Bo Wagner Tap Dancing Career

Dr. Bo has received many inquiries if he is the same Bo Wagner that had a very successful entertainment career on stage, TV, movies and recordings. The answer is yes. Many of these same people have asked him to expound upon his career and give a history of his background. The purpose of the several Dr. Bo articles on this site is to comply with these multiple requests.

Early years

Bo Wagner was an accomplished entertainer. He began performing at a very young age. His first performance as a tap dancing professional happened when he was just five years old on the Bill Baily TV Show in Dayton, Ohio, which he frequently performed on for the next two years. Besides being a tap dancer, over the years, Bo Wagner also became a skillful drummer, vibes, marimba and electronic keyboard player, singer, choreographer, studio musician, arranger, producer, actor and a dance and music teacher.

Harvey Recore the leader of the band on the daily Bill Baily Show and Bobby Wagner

Harvey Recore the leader of the band on the daily Bill Baily Show and Bobby Wagner

Bobby Wagner at 7 Years Old Touring the Country

Bobby Wagner at 7 Years Old Touring the Country

At seven years old, he began touring and performing musical and dance acts in renowned hotels and nightclubs from coast to coast with major artists such as: Milton Berle, George Gobel, Steve Lawrence, Step Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra. Some of the venues, nightclubs and hotels he performed at from the age of 7-10 years old, were the Catskills in New York, the Morrison Hotel and Blue Angel Club in Chicago, the Chase Hotel in St Louis, the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, the Davenport Hotel in Spokane Washington and the Moulin Rouge and Ciro’s showroom and nightclub in Hollywood California.

Picture of Step Brothers and Bobby Wagner

Picture of Step Brothers and Bobby Wagner

George Gobel and Bobby Wagner

George Gobel and Bobby Wagner

Soon after Bo arrived in Hollywood, he was hired to tap dance on the Gisele McKenzie Show performing as a young George Raft. Many people don’t realize that George Raft started off as a tap dancer and George himself auditioned Bo. The audition took place in a big rehearsal hall with just Bo and George. George sat in the middle of the room with both arms and legs cross while Bo tap danced for him. Talk about being on the hot plate. George Raft loved Bo and chose him to portray himself on the TV show. It was a great privilege for Bo to get to work one on one with one of his idols and learn his particular style of dance.

Here is the real George Raft dancing to Sweet Georgia Brown, the same song that Bo Wagner danced to on the Gisele McKenzie mimicking George's style of dance.

 

 

 One of the biggest highlights of Bo’s career was when he was 11 years old. The movie industry was planning a salute to Fred Astaire to be held at the Beverly Hills Country Club. They wanted someone to perform a tap dance of excerpts of Fred’s famous movie routines. Bo had the biggest surprise of his life, as he was chosen to perform this number. He choreographed it himself and performed it before Fred, who was setting at a head table on stage with the heads of MGM Studios and before many members of the movie industry, including other great dancers like Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Eleanor Powell, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland to name just a few. Bo received a standing ovation and in an interview afterwards, the press asked Fred what it was like watching Bo tap dance and Fred was quoted as saying “Watching Bo Wagner dance was like watching my shadow dance.”  Bo was on cloud nine hearing this and Fred and Bo actually became friends. Fred shared some of his dancing tips with Bo and told him his biggest secret to his dance numbers was “Off Balance, Recover”. He pointed out to Bo in his routines he would lean on a slant and that it would look like he was almost going to fall and then he recovered. Fred said this gave his numbers an edge of excitement. Bo used this tip for rest of his dancing career. What an honor for Bo, to have his biggest idol, share his dancing moves with him.

Check out this popular video of Fred Astaire, Youtube description follows: “In this Swing Time clip, Lucky, Astaire, saves Penny's, Rogers, job by showing how much she has taught him. The first true dance number with the two, the other being with Fred fumbling and pretending to be a terrible dancer. Both scenes, however, go to the same song, Pick Yourself Up, this scene without lyrics and much more lively with the other more calm, with lyrics, between the two.”

 

 

 

 Bo Wagner was a member of the Lawrence Welk Show

Bo was only twelve years old when he became a member of the Lawrence Welk Show.  This show was an American variety TV program hosted by Lawrence Welk, and was one of longest running TV shows ever. It aired in Los Angeles from 1951 to 1955, and then nationwide from 1955 to 1981. 

Bo Wagner on the Lawrence Welk Show

Bo Wagner on the Lawrence Welk Show

In this YouTube video we can see Jack Imel, Bo Wagner, and mouseketeer Cubby O’Brien in action. They are playing “Chinatown” in the Lawrence Welk Show, the year is 1960.

 

 

 

Bo Wagner stayed with The Lawrence Welk TV Show for several years. He was a member of the band and was featured as a tap dancer, drummer, mallet player, and there are videos of his performances on YouTube.

Picture of Bo Wagner and Chet DeMilo

Picture of Bo Wagner and Chet DeMilo

One year later, when he was thirteen and still a member of the Lawrence Welk Band, Bo formed his own showband. Bo had a number of different showbands and reviews and for a several years had a partnership, with another all-around entertainer, Chet DeMilo.  He, Chet and his groups primarily played in nightclubs and hotels in Reno, Las Vegas, and Lake Tahoe such as Caesar’s Palace, and The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, The Wagon Wheel and Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe and the Holiday Hotel in Reno, and Bo's first band was the first to play in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland and for an extended engagement. Disney Studios added Roberta Shore, who acted on the Annette series on the Mickey Mouse Club Show, as the girl singer with Bo’s band. Disneyland advertised Bo and Roberta as having both performed on the Mickey Mouse Club TV Show.

This picture shows Roberta Shore with Annette on the Annette's series on the Mickey Mouse Club Show

In 1967 a newly refurbished Tomorrowland was opened to the public. This YouTube video show what Tomorrowland looked like back then. Bo Wagner, Roberta Shore and his band had the honor to be the first entertainers to play in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Space Bar.

 

 

From time to time Bo would take a break from the Nevada circuit and would come back to Hollywood to do TV shows. One of the TV shows was a special featuring Jimmy Durante, Connie Francis, Dennis Day the Lennon Sisters and Bo. (Photos from the show are below on Bo’s “Turned on Tap” album cover).

Bo Wagner and Connie Francis on a Musical Performance

Bo Wagner and Connie Francis on a Musical Performance

Picture of Dennis Day and Bo Wagner

Picture of Dennis Day and Bo Wagner

The Lennon Sisters and Bo Wagner

The Lennon Sisters and Bo Wagner

On one of his other breaks, Bo was hired to tap dance, sing and act in the Movie “Gypsy”, with Natalie Wood and Rosalind Russel. He was one of the farm boys who traveled and performed with Gypsy Rose Lee and her sister Dainty June in their vaudeville act singing and tap dancing. Bo filmed a number of musical numbers in the movie. In the dance world, being chosen as a Farm Boy was a very prestigious role to land. Working with the choreographer Robert Tucker and the other dancers, some who had done the Broadway version of “Gypsy” and some others who had danced in the movie “Westside Story” was a great learning experience for Bo.  

 

 

Tap Dancing, singing and acting in the movie Gipsy

 

The next image show Bo Wagner in one of the scenes of the movie Gipsy, besides tap dancing Bo Wagner was a singer and actor in this movie.

Bo Wagner in one of the scenes of the movie Gipsy, besides tap dancing Bo Wagner was a singer and actor in this movie

 

 

"Bobby Wagner", Tap Dancer and Drummer during the Original Mickey Mouse Club era

The Original Mickey Mouse Club was a daily TV show for children developed in the mid 1950's. It featured young kids in musical, dancing and comedy segments. Children performers were known to the TV audience as the "Mouseketeers", and they started the rage of wearing Mickey Mouse ears on their heads. This was followed by a newsreel, short miniseries and a cartoon. 

The "Mouseketeers" were mostly child entertainers who performed in different musical, dance and comedy sketches Among the original members we can find: Annette Funicello, Tommy Cole, Doreen Tracy, and others. The Original Mickey Mouse Club was hosted by Jimmie Dodd. Jimmie was in charge of the TV program on and off screen.

The "Mouseketeers" were mostly child entertainers who performed in different musical, dance and comedy sketches Among the original members we can find: Annette Funicello, Tommy Cole, Doreen Tracy, and others. The Original Mickey Mouse Club was hosted by Jimmie Dodd. Jimmie was in charge of the TV program on and off screen.

As a young artist, Bo Wagner appeared on the Original Mickey Mouse Club TV program as a featured tap dancer and drummer. “Bobby Wagner" as Bo Wagner was known as a young child performer, appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club Talent Roundup Day in 1956. He obtained the title of "Honorary Mouseketeer" and also was given a lifetime membership in the Original Mickey Mouse Club. He also appeared numerous times with members of the Mickey Mouse Club on personal appearances, such as Tommy Cole, Cubby O’Brien, Bobby Burgess, Annette Funicello and Jimmy Dodd.

They performed at charities, hospitals and special events. They also did numerous shows on the Disney Studio lot for the Disney employees and their families, along with the Osmond Brothers, and Disney personalities like Guy Williams, (Zorro), Gene Sheldon (Bernardo on Zorro), Henry Calvin (Sgt. Demetrio Lopez Garcia on Zorro), and Cliff Edwards, known as “Ukulele Ike” and who was the voice of Jiminy Cricket in the Walt Disney’s Pinocchio Movie. Bo, Tommy Cole and if Bo remembers right, Bobby Burgess, with his ballroom dancing partner Barbara Bolin, performed with the Dick Clark American Bandstand Revue.

This image shows “Bobby” Wagner as he was known as a young child performer tap dancing on the original Mickey Mouse Club

Bobby Wagner Tap Dancing on the Mickey Mouse Club

 

 

Lawrence Welk Show Period

After the Mickey Mouse Club ended, Mouseketeer Cubby O’Brien and Bo both became members of the Lawrence Welk Junior Band. After one year, they both joined the Lawrence Welk Dodge Dancing Party TV Show. They did a number of featured performances together, tap dancing, playing drums and marimba. Both Cubby and Bo went to the Hollywood Professional School and their fathers alternating driving them to school each day.

Picture of Bo Wagner with Other Members of the Lawrence Welk Junior Band

Picture of Bo Wagner with Other Members of the Lawrence Welk Junior Band

The next year Mouseketeer Bobby Burgess also joined the Lawrence Welk Show and Bo had the pleasure of doing featured tap dance routines with Bobby and Jack Imel.

Other Mouseketeers also went to school with Cubby and Bo: Tommy Cole, Doreen Tracy, Cheryl Holdridge, Lonnie Burr, Ron Steiner, Steve Stevens who acted on the Annette series and Sammy Ogg, who played the jokester Joe Simpson on all three Spin and Marty serials, both miniseries on the Mickey Mouse Club Show.

Tommy, Steve, Sammy and Bo still get together for Hollywood Professional High School Reunions. Cubby, Lonnie and Ron went to the first reunion that Bo missed. Fun time and great memories for all.

In this video you can notice Bo Wagner swing dancing with the Lawrence Welk Dixie Land Band

 

Bo Wagner Dancing Instructor and Choreographer

As time went by, Bo Wagner became a well-known and respected dance instructor. At his Performing Arts Studio, students were able to learn ballet, jazz, acrobatics, modern and tap dancing, along with singing, acting, modeling, many musical instruments and stage combat.

Bo specialized in choreographing competition routines for his many students that went on to win local, state, regional, national and pageant championships and later as they grew up went on to have successful careers at the Disney Parks worldwide, Six Flags, music videos, Broadway national Broadway tours, movies and TV sitcoms. Bo Wagner and his dance company would perform often at major events.

Bo Wagner and his dance company performing at the Governors Ball in Atlanta, Georgia

Bo Wagner and his dance company performing at the Governors Ball in Atlanta, Georgia

Bo Wagner was also a faculty member of numerous dance associations including, Dance America, Dance Olympus, Dance Masters, Dance Educators, Dance Troupe and Dance Experience. He also wrote, arranged, produced and played drums, vibes, marimba and keyboards on 25 dance albums recorded for these dance organizations and created a tap dance technique curriculum for dance schools worldwide from beginner to professional dancer.  Plus, he was also an international judicator for major dance competitions.

One of the albums Dance Olympus and Statler Records requested Bo to record was a Mouseketeer album of the favorite Mickey Mouse Club songs. They thought this would be a very good theme album for dance school worldwide to use for a recital. So Bo recreated the Mickey Mouse Club theme songs for the 5 days of the week and 5 other songs from Disney movies such as Mary Poppins. Bo also used this album as his own recital theme for his performing arts school and created his own new group of Mouseketeers from his students including his son Brandon, who sang all the songs on the album. The show was a huge hit.

Picture of Bo and his own studio group of Mouseketeers, Album MousekeTap

Picture of Bo and his own studio group of Mouseketeers, Album MousekeTap

This image displays a cover of the "Dance Olympus: 25th Anniversary Tour: 1959-1984". It was released by Statler Records.

Cover of the "Dance Olympus: 25th Anniversary Tour LP

A brief description of what Dance Olympus and Dance America do as found on their website http://danceolympus-america.com/

“Since 1976, Dance Olympus has been educating dancers across the nation. And with the addition of DANCEAMERICA in 1983, dancers have coupled the knowledge garnered from the classroom with the experience of performing on stages across the United States! “

 

 

Bo Wagner participated in the recording of many records, a partial discography follows:

Bo’s “Turned on Tap” album shows him with Liberace, George Gobel, Steve Lawrence, actor Joe E. Brown, Dennis Day, group picture with Jimmy Durante, Connie Francis and the Lennon Sisters from the TV Special mention earlier in this article and the group Starbuck, which Bo was proud to be a member of, on the Mike Douglas Show and the Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.

 

Turned On Tap featuring Bo Wagner, Tap Dancing LP

Turned On Tap featuring Bo Wagner, it was produced by Bo Wagner and Carleton Palmer, and released by Statler Records

 

Side A

Turned On Tap

Cute

Turned On Southern

Caravan

Fugette

Side B

Turned On 42nd St.

Canadian Sunset

Under The Double Eagle

Ma, He's Makin Eyes At Me

Chinatown

 

 

Bo Wagner - Tap'n, Playlist (Vinyl), format 33rpm, 12" LP stereo, released in the United States, genre tap dancing.

Bo Wagner, “Tap’n” LP, genre tap dancing

Side one

Tap 'n (Big Bucks)

Fever

Fascinating Rhythm

Hallelujah, I Just Love Her So

Gypsy Tap 'n

Turbo Tap'n (Bi-Coastal) 

Side B

Rock & Roll Tap'n

Right Idea

Latin Tap'n

Love Gun

Do You Love Like You Dance

Rock Rhytmn 

 

 

Album Tap'istry, This recording was arranged by Bo Wagner and Carlton Palmer. It was released in the US by Statler records. This album cover is a picture of Bo, his wife Carol, front right, and members of his dance company.

Bo Wagner produced several tap danced records, this is the cover of Tap'istry

Side A

I'm The Greatest Star      

Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy      

Popeye      

Piano Roll Blues      

Unsquare Dance      

Side B

Great Balls Of Fire      

March Of The Marionettes      

Night Train      

Up Up And Away      

Anything Goes Tap'istry      

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