Check Out the History of the Dapper Dans at Disney Parks on National Barbershop Quartet Day!

Today is National Barbershop Quartet Day. For this annual holiday, it is only appropriate to recognize and honor the Disney Parks very own Barbershop Quarter, the Dapper Dans. Since 1959, the Dapper Dans have been making melodies at Disney Parks starting at Disneyland and then expanding to Walt Disney World Resort and beyond.

To celebrate this day, the Dapper Dans shared their story on the Disney Parks Blog. This can be seen in full here:

  • The Dapper Dans have been delighting guests strolling down Main Street, U.S.A. since 1959.
  • The first Dapper Dan group was formed at Disneyland park. With the opening of Walt Disney World, the group packed their bags and headed out east to help open Magic Kingdom Park.
  • Park Talent Supervisor Charles “Chuck” Corson played an integral role in establishing this beloved barbershop quartet.

Do re mi fa so…ahem. Sorry about that, folks. We’re used to singing, not writing.

After all, we’re the world-famous Dapper Dans of Main Street, U.S.A., and you may know us as the funniest barbershop quartet in a two-block radius. We usually sing classic barbershop tunes (including your favorite song: the last one), but today we’re here to tell you all about our history in honor of National Barbershop Quartet Day.

We whipped out some vintage photos from 1960, 1972, 1995 and 2012!
We whipped out some vintage photos from 1960, 1972, 1995 and 2012!

Since 1959, we’ve been serenading you as you walk right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A., but barbershop quartets themselves date all the way back to the late 1800s. Men would mingle and sing together while they waited for haircuts, harmonizing and (we can only imagine) swapping the same kind of quick-witted puns we entertain you with to this day.

Now you’re probably wondering why this seemingly random day in April is the nationally recognized day of barbershop harmony. Well, we are glad you asked. On April 11, 1938, 26 men convened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to sing. That very moment, folks, is considered the birth of the organized barbershop quartet. That group turned into the Barbershop Harmony Society, and now we get to celebrate our birthday on that day every single year. If only we knew how to harmonize to the birthday song…that’s a head scratcher.

Thanks to our Deagan Organ Chimes, our tunes are timeless.

These days, we still make sure to tip our hats to our heritage. Have you ever seen those big ol’ instruments we play to accompany our oh-so-charming melodies? Those are a nod to Deagan Organ Chimes, which peaked in popularity in the early 20th century. In fact, they weren’t really manufactured past the 1920s. But we’ve been using them since the early 1970s to play those barbershop chords you love — and even some discord, too.

Left: The Dapper Dans go way back — here we are in 1960! Right: Our good friend Chuck was honored with a window above Main Street, U.S.A.

The first barbershop performers at Disneyland park were actually a 1957 group called Four Guys and a Girl! But we really kicked off our shenanigans in the summer of 1959, just a few short years after the opening of the Disneyland Resort. Park Talent Supervisor Charles “Chuck” Corson — who had previously worked in casting at The Walt Disney Studios — was responsible for wrangling together what transformed into our barbershop crew. Those members came straight from a popular singing group back in the day called Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians. 

Shortly after, in 1960, Chuck stumbled upon four college boys who visited the park as big fans of the early quartet. According to our pal Chuck, they were “absolutely sensational” — so he brought them in to carry on the tradition and harness that small town, old timey feeling. From there, the Dapper Dans have continued to serve up tasty tunes like no other, an entertainment tradition spanning more than six decades. As for Walt Disney World Resort? Well, our West Coast contingent packed their bags in 1971 and headed east to help open the Magic Kingdom Park! 

How do we find such dapper individuals today? Well, we come from near and far to perform and wear our straw hats. We once heard of a fellow who came to join our quartet after he got fired from making calendars. Why was he fired you ask? Well, he took too many days off (symbol crash, with snare drum). Point is, we all make our harmonies soar to help you say bye-bye to those blues as you walk into the park and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy. In fact, our medley of melodies has proven so popular that we’ve seen versions of the barbershop quartet popping up in our Paris and Hong Kong parks in addition to both U.S. coasts!

We have a more ghoulish reputation as the Cadaver Dans.  

While we usually keep it classic in our matching striped suits (which we’ve been rocking for decades!), you may have seen us in some seasonal get-up, too. We slowly worked those elements into our performances from audience requests! Now as the Cadaver Dans, we dig up a whole new lineup of spooky songs — and we change our key from frightful to delightful just in time for the holiday season. 

Well, folks, it’s been a swell trip down memory lane, but it’s time for us to head to Main Street for our next show. We hope we’ll see you out there someday soon, so long as you promise to laugh at our jokes. And on that “note,” we’re “tapping” out.

The Dapper Dans are always a favorite among fans visiting Disneyland and Magic Kingdom. Through the years, Daps Magic has enjoyed capturing their magical melodies in the parks. Below is a playlist with plenty of videos of the Dapper Dans. What is your favorite tune from the Dapper Dans? Share your thoughts, opinions, and memories in the comments below!

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