Posted on May 25, 2006

By Ross Marvin '07

Q: Who put the bop in the bop-shoo-bop-shoo-bop? Who put the ram in the rama-lama ding-dong?

A: Union's original doo-wop sensations, Chet Arthur and the Flaming Aces, in their farewell concert last weekend at Memorial Chapel.

Chet Arthur & Flaming Aces, ReUnion

These self-described “guys in their fifties,” Don Amira '75, Mark MacDonald '75, Jonny Levin '75, Michael Goldsmith '76, Jim Kestenbaum '76, Bill Martin '76 and Sam Shor '76, sing songs from the '50s, and do it well. MacDonald, who holds down the bass end of the group, even fits into the same tank top, black jeans and sunglasses he wore to performances when he was a Union undergrad.

For the second straight year, Chet and the gang reunited to sing such hits as “Teen Angel” and “In the Still of the Night,” using the same a cappella arrangements they used 30 years ago. Then, they were one of the most popular acts on campus, sharing the stage with the Garnet Minstrels and Dutch Pipers.

The Aces began as an offshoot of the men's glee club, to which all of the Aces belonged.

“We used to sing oldies on the bus rides to our performances and in the crowd at basketball games,” says Amira, whose son, Dan, is now a junior at Union. “Soon enough, we had the idea to put together a group, so we greased our hair up, rolled up our pant legs and started practicing. We knew we had to have a lead singer and a group as part of the '50s tradition, so we figured you couldn't do any better than Chet Arthur.”

Chet Arthur & Flaming Aces

The doo-wop dudes were known for starting every show with a dramatic moment. Most notably, they drove a motorcycle down the Memorial Chapel aisle to jumpstart the crowd before a concert.

While at Union, the group also took to the road, performing at Hampshire College, Utica College, Russell Sage and the University of Albany, where one of their performances was televised for a local telethon.

A highlight of the show last weekend, during ReUnion, and a mainstay in their repertoire back in the '70s was their performance of the complete catalogue of the College songs.

“We always stressed the importance of the alma mater and the College songs,” says Goldsmith. “Now as alumni, we don't want to see them fade away. It was nice to come back here and perform with the Garnet Minstrels and the Dutch Pipers, and for all the people in the audience who may not often hear these songs. We did this last show because we love Union and we love singing.

“After 33 years, it still feels good.”