For over 40 years Bob Pantano has been igniting enthusiasm for dance as host of the nation’s groundbreaking and sustaining radio show promoting dance party fever. Pantano is producing his “Saturday Night Dance Party” excitement on the high seas as music host for the second Ultimate Disco Cruise set to sail aboard the Celebrity Infinity February 2020.
Pantano began his love of bringing music to the masses in the late 1960s working his magic spinning at record hops. In the 1970s the long-time dance party host made his debut as DJ in nightclubs and working radio in 1971 on WCAM in Camden, NJ. It was in the late 1970s that Pantano created the perfect answer to the masses craving disco fun.
Live Radio Dance Party Created by Pantano
In 1977 the radio host established his live-radio program, “Saturday Night Dance Party,” on Philadelphia’s 98.1 WOGL FM. Though others may have tried to follow in his footsteps, Pantano is celebrated for hosting the nation’s first-of-its-kind radio dance party show, as well as the longest-running.
Since the seventies, the inventor of the live radio dance sensation has been continuously entertaining enthusiasts with the infectious music that incites movement. Pantano’s show at the time was the radio’s version of Deney Terrio’s “Dance Fever.” Both shows were aimed to stimulate one to want to have fun and sashay to the beat of disco.
Proving his savviness for entertaining, Pantano has continued his magic of motivating listeners to dance long after the days of disco. He has established himself a star that stays in touch with what his fans want hosting with his special mix of dance music, that includes more than just the disco, to spark dance fun.
Interview with Life of Dance Party Pantano
Living life to the fullest has certainly kept this great going and continuing to give back.
Carol Ruth Weber: Did you always want to be a DJ before hitting the scene in the 1960s?
Bob Pantano: When I was a senior in high school George Michael was a DJ on Philadelphia WFIL – the number one station at the time in 1967. He had me come on at night-time to do a performance and talk music. I had met him in South Philadelphia at a high school football game. The aggressive person I was, I went right for it when I had the chance to talk to him.
CRW: What drove you into playing dance music?
BP: When I was attending Temple University it was a depressing time for dance music. It was the psychedelic era when people were going to coffee shops and listening to the Doors – which was great music but people stopped dancing. I started playing at dances and mixers at the college and received a great response.
CRW: What are your feelings on how disco changed the music landscape?
BP: It resurrected dancing following that depressing era of music. The Philly sound, and NY Philly dance music emerging, created a whole new scene beginning around 72, 73. I saw this with the music changing having people dancing again. It took the energy of college mixers and high school dances of the past into the night clubs. I became that guy who played that music.
CRW: How did you feel when the disco age began to wane and how did you keep the party going all these years since?
BP: The disco music started to wane around late 1979 to 1980. I reinvented myself by reinserting the 1960s-dance music into the 1970s so it all became dance music and not just disco. I camouflaged it to become a whole new thing with my dance party.
At the time, I kind of resurrected a lot of past DJs careers when they started playing my sound as I was playing their sound. Putting elements other than disco allowed dance music to become mainstream again. This has evolved to include the following decades up to today. When you have three, four decades of music you can play anything. I have been blessed by the best music we have had. While others follow trends, I stay with the classics.
CRW: Do you see disco making a resurgence to excite a new generation to want to dance?
BP: Disco is an old-school term – but the younger generation does not dance like we did. I cannot qualify that because I had that low when I was in college. I really don’t know – there is quality music like Bruno Mars. I don’t believe that they will not dance. We’ll see.
CRW: What else in your life excites you beyond the love of music and dance?
BP: I work 24/7, but, I like to experience fabulous restaurants with my wife and travel the USA. There is so much beauty in our country that I would like to see all of it from the east coast to the west coast. I also would one day soon like to go to Italy.
CRW: What keeps you going?
BP: The excitement of going to work every night and making people happy – making them smile and dance. Keeping everybody going.
CRW: Are you excited to be part of a disco cruise?
BP: Absolutely – it’s my first time on a cruise! What a great way to start. [Pantano noted before the 2019 inaugural Disco Cruise and is very excited to be the music host for the 2020 cruise as well] A lot of my friends in the industry, who I got to play their music, will be on the cruise so I will be seeing old friends and making new friends. I am happy to be a part of the cruise and doing what I’m doing at this stage of my life. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Keep on dancing!
Inventor of Dance Party Proven Award Worthy
Keeping the party going for so many years, places Pantano center stage when he steps away from the radio. He often has brought the live radio show to be broadcast from area venues including hotels, nightclubs and casinos. Energizing crowds makes Pantano the perfect host of concerts and charitable functions.
Every year Pantano donates his time to host a radiothon on his “Saturday Night Dance Party” show to benefit Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In addition, the party master, named honorary Deputy Police Commissioner, plays master of ceremonies for Philadelphia’s Hero Plaque Program which honors the city’s officers who were killed in the line-of-duty. Pantano believes in paying forward by performing as host for several other charitable events as well.
It is fitting that this man who encourages dance joy, along with helping society, be awarded. Pantano received the Kal Rudman 2002 Milestone Award for remarkable career longevity and outstanding contributions to the radio arts. Temple University School of Communications and Theater Hall of Fame welcomed the radio great in 2007 bestowing him with a Wildwood Avenue of the Stars sidewalk plaque. The next year, in 2008, the Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame inducted Pantano.
June 25, 2014 brought Pantano the honor of receiving the Phillies’ Gamble & Huff Community Partnership Award. The following year he was named the Broadcast Pioneers’ 2015 Person of The Year. Pantano’s most recent distinction was on October 4, 2017 when he was inducted into The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame. Pantano now has his own bronze plaque that can be seen on Broad Street.
Dancing passions will be fueled by Pantano as he plays music host with his “Saturday Night Dance Party” aboard the Celebrity Infinity for the Ultimate Disco Cruise set to sail out of Miami to Key West and the Bahamas from February 10-15 in 2020. The radio headliner will be joining cruise host Terrio and, to name just a few, an amazing lineup of disco greats including: KC and The Sunshine Band, Commodores, France Joli, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, The Trammps featuring Earl Young, Sister Sledge, Anita Ward and Maxine Nightingale. Included in the musical acts set to fuel the disco dance floor will be First Ladies of Disco featuring Martha Wash, Linda Clifford and Norma Jean Wright along with The Jacksons and The Miracles.
A previous version of this article originally appeared on Blasting News