Ron Hargrave isn't exactly a household name, even among rock & roll history buffs, but he managed to slip in and out of a couple of popular culture showcases that put him on the edge of a potentially major career. Born in New York to a family of vaudeville performers, Hargrave moved with his family to California in 1936 and after graduating from high school, he aspired to a movie career. The early '50s saw him doing minor stunt work and playing bit parts in mostly low-budget movies, but fate took a hand when Hargrave was drafted.
At some point in his military service, he met Lou Costello, of Abbott & Costello fame, and the comic legend became Hargrave's manager. Upon his discharge, Hargrave was cast in his biggest onscreen role as Ernie the hipster in Abbott & Costello's final film, Dance With Me Henry. This put Hargrave in a position to play a comic version of a character new to movies and to the public: the male rock & roller. In the movie, Hargrave played a teenage lothario interested in Costello's onscreen foster daughter (Gigi Perreau), who is always carrying a ukulele and singing rock & roll. In a memorably funny exchange, Costello, as the exasperated foster father, tells him to "stop with that oogly doogly," meaning the rock & roll he's always singing, to which Hargrave responds, "That's bop man -- bop!" Costello, trying to keep Hargrave quiet, replies, "You're gonna get bopped!" Dance With Me Henry -- whose title was taken from a Georgia Gibbs record that, itself, was a cleaned-up rip-off of Hank Ballard's "Work With Me Annie" -- was Hargrave's most visible screen appearance. Along with Ronnie Burns (who played Wallace the hipster in The Honeymooners episode where Ralph and Alice go roller-skating), he was one of the most visible pop culture manifestations of a young rock & roller, just as the music was rising to the fore.
At Costello's insistence, Hargrave was signed to MGM Records by producer Jesse Kaye and he cut a half-dozen singles as a recording artist, none of which charted but some of which represented solid rockabilly. "Latch On," "Drive In Movie," and "Buttercup," all of which give Hargrave writing or co-writing credit, have all been reissued by Bear Family Records on its That'll Flat Git It series. Hargrave turned out to be a better than decent singer, somewhere midway between Jerry Lee Lewis and Ricky Nelson, with a sense of humor that recalled J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson.
Hargrave's next big pop culture appearance came as songwriter. In early 1958, by way of his association with MGM Records, he wrote the title theme to the movie High School Confidential, which was being shot on the MGM studio lot. Through a deal worked out by their managers, Jerry Lee Lewis, who cut the song for the single and the movie (and did an onscreen appearance singing it), also got co-writing credit. The song became the last of Lewis' rock & roll hits before the roof fell in on his career, owing to his marriage to his 13-year-old cousin. Hargrave also spent time with Lewis on tour that year, before the crash. Ironically, the song and the movie have both endured as pop culture fixtures for decades and the opening credits featuring Lewis miming to the song is one of the most well-known rock & roll performance clips in all of 1950s cinema. Hargrave later signed with Capitol Records and a decade after High School Confidential, had a hit in Japan with a song called "Lonely Soldier Boy." ~ Bruce Eder~ Rovi