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.”

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.

Glenn Frey, Eagles Guitarist, Dead at 67 | Rolling Stone

Hard to wrap my head around the passing of so many members of iconic bands who are leaving our musical landscape more barren every day.

“Hotel California” rocker “succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia,” band says in statement.

Source: Glenn Frey, Eagles Guitarist, Dead at 67 | Rolling Stone

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!

 

The Girl Who Named 3 Dog Night – June Fairchild

June_Fairchild-gazarri_dancers.com

June Fairchild (Wilson) 1971

Larry J Dunlap – http://larryjdunlap.com/ljd-blog/

I never met June Fairchild, though I first heard about her in 1968, and even then I didn’t know her name. Her given name was June Wilson and she was born in Manhattan Beach, California. Like many of the young beautiful girls of the 60s, she wanted to be a movie star. During the years she was with Danny Hutton of “Roses and Rainbows” fame , she took the fateful step of joining the Screen Actors Guild, discovering that someone had already taken that name. Danny, apparently suggested Fairchild for her stagename and that was accepted. June is famous for naming as well. When she read in a National Geographic that Australian Aborigines defined how cold nights were in the Outback by how many dogs you needed to sleep with to keep warm enough to survive she told Danny that’s what he should name his new band. If it was really cold, it was a three-dog night. It stuck and Three Dog Night when on to a memorable career.

It appeared that June would go on to a memorable career too, as she worked in several movies and danced on Hollywood A’ Go Go TV show with a troupe called the Gazzari Dancers,  though they have no official connection to the Gazzari’s night club where we and many, many other 60s band played. Somehow, in someway, in a haze of drugs and alcohol, she fell through the cracks. The Manhattan Beach prom queen, famous go-go dancer, actress with a brilliant life and future fell all the way down to a skid row cardboard box in downtown Los Angeles. The mean, mean streets of rape and beatings.

Floyd Sneed, pictured here with June last September, was who told several of the guys in our band that some people had come in to see us, as we sat around a table at the

Floyd Sneed with June Fairchild

Floyd Sneed with June Fairchild

Rag Doll night club in North Hollywood in 1968. But they’d missed us, it was our night off. Floyd had been playing our off-nights with an excellent little trio called “Heat Wave,” and we’d become friendly. Especially with our drummer Leonard. One night Leonard asked Floyd, who held his sticks like hammers, about his unusual style and Floyd said, “African Lighting, baby, African Lightning.” He explained that even when the people who came to see us discovered we weren’t playing that night, they stayed anyway and then asked him if he’d like to audition for this new super group they were forming. “Three lead singers,” he’d said. “I told you guys I wanted to play in a group like yours, and look what happened?” I can’t remember for certain but I’m pretty certain it was Reb Foster, one of Three Dog’s managers, and Danny Hutton.

When one of us asked what the name of this hot new super group was, he said Three Dog Night, Leonard, puzzled, wanted to know what that meant. Floyd shrugged. “I dunno. Danny’s girlfriend read something about how many dogs you gotta sleep with on a really cold night, but,” Floyd grinned, and leaned back in his chair. “How can guys in a band called Stark Naked and the Car Thieves question anyone else’s wacky name?”

June died of liver cancer last Tuesday, at the age of 68 in a convalescent home. http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-june-fairchild-20150219-story.html Two of her high school girlfriends rescued her several years earlier from the streets to get her to come to a reunion. Though life was difficult her living on social security disability she remained living in small downtown hotels doing her best. It may not be the newest story of the high-flying 60s, of the time and place, but it reminds me of the pitfalls and dangers my friends and I saw take down so many. There’s a donation site for June at http://www.gofundme.com/JuneFairchild I’m going to go donate to it in our group’s name. For June, and for many others who burned so bright and fell so far in those days of music and love.

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

My Mom, in memorium

My mom’s funeral is today. She was 96 and lived a long and rich life. She was a red-headed Irish woman that my dad always called a firecracker. She lived every day she wanted, pretty much the way she wanted it and when it was time to go left in dignity and peace. I will always remember the way I’ve written about her, a firecracker, but a sweet and supportive one. Below, is an excerpt about how my mom helped me at a crossroads in my young life.

FORTY-THREE YEARS ago on a cool and foggy September morning I’d sat with my sneaks in the gutter and my back against a bent and battered street sign in front of our house on Salem Street. The night before, near the beginning of my junior year at Shortridge High, an obsession to sing a certain song struck me like a firebolt direct-delivered from destiny. Despite a forced six months of piano lessons at fourteen my mom insisted every child should have, I’d shown no musical inclination or interest, let alone talent. Other than sports, and a compulsive and bewildering preoccupation with girls, high school had been a big disappointment and waste of time to me. From the moment I’d stepped through Shortridge’s massive, two-story entryway I sensed the danger of losing what nebulous adolescent identity I contained in the milling crowd of 2200 kids crammed together under those 18 foot ceilings. I’d struggled for two years to find my bearings. Homework was especially irritating. After school, I needed to be out looking for a pickup game, working on my jump shot, figuring out how to get taller, quicker, faster. Making the school basketball team in Indianapolis was the only sure way to recognition and acceptance. So far, I’d been hopelessly unsuccessful.

Last night on the radio though, while working on Spanish translations, the song I’d heard was so neat it captured my entire imagination. Tomorrow, I decided then, I’m going to learn how to sing that song.

This morning my plan of attack was to catch the Baldwin Brothers; Virgil, always called Ginko, and his brother Patrick, on their way to school. I’d chosen these neighborhood friends to help me sing this song without a clue of whether they knew how to sing or not. They didn’t, but after I put on a full court press to convince them on the short walk to school they agreed to try. And fortunately, they knew someone who did, and better yet he was in the Madrigal Singers, the school’s elite choir. When Hastings Smith Jr, agreed to help, the four of us would form my first singing group, the Aristocrats and my life would begin to change. I would meet the teenage dream girl who would eventually become my wife and I would finally feel, for the first time, that I’d find my own place in life to stand.

But before all that could happen, I needed to figure out a way to learn the song that possessed me. At first, during morning classes I hadn’t yet put the happy coincidence of my mom being in the record business together with my latest obsession, but before lunchtime, I realized I might have an ally.

“I need to find a song I heard on the radio last night, Mom,” I told her sitting in the kitchen in front of the formidable lunch she’d had waiting. I’d demolished my sandwich half, started in on the soup and was already eyeing the steamy bread pudding she’d just set out. Mom made the best puddings. “Anyway, since you work in a record store and all — would you help me find it?”

“Really?” She said, pulling up a kitchen chair and picking up her half of egg salad sandwich. “I didn’t know you liked music Larry.” This was always a special time for us when she fixed lunch for me, and we could talk together. Or, if she was busy, I could read one of my science fiction paperbacks, secure in her nearby presence.

“Oh it’s okay I guess. But I really just like this one song. I’m going to sing it with some of the neighborhood guys.” I looked up to see if Mom thought my idea was crazy. I always seemed to be off on some project or other, diverse as a registered Civil Defense club, outfitted by the US Government and the local army surplus store, prepared to protect our families from the imminent radioactive fallout whenever the Reds decided to bomb us, to organizing a pre-teen shoplifting operation, that had been nipped in the bud and got my behind stung.

“What‘s the name of the song?” Mom asked. “Do you know who the artist is who sang on the record? What kind of song is it? Some of this new music, the “rock and roll” style of music?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, considering her questions. “It was on the radio when I was doing my homework upstairs. Could be rock and roll I guess, but it’s kinda slow, so I’m not sure if that counts. I call it the Silhouettes song. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the radio because, you know, I was concentrating so hard on my Spanish,” I watched her eyes to see how that was going over. “So I missed the name of the song.

“But they kept singing ‘silhouettes, silhouettes,’ over and over again, so I think that’s gotta be part of the song’s name. It means,” I concentrated, ‘the outline of a solid figure as cast by its shadow’. I got the librarian to help me look it up during study hall. It’s not spelled the way it sounds you know, so I wrote it down for you.”

“Fortunately for you, I know what a silhouette is so you definitely came to the right mom,” she said, smiling. I grinned back. “And you probably don’t know the song’s label either?”  No, I didn’t. This was getting complicated but I remained determined. “But you did hear the record on the radio so we can assume it must be popular,” she considered for a moment.”Come by the record store after school and we’ll see what we can find. Now finish up your pudding and get back to school on time.”

My mom had begun working at the 34th Street Record Shop record store a few weeks before I’d heard the Silhouettes song. I thought it was odd, and a little unsettling for her to leave the house to go someplace to work back then, even though it was a block from home and part time. Maybe we needed the extra money, it was about when Dad was deciding whether to open his own insurance agency or not. Whatever the reason she seemed to like working there.

“YOUR MOM SAYS you’re here to buy a recording this afternoon,” the lady in the flowery dress behind the counter smiled like she thought I was a little kid. “Your first, I think she said, is that right?” I nodded and so did she. A crisp, peppery smell permeated the store; posters and pictures on the walls displayed what I guessed were music people. “Well I’ll let your mother help you find what you’re looking for.” The woman swiveled toward the back of the shop.

“Ivy, I believe your good-looking young man is here for you,” she said. This was embarrassing. I wasn’t her good-looking young man; I was her son for Pete’s sake.

“Hi Larry,” said Mom,“ coming to the counter. It was strange to see her working in a shop. I wasn’t sure I liked it.

“Uh, hi Mom,” I said.

“Are you here to look for your record?” Well, yeah, I thought sarcastically. But I nodded, going along with everything. “Okay, well step over here, please.”

Mom came out from behind the long counter, past the cash register, and walked to where tables with pockets stretched to the front window. “These bins here,” she said pointing to a row of labeled folders holding recordings, “these are 78 rpm records I’ve been clearing out. See how they’re numbered from one to ten?” Yes, I could see that. “Well, these are the top ten most popular recordings of single songs as listed in Billboard Magazine. A lot of people want to buy what’s most popular at the moment, this way they can easily tell.”

“Is my Silhouettes song in there,” I asked eagerly.

“No, but here’s what’s interesting,” she said, showing me some empty folders stacked on the floor.” We used to display the top twenty-five 78 rpm records before I took these out to store in the back.” She pointed to where she’d been working.

“So my Silhouettes song is over there, then,” I said confidently.

“No no, it’s not in that stack either,” she said crisply, walking a little further along the row of bins. “Here are the new-style 45 rpm records. We only used to display the top ten 45 rpm records, but the other part of my job today was to add fifteen more folders so we can rack the top twenty-five single 45’s; that’s according to Billboard Magazine, of course. Do you know what that means, Larry?”

“My Silhouettes song is here?” I said hopefully.

“45 rpm single records are becoming more popular than 78 rpm records. That’s what it means,” Mom said with satisfaction. “And I think that’s a very interesting trend, don’t you?”

I stared at her. What could she be thinking? Did I miss something? Maybe there isn’t any Silhouettes record. “Crimalnitly, Mom, what about my record? Couldn’t you find the Silhouettes song?” I said, in horror.

“Well, let’s consider this for a moment. Now that the twenty five most popular 45 rpm records are in these bins,” Mom said, sounding a lot like one of my dumb teachers. “And since we don’t have any 78 rpm records with the word silhouettes in their title, maybe we can find your record in the 45’s.” She smiled at me, and hope was renewed. “I thought you might like to look.”

“Sure Mom, I’ll look,” I said as I rushed to sort through the records in the slots. “Here’s one, Singing the Blues”, nope, Party Doll, uh-uh” I muttered as I pawed down through Pat Boone, Elvis Presley, Debbie Reynolds, Buddy Holly until in the bin marked, number 11, I found it.  “Silhouettes,” I reverently breathed out the oddly spelled word. ”By The Rays; on Cameo Records. Right here Mom. I found it.”

“Well, let’s make sure,” she said very professionally snatching the record in its pristine white paper sleeve out of my hand, and starting back across the store.

“But Mom,” I tried to point out trailing after her. “It does say Silhouettes you know, right there on the record.”

“Yes, but in here,” she said, opening the door to something like a public phone booth on the opposite wall. “You’ll know for sure because you can listen to your selection before you buy it. Lots of songs might have the word silhouettes in them; it is kind of a romantic word, don’t you think?” She smiled and drew me into the booth. She slipped headphones over my ears and all the sound in the world disappeared. I glanced up to see her put the record on a turntable, and it’s arm descended silently onto the vinyl plastic. A scratching sound like a hamster might make, broke the deafening silence, and then my Silhouettes song began playing, sounding better — much, much better than on the radio. I stared up at Mom. She was watching my surprised grin. She was enjoying herself, and that made me smile even wider.

SIX DEGREES OF STARK NAKED

Though I did almost four months of research before really getting my teeth into this memoir, I still have to periodically find things to help me when I’m writing. Recently I have been writing about Jimmy O’Neill, who was our personal manager for a little over a year and a half, starting in 1967. Jimmy had been a big time DJ for KFWB, wrote for Teen Magazine, started the first teen nightclub, Pandora’s Box on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, and had been married to songwriter Sharon Sheely until shortly before we met him at the Rag Doll in North Hollywood. Though not everything went smoothly, Jimmy did a lot for us.

He was especially important to me. Before there was a glimmer of a thought of us ever leaving Indianapolis, the same group of us who recorded In The Still of the Night, had also recorded an audition tape for Jimmy O’Neill for Shindig! the television he was going to host. If I remember correctly, we read about an open call for audition tapes to become the backup vocal group on the show in a music magazine. With an astonishing amount of naivete we worked hard to get three songs ready, sang them, and sent off the tape. While I don’t remember exactly which songs were on that tape, and how that tape eventually wound up in New York City, and sent us another adventure that I’m leaving out of the memoir, one of them was a Beach Boys song, either In My Room, or Surfer Girl. We must have had another copy of at one time because somehow, it found its way to WIBC radio and the Bouncin’ Bill Baker show. He played it all of a day and a night offering a prize to anyone who knew who the artist was. I must admit, it was a solid copy of the Beach Boys, Dave sounded breathy, exactly like Brian Wilson, and the rest of sounded like we had sand between our toes.

Of course, everyone guessed the Beach Boys until Bill broke the news that it was The Reflections, as we were known them. But the point was we sent this to Jimmy O’Neill and never heard anything back. When the show came on, there were the Wellingtons, who had become the backup vocal group. The Blossoms were the girl vocal backup group, with none other than Darlene Love. The musicians called themselves the Shindogs and had such luminaries as guitarist James Burton and songwriter/guitarist Delaney Bramlett. I was just dying with the thought of what might have been.

Four years later, Jimmy O’Neill, who lived near where we were playing at the Rag Doll in the San Fernando Valley, dropped in to see us, as a guest of Tony Ferra, who owned the club. A few short weeks later we signed on with him as our personal manager. We were so excited, at least I was; he brought us to Greengrass Productions and Ed Cobb, a member of a fantastic vocal group, the Four Preps. I thought our future was made. Jimmy was partnered was Burt Jacobs who later went on with Reb Foster and Bill Uttley to build and manage Three Dog Night, and that friends, is a story for another night.

Anyway, I stumbled across the following interesting website, Six Degrees of Stark Naked from Iowahawk, you should definitely visit. It starts in one place and wanders via video in weird ways to several others …

Larry