The Indianapolis Times
My last job in Indianapolis was at the Indianapolis Times. I was hired in 1963 to sell classified advertising. I didn’t realize it at the time but it was a dead end job because Scripps-Howard had already announced they planned to discontinue the paper. The Indianapolis Star, a morning paper, had already gobbled up the Indianapolis News, portending the change in the business environment. You needed to know the news before your working day not leisurely looking at in the evening.
The venerable Indianapolis Times, also an afternoon paper, held on even longer than it should have to try and keep Indianapolis from becoming a one newspaper town. Even then it was realized how dangerous it was to have only one news source (FoxNews crack addicts are you listening?).
[Location: 300 block W. Maryland Street at Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis (Marion County, Indiana)]
Life at a Dying Newspaper
I was excited at the prospect of working for a newspaper at first but my department had realized long before I arrived that there was no future in working hard at the Times. We met at 8 o’clock in the morning for a half an hour sales meeting, usually including donuts and coffee (some people surreptitiously adding a little kick to their coffee even that early). Then everyone left, supposedly to work on sales for the classified ads. I was told to ‘cold call’ car lots, gas stations, radio stations, local businesses, etc. to drum up sales but within a couple of weeks some of the old timers told me not to waste my time. I would get ads from the companies that just wanted to be in every publication but I wouldn’t get any new ads because everyone knew the Time wouldn’t be in business much longer and circulation was way down.
Everyone in the department except me was split into two groups. The golfers, who left immediately for the links after the morning sales meeting, and the rest, who left for the bars. Around 4:30 everyone would gather again for the final sales meeting before leaving for the day. That could be a hoot as the barflys could be raucous and unruly and the golfers told outrageous lies about their golf game or sexual adventures.
For me, I found that I could slip into a library and read science fiction novels or meet up with some of the guys I sang with, most of whom were chronically unemployed. Often there were enough of us to get in some a cappella practice time. 1964 was the year we had a close brush with fame after recording “In The Still of The Nite” and our trips to Chicago to support the record. In the first few months of the year we still hoped we might be able to keep recording but the Indy Sound and Jan Hutchens Productions died as quickly as it had risen. It was on one such day in the fall that I recruited Mac Brown from the Casinos to come and sing with us. At our New Year’s Eve party on the last day of 1964, knowing that the day the Times would close was near I agreed to a brash proposal to try our luck as The Checkmates (precursor to Stark Naked and the Car Thieves) singing in night clubs. So in early February of 1965 I gave notice at the Times and tried my luck as a bar singer. Though that experience was a complete disaster life was never the same again.
One of the best things I learned at the Times was from the display artist. I would bring him display ads and he would draw them up right in front of me. He was half cartoonist and have illustrator. His main tools were a metal ruler and a #2 pencil. He would use the ruler to tear through newspaper pages and his pencil to block out new art, write in new copy using the ruler edge, and illustrate where and when needed. I’ve always been influenced by his rough and ready skill and talent even though the medium has changed to a digital world. I still keep a couple of steel rulers around for when I work on art in article, brochure, or book form even in this digital world.
By WILLEM ALKEMA and REED TUCKER
Last Updated: 12:10 PM, September 26, 2011
Posted: 2:05 AM, September 25, 2011
In his heyday, he lived at 783 Bel Air Road, a four-bedroom, 5,432-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion that once belonged to John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.
The Tudor-style house was tricked out in his signature funky black, white and red color scheme. Shag carpet. Tiffany lamps in every room. A round water bed in the master bedroom. There were parties where Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Miles Davis would drop by, where Etta James would break into “At Last” by the bar.
Just four years ago, he resided in a Napa Valley house so large it could only be described as a “compound,” with a vineyard out back and multiple cars in the driveway.
But those days are gone.
Today, Sly Stone — one of the greatest figures in soul-music history — is homeless, his fortune stolen by a lethal combination of excess, substance abuse and financial mismanagement. He lays his head inside a white camper van ironically stamped with the words “Pleasure Way” on the side. The van is parked on a residential street in Crenshaw, the rough Los Angeles neighborhood where “Boyz n the Hood” was set. A retired couple makes sure he eats once a day, and Stone showers at their house. The couple’s son serves as his assistant and driver.
Inside the van, the former mastermind of Sly & the Family Stone, now 68, continues to record music with the help of a laptop computer.
“I like my small camper,” he says, his voice raspy with age and years of hard living. “I just do not want to return to a fixed home. I cannot stand being in one place. I must keep moving.”
Stone has been difficult to pin down for years. In the last two decades, he’s become one of music’s most enigmatic figures, bordering on reclusive. You’d be forgiven for assuming he’s dead. He rarely appears in public, and just getting him in a room requires hours or years of detective work, middlemen and, of course, making peace with the likelihood that he just won’t show up.
There was a time when Sly was difficult to escape. Stone, whose real name is Sylvester Stewart, was one of the most visible, flamboyant figures of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
I haven’t had a copy of this record since leaving Indianapolis for northern California in 1965. I found a copy on eBay and it is supposed to arrive either today or tomorrow. It’s good to be able to retrieve a few of the things you took for granted and let slip away when you’re young. I’m excited to own it again. Can’t wait to fire up a turntable and hear it. I’m going to take a better digital copy of this then the one that’s on the site.
I’m thinking about trying to do some kind of music video to this song if I can think of some interesting way to do it.
In thrashing about on the Internet and just plain dumb good luck I came across David Cornwell Photography in Hawaii. On occasion in the past I had searched for ‘David Cornwall’ and never thought to try this name but now that I did there were several websites to pick from. From what seemed the most recent website, this seemed to be the same David Cornwell who had filmed our music video for Look Back in Love in Hawaii. I sent a couple of emails waiting each time for several days in between. No reply.
Finally I picked up the phone and called. Dave’s address is in Waipahu. I got him on the phone and after a polite conversation we did determine that Dave’s business at the time was on Kalakaua Ave and that he was the one to do the video. I had kept my expectations low as we know something like 44 years have passed since this video was filmed. Dave is now 74 and told me that he had left the islands for about 8 years in the eighties to live in Connecticut and then did some traveling before returning to Hawaii. A few years ago his offices were robbed and he said he lost the majority of everything he had. In short, he didn’t think he had anything left from those days.
I asked him to please check as well as he was able. I have had an email or two from him since but so far he has been unable to find anything.
That’s pretty sad but for those as intensely interested as I have been there is at least some resolution.
So it does seem that The Reflections and The Illusions records are still being collected, including the Mona Thomas songs. You’ll note that there is a copy of the Tigre label in both of the blogs linked in below. They both have scans of ‘In The Still Of The Nite’, which our ‘band before the band’ vocal group had out in ’64 but nowhere do I see a mention of ‘In The Beginning’, which we released as The Illusions. Perhaps not surprising since there must have been very, very few of The Illusions tune pressed. Tigre was in very dire straits at that point.
Still curiouser and curiouser that folks would collect these records.
This is the WHITE DOO WOP COLLECTOR’S site.
DOO WOP BIOGRAPHY, GROUPS AND DISCOGRAPHIES site.
So after seeing all of the videos I posted a week or so ago, I thought: why can’t I do a video track to our music, too. I’ve had to do a few videos in the last several months for work projects and I never had time to learn anything more than the basics of the video editing software I use so I thought I could work on some chops and try to put something together for Look Back In Love. Also, we’ve never had a video since all of the footage that was shot for it in Honolulu was never paid for by Attarack/Heller so we never even got to see it, let alone own a copy. 🙁 So this is something at least.
Anyway, I’m posting it here and linking it to the front page on our website. Hope everyone enjoys it. It’s kind of an open letter to all of us from that band. No matter what, in the end I love all my band brothers, including everyone those that I’m not in regular contact with.
With Steve Miller Band, Sonny Charles moves out of a career Checkmate
By John Katsilometes · May 20, 2010 · 5:28 PM
For a long time Sonny Charles sensed that his long friendship and musical partnership with Marvin Smith was coming to an end. “Sweet Louie,” as Marvin forever was known onstage, was not a healthy man as he reached his late 60s.
There were times when Sweet Louie struggled to finish shows. There were times when he struggled and couldn’t finish shows.
Still, the duo forged ahead as The Checkmates, or rather, “The Legendary Checkmates!” as they were known at such Vegas haunts as Arizona Charlie’s Naughty Lady Saloon and Sahara’s Casbar Lounge.
Finally and without fanfare The Checkmates, who for five decades were featured in Vegas lounges and in clubs across the country, quietly passed away.
Read more at: Las Vegas Sun, March 16, 2011
Back in the early 80’s, I lived in the Los Feliz/Atwater area. I spent many a night walking my dog with my neighbor Bud Mason, ne Wayne Mason, who told me stories about growing up in 50’s and 60’s. He seemed to have a story about everything. To give you an idea of how wacky his childhood was, when Oregon went to the Rose Bowl in 1958 they found out Bud had a pet duck. They gave him free tickets in return that the duck could be their mascot for the game. That was the kind of stuff that happened to Bud, and I spent a lot time cracking up at his escapades. He spoke of his days in the navy, hot rodding up and down San Fernando Road, ordering Zombie’s from a black bartender named Ben at Gazzarri’s, and rocking out to a band named “Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.”
I was just a kid back then, but the name was instantly cool to me and remains so to this day. I decided to google your band for kicks, and it is nice to finally be able to put a face to the name. Bud has been gone for a few years now, but every once in a while I think about him fondly and laugh. I have regaled my own son with some of Bud’s stories… and yes, about a band called Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.
Thanks – Anthony
Mon 2/14/2011 5:06 PM
My name is Steve and I live in Honolulu, Hawaii.
I recall reading in our local newspaper in 1968 that “Stark Naked And The Car Thieves” opend at a nightclub called “The Lemon Tree” in Waikiki on March 26, 1968. The group members at that time were Larry Dunlap on organ, Dave Dunn on vocals, Les Silvey on guitar, Mac Brown on vocals, Leonard Souza on drums and Mickey Borden on bass.
The main rock and roll radio station in Hawaii at that time was K-POI. I was wondering if the guys were ever interviewed on that station while they were in town. I was quite young at that time so I did not get to go to the nightclub to see them. Did the group have any singles out during the time that they were performing in Hawaii?