“Dancing With the Stars” will sound a bit different when it returns for its 18th season.
Producers are doing away with the live band in favor of more pre-existing sound recordings, and have therefore fired the show’s longtime bandleader Harold Wheeler.
American Federation of Musicians president Ray Hair is not happy with ABC and blasted the network for replacing the live backing band with what he referred to as a “small electric band.”
“People who love ‘Dancing with the Stars’ also love the superb performances of the orchestra because it is such an integral part of the show,” said Hair. “The tight, elaborate musical productions that catapulted the show into the top 10 in 17 countries can’t be duplicated by recordings and a small combo. Viewers, whether they are young or old, will reject that as artistic fraud.”
The Harold Wheeler Orchestra and Singers, which goes with Wheeler, consists of 28 members and has performed on the show for 17 seasons. A joint statement from BBC Worldwide Productions and ABC acknowledged that history, while shedding no light on the reason for the band’s departure: “Our talented Music Director, Harold Wheeler, will not be joining us for season 18 of Dancing with the Stars. Since season one, Harold and his band have performed brilliant music in our ballroom for our dancers and the American viewers at home. We are grateful to him and his band for their amazing work and years of collaboration. We wish him the best of luck.”
A source close to the show tells The Hollywood Reporter that live music will continue to be a large component on the show, and Wheeler’s replacement will be choosing a new band.
The union claims that “network sources say that a recent shift in ABC/Disney’s executive staff in charge of primetime reality series programming led to pressure on ‘DWTS’ producer BBC Worldwide to cut corners and pander to a younger viewing audience.” (ABC tapped Lisa Berger as head of alternative and late-night back in September after the departure of longtime reality chief John Saade.)
In a September interview with THR, executive producer Conrad Green commented on the recent introduction of recorded music, which the series started using for some performances in recent seasons. “We feel that there are some types of music and types of songs, a lot of modern music particularly, is so produced that it’s impossible for an 18-piece band to replicate that sound,” said Green. “You get to a point where you’re forcing a band to try and do sound that they just literally can’t pull off.”
Green added, “It took hundreds of hours in a studio to get some of those sounds. So in some cases we’re thinking, let’s just use that song. What’s the point in forcing a band to try to do something that’s impossible to achieve?”
Hair says the motivation is strictly dollars and cents. “It’s not like ABC and Disney don’t have any money and can’t afford an orchestra. It’s about the insatiable thirst for profits at the expense of music, art, and those who create it,” said Hair. “Firing the band, using recordings, and hiring fewer musicians won’t boost ratings. It will kill the show.”
'Dancing With the Stars': A Look at Who's Represented
41 photos Launch gallery
1. Comedian and radio host D.L. Hughley teamed up with Cheryl Burke for the 16th season of the popular dance show. (Facebook)
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2. Zendaya Coleman teamed up with Valentin Chmerkovskiy for season 16. (Twitter)
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3. Former NFL star won season 14 of the 'DWTS'.
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4. Roshon Fegan danced with the stars in Season 14.
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5. Baltimore Ravens' star Jacoby Jones partners wtih Karina Smirnoff for season 16 of DWTS.
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6. 1st Season - Evander Holyfield was paried with Edyta Sliwinska until 2nd week.
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7. Master P danced with Ashly DelGrosso. Eliminated 4th week.
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8. Jerry Rice danced with Anna Trebruskaya and was 1st runner up.
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9. Vivica A. Fox danced with Nick Kosovich. Eliminated 4th week.
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10. Monique Coleman danced with Louis Van Amstel and was eliminated 8th week.
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11. Emmitt Smith danced with Cheryl Burke and took home the Mirrorball Trophy.
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12. Clyde 'The Glide' Drexler danced with Elena Grinenko. Eliminated 4th week.
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13. Laila Ali danced with Maksim Chmerkovskly and landed in 3rd place.
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14. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. danced with Karina Smirnoff and eliminated week 4.
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15. 10. Mel B danced with Maksim Chmerkovskly and was 1st runner up in the 5th season.
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16. Mario danced with Karina Smirnoff on season six and was eliminated on week 8.
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17. Jason Taylor danced with Edyta Sliwinska on season 6 and was 1st runner up.
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18. Toni Braxton danced with Alec Mazo on season 7 and was eliminated week 5.
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19. Maurice Greene danced with Cheryl Burke and was eliminated on week 8 of season 7
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20. Warren Sapp and Kym Johnson, danced their way to Runner-up in season 7.
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21. David Alan Grier danced with Kym Johnson on season 8 and eliminated on week 5.
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22. Lawrence Taylor and Edyta Sliwinska was on season 8 and eliminated on week 7.
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23. Lil' Kim and Derek Hough was on season 8 and was eliminated in week 9.
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24. Macy Gray and Jonathan Roberts was on season 9 and was eliminated in week 2.
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25. Michael Irvin danced with Anna Demidova was on season 9 and eliminated on week 9
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26. Mya danced with Dmitry Chaplin and was first Runner-Up on season nine.
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27. Niecy Nash danced with Louis Van Amstel on season 10 and was eliminated on week
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28. Chad Ochocinco danced with Cherly Burke on season 10 and was eliminated on week
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29. Rick Fox paired with Cheryl Burke for season 11 was eliminated on week 7.
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30. Brandy was paired with Maksim Chmerkovskly on season 11 was eliminated on week 9
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31. Kyle Massey danced with Lacey Schwimmer on season 11 and was first Runner-Up.
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32. Wendy Williams danced with Tony Dovolani on season 12 and eliminated week 2.
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33. Season 12 -Sugar Ray Leonard danced with Anna Trebunskaya, eliminated week 3.
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34. Romeo danced with Chelsie Hightower on season 12 and was eliminated on week 7.
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35. Hines Ward and partner Kym Johnson took home the trophy on season 12 of DWTS.
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36. Metta World Peace danced with Peta Murgatroyd on season 13, eliminated week 1.
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37. DWTS '12 Gladys Knight,Sherri Shepherd, Jaleel White, Roshon Fegan,Donald Driver
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38. Amber Riley won season 18 of "Dancing with the Stars."
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39. Billy Dee Williams was on season 18 of "Dancing with the Stars."
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40. Corbin Bleu was on season 17 of "DWTS."
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41. NeNe Leakes was on season 18 of "DWTS".
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