In the early to mid 1960s, Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds were frequent visitors to a fraternity known as Delta House at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Delta Tau Delta, confirmed by numerous sources as one of several frats the movie Animal House was based on, was the wildest, rowdiest venue the band played at according to multiple band members.
James K. “Hap” Snow commented that it was the only frat they played at regularly that had “mattresses lying around the sides of the performance area.” Both he and fellow Whirlwind Michael Kaye shared similar stories of debauchery that could have come directly from the movie, almost all involving the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol, colorful, too-crazy-to-believe characters, and, yes, closets, alcoves, and a basement that were often “occupied”.
Greek Letters Replaced with “Bones Gate”
In 1962, the band pulled up to a gig at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house and the Greek letters had been removed and the name “Bones Gate,” along with a skull and crossbones, stood in their place. Michael Kaye recalls: “Delta Tau Delta was probably the most poorly-appearing house we visited. The sign was over the front entrance (where Greek letters are usually placed–and where we previously saw them there) and appeared – on a wooden plaque- with the title, “Bones Gate” above a skull and crossbones emblem. “
Was this some double-secret probation violation for transgressions involving alcohol, hazing, poor academic performance, or some combination thereof? In fact, the story is much bigger and more important than that, as the reason the Greek letters were removed is the direct result of the national Civil Rights Movement and its impact on one small Ivy League college, a well-respected New England educational institution established by a Puritan minister in 1769.
Campus Referendum on Civil Rights
As early as 1952, a Dartmouth fraternity was de-recognized by its national chapter over a dispute concerning admitting minority members, thus making it one of the first institutions of higher education in the country to desegregate fraternity houses. A couple of years later, a campus-wide referendum was held in which the majority voted to require all fraternities on campus “to eliminate racially discriminatory membership policies by the year 1960.” A second requirement obligated the fraternities to withdraw from any national groups that continued to retain discriminatory policies in their charters.
By the time the Whirlwinds saw “Bones Gate” affixed to the front of Delta Tau Delta, a number of prominent Dartmouth College fraternities had also disassociated from their national organizations, including Phi Sigma Kappa, Phi Delta Theta, Sigma Chi, and Sigma Nu. Fifty years later, it appears Bones Gate is still being used as a fraternity house.
Bones Gate Name From English Tavern
The origin of the ominous-sounding “Bones Gate” is more straightforward. A number of brothers from the Dartmouth College fraternity participated in a foreign study program in England around this time period. Bones Gate, located in Chessington, was the name of one of the taverns and boarding houses they frequented.
Typical Whirlwinds’ Set List in the early 1960s
A list of songs typically played by Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds in 1962 includes (thanks to Michael Kaye for his invaluable assistance compiling this track list):
- “At The Hop” (Danny & the Juniors version-Artie Singer, John Medora & David White)
- “Do You Love Me” (The Contours version-Berry Gordy, Jr.)
- “Great Balls of Fire” (Jerry Lee Lewis version-Otis Blackwell with Jack Hammer)
- “Hey! Baby” (Bruce Channel & Margaret Cobb)
- “Honky Tonk“ (Bill Doggett, Shep Shepherd, Clifford Scott & Billy Butler)
- “Hound Dog” (Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller)
- “I Like It Like That” (Chris Kenner & Allen Toussaint)
- “I’m Walkin’” (Fats Domino & Dave Bartholomew)
- “In the Still of the Night” (Five Satins version-Fred Parris)
- “Johnny B. Goode” (Chuck Berry)
- “Let’s Twist Again” (Chubby Checker version-Kal Mann & Dave Appell)
- ”Little Darlin’”(The Diamonds version-Maurice Williams)
- “Peppermint Twist” (Joey Dee & the Starliters)
- “Rock Around the Clock” (Bill Haley & His Comets version-Max C. Freedman & James R. Myers)
- “Runaway” (Del Shannon & Max Crook)
- “Searchin’” (The Coasters version-Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller)
- “Shake, Rattle & Roll” (Bill Haley & His Comets version-Charles E. Calhoun)
- “Shout” (The Isley Brothers)
- “Tequila” (The Champs version-Daniel Flores)
- “The Twist” (Chubby Checker version-Hank Ballard)
- “Twist and Shout” (The Isley Brothers version-Phil Medley & Bert Berns)
- “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (Freddy Cannon version-Joe Turner Layton & Henry Creamer)
- “What’d I Say, Pt 1 and 2” (Ray Charles)
- “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (Jerry Lee Lewis version-Dave Williams & James Faye Hall)
- “You Send Me” (Sam Cooke)
In addition, according to Snow, “What’d I Say” was so popular that not only everyone in the audience sang along on their versions of side-A and side-B, but they often had to play it one last time before the end of the performance.
In lieu of live Whirlwinds’ recordings from 1962, here are a pair of tracks recorded by Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds the next year, starting with “He Can Have Her”:
Musicians include Billy Elgart on drums, Steve Fradkin on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Michael Kaye on piano and vocals, and Hap Snow on lead guitar and vocals on this track as well as “She” each written by Steve James:
A previously unreleased edit of “Where’s Harry?” on acetate featuring Art Bearon, Harry Lewis, Hap Snow, and Stefano Torossi was received this week.
The original version of Hap Snow’s Whirlwinds’ “Where’s Harry?” is on SoundCloud:
And keeping the late 50s-early 60s rock flow, here’s a medley by Michael Kaye that includes three classics of the era, “Splish Splash,” “Walk, Don’t Run,” and “Wipeout,” recorded live at The Driftwood in Revere Beach, Massachusetts in 1985: