Joe “Terry” Terranova, 78, the former Philadelphia street-corner singer and longtime frontman of Danny and the Juniors, died Monday, April 15, of natural causes at his home in Williamstown, according to his former group mate Frank Maffei.
Mr. Terranova got his start on a West Philly corner. In 1955, he and three other neighborhood teens — Danny Rapp, David White, and Maffei — formed the doo-wop group the Juvenaires, later called Danny and the Juniors.
“We used to sing in school, in electric shop, when we were doing bell wire and stuff like that,” Maffei, his musical partner of over 60 years, recalled Wednesday. “The teacher would say, ‘You better learn how to run those wires. … You sure aren’t going to make a living singing.’”
He laughed. “He was wrong.”
After they were introduced to fellow performer Johnny Madara and producer Artie Singer, the group’s performances moved from street corners to the studio; they recorded “Do the Bop,” whose title was changed to “At the Hop,” and released it as their first single. Broadcast live on American Bandstand, the song sold 7,000 copies in Philadelphia in one week. It quickly ascended to the national charts, remaining No. 1 for seven weeks straight.
White left the group in 1960, and Rapp died in 1983, but Danny and the Juniors featuring Mr. Terranova as the lead singer, along with Maffei and Maffei’s brother Bobby, continued to tour for the next few decades. White died in March.
“Terry was smart. He could always get us to work,” Frank Maffei said. “We worked all over the world.”
Danny and the Juniors toured Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia, and performed with such legends as Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. In 1992, they were honored by the Philadelphia Music Alliance and inducted into the Walk of Fame and Hall of Fame. In 2011, they released a 12-track album called We’re For Ever & Ever & Ever Yours.
Mr. Terranova is survived by children Joseph, Victoria, and Raymond; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and a sister. He was divorced from Joyce Mancini, who survives.
A viewing will be Monday, April 22, from 7 to 9 p.m. and Tuesday, April 23, from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. at the Egizi Funeral Home, 119 Ganttown Rd., Turnersville. A Funeral Mass will follow at 11 a.m. Tuesday at SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church, 362 Ganttown Rd., Sewell. Burial will be in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Sewell.
Donations may be made to Pennies in Action, 3100 Dutton Mill Rd., Aston, Pa. 19014.
An earlier version of this article gave the wrong original title of the song that became “At the Hop.”