by | May 19, 2021 | Podcast, WDW Blog

This week on WDW ESCAPE, take a journey of the imagination with us, as we IMAGINE The Dapper Dans

For more info on WDW Escape, click here— or listen to all our episodes. Listen to today’s Imagine: The Dapper Dans episode while following along with the transcript and photos below!

IMAGINE- The Dapper Dans

The Dapper Dans preparing for another performance at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Photo by Cliff Wang

Everybody comes to Main Street USA, and that is by design. If you want to spend your day at the Magic Kingdom, and what reasonable person does not, then your day begins with a trip down that magical road.

I suppose if you were really determined, the Walt Disney World Railroad used to offer an alternative route, but that seems like a lot of effort to avoid one of the most welcoming places in the universe.

And that must be the point. In order to immerse yourself in the worlds of the imagination that lay waiting for you, it is necessary to walk a few blocks in the shoes of a young Walt Disney, who grew up in Marceline Missouri, a small town that, colored by fond memory, was very much like the Main Street USA that we all know and love.

But if you are a Rope-Dropper by nature, and I am, no matter how much Main Street USA feels like home, it is hard not to sometimes approach it like an obstacle, a thing to be breezed past in an effort to get an extra ride on Peter Pan’s Flight.

And that is a shame. Sometimes we all need someone to remind us to stop and smell the roses. To celebrate the simpler time that gave birth to the great big beautiful tomorrow we are currently enjoying. This looks like a job for the Dapper Dans!

Nothing stops you in your tracks quite like those four sweet voices, raised together in perfect, happy harmony. The Dapper Dans remind us that the whole world is sweeter when we take the time to listen, and to truly be where we are.

The Dapper Dans in their multicolored attire

Photo by Cliff Wang

Barbershop quartets may have been a common thing in the America of Walt Disney’s youth, but it is fair to say that, for many park guests, especially the young ones, the Dapper Dans may be the very first they have ever heard.

In their immaculate striped jackets in four bright colors, and their classic straw boater hats, they are a part of a grand musical tradition that goes back to the early years of the last century.

The group has some impressive history of their own. Not only did they perform at the opening ceremonies for Walt Disney World itself in October of 1971, but they were already a Disney tradition long before, having originated at Disneyland in California in 1959 when the Bass singer, TJ Marker, re-christened the existing Disneyland quartet.

They began to pepper their shows with vaudeville-style banter and corny “Dad” jokes, a tradition that has carried on to this day.

Where does Captain Hook go to get a replacement hook? … The Second-Hand Store

Why is Peter Pan always flying around? …. Because he can Never-never-land

Where does Eeyore go to get a new tail? … The Re-tail Store

And it goes on like this.

The Dapper Dans performing for guests at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Photo by Laurie Sapp

As far back as the Disneyland days, the Dapper Dans began to incorporate a little tap-dancing into their routines, and while no one would mistake them for a dance troupe, it remains an important part of the act.

Steve Martin once said that it was impossible to be sad when playing the banjo, and I would offer that the same is doubly true for watching brightly-clad close harmony singers “shuffle off to Buffalo” while singing “Coney Island Baby”.

What could possibly do more to remind you that you are somewhere special, and that the rules that govern the serious and somber parts of the world simply do not apply when walking right down the middle of Main Street USA?

Now, you can’t be a Barber Shop quartet without a Barber Shop. Well, you probably could, but the Walt Disney World Dapper Dans have made the Harmony Barbershop their unofficial headquarters for many years, often serenading customers as their hair is cut.

And is there any finer example of a Disney lover stopping to smell the roses? To truly take the time to be where they are, and seize the moment? Have you ever stopped and had your hair cut on Main Street USA? If so, let us know, because you are my hero.

I can barely manage to slow down enough to take a Photo Pass picture in the quest to ride more rides, enjoy more snacks and have more fun… and you’re stopping for a haircut while America’s most beloved barbershop quartet serenades you. Magnificent!

The Dapper Dans sing with a smile, while dressed in their holiday attire

Photo by Cliff Wang

Of course, you can’t have a Dapper Dans performance without the Degan Organ Chimes, first patented in the year 1900 and made by the Deagan Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Illinois.

If you’ve ever heard these bells played, you will recognize their lovely, almost haunting tone, and it is even more impressive to watch, as the multi-talented Dapper Dans gather to play one melody on eight chimes, rung in sequence.

They have a charmingly antique sound, like a far-off fairground calling to you from somewhere long ago. They are as much a part of Dapper Dans mythology as their custom-made four-seater bicycle, the first of which was commissioned for the Disneyland Dans by Walt Disney himself, who was a great fan of the group.

That’s a lot to live up to, but today’s Dapper Dans do their predecessors proud in every way. 

And how many Dapper Dans are there altogether? It isn’t easy to say, but in 2020 when the parks closed due to the pandemic, Disney Parks shared a number of very beautiful “Voices From Home” YouTube performances from the Disneyland Dans that featured up to sixteen singers at a time.

Performing beloved songs from park attractions, Disney classics and the songs from the barbershop repertoire, these performances were a welcome visit “home” for Disney fans the world over in a difficult time.

As the world begins to return to normal, we will need places like Main Street USA more than ever, to remind us of happy days and simpler times. 

And no one is better at whisking us away with the power of song, a two-step or three and more Dad jokes than you can shake an Organ chime at, than our very own acappella heroes, the Dapper Dans.

Written by WDW Magazine

Written by WDW Magazine

At WDW Magazine, our mission is to help you feel the magic of Walt Disney World at the touch of a button, or the turn of a page. Whether you prefer the instant access of our Digital Edition, or the glossy pages of our Print Edition, WDW Magazine will make you feel like you’re in the middle of the magic.