Members of the Dovells and the Orlons attended Overbrook. So did Solomon Burke, Mike Pedicin and Bob "Big Murph" Murphy. And Wilt Chamberlain.
That's right, Wilt "The Stilt" did more than tear up the basketball courts. On February 3, 1960, he appeared on American Bandstand to lip-sync to his latest record, By the River. As it turned out, it was his only record of the 45 RPM variety.
But Wilt had a deep affection for music that led to him hosting his own jazz radio show, "Flippin' With the Dipper," while attending college at Kansas. That's Wilt in the college radio studio in the photo above.
Chamberlain left college a year early to play one season with the Harlem Globetrotters before joining the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA, which didn't allow college underclassmen at the time. Wilt was in his second season with the Warriors when he cut his record - By the River backed with That's Easy to Say.
Wilt's American Bandstand appearance was mentioned in the columns of The Afro-American newspaper in Baltimore, Md., in its Feb. 13, 1960 edition. Wilt wore a five-button tweed suit with black satin lapels, the article said, and "snapped his fingers and even did a shuffle in true rock 'n' roll style." Wilt also said he recorded the song just to "stop his family from laughing at his singing."
Actually, Wilt had a pleasant voice. Check out the song yourself:
Forty years after its release, Wilt's song was adapted by the Kansas University pep band and was played at pep rallies.
Of course, Wilt went on to be a celebrated professional basketball star and is usually mentioned as being among the NBA's all-time best. He once averaged 50 points a game over an entire season. In later claiming that he slept with some 20,000 women, Chamberlain revealed a rarely challenged off-court scoring prowess as well. He died in 1999 of congestive heart failure at the age of 63.
Philadelphia sports fans got an early glimpse of Wilt's basketball future when he slammed his first dunk in his final game at Shoemaker Junior High. Here are just a few of his high school achievements as documented by Frank Fitzpatrick at the Philadelphia Inquirer on March 18, 1991:
- Scored 71 points in 24 minutes against Roxborough as a freshman.
- Scored 90 points, including 60 in one 10-minute span, against Roxborough as a senior.
- Scored 32 points in a city championship loss to West Catholic at the Palestra despite being covered by four players the entire game.
- Scored 800 points in his first 16 games as a senior (50-point average), just 12 fewer than the total of Overbrook's opponents in those games.
I'd like to include some stories from people who appeared on Bandstand or American Bandstand as a dancer, performer or in some other capacity in future postings on Bandstand Beat. If you'd like to share some of your stories or know someone else who might, send me the information by e-mail. Thanks.