Double Life: The Great Pretender

Singer Says He Once Was With Sha Na Na

For more than 30 years, Jocko Marcellino and Screamin' Scott Simon have made a living acting like their idols: doo-wop singers from the 1950s .

They are the founders of Sha Na Na, the musical group with the grease and the goofy hit television show in the '70s.

"They're not the latest hits, but they're the greatest hits," Simon says of the songs the group popularizes. "We're not stars. We didn't write the songs; we didn't sing the original hits."

Nevertheless, the group built itself up into headliners, the most memorable of which was probably John "Bowzer" Bauman. Famous for a pose in which he simultaneously flexes a muscle and opens his mouth, Bowzer was that kind of greasy but intensely vulnerable character that really did exist in the '60s and in the '50s.

Bowzer and the others are in their 50s now, and their music lives on.

Sha Na Na sold millions of records, but they never had a hit of their own. They would interpret the hits of others; in a sense, they were the great pretenders. But it was all in fun, at least until one day, when a greaser with a great voice showed up in Florida fooled a lot of people.

Danny C. was not just a great pretender; he was a great imposter, reports Correspondent Bill Lagattuta for 48 Hours..

The story begins in Florida, where doo-wop bands have always been a hit in the bars and clubs along the beach.

Tommy Mara's group, the Saints, and Joe Locicero and the Mello Kings are two of Florida's top local groups. Both men remember being thrilled to hear that a living legend, former Sha Na Na singer Vinny Taylor, had moved to town

"He had a nice Sha Na Na jacket. He had a Sha Na Na gold charm," says Mara. "And you know, he had the talk. He talked the talk and he walked the walk."

He even had his own Web site, where fans could log on and see all the rock and roll legends he had allegedly performed with over his career.

Locicero and Mara couldn't believe their luck when Danny C. asked their groups to back up his show.

They arranged a sold-out show featuring Tommy and The Saints and then Danny C. from Sha Na Na. The crowds loved it.

"The first minute I put eyes on him, I said, 'Whew, he just did it for me, he really did,'" said fan Jessica Hart. "They put on a good show."

For Hart, Danny C. was not just a talented singer, he was the man of her dreams.

"He was very much a gentleman, knows how to treat a lady," she said. " I just felt safe with him."

Danny C. told her stories from his past, including that he was called Vinny , his stage name, whenever he performed; he was never called Danny C. onstage.

"He told me about Woodstock, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix. He said he talked with all of them," she recalled. "He told me that he traveled with Sha Na Na throughout 17 differencountries."

Within months, Danny C. and Hart moved in together. "Our relationship just flowed," she said. " It couldn't have been any better."

The found their dreams coming true: a waterfront home, and a new CD for Danny. Then Hart began to notice little things.

"We would be in bed at night and he would just jump out of bed and run to the window," she recalled. "He never wanted people coming into our apartment and he would tell me a lot of times, 'Whatever you do, just don't bring up the Sha Na Na thing."

Joe Locicero noticed small things, too. "He was a little paranoid about little certain things," Locicero recalled. "If I would talk to somebody, he would ask me, 'What'd that guy say?'"

Eventually, Locicero knew something was wrong.

"I had some people come over to me at some show saying that he wasn't the right guy," Locicero said. They would tell him "He's not the guy, he's not the guy. He's a phony - that's what they told me," Locicero said.

Mara had a similar experience: "About five minutes after his performance, I seen a lot of ruckus in the back of the auditorium. And the owner of the show palace came up to me and said,'We got a problem. There's people here that are saying Danny C's a phony.' I says, 'What, that can't be.' I mean he says he's Danny C, he's got the jewelry"

Locicero called Sha Na Na to check. They told him that the "Danny C." was a fraud.

Sha Na Na's Simon told Locicero that Danny C. couldn't be Vinny Taylor, because Taylor had died of a drug overdose in 1974.

"That bothered me when he told me that," Locicero said, " 'ause I says, 'Why ain't you stopping him?'"

Marcellino and Simon said the guy was a nuisance but the other Sha Na Na members didn't want to go to the trouble and expense of hiring lawyers to get him to stop.

When Locicero confronted Danny C., he said, "He told me he was Taylor, he was the legit Taylor. And that's when he sent me all the proof. He sent me a Social Security card. He sent me birth certificates."

And when Locicero said Vinny Taylor is dead, Danny C. said that was all a scam.

The truth about Danny C. is that for 27 years he has been a fugitive, running the law.

While Danny C. was busy building his career in Florida, the double life he was leading was about to catch up with him. Lou Kinkle, a New Jersey State Police detective, had been handed an old murder case; he was asked to find Edward Solly, a murderer who had escaped from prison 27 years ago.

Solly was serving time for killing his girlfriend's 2-year-old son, Christopher Welsh.

"What we understand the reason why he became upset with Christopher was he didn't like the way Christopher was staring at him at the dinner tale," Kinkle explained. "And he just picked the child up, threw the child to the ground and just continually beat him."

Solly admitted hitting the child but said he had never hit him with a closed fist. "That's not true. That's not true, " he said.

Solly was sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison, and was later transferred to a minimum security facility, where he was allowed to go on furloughs to visit his elderly mother.

On the third visit, he was not escorted by guards, but by a vocational counselor. Solly disappeared and was never seen again, at least not under that name.

Only his mother knew where her only son was, and she wouldn't tell police.

But when Solly's mother died in 2000, Kinkle decided it was time to talk to Harry Bolt, Solly's stepfather.

" Maybe now that she's dead, we might be able to get somewhere," Kinkle said. Bolt told him Solly was a singer in Florida, going by the name Danny C. It didn't take Kinkle long to find the Web page.

So the authorities went to Florida to pick him up. They found him fishing on a pier.

Solly remembered the moment as devastating. " Devastating because my world that I knew now had totally exploded," he said.

His arrest was big news in Florida.

"I was in shock," said Mara.

"As much as one is tempted to find humor in this," said Bowzer, "when it turns out that the person in question is a murderer, and not only that, the murderer of a child, the humor really ends."

Hart's heart was broken. "I cried and I cried," she said. " I couldn't believe it. I was devastated."

Solly will most likely be behind bars until the year 2010, authorities say. He won't be able to con audiences for a while, but he still seems to be working on one of the people he duped.

His Florida girlfriend has had a change of heart. She now thinks he's not guilty and has been corresponding with him in prison. On Aug. 20, he asked her to marry him and she said yes.

"I got to know the real Edward Solly, the real person, the everyday person, not the Vinny of Sha Na Na or Danny C," Hart said. " I got to know Eddie and that's the person I'm in love with."

As for Solly's favorite group, Sha Na Na is still riding the nostalgia wave of the 1950s. And Mara and Locicero haven't missed a beat, capitalizing on that same nostalgia.