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Pink Slip Daddy has a warm, warm heart for the music of South Philly's Fabian

"By the time I started paying attention to rock-and-roll," says Camden County native Ben Vaughn, who was born in 1955, "Elvis was in the Army, and the British Invasion hadn't happened yet."

Pink Slip Daddy will celebrate the release of their EP at Boot & Saddle on Saturday.
Pink Slip Daddy will celebrate the release of their EP at Boot & Saddle on Saturday.Read moreKAREN SCHMIDT

Cousin Judy was right all along.

"By the time I started paying attention to rock-and-roll," says Camden County native Ben Vaughn, who was born in 1955, "Elvis was in the Army, and the British Invasion hadn't happened yet."

What had happened, however, was the American Bandstand teen-idol era of rock-and-roll, the period when South Philadelphia heartthrobs such as Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and Chubby Checker topped the pop charts and were adored by screaming fans, if not scribbling critics.

And, oh yeah, one more: Fabiano Anthony Forte, otherwise known as Fabian, who had hits with "Turn Me Loose," "Hound Dog Man," and "Mighty Cold (To a Warm Warm Heart)." Vaughn's cousin Judy "had pictures of him all over her room," Vaughn recalls, talking from his home in California's Mojave Desert. "Fabian was all she would listen to."

The South Philadelphia singer who was discovered by idol-maker Bob Marcucci when he was 14 in 1957 is the inspiration for Viva Fabian & More! A Tribute to the Fab One & Philly Rock 'N Roll (Many Moods), the new six-song EP by Pink Slip Daddy.

The garage punk band - Vaughn on guitar (using the name Sal Mineo's Only Son), along with singer Mick Cancer, drummer Palmyra Delran, and bassist Barb Dwyer - will celebrate the release at Boot & Saddle in South Philadelphia on Saturday.

Pink Slip Daddy were a staple in Philadelphia clubs after forming in 1989 but split up in 1995, when Vaughn moved to Los Angeles to make a name for himself scoring TV shows such as That '70s Show and Third Rock From the Sun. The band reformed in 2012.

Vaughn and Cancer - real name Mike Henderson - are both longtime Fabian fanboys.

In his liner notes, Cancer tells of a trip to Memphis in 1978 on a quest to find authentic rockabilly heroes. Instead, he met a Memphis female punk band called the Klitz, who open for Pink Slip Daddy on Saturday - who were Fabian enthusiasts.

For Cancer, this encounter with "the fabricated Fab One" led to a realization: "Behind the facade lurked some damn good '50s rock-and-roll, featuring solid musicianship, sassy songs, and the requisite surly snarls of the singer, who, despite being oft-maligned, was actually a surprisingly muscular vocalist who . . . paved some of the way for the exploitation pop rock that would dominate future generations, from the Monkees to Johnny Rotten to Justin Bieber to, dare I say, Mick Cancer."

When it came time for Pink Slip Daddy to record, the band was searching for a concept. "Mick and I looked at each other and said: 'Oh, my God: Fabian! It's time,' " Vaughn said.

"I was like, 'What, Fabian? Really?' " says Delran, a guitarist, bandleader, and DJ who hosts her own satellite radio show on Little Steven's Underground Garage from 8 a.m. to noon Sundays. "I knew him from all those movies, but he was way before my time."

Delran, who grew up in Princeton as Lisa Cortes and who has never lived in either Palmyra or Delran, was the longtime leader of the Friggs, the first of what she calls her "trash pop" bands, which have also included the Booty Olympics. She lives in Brooklyn and has bands on each coast - Palmyra Delran & Bubble Gun on the West and Palmyra Delran & the Doppel Gang on the East. Several of her tunes have been declared the weekly "coolest song in the world" on the Underground Garage. "Baby Should Have Known Better" took that title for the entirety of 2008.

For Pink Slip Daddy, she had to get behind the drum kit again, which she hadn't done in almost 20 years. "Ben and Mick take the lead, and me and Barb [real name Noelle Hoover] are like the chick rhythm section," she says. "It's one of the most fun bands I've ever been in. We cover for each other. It's almost like a comedy troupe that plays music instead."

Viva Fabian! was recorded last year in Sewell, N.J. Four stripped-down Fabian tunes - "Turn Me Loose," "Mighty Cold," "Wild Party," and "Gotta Tell Somebody" - are joined by a rip through the Dovells' "Bristol Stomp" and "For Lovers Only," an extemporaneous Mick Cancer tribute to Jerry "The Geator" Blavat, the Philadelphia radio fixture whose WXPN-FM (88.5) show follows the syndicated The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn, which airs at 5 p.m. Saturdays. Vaughn hopes Blavat can coax his old friend Fabian down from his home in the Poconos to attend Saturday's show.

"There is no irony," Vaughn says of his love for Fabian. (Though, presumably, he doesn't always answer the phone by saying, "Fabian defenders club," as he did at the start of this interview.)

When he listens to Fabian's original recordings, however, he admits, "I wish the stuff wasn't so overproduced. I think, 'Man, they should get rid of those background singers and just let him growl. These songs are good. Most of them were written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman [who also wrote "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "A Teenager in Love"]. I thought, if we can toughen them up, maybe we can shine a light on this material.' "

In addition to Fabian, Pink Slip Daddy wanted to pay tribute to vintage Philadelphia rock and soul.

"If you grow up here and are of a certain age, that stuff is in your blood," Vaughn says. "Even if you went to Woodstock, or became a punk rock fan, or got into industrial music, you can't get 'The Mashed Potato' out of your system. When you hear it, there's no way you're not going to feel something, and it's a very Delaware Valley kind of feeling. And that's what we are: We're a Delaware Valley punk band."

Pink Slip Daddy with the Klitz. 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St. $12-$15, 267-639-4528,