wears short shorts
    We wear short shorts


    It can certainly fall into the bubblegum category based on the words, but musically the song is more than kids stuff, with two mighty saxophone solos and guitar break separating the choruses.
  • This was the first hit song written by Bob Gaudio, who was 15 years old at the time. The piano player in the group, he would form The Four Seasons a few years later and become not just their keyboard player and tenor vocalist, but also a main songwriter for the group, with a hand in writing their smash hits "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Walk Like A Man," "Rag Doll," and many others. He also spearheaded the Jersey Boys Broadway production, which tells the story of The Four Seasons.

    Gaudio came from a classical jazz background - this song was his crossover to rock.
  • In the late '70s, this song was revived when it was used in a long-running campaign for Nair hair-removal products (see an example here). This was before DVRs (or even VCRs), so many viewers actually watched the commercials, especially if they had a catchy tune. The song became ubiquitous as a result of the ads, which ran well into the '80s. Many younger viewers had no idea the song dated back to the '50s.
  • Besides Gaudio, there was another famous Royal Teen: Al Kooper, who relates in his autobiography Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards that the Royal Teens were the first real band he'd hooked up with... also at age 14.

    Kooper, who played guitar in the band when they went on tour, heard the call to rock 'n' roll early, but his parents disapproved. So for a few years in his teens, Kooper led a double life, keeping his stage clothes in a friend's garage and slipping out for gigs on the sly. At one gig with The Royal Teens (this was well after their rise to fame with "Short Shorts"), he found himself stranded in Manhattan at 5:30 AM without a ride back to his home in Queens. He had to call his parents, who paid for a cab ride home. Kooper relates in his book: "Passing my father on the front walk, he on his way to work, me just returning from mine. And that look on his face as he hurried past me, as if an inner voice was telling him, 'Your son has been lobotomized by Martians carrying electric guitars. He'll never be the same again.' It would have made a perfect portrait.
  • On pressings of the single, only piano player Bob Gaudio and drummer Tom Austin are credited as songwriters, but the official credits also list original members Billy Dalton (guitar) and Billy Crandall (saxophone) as composers.
  • "Short Shorts" reached its chart peak in February 1958. Four months later, the #1 song in America was Sheb Wooley's novelty smash "The Purple People Eater," which includes a nod to the Royal Teens hit in the lyric, which mentions that the purple monster "wears short shorts." (And on the cover art, indeed he is.)
  • This is the theme song to a late-night Japanese TV series called Tamori Club.
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Comments: 3

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn May 12th 1958, the Columbia Picture's movie 'Let's Rock' premiered in New York City...
    One of the acts appearing in the film were the Royal Teens; they performed "Short Shorts", five months earlier on January 26th, 1958 the song peaked at #3 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    The only other Top 100 record featured in the film was "At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors; it had peaked at #1 on December 22nd, 1957.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 15th 1958, "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beechnut Show" debuted on the ABC-TV network...
    The show ran until September 10th, 1960 with a total of 104 original episodes...
    Guests on the first show were Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Chuck Willis, the Royal Teens, Johnnie Ray and Jerry Lee Lewis...
    At the time the Royal Teen's "Shorts Shorts" was at #4 on Billboard's Top 100 chart; and twelve days earlier on February 3rd, 1958 the quartet lip-sync the song on Dick Clark's other ABC-TV program...
    {See the next post below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 3rd 1958, the Royal Teens performed "Short Shorts" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Two weeks earlier on January 21st, 1958 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #3 and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
    The group had two other songs make the Top 100; "Harvey's Got A Girl Friend" (At #78 in 1958) and "Believe Me" (at #26 in 1959)...
    "Believe Me" is on You Tube, but can't find the "Harvey" record?
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