“At the Hop” Songwriter & Performer John Madara Living Large in Cambria, CA

A life well lived and still going strong at 80, Cambrian John Madara continues to build his legacy. “At the Hop” not only earned him a gold record, but is the title of the movie he plans to produce about Philly’s musical heyday. Why not? He lived the dream before he conquered La La Land.

 

“I grew up in the projects. Billy Jackson (future Columbia Record producer) was my best buddy,” he said. “We were ‘po’ not poor. I’d walk to the store and offer to carry groceries home for folks for tips. Seventy-five cents would buy ingredients for Grandma’s pasta Faggioli.” His Italian parents stressed a strong work ethic using one’s best talents. “My voice was my best instrument.”

The first-born of six, Madara had three jobs by age 17 – messenger for the Philadelphia Inquirer, gas station attendant and at a record shop. “My friends were my neighbors. I never knew color. Everybody’s colored. I marched with them in DC and Mississippi in the fifties and met Martin Luther King and John Lewis.” He’ll meet up with Lewis again this May in Philadelphia.

“I never planned a career in music,” he admitted, but when his first record “Be My Girl” reached national charts, his path showed potential. Madara’s R&B and Gospel roots struck “gold” in 1957. “That same year I co-wrote “Be The Bop” with Dave White. American Bandstand with Dick Clark had just gone national. He suggested bop was out and “At the Hop” was a better title.” Clark was right. Performed by Madara’s group Danny and the Juniors, the song went “gold” and was #1 for 7 weeks. A classic today, it was the first record to achieve that level of success. “I bought a record shop and met distributors picking up records. When I added a piano, the kids would play and ask about the gold record on the wall.” For many of those kids he would launch their careers – including Carl & the Commanders (“I Need Your Love”) and Maureen Gray (“Today’s the Day”). Madara co-wrote and/or produced mega hits like “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” for Danny and the Juniors, “The Fly” for Chubby Checker, “1-2-3” for Len Barry and “You Don’t Own Me” for Leslie Gore.  (www.thephillysound.com)

Madara also discovered future talents. Leon Huff was performing with The Lavenders in a nightclub. Huff later teamed with Kenny Gamble to become one of the most prolific songwriting teams in Rock ‘n Roll history. Madara and White co-produced many of their songs, including “Western Union Man.” The Spokesmen formed by Madara released the controversial answer song to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” titled “The Dawn of Correction” – both featured in Time Magazine.  

Madara’s publishing company created in 1965 signed talents like Hall & Oates until he sold it to Michael Jackson in 1984. “Everything you learn you keep up here,” Madara said pointing to his brain.” He anticipated technology would change the sound of music – provide options never heard before. He’s been called an industry futurist. Certainly, his 60-year tenure is testimony Madara’s musical offerings are contemporary – “speaking clearly of given eras, but have equal impact on all eras.”

When Hollywood was where the record industry was growing, he moved his company west. Instantly, he launched into movies producing the soundtrack for “Cinderella Liberty” and accomplished prolific projects in television including music supervisor for the “Sid and Marty Kroft Comedy Hour.” With Quincy Jones, he arranged “You Don’t Own Me.” Still a classic, the song has sold over 400 million records internationally, been used in television shows, commercials, covered by multiple recording artists and was the theme of the movie “First Wives Club.”

Madara worked with greats like Wayne Newton in Las Vegas, John Williams, and the Beatles. While dating Joey Heatherton he toured as Bob Hope entertained the troops. His songs and productions have appeared on some of the biggest grossing soundtracks of all time, including “Hairspray,” and “Dirty Dancing.” More than 60 television shows have featured his songs, including “Donny and Marie,” “Laverne and Shirley,” “Sonny and Cher,” and most of Dick Clark’s productions.

“At the Hop” was voted into the top 100 songs of the century by the Recording Industry Association of America and in 2013 Madara was inducted into the Philadelphia Walk of Fame.

Madara’s youngest of three sons, San Francisco-based photographer Jason Madara suggested he and Christy relocate to Cambria fourteen years ago. He practices and touts healthy living for keeping him young.

Besides producing his movie “At the Hop” what else is on John Madara’s bucket list? “I’ve never done a CD of my own voice,” he said. “I have six new songs. If Tony Bennett can do it at 90, I can do it at 80.”

The Van Beurden Family: An Immigrant Success Story

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Coming to America They Saw the Statue of Liberty — Her Plaque Reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Between 1940 and 1959 Cornelius and Maria van Beurden raised nine children. Sixty years ago, they sailed to America penniless yet optimistic, eager to begin again in Fresno and San Luis Obispo County. Approximately 70 van Beurdens — three generations — will celebrate this week at the Dutchman in Morro Bay.

“We’re immigrants,” said Bill about their arrival at Hoboken, NJ in 1957. “Americans born here have no idea what a big deal that was.” With humility and humor, pride and passion, he recounted their story.

“With no work in the Netherlands, our father lived in Indonesia. In 1940 Uncle Harry stood as proxy before Mother took a steamboat to join her husband. Cle was born first.” Bill explained. In 1917 Dutch law conscripted male residents living in Indonesia to serve the KNIL, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force, created in 1830 to expand Dutch colonial rule. Until World War II, the KNIL was rarely challenged to protect the Dutch East Indies against foreign invasion.

“The year after I was born (1942) the Dutch were all but wiped out by the Japanese. They’d rotate us from one internment camp to the next — walking up to 50 miles. Father was taken from us to Sumatra to work on the railroad. We’d sleep on cots. There was no medicine, little food — soup, and open trenches for bathrooms. We were guarded by the Indonesians and Koreans who hated us. Mother’s work detail was taking care of the dead. The kids had to march by their caskets to honor them. Mother would sew jewelry into her hem, which she’d trade for food. She was caught a couple times and beat up.

“In August 1945 the war end, but I’m alive today because the smaller islands didn’t get the message. Orders were to kill all the POWs. The Japanese gave their guns to the Indonesians. They’d invade camps, kidnap and cut up the Dutch and float body parts down the river. One night our British-Indian Gupta guards heard the Indonesians were coming and woke us up and took us to a beach in a truck. I still have nightmares getting in a boat with sides and taken to another camp.

“By 1946 Mother didn’t know if her husband was alive, but they reunited and six weeks later we were transported on a refugee freighter back in Holland. I remember stuffing food in my pockets until the captain assured us we’d receive three meals a day while aboard. Uncle Harry greeted us in Rotterdam. He took us to a warehouse where the Salvation Army gave us clothes and shoes. I still donate back to them.

“At first Father was sick. Father had background in accounting so got a school job. The Americans were recruiting – showed us movies of California and palm trees. Even back then the vetting process was tough and long. The whole family had to be in perfect health. We were held up when they thought Cle had a spot on his lung. The X-ray was wrong. I was told I needed to make good grades or we couldn’t go so I studied hard. We sailed January 21, 1957, on the Southern Cross, a troop transporter, for nine days.

“Catholic Charities sponsored us. I still donate to them. We took a train to Fresno. Father had no money so we ate peanut butter sandwiches. Cle and I kept watching for Indians like we saw in the movies. Our first impression of California was the orange trees in Sacramento. In Fresno, it was the antennas and telephone poles like a place still under construction.

“Father was quickly hired and fired in real estate because he didn’t know English. Dropped off at school Cle and I didn’t know where to go. We didn’t know English, but quickly learned to smile and say yes.

“Father was so happy to be In America he took history, English and piano at Fresno City College. He created the choir where he worked at Our Lady of Victory Church. As soon as five years was up he applied for citizenship.

“In 1959 the whole family worked restaurants in Yosemite. It was hard work, but by 1968 we bought the Frasier Motel in Morro Bay for $115,000. Mother lived until 1989 and Father until 1999.”

Eventually the van Beurdens owned seven restaurants in San Luis Obispo County, including Friar Tucks in SLO and Dutchman and Hofbrau of Morro Bay. Bill developed a nationwide insurance company, Van Beurden Insurance Services and Leon developed Bay Osos Brokers. All the siblings and many of the children and great grandchildren have worked for their companies.