The Can Can Room – 1965 St. Louis, Missouri

REFLECTIONS: Larry, Dave, Les, & Mac

[This is from a collection of scenes, stories and little chapters that were left on the cutting floor now that Things We Lost In The Night is complete.]

In early 1965, before the guys in my vocal group, the Reflections, left for California in April, we’d tried to develop a little floor show to play in clubs around Indianapolis to make some extra money. I had serious reservations about that, we’d rarely performed publicly, we didn’t play instruments, and my wife, Pat wasn’t thrilled about the idea. While Dave and I had been singing together since high school, Mac had joined us a few months earlier, and Les, who was supposed to accompany us as our guitar player was drafted into the group as our new bass singer a couple of weeks before we were due to try out our new act in Birmingham, Alabama at some place called the Boom Boom Room. Since Les was going to sing with us and not play guitar, we had to find musicians to back us up. Les found a little trio called the Zeb Miley Trio playing in an Indianapolis downtown bar called Susie’s Twist Club. They agreed to go out on the road with us for a few weeks to tighten up our show in hopes we could find some places to play around town. We named the combined band and singers, the Checkmates, and ill-fated choice as it turned out.

Now Mac had been in the Casinos, a show band from Cincinnati, when we met him. They later had a hit with the ballad “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” so he knew how dance around the stage and to construct these little shows, though the rest of us shared one single left foot, and a clumsy one at that. At some point I’ll post something about our adventures at the Boom Boom Room right in the middle of the civil rights marches going on at the time but I thought I’d like to post this little bit from the Can Can Room, the next club we played in St. Louis, Missouri, first.

The Checkmates – Monday, March 1, 1965, St. Louis, MO.

We walked out into the cold Missouri night to find Zeb Miley and Johnnie Lamb in a heated discussion with a portly older man in a navy blue suit with an open collared white dress shirt. The heavyset man was poking Zeb in the chest while Johnnie was walking around in little circles looking at the ground. When I walked up the man was saying in a cloud of frosty breath, “. . . what were you thinking, that you could walk into this club on Union paper with non-union musicians in your band? What kind of idiot are you?”

“What’s happening?” I asked.

“Musician’s Union bullshit,” Zeb said. “The usual union crap. As usual, they do more to stop you and then help you get work.”

“You know,” the man said to Zeb, “you should be thanking me. I could yank all of you off the stand right now. Yes I could. Club operator would never have another union band in this joint if they didn’t comply.

“Half your band,” he went on, waving his hand around, “is behind in their dues and the other half,” waving his other hand, “don’t have any union cards at all.”

Zeb turned to me, frowning and said, “He’s the local union rep and he’s saying you guys ain’t union so you can’t go back on stage.”

“You,” the man said, turning to make me his center of attention. “Whatinhell do you think you are doing up there without a union card?” While belligerent, certainly, he also seemed a little perplexed.

“Why would I need a union card,” I said, even more perplexed. “Why would singers need to belong to a musician’s union? We don’t play instruments.” I looked at Zeb trying to comprehend what was going on.

“If you sonsabitches are on that stage, you gotta have a card, period.” Mr. blue suit insisted.

“We just played in Birmingham, Alabama last week, before we came here. No one said anything about union cards to us.”

“Do you know where you are, sonny? Do you now?”

“Yes sir. This is St. Louis, Missouri. And it’s a beautiful city,” I added.

“And, does that mean anything to you, music-wise? Ring any bells?” he continued smugly.

I looked around for a lifeline but no one else seemed to have a clue, either. “Nosir I don’t.

“Well, you ignorant SOB, this is Local #2 of the Musician’s Union of America. Now I suppose you’ll have to tell me that you don’t know what that signifies, won’t you?”

I shook my head negatively. I had failed so many classes in school and now here I was failing Musician’s Union 101, dammit.

“No?” he said, continuing to rub it in. “No, you still don’t know? Well, I’ll tell you. We were the second local union formed, right after New York City. This is probably the strongest local in the United States. You do not fuck with St. Louis Union Local #2. Is that clear?”

“Yes, but I don’t see …”

“No pissant city like Birmy-fucking-ham, Aly-fucking-bama decides whether you need a union card in St.-fucking-Louis. Is that clear?”

“Okay. Okay,” Mac said, “We understand.” By this time, Dave had joined us on the street. Drivers and passengers in the cars passing us by were looking at us. It was freezing out here. “But,” Mac continued, “We don’t play instruments. I don’t get how we have to belong to a union?”

“So you don’t play an instrument, you say, even though I say, if you step on the goddamn stage in there you got to be union. Well, let me ask you something sonny boy. What was that funny metal thing you was tootling around on while ago marching around that club like a loon? What was that anyway? Looked suspiciously like a saxophone, of course I could be mistaken. Maybe you was playing the radio,” the Union rep grinned.

“Aw that was  nothin’. I don’t really play sax. I just tote that thing around when we’re doing this dancin’ thing. Can’t play but two notes. You can’t count that,” Mac said.

“And where’s that tall boy,” the rep continued. “Oh, here he is right here. I don’t suppose you play that trombone though you was pushing that slide back and forth like you knew what you was doing. You just another mummer, too?”

“Hell, I just go here,” Dave said, “I got no clue what’s going on. I play a little trombone. I’ll tell you how much though, damn little.”

“Damn little is plenty enough,” said the man as he turned to me. “And then there is you. Yes, you were banging two pieces of wood together so I expect you’re going to tell me you weren’t playing an instrument either. That so?”

“Yeah, I mean no, I don’t think so …” I said, wondering a bit.

“Claves,” he said. “those pieces of wood are called claves, they’re south American musical instruments my fine young friend so you and all the other guys without union cards, including the last guy who had a guitar strap on last time I saw him are not in compliance with union rules and regs. I can fine your asses up to $500 apiece.”

I went white. “Why that would end it for us. We’re just trying to get started. This is only are second job. That’s not fair. That can’t be what the union is for,”

“Fair, did you say. Well fair is as fair does and Zeb Miley here, well he’s the leader of the group. He knows the rules and he’s the one that broke ‘em. I’ll likely be pulling his card tonight and he’ll have to attend a hearing in a couple of weeks to find out how much it will cost to get it back. If he can get it back,” the rep said with finality.

We were all well and truly cowed and intimidated. “Is there some way we can make this right?” I asked. Zeb through his hands down in disgust and turned away. “We weren’t trying to avoid anything. Really, we just didn’t know.”

“I dunno,” he said, looking around at us. “Some of you don’t seem so willing to see the error of your ways.”

“C’mon guys,” I said to everyone on the street. Scott and Les were still inside somewhere. “Please, Mr ….” I started. I didn’t even know his name.

“I am Jonas Lawndale,” he said, “and here is my card. ‘Bout time somebody asked if I was legit.”

“Mr. Lawndale, we are a young band, just trying to get a foothold. If you could see your way to give us some leniency and help us find a way through the mess we’ve made here, we’d really appreciate it.” I said.

“Well sir, Mr. Miley,” Mr. Lawndale gestured in Zeb’s direction. “Does this fellow here have the right of it or do you continue to take exception to my pointing out your failings here? You are the rightful leader, signed onto this contract, and it is in your hands.” He stuck his chin out toward Zeb.

Our looks at Zeb must have conveyed enough fervor for him to get the message.

“Yeah, yeah, I know we’re in the wrong,” said Zeb with difficulty. He thought about it a bit and then said, “I didn’t rightly think these singer guys would have to be in the union especially as they don’t sing but 10 songs a night. But it’s so that a couple of us are late on our dues, so yeah, we need your help if you’d be offering.”

“Hmmm,” hummed Mr. Lawndale, seeming to figure what he would say to us. “First off those ‘singer guys’ as you call them, they ain’t going back on that stage tonight and not again ‘til they got union cards.

We didn’t say anything. Thank God, we’d finished our second show. There was one more set to go but we didn’t go on stage for that.

“Now I’m willing to forget about the fines for ya’ll since you’ve explained so nicely about where your confusions was, and I’ll forget about them late fees as well, but all you union guys got to have your cards up to date starting tomorrow night. And I am firm about that.

“By the way, it does seem that one Mr. Lamb does seem to be up to date so he can play it seems.”

“Mr. Lawndale,” I asked as gently as possible, “What does it cost to join Local #2 of the Musician’s Union of America?”

“Well son, I believe we can make you a member for $150 tomorrow down at the union house.” Jonas Lawndale beamed.

“Wow!” I said, stunned. “Wow!” I repeated since I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“We belong to a different Local, Mr. Rep,” Zeb said, a bit sourly, so do we have to pay our fees on  Local #2’s schedule?” I do believe he had already forgotten the fellow’s name.

“Well, Mr. Zeb Miley, we at Local #2 have a great fondness for our brothers across this great land and so, in token of that respect, we honor paying fees that we forward to those locals. So, in short, you must pay, down at the union house, the fees appropriate to your schedule at your home local.” Mr Lawndale added, “If you decided that you wanted to change your affiliation to the best and strongest union in this United States, while I’m sure we could get you a significant discount, however.”

“Well, then, Mr. Rep, we will get us into compliance first thing tomorrow. But I also reckon we better get ourselves into that club and finish our last set or we won’t have no job to save.” Seeing Mr. Lawndale’s look he added, “And that means without them singers. I know.”

“You will be seeing me tomorrow night, Mr. Miley. I give you fair warning, though, should you fail in any respect to meet the stipulations I have given you, I will not be so easily swayed as I have been tonight.” Mr. Lawndale turned without another word and walked into the night.

“Damn, where are we going to get $150 each I said to Dave and Mac?” I said despondently.

Before Zeb headed into the door, he said, “That’s not the hard part. You guys can run back to Indy and get union cards for $35. The big problem is your guitar player. Boy is underage and I don’t know if he can figure a way to get hisself a union card. You better check with him about that.”

NIGHT PEOPLE – ON SALE NOW thru JULY 23 – $2.99

Book Cover for NIGHT PEOPLE, Book 1 - Things We Lost in the Night, A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves

NIGHT PEOPLE

Book 1 – Things We Lost in the Night,
A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s
with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves

ON SALE NOW for the next week – July 16 thru July 23 for $.299!

GET YOUR COPY NOW!

 

NIGHT PEOPLE LAUNCH PRE-ORDER SALE!

Night People, Book 1 - launch on June 15thFRIENDS AND FAMILY PRE-ORDER SALE FOR KINDLE BOOK – $2.99

It’s almost here! NIGHT PEOPLE, Book 1 – Things We Lost in the Night, A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves, goes public on June 15th. The print paperback will go allegedly go on sale at the same time, though we’ll see how accurate that is.

I’ve still got some free ARC books for anyone who would like to get one from me. Just let me know. I’ve got them ’til they’re gone.

In other news …

FOREWARD REVIEWS will feature NIGHT PEOPLE in it’s Fall catalog under the Biography/Memoir section along with 7 other books.We’ll also be mentioned in the AbFab section but the big news is being in the major part of the catalog. This catalog is racked at a majority of the Barnes & Nobles, something 11,00 libraries and several other places, plus the book will be shown at the American Library Association Exhibition in San Francisco later this month.

I’ve received 7 Goodreads reviews for NIGHT PEOPLE, and hope there will be more so we can open up on Amazon with a splash.

“Pleasure” Atlantic City 1967

http://www.atlanticcityweekly.com/
The Pleasure Of Your Company/Maria, Love and Music“I remember my mother watching your show when I was a child. Those songs are still in my head as an adult. I would like to know who sings “I’d Like to Have the Pleasure of Your Company” and what year was it released? Thank you — Veronica, via Facebook
”

“The group was called S.N. and the CT’s (Stark Naked and the Car Thieves). Basically it was a studio group that put it together on a little independent label called Sunburst. Didn’t do anything much nationally, but locally a great hit and can be found on the Geator’s For Dancers Only CD, volume 2. Great cha-cha record. The year was 1968.”

 

Trackback: http://www.atlanticcityweekly.com/news-and-views/ask-the-geator/Marvin-at-Midnight-132630228.html

Just a reminder. Look Back In Love, + tag…

Just a reminder. Look Back In Love, + tag line, are ‘working titles’. This title has a lot of meaning to me and the guys I played with, and maybe certain close fans. It was the title of the band’s most promising single. And clearly I look back with love at these experiences and the people I played and the wonderful people I met. And there’s more personal reasons as well, but I’m having doubts about whether it’s the best title for the published work. I’ve already scratched about fifty possibilities into my journal, and when I come up with the finalists, I’m probably going to ask for some help in the final choice.

Trying to come up with a single word, or at best two word, main title. If it’s three, it’s got to be spectacular. It has to attract the right kind of attention from a browsing reader who’s looking for a good read, no matter what the topic, but not be misleading. Feel free to chime in with suggestions if you want to.

First of course, best wishes in 2014!…

First of course, best wishes in 2014! Damn, I never thought I’d live to see it!

Now that I’m on the road to recovery following hip surgery, I’d like to offer you a five-minute audible excerpt from Chapter 3 of LOOK BACK IN LOVE, the book I’m working on. It’s read for you by acclaimed voice actor, Keith Medlin. This excerpt is called RITA, and details a conversation with a cute red-headed girl I met on the RCA assembly line in Indianapolis after my life was pretty much in ruins and just before I left to join my friends and vocal group in California. You can find it at: http://youtu.be/CHBTMkzsjgs. I’d love to hear you’re responses, please leave a comment or come back and post one here.

RITA is the second in a series of these audible excerpts. The first one, FAMILY MATTERS, read by me, is from Chapter 2, and is nine minutes long. In this one, I’ve just heard from Dave, our lead singer, and he wants me to come to California, but I’m surprised to find that I really don’t want to go. I give him an impossible condition to meet, just to be certain I won’t have to. http://youtu.be/TxOyWNDkyKU

Remember, if you would like to be on the update list for the book’s progress and notified when each of the upcoming excerpts (expect a third excerpt read by Keith Medlin titled The Pharmacist soon), join us at http://eepurl.com/ln9an. I include interesting notes from items not included in the book with the notifications. Members will get a free copy of the book along with other perks. Thanks for your support everyone!

Cover art. Finding the right cover art is…

Cover art. Finding the right cover art is huge. While you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, in fact they most often are. I’ve introduced several cover ideas over the last couple of years but I’m getting a little more serious about it. I’ve been checking out various memoirs for quite a while for cover art, and I still like Cheryl Strayed’s cover art for Wild. I decided I might like a Hammond B3 organ, like the one I played but I couldn’t find one anywhere. Finally, I ran across the picture below on a private site, House Of Hammonds, in Iowa. I contacted the owner, and the photographer and they agreed to let me use it for my book. I’m definitely considering it, it’s a 1968 model with Leslie 122 speaker, just like mine except I used two. It looks to me like we could have just walked off this stage … Anybody got an opinions?

In one of the earlier chapters of Look…

In one of the earlier chapters of Look Back In Love, before I leave Indianapolis, everything is in turmoil. I’ve started the stub of a psuedo life, working at the RCA plant on the west side assembling record players. There’s a chapter called “Rita” where I meet a girl who shores up my confidence by showing interest in me and the story of how the vocal group failed to become a band. This image is not the real Rita of course, in fact I purloined it from a Lands End ad, but it reminded me enough of her to save it as a model. Thought I’d show it to you.

POLL: 28 Percent Of Americans Have Not…

POLL: 28 Percent Of Americans Have Not Read A Book In Past Year http://t.co/ocvgvpSjLI. Friends don’t let friends not read @HuffPostBooks