4:57 min January 08, 2024

Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians Return to The Castle Inn in Delaware Water Gap, PA

Step back in time at The Castle Inn in Delaware Water Gap, where a once-famous band came together once again!

The Castle Inn in Delaware Water Gap is known for its historic, guided walking tour, restored ice cream emporium, wedding venue, and small shoppes. Decades ago, a legendary entertainer ran his music empire from the property, and recently, the sound of song filled the space once again.

Familiar tunes and faces, a family, in harmony once again. Nearly 100 members of the once popular band, The Pennsylvanians, came together for a reunion at their former headquarters in the Poconos, sharing songs and stories.

The group performed on network TV and radio, creating a string of hits and selling millions of records. Fred Waring, who founded The Pennsylvanians in the 1920s, even recorded albums with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

“I would go on tour with them when I was in grade school for about three weeks out of the year and travel on the bus through California, Oregon, Washington, and sometimes Alaska,” said Malcolm Waring, Fred Waring’s son.

When The Pennsylvanian's weren't on tour, they rehearsed and recorded at The Castle Inn. Every summer, thousands more came from all over to attend choral workshops here. Rich Taylor was one of them, a football player and aspiring doctor at the University of Oklahoma who worked his way up to become a Pennsylvanian.

“Went on the road, and it changed my whole life. Fred Waring changed all the lives of the people who are here, in one way or another,” explained Rich Taylor of Winter Garden, Florida.

Rich credits the experience with helping him eventually become vice president of live entertainment and costuming at Walt Disney World, a position he held for ten years. Other members went on to become professors, performers, TV personalities, and pageant queens.

Jacquelyn Mayer was crowned Miss America two years after becoming a Pennsylvanian under Fred Waring.

“I saw him on television when I was 8 years old and said, ‘oh, I want to sing with him!’ said Jacquelyn Mayer of Sandusky, Ohio.

This reunion, attended by three decades worth of Pennsylvanians, was organized by current leadership of the Castle Inn. It’s the first time many members have come together since 2017.

Scott Fabian says it's important to keep history alive, which is why the Castle Inn has been restored to its former glory, and public tours are offered around the property.

“So many people have forgotten about Fred Waring because he didn’t make it in TV as someone like Lawrence Welk, so we have 55 to 70 people a week who come to the tour and learn about The Pennsylvanians,” said Scott Fabian, curator.

That's music to the ears of everyone here, including Fred Waring's youngest son. “It's great to see old friends, reconnect with the past, and hear everyone sing again. They sound terrific,” Malcolm Waring said.

Actress and former Miss Michigan Bethany Wright recalls how Fred Waring hand-picked his Pennsylvanians and expected top talent and commitment.

“His way ended up being such a good experience for me that I took everything I learned with the Pennsylvanians and used it in the rest of my career,” said Bethany Wright of Charlotte, North Carolina.

But it might be Fred Waring's actions off stage that captivated members most. After suffering a debilitating stroke at age 28, Jacquelyn says he helped her learn to speak again, in the best way he knew how.

“He started me saying the ABC’s, and it was very slow but we started with A... B... the tone syllables,” she explained.

“We're spread out all over the place but when you come back to this town and this place, you're a Pennsylvanian again. The joy of singing, the joy of the experience, the relationships you have, and the changes it made in your life for good are just priceless,” Taylor smiled.

Making music, and memories, once again.