Death of an Aristocat

Chuck, Dave, Pat, & Larry - The Reflections 1964

Chuck, Dave, Pat, & Larry – The Reflections 1964

The doorbell on the side of our house next to the driveway rang. This doorbell, with its own higher pitched ring than the front doorbell, rang in the my bedroom in the basement, commonly referred to among my friends as the dungeon due to my insistence that it be painted battleship gray and because to get to it, you had to traverse the furnace room with it’s spooky tentacled maze of vents rising up from of the furnace’s heart to snake across overhead. In my teen years it had served as the bridge of a starship, the conning tower of a submarine, and clubhouse before becoming our rehearsal room. I went up the basement stairs and ushered in Hasty Smith and another guy who seemed to tumble down the open steps all elbows and knees. Chuck Tunnah, Hasty said, introducing him to Pat Baldwin and me, was an inch or two over six feet and kind of gawky like he hadn’t quite grown into his skeleton. He had dark hair combed back from a widow’s peak that made him look fiendish.
“Now listen you guys. Don’t start that “Charlie the Tuna” crap with me,” he said with a big grin, like the Joker’s in Batman, in reference to the Starkist Tuna cartoon spokesfish, “because I do taste great and unlike that cartoon Tuna, I have great taste. Just want to get that clear”

That was how I met Chuck Tunnah, the fourth singer of my original vocal group as we formed the Aristocats, in the Fall of 1957. On July 5, 2016, Chuck, Charles E. Tunnah, died peacefully at 75 years of age in an easy chair with the Indianapolis Star in his hands. As with so many of my friends and associates passing into their later years are beginning to disappear I fear my blog will become an obit page, so I will resist that except in special circumstances. Though Chuck and I had not been in touch for many, many years, this loss struck very close to home to me. Hasting Smith, Jr., mentioned above, and Chuck sang in our high school choir and the exclusive Madrigal singers, and both patiently taught Pat Baldwin and me, both complete neophytes, how to learn and sing the popular music we liked. Hasty soon left us to go to Purdue, and eventually to become a nuclear rock scientist in Los Alamitos, New Mexico, where he passed away prematurely and suddenly as he warmed up to begin an early morning run.

Chuck, Pat, and I found Dave Dunn and went on to become the Reflections, and to record and release our first two records in Indianapolis in 1964. One of them, In The Still of the Night, became a regional hit on Chicago’s WLS, outcharting the Beatles for a couple of weeks. Chuck is the bass singer who first started the bass line that brought that version of a classic to prominence for us.

In Night People though, Chuck is introduced and disappears in the same paragraph; he never made the trip to California and on to the adventure that turned us into Stark Naked and the Car Thieves. Though he could be generous and kind, he could also be loud and obstreperous and because of that, he ended up relegated to staying in Indiana. He, and Hasty, have now passed beyond the curtain of life. When Hasty died, I felt the harsh breezes of change whispering through the hole in my history he left behind. The wind has picked up.

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!

 

A Lost Recording from 50 Years Ago!

The Reflections / Illusions '63 & '64

The Reflections / Illusions ’63 & ’64

For those of you who’ve been following along, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves began as an acappella vocal group back in Indianapolis. We called ourselves the Reflections when our very first recording was released in late 1963 on WLS radio in Chicago. Unexpectedly, our uptempo version of In The Still of the Night hit the Chicago charts in early 1964 at the same time the Beatles did with I Want to Hold Your Hand. If you can read the chart below you’ll see we arrived at #17 while the Beatles languished at #40. Our producer screwed up and lost or accidentally destroyed the master of In The Still of The Night so even though we got great airplay and were about to break out nationally, when the charts came out two weeks later, our record had fallen off into oblivion while the Beatles were on their way to number one.

WLS Chart Jan 17, 1964

WLS Chart Jan 17, 1964

What you don’t know is, and that’s because even I’ve never heard or seen a copy of the record since we recorded it 50 years ago, our producer rushed us into the studio to get another record out to try to take advantage of the tremendous interest in the Reflections up in the Windy City. Since we sounded a lot like the Four Seasons, he found a song by Larry Huff, who’d co-written Easier Said Than Done for the Essex, called In the Beginning. We tried to adapt to sound like it was from the original Jersey Boys right in the studio, recording literally overnight. By the time it was pressed, the Reflections who recorded (Just Like) Romeo and Juliet) had hit with their song, and our name and all the good will we’d built up with the previous record was lost.  He had to decide on the spot what we would be called so he decided we were the Illusions. But the record failed and soon the Indy Sound no longer existed.

Today, doing some research for Things We Lost in the Night, I ran across our recording on YouTube.  I can’t tell you how amazed and pleased I was. Made me glad I got up this morning. It’s the weirdest thing though, strangers have put almost all our records up on YouTube. I’m hoping the person who posted this knows where I can buy a copy of the original record.

OPEN HOUSE AT LARRYJDUNLAP.COM

Probably as good a time as any to invite you to the Open House at my new website! I’m halfway through my final draft and scheduled some time to get my site in order. Among other features, is a list of thirteen songs we recorded and that are an important part of Things We Lost in the Night. They’re listed in chronological order (excepting this one of course), and make something of a musical history of the band under its various names. It’s on the THINGS WE LOST page in the Songs from TWL tab here on this site. There’s also a First Chapter sample from the book and two audio excerpts as well as short blurbs from the book. Come one, come all! Look around. Log in , say hi. Let me know what you think.

Thanks – Larry

General George and the Ventures

The Ventures Instrumental Guitar Band

The Ventures

When Dave, Mac and I first met Les, we didn’t realize what a good singer he was. He had an instrumental guitar band called the MG’s, who were highly influenced by Nokie Edwards and the Ventures. They were playing weekend sock hop dances with Bouncin’ Bill Baker for WIBC radio in Indianapolis, where they also backed our vocal group for a few appearances. Later, the MG’s backed us as the Reflections in our first studio sessions. When the vocal group made its first attempt to become a band, Les joined the three of us as a singer, and later became Stark Naked and the Car Thieves’ guitarist and vocal arranger. I do remember what a big deal it was when Nokie Edwards came in to a club to see us.

I just recently discovered that the Ventures’ first drummer, when they recorded Walk Don’t Run, and practically still a garage band, was George Babbit. Apparently, he was too young to play in many of the venues they were booked into when their record started to break. He entered the U.S. Air Force  and went on to become a four star general.

If your love rock ‘n roll, and remember the Ventures, I invite you to click on the link below to watch this reunion. I think it’s pretty cool and I enjoyed it a lot. Hopefully you will too, and it brings you a smile.

General George Babbit and the Ventures reunited