Paul Shaffer (b. November 28, 1949) is perhaps best known as late night talk show host David Letterman's band leader, a position he's held since the show's original premiere on NBC in 1982.
That year, a song Shaffer co-wrote in 1979 with Grammy and Academy Award winning composer Paul Jabara was recorded by a duo of plus-sized black women originally called Two Tons o' Fun. To tie in to the theme of the song, the group renamed themselves The Weather Girls. The recording, a disco tune with a driving beat and unusual minor chord progression, was It's Raining Men.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1982, I was working as the second-shift supervisor of a financial printing company on the fringes of downtown Pittsburgh, and I always tried to make it home in time to catch Letterman's show.
I vividly remember the night Men made its appearance. Letterman had repeatedly razzed Shaffer about his new disco tune, and when the two huge black women in glittering evening gowns appeared as the now-iconic intro began, I expected a clever disco parody sketch.
Instead, Shaffer's band and the vocalists gave a raw, spontaneous performance that had the audience clapping along and cheering wildly. Letterman admitted they'd "ripped the roof off the joint."
The original performance is here, and it's definitely worth watching. (The video's owner prohibits embedding it here.) It's a rare opportunity to watch the birth of a pop culture phenomenon.
Shaffer gives the history of the song in this interview,
and introduces it at the 2011 Tony Awards, where it's the opening number in the Broadway music adaptation of the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert