The Most Dangerous Band

As I was preparing Dick the Bruiser’s 1980 morning show appearance for a YouTube upload, I got caught up on a side tangent: Dave had mentioned in his January 1989 interview with Bob Costas that Dick had long ago been referred to as “The World’s Most Dangerous Wrestler.”

And Dave had introduced him as such on the July 2, 1980 appearance.

So I wanted to trace how the name became attached to Paul Shaffer’s Late Night band, and here’s what I found:

Morphing Dick the Bruiser’s tag into Paul’s band name was clearly Dave’s idea.

For the first five months of Late Night in 1982, Dave would refer to Paul and his group as “The World’s Most Dangerous Band” when closing the show, sometimes alternating it with “Paul Shaffer and the Orchestra,” “Paul and the Organization,” “Paul Shaffer and the Folks,” “Paul Shaffer and the Melody Makers,” and a combination: “Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Orchestra.”

On June 8, 1982, after Dave had introduced Paul at the end of his Opening Remarks, Paul said, “And how about my band, really, the most dangerous, as you coined it, the most dangerous band in show business.”

Calling the group “The World’s Most Dangerous Band” abruptly stopped after that. For six shows in April 1983, Dave referred to the band as “Paul Shaffer and the Party Boys of Rock and Roll.” That continued only throughout the month, though a week later a Viewer Mail letter for the May 5 show mentioned “Paul Schaeffer [sic] and the Party Boys of Rock and Roll.”

Then no special band names for the rest of ’83 and all of 1984 and ’85. Because the band had prepared a music video (“Dress Cool”) for the November 30, 1985, Film Festival special, Bill Wendell included Paul in his opening announce with just “Paul Shaffer and the band.”

In that 1989 Costas interview, Dave and Bob spent a little time discussing their memories of professional wrestling (Dave while growing up in Indianapolis, Bob while living in St. Louis during his early career). Included were the scariest wrestlers “from parts unknown.”

It was a phrase Dave brought back when introducing Will Lee’s performance of “Stagger Lee” on May 13, 1986: “From parts unknown, Will Lee.”

For the first six and two-thirds years of Late Night, Paul had never been included in the opening announce (except for the ’85 Film Festival). That changed on September 24, 1986. On that date, for the first time, Bill Wendell began adding Paul and his ensemble in his announce with “Paul Shaffer and the Late Night Band.”

On the next night, and continuing until October 6, the announce became “Musical Director Paul Shaffer and the band.”

The next evening, October 7, Bill accidentally messed up his announce by saying “Medical” instead of “Musical” and laughed at his screw-up. The following night, October 8, “Medical” was then written into the script until the end of the month.

Then, from November 3, 1986, and for the next nine months, until August 4, 1987, the announce was shortened to “Paul Shaffer and the Band.”

But within that period, on July 29, 1987, Dave ended his Opening Remarks with “Here’s our good friend Paul Shaffer and the NBC Orchestra.” In the meantime, Bill continued with just “Paul Shaffer and the Band”

Until August 6, when Bill began announcing “Paul Shaffer and the NBC Orchestra.” Every night up to the end of the month. Then a two-week vacation break.

When the show returned on September 15, both Bill and Dave would refer to the band as “Paul Shaffer and the NBC Orchestra,” Bill in his Opening Announce and Dave at the end of his Opening Remarks. Up to the 24th.

On September 23, 1987, Paul and Dave discussed which band title each preferred, “NBC Orchestra” or “World’s Most Dangerous Band.” Paul preferred the latter, feeling that the former rightly belonged only to Doc Severinsen. He again gave his preference for “World’s Most Dangerous Band” the next night, September 24.

With that preference noted, on September 25, 1987, Bill changed his announce from “Paul Shaffer and the NBC Orchestra” to “Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band,” and Dave followed when introducing Paul at the end of his Opening Remarks. Paul then announced that the group’s name was now officially the World’s Most Dangerous Band.

The name lasted until the end of Late Night’s run on June 25, 1993. Because of NBC’s “Intellectual Property Rights,” it was prohibited from Dave’s Late Show on CBS, and so Paul’s group thereafter became “Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra.”

Until that show ended on May 20, 2015.

Two years later during the summer of 2017, and twenty-four years after that name had last been used, Paul embarked on a national tour with his CBS Orchestra, renaming it and thus coming full circle, with “The World’s Most Dangerous Band.”

All come about from Dave’s boyhood enthusiasm for professional wrestling.

The Dick the Bruiser upload can be seen here, with clips from the 1989 “Later with Bob Costas” interview, Dave’s introduction to Will Lee, and an audience call-out to Bobby “The Brain” Heenan” from Late Night’s 6th anniversary special at Radio City Music Hall:


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