Continued . . . Page 4
The First Recording
Roland's popularity was noticed by some important people in the entertainment
industry, including Bernie Lowe (one of the owners of the Cameo & Parkway record
labels). Lowe came home from work one night and found his daughter glued to the
TV set watching the antics of Roland. When Lowe asked his daughter about the
character, she said he was all the rage among the local teens. Lowe watched as
Zach recited crazy horror limericks, some of which fans sent in, and got the idea
to record Roland.
The result was "Dinner with Drac", a medium tempo rock song
which Zacherle half sung and half recited. On the record he was backed by Dave
Appell and the Applejacks, the house band at Cameo Records. One of the memorable
features of the record is wailing sax. Dick Clark claims to have been at this
session. It is also rumored that Clark refused to play "Dinner with Drac" on
American Bandstand, so Zacherle recut it using milder Iyrics. Incidentally, the
record was originally issued with Igor on the flip side, but was quickly reissued
with "Dinner with Drac, Part 1", the milder version, on the air play side. The
record was a big hit and went up to number 6 on the Billboard chart, prompting
Zacherle to make appearances on American Bandstand and a number of teen
orientated shows. Zach's billing on the record label is interesting--it states:
John Zacherle - "The Cool Ghoul" who plays Roland. Zacherle gives Dick Clark
credit for calling him The Cool Ghoul. A sequel, "Eighty Two Tombstones", was cut
but was not successful, most likely because Zacherle was in the process of moving
to New York at the time it was released.
Zach Leaves WCAU
Speaking of the move to New York, it has never been 100% clear as to why Zacherle
ended such a successful run on WCAU prematurely, but it appears that a great deal
of unpleasantness on both sides regarding salary, ownership of the character, and
other details may have precipitated the change. Zach had made some contacts in
New York City as a result of the success of "Dinner with Drac" and was able to
negotiate a deal for himself at the WABC affiliate, Channel 7, just at the time
his one year contract with WCAU was ending. The Manhattan station had been airing
the Shock Theatre package since 1957, around the same time that WCAU started to
run them. WABC didn't have a live host, using instead a Frank Galop styled
Around this time, Zacherle made a motion picture, a murder mystery called Key to Murder.
Zach portrayed a detective and many of the Action in the Afternoon actors
also had parts in the film. Zach remembers that the film either had a limited
theatrical run or no theatrical run and then went directly to local Philadelphia
television stations. It probably has never played on New York television.
Interestingly enough, the film was included for review in early editions of
Steven Schurer's book, Movies On Television.
Zacherley, With A "Y"
As the premiere of Zach's WABC show came closer, TV Guide and the local papers
were utilized for a promotional campaign. Coming September 22, 1958, Master Ghoul
Zacherley will host Shock Theater Monday and Friday". The letter "Y" was added to
Zach's name to make pronunciation easier. Unlike the large set on WCAU, Zach had
to content himself with a smaller crypt at WABC, but since it was nicely
decorated in macabre fashion, it made an excellent place for Zach to carry on his
ghoulish escapades. Photographs taken at the time show that care was taken to
build a set that really looked like a combination laboratory/crypt with a nice
variety of props including skull, beakers, shrunken heads, and candles.