The Treniers are a rowdy, rocking stage act that
combines acrobatic dancing, burlesque comedy, and stunts, all timed to music. All told,
there were 10 Trenier children, most of whom play or played with the act at one time or
another, but the major players were the identical twins Claude and Cliff (b. Mobile, July
14, 1919; Cliff d. 1983), Buddy, and 10th-born Milt. The older brother Buddy was first to
play professionally, in Mobile, but the act began officially when Claude, working in NYC
in 1944, convinced his boss, jazz-band leader Jimmie Lunceford, to hire Cliff as well.
With Lunceford, the twins learned the business, both stage and record. They left his wing in 1945, and Claude split for the coast, where he spent the year 1946 playing various venues, including one with Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers. His success inspired Cliff to meet him there in LA. Cliff was followed by Milt a bit later. Don Hill and Gene Gilbeaux were with them by 1948, when the act was starting to develop its unique sound. They went on the road, and when in Chicago in 1949, The Blue Note Cafe there billed them as "The Rockin', Rollin' Treniers."
Most of their early work was blues and humorous ballads, but they were quick to jump on the "rockin'" bandwagon in the late 40's. They recorded for many labels, but because their act was mostly visual, they really shined in movies and on television. "Everybody Get Together" was originally done in 1949 by Teddy Brannon, but the Treniers made it rock. In the 50's, brothers Buddy, Denny, and Denny's son Skip, joined the act. Today, Don Hill is still with the band, and the Treniers act seems so be interminable, with new generations of Treniers being added all the time to join the remaining originals, some of whom seem to be immortal. Seven of the 10 Trenier siblings are still alive as of 1999.
In May of 1954, America's television audience was
first introduced to rock and roll when the Treniers appeared on the Colgate Comedy Hour with Jerry
Lewis and Dean Martin. The first song they did was "Rockin' Is Our Bizness,"
replete with humorous stage antics by the Treniers and Lewis, and after this The Treniers
let Jerry Lewis sit in on drums, resulting in a rocking jam session / comedy routine that
is hysterical to watch. This makes it a curious but true piece of rock and roll trivia,
that the first white person ever to play rock and roll on television was not Elvis, not
Ricky Nelson, not Eddie Cochran, not Jerry Lee Lewis, but Jerry (no Lee) Lewis!! You can
purchase this great video via the link on Slick Trenier's web site below. After that TV
appearance, Jerry Lewis became a big fan of theirs, and they always appeared on his
Telethons for decades afterwards.
In 1982, Claude told writer Nick Tosches, "I remember we were playing the Riptide in Wildwood, NJ, in the summer of 1950. Bill Haley had a cowboy band, the Saddlemen, that played right across the street from us. He used to come in and watch us. He asked us what we called the music we were playing. And we told him. Hell, we told him." (Haley, 4 years later, cut "Rock Around The Clock").
The Treniers have been performing for over 55 years, and they might be the oldest still-active rock group on earth. A schedule of their shows, as well as a biography written by nephew Slick Trenier, with photos, can be found at Slick's website:
EVERYBODY GET TOGETHER -Recorded
LA., Feb., 1950. Claude, Cliff, Milt Trenier, vocals; Don Hill, alto sax; Gene Gilbeaux,
piano; unk. bass, drums, other horns and winds.
ROCKIN' IS OUR BIZNESS -An interpretation of Lunceford's 1930's swing number "Rhythm Is Our Business," which the twins picked up when they were in Lunceford's band, and rockified it.
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