ORLANDO, Fla. — Fifty years ago, Walt Disney World welcomed its first official guests to the Magic Kingdom. A large opening day parade coursed along the pavement of the freshly-opened Main Street, U.S.A.

Nestled among the throngs of performers and guests were the Dapper Dans, the barbershop quartet that is synonymous with Main Street. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Dapper Dans began in Disneyland in 1959

  • The original performers in Walt Disney World first came over from Disneyland in September 1971

  • The group has been performing continuously at the Florida park since it opened

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“It was a very exciting day, full of fun and music and largeness,” said Jerry Siggins, one of the original four Dapper Dans who performed on opening day, October 1, 1971. “It was just huge. You can see a video of that opening day and I’ve been blown away by it.”

The Dapper Dans were formed on the West Coast in 1959 as part of the original theme park: Disneyland in Southern California. As Walt Disney World was nearing completion and preparing to open to the public, the company decided that the group would also become a part of the new Magic Kingdom.

“I was only working there (Disneyland) for three months, June, July August and a little bit of September, before we packed up all of our bags and, I mean, literally drove across the United States to open up Walt Disney World,” Siggins said.

Siggins the group’s baritone, along with Bub Thomas, the bass; Dick Kneeland, the lead; and Bob Mathis, the tenor, were tapped as the group to open the park. They also helped Disney hire the group of men to replace them at Disneyland when they moved out East.

On that opening day, several conductors helped coordinate that first parade, including Meredith Wilson, the Tony-winning composer of The Music Man.

“So, we walked over to him and said, ‘Hi, Meredith, we’re the Dapper Dans, the resident barbershop quartet on Main Street.’ And then one of us said, ‘Meredith, do you know ‘Lida Rose?’ And he said, ‘I think I can work my way through it.’”

Many of the traditions of the Dapper Dans started with that first group in 1971, like the use of the Deagan Organ Chimes and the colored costumes the group now uses. 

Modern day Dapper Dans, like Matthew Lincon-Bugg, said that being part of this iconic quartet is something of a dream come true. 

“It's amazing just to be able to be a part of, honestly, a small group of guys that spanned over 50 years. I'm  honestly speechless about it,” Lincoln-Bugg said.

The singer, better known as LB, said the Dapper Dans have a unique role to play in the park and he is grateful to have a place in it.

“I want to put out that energy that I got when I was little, and I want to inspire everybody to go out and chase their dream and try new things, explore,” Lincoln-Bugg said. “Be open minded, because you never know what passion you're going to find from that.”