Debbie Reynolds – So Full Of Life and Spontaneous Generosity

Debbie Reynolds & Harry Karl, Caesars Palace, Nero's Nook, Jan 1967I didn’t get to meet Debbie Reynolds the night she and her husband came to see us. My mistake, though our lead singer, Dave, had the honor. It happened on one of the most remarkable nights in our career as entertainers and musicians. We’d been hired by Caesars Palace in late December of 1966 to help open the re-imagined Nero’s Nook Lounge nestled next to the new hotel’s casino. It was a gorgeous showroom and the hottest ticket in town. I hadn’t realized when I’d signed the contract that we’d be limited to singing ballads and mellow pop songs, like the Letterman. Another restriction in our contract forced us to appear as The Big Spenders instead of Stark Naked and the Car Thieves, another difficult pill to accept.

We decided we couldn’t live with the constraints being placed on our performances any longer. The Saturday night we decided to break out and play our best material whether pop, rock, or rhythm and blues regardless of the consequences just happened to coincide with a night full of stars from movies and television, international personalities, and hotel headliners from all up and down the Strip. Behind the curtain, we stood nervous but excited. We couldn’t be sure the audience wouldn’t hate us, or the entertainment manager wouldn’t close the curtain in the middle of the show. We risked losing our new 3-year contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (and in the end it did), but together, we’d made the final decision to be true to our nature in the dressing room before coming to the stage, so here we were.

We opened with an Otis Redding tune, “Can’ Turn You Loose,” if I remember correctly and moved through our version of Bobby Hatfield’s “Unchained Melody.” It was probably Sam and Dave after that, and we mixed in “The Way You Look Tonight,” Letterman style, and on through the set list until we came to our closer. The audience response had been more than we could’ve hoped for so far. We’d worked long hours to perfect the Four Seasons “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and I don’t think the Seasons could’ve done it any more justice that we did that night. But the topper of the entire show came as we started into the song’s dramatic ending. I’ve excerpted the following from Night People since I can’t tell it any better …

“I tried to make out the figure moving below us through the blinding lights, until . . . wait—holy crap! That’s Debbie Reynolds down there pulling on Dave’s leg!

“Sing it, baby, sing it!” she yelled. A broad, encouraging grin spread across her face as he stood braced, high above her, to hit the high full voice note near the end of I’ve Got You Under My Skin. When we peeked through the curtain earlier, we’d seen Debbie Reynolds seated at an aisle table a few rows from the stage with her husband.

As Dave’s ringing tenor swept high, and then higher, into a dramatic falsetto run, she’d stretched on tiptoe to grasp the only part of him she could reach, his left pants leg just above a white patent leather boot. Laughing with joyful spontaneity, she shook it back and forth, like a dog with a sock puppet.

Dave had to be as astounded as the rest of us, but he closed his eyes, pushed his mic farther up and out, and leaned back to let those golden pipes of his rip.

“I’ve got you . . .” Dave crooned a cappella, working into the final phrasing of the song with the movie star still hanging onto his pants leg, staring at him with a wide smile. I stole a glance at Mac, his eyes wide as beacons. I knew mine were just as big as we joined our voices with Les and Craig in building the ending harmony.

“Never win, never win . . .” The lounge erupted, peppering another standing ovation with yells and excited shouts that crackled over thundering applause. More people rushed to the front of the stage as we hit the big finish and took our bows while the frenzied uproar mounted to a pounding pressure.

I looked left toward the rest of the band, trying to take us in. Jackets from our dark suits lay rumpled around us. Purple-and-white polka-dotted ties hung loose or strewn across the stage or amps. Burgundy cuff links on our custom tailored white-on-white dress shirts sparkled in the brilliant light. Leonard was sopping wet behind the drums, his dress shirt translucent.”

Debbie Reynolds put the icing on the cake for us that night. Her spontaneous encouragement and appreciation, more than anything else, endorsed our decision to let loose and show ourselves for who we really were. After the show, there was a note inviting Dave and the rest of us to her table. Dave beamed as he went out to meet her. Me? I’d chosen to go to Sammy Davis, Jr. who had also sent us a note. I’d recently read his autobiography, “Yes I Can” and wanted desperately to meet him, and that was a great privilege. But I sacrificed meeting one of the most amazing superstars ever to grace show business. Someone so full of life and so willing to share it, she’d rushed to the stage in front of everyone to express her excitement. To me, it’s not just another Las Vegas anecdote, it’s a moment of generosity I’ll never forget. I’m sure I’m giving voice to all of us on the stage that night when I send a wish from us that she rest in peace knowing that ours were among the thousands and thousands of lives she touched.

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On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane

74 seems to be a fatal number. So many greats falling by the wayside at this milepost. Since it’s my number, can’t help but wonder, but I don’t think it’s my time yet. I’ve still got things to say … Read this fascinating article about Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson, Airplane’s first girl vocalist. She was 74, too

It was sad enough that Jefferson Airplane founding member Paul Kantner, the keeper of the famed San Francisco band’s flame throughout its turbulent half-century, died last week, from heart failure. A deeper melancholy set in with news of the death the same day of the Airplane’s first female vocalist, Signe Toly Anderson, from cancer. Both were 74.

Source: On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane

Keith Richards: Beatles’ Sgt Pepper was rubbish

Here in the United States in the middle sixties, there was always a friendly competition between East Coast and West Coast bands, personified by the Beach Boys and the Four Seasons. And though there became a creative competition between the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the long and winding visceral rivalry for the Beatles has always been the Rolling Stones. Especially as they put their own opposing brands onto rock and roll stardom as they entered the Seventies. You always had to choose if you were a Beatles fan or a Stones fan. Though I didn’t care for the Beatles originally, as I mentioned in Night People, I did come to appreciate them, and to be astonished, let alone highly influenced, by “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” as you’ll read about it in Enchanted, should you chose to read it.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/08/06/keith-richards-the-beatles-sergeant-pepper-rubbish-album_n_7946520.html  - Rolling Stones' Keith Richards Slams The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper Album - 'A Mishmash Of Rubbish'

Beatles Cosplay for Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, genius album

I didn’t care much for the Stones when I first heard them either, and even now I only grudgingly appreciate some of their classic songs like “Symphony for the Devil” and “Gimme Shelter.” Especially since I had to sing several Stones songs, all of them non-melodic, like “Get Off Of My Cloud” and “Satisfaction.” However Keith Richards has now officially hit my idiot list with his criticism of the Sergeant Pepper album. In a recent interview for Esquire Magazine, without provocation Keith volunteered:

Keith Richards from Esquire Magazine article: http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/interviews/a36899/keith-richards-interview-0915/

Keith Richards, open mouth, insert guitar – Esquire Magazine 6/30

“The Beatles sounded great when they were the Beatles. But there’s not a lot of roots in that music. I think they got carried away. Why not? If you’re the Beatles in the ’60s, you just get carried away—you forget what it is you wanted to do. You’re starting to do Sgt. Pepper. Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish, kind of like Satanic Majesties—”Oh, if you can make a load of shit, so can we.”

What? Are you kidding me? Read more about weird Keith in this Huntington Post UK article.

Summer of Love

The History of San Francisco Music in the ’60s and its Influence Today

A look back at the festivals of the ’60s whose influence can still be felt in the music and festivals of today. Source: Summer of Love: The History of San Francisco Music in the ’60s and its Influence Today

 

A look back at the festivals of the ’60s whose influence can still be felt in the music and festivals of today.

The year was 1967 and the place was San Francisco. It was the Summer of Love; a season of creative expression, free society, cultural revolution and arguably the beginning of what we now enjoy as modern music festivals.

I hit the road for Outside Lands this week and I can’t help but reflect (or slightly obsess) over the rich musical history that once graced the Bay Area. It was a time like no other — it was pure, quick-moving, and psychedelic — the Summer of Love irreversibly changed our culture forever. I grew up in Northern California, an hour outside of San Francisco, with my dad’s vinyl collection on continual rotation. The likes of David Crosby, the Doors, and the Who were constant companions of mine and I was captivated by an early age. I was in. But, alas, two decades too late… so this year I wanted to make a point to research this beautiful history and experience “today’s” San Francisco music festival with this knowledge in my back pocket. To feel the energy of the past, to respect the history and the people who pushed an artistic and creative generation forward.

Aug 04, 2015

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Lest we forget. I remember too, Joanna. The first third of NIGHT PEOPLE takes place in 1965 and 66 in the music and nightlife of San Francisco. A fantastic time, though not all just good-time music festivals. And there were powerful musical stories taking place outside of Golden Gate Park, as well.

 Posted by Larry J.

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

Tonight: The War in Vietnam – The Sixties

DON”T MISS IT. Tonight The Sixties on CNN, 9 pm (EST), 6 pm (PDT), plus there are usually several re-runs. Covers the war from its beginnings through 1968. The face of war changed forever with this escalation.  Combined with the pictures that brought the brutality of the war to the home front, a new sense of power and disenfranchisement from the country’s youth, and the hangover from the loss of a young and popular president, the support for this war faded as the commitment to it by the government went up. Up until this war, as Bill Murray exhorts his army buddies it in Stripes, “We’re 10 and 1!”

For me, it was trying to find a way to stay with my band when the army was bound and determined to induct me. I had no political viewpoint in the beginning, and to the degree I did, I tended to trust the government implicitly then.  That all began to change when it started to impact my life and I had to figure things out.

My most personal experience was when Stark Naked and the Car Thieves performed for a couple of months at a nightclub in Honolulu in April of 1968, as the buildup of American forces followed the Tet Offensive during the height of the Vietnam War. 80% of the guys in the club were either on R&R coming from the war or going home. The emotional power of the songs we played to remind these warriors of home, girlfriends and wives, high school, families, and buddies, some of them lost by their side, came through to all of us there. As the messengers through our music we became instant friends, somehow passed into the intimacy of one solder to another, and it was all we could do to hold onto our own feelings sometimes. We heard many stories from the battlefield, reminisces from home and witnessed soldiers at the outer  limits of their ability to endure. But as humans do, they found humor and understanding and love in their experiences. While they thought we were enriching their lives, it was they who were enriching ours.

Over the last few years I have received a surprising number of messages from soldiers who saw us at the Lemon Tree on the beach in Waikiki. To a man they remember us for the music and how it helped connect them to the things most important to them. God love them all.

Here’s a little quiz about the 60s you might enjoy – What 60s personality are you?

Larry J Dunlap, Things We Lost in the Night, a memoir of love and rock n roll music

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

MIXED EMOTIONS, liner notes about our last record

“MIXED EMOTIONS” was written by another former member of the Atlanta coterie, Harry Middlebrooks (he’d co-written the Classics IV’s “Spooky”), who’d moved to Los Angeles some years earlier and was under contract to Heller and Cobb’s company. The song, with lyrics unheard here, had been written for a film that was never released, and was originally recorded by another Cobb-produced act, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves – their name notwithstanding, more of a smooth-rock act who became fixtures for years in Las Vegas.

Continue reading…

Across the Musical Universe

Caesars-Palace-1966-300x230IN AUGUST OF 1966, CAESARS PALACE, the most incredible casino/resort/hotel of it’s time, opened its doors to the public. A few months later the most improbable event imaginable happened when Trish Turner, a talented R&B singer who occasionally sang with us in early morning jams introduced me to Clyde Carson, a slight, pasty-faced guy with a mustache so thin it looked painted on ….

“Clyde made me the most inconceivable proposition I’d ever heard. “Would you guys be interested in playing across the street at Caesars Palace?” he said after we’d settled in with our drinks.

He told me he was well connected at Caesars and thought he could get us an audition to open the rumored new Nero’s Nook lounge at the opulent resort hotel. I was incredulous, it had to have been written all over my face. Caesars Palace being just across the street from the Pussycat might be geographically true, but for a band like Stark Naked and the Car Thieves that mammoth edifice was far across the musical universe from us. Only the biggest, most well known stars played there. Andy Williams, who hosted his own prime time television show, opened the main showroom to an international audience of celebrity and wealth flown in from all over the world just a few months ago. No rock star or group, no matter how famous or talented, had ever broken into a major Las Vegas Strip hotel, not even in the lounges. It would happen one day, but it was utter fantasy to imagine that event would take place now, with an unknown group like us. And certainly not at Jay Sarno’s, Jimmy Hoffa financed, luxurious Caesars Palace, already legendary among the elite for glamor and extravagance. When a rock artist did break that barrier, it would be the Beatles or Elvis, or maybe the Four Seasons, somebody famous worldwide taking the stage. Never an unknown band with no hit records, no matter how good anyone might think we were. It was laughable to think how being popular in a local rock n roll dance club would translate to a stage in the immense casino. Caesars overshadowed every other hotel on the Las Vegas strip, even the storied Sands and Flamingo. What Clyde was suggesting was like a talented Little League team being offered an opportunity to play with the Yankees in major league baseball.

And, of course, as is the case in fairy tales, there was a catch. We’d have to kiss a frog — Clyde Carson. He wanted to be our personal manager.” Continue reading…