David White, 79, the former Philadelphia singer and songwriter who co-wrote a string of late 1950s and early ’60s hits, including “At the Hop” and “You Don’t Own Me,” died Saturday, March 16, in Las Vegas, where he lived, according to his longtime writing partner, John Madara.
The cause of death was not disclosed.
As a child, Mr. White performed with his parents in a traveling acrobatic act called Barry and Brenda and Company. As a teenager, he wrote music, sang tenor, and learned to play the piano, clarinet, and trombone. He was 15 in 1955 when he and three neighborhood friends — Danny Rapp, Joe Terranova, and Frank Maffei — formed the doo-wop quartet the Juvenaires, later called Danny and the Juniors.
A year later, while singing with his quartet on a street corner in West Philadelphia, he met Madara, who introduced him to vocal coach and local record producer Artie Singer. The trio collaborated on “At the Bop,” whose title Dick Clark suggested changing to “At the Hop.” It was a smash. Broadcast live on American Bandstand, the song was issued as the group’s first single and sold 7,000 copies in Philadelphia in one week. It quickly ascended to the national charts, remaining No. 1 for seven weeks. Mr. White’s hit for the group was “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay.”
Madara and Mr. White continued to write songs together. Their hits included “The Fly” for Chubby Checker in 1961, “You Don’t Own Me” for Lesley Gore in 1963, and “1-2-3” for Len Barry in 1965. They later formed a trio with disc jockey Ray Gilmore called the Spokesmen, and continued to write and produce records together.
“We were like brothers,” Madara recalled, adding that Mr. White was “kind, generous, talented, wonderful — one of the good guys.”
In 1992, Danny and the Juniors were honored by the Philadelphia Music Alliance and inducted in the Walk of Fame and Hall of Fame.
Mr. White was married in 1959 to Joanne “Dee” Rody. The couple were together for 12 years. In 1998, he married Sandra Simone, who survives. He also is survived by daughters Wendy and Jody. A daughter, Linda, died earlier.
Details of services were not available.