This post is part of a series of annotations from the pages of Night People, Book 1 of Things We Lost in the Night, A Memoir of Love and Music.
From: Ch1, ORPHAN, P5
“Dave’s familiar grin forced me to smile as he unfolded his lanky frame out from behind the wheel.
Mac peered out at me from the passenger seat. Les, male-model handsome, wound down the rear window. A moon-faced guy he introduced as Mickey Smith, a guitar player friend, sat next to him. I didn’t know Mickey, but Dave, Mac, and Les were the rest of my disintegrating vocal group, the Reflections.”
This excerpt from the second paragraph of the beginning chapter introduces (from left to right in the photo) me, Dave, Les, and Mac, the three members of my vocal group. I struggled with finding the right place to begin this memoir since this wasn’t the beginning of the story for me. For me, it all began in September of 1957 while I was a junior in high school. So, in one sense, I’ve started in the middle of the story, though interesting bits of what came before this will gradually be uncovered in the pages of Night People and Enchanted. The reason I chose this moment to begin the memoir was because the four of us, who I sometimes refer to as the Four Musketeers, will also appear together at the end of the story. And though it isn’t the beginning, it is where our journey begins. As for Micky Smith, that will be in a later annotation.
[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 at Mac’s suggestion. Dave and I had been singing together since high school, but Mac, who had joined us a few months earlier, was already a professional performer. He’d 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.” A few weeks earlier, at our New Year’s Eve party, he told us he was sure we could make some extra money that way. He told us he knew how to perform on stage and could construct little shows for us to do. And though the rest of us shared one single left foot and a clumsy one at that, he swore he could show the rest of us how to do choreography to the songs we already knew. 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… and I tended to freeze up in front of audiences. But for many of the guys, it made sense, especially when Mac called the agent for his ex-band, the Casinos, who later had a big hit with “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” told him she could book the band if we would do a few out-of-town gigs to tighten up the band.
Les, who’d expected to be our guitar player, became our last-minute replacement bass singer a couple of weeks before our first booking in Birmingham, Alabama at some place called the Boom Boom Room. Since Les was going to sing with us and not play guitar, we needed musicians to back us up. Les found a little outfit called the Zeb Miley Trio playing in a downtown Indianapolis bar called Susie’s Twist Club. They agreed to go on the road with us for a few weeks to tighten up our show. We renamed the combined band and singers, the Checkmates, and ill-fated choice as it turned out, but that is a different story.
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, about how dangerous it had been including threats from the audience for not playing the right music and accusing one or another of us of sleeping with somebody we shouldn’t have, and a bomb threat — 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 – The Can Can Room
Monday, March 1, 1965, St. Louis, Missouri
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, 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 no. I had failed so many classes in school and now here I was again, failing Musician’s Union 101 this time, 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. Do you understand that?”
“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 get it.” 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 protested.
“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 got 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 our 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 this 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 threw 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 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 were finished for the night.
“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 think Zeb had already forgotten the union rep’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 despondently?
Before Zeb headed into the door, he said, “That’s not the hard part. You guys can run back to Indy tonight and get union cards for $35 in the morning and be back in time for your first show. 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.”
On Thursday, May 11, the Third Street Writers of Laguna Beach are set to celebrate the release of their anthology “Beach Reads: Here Comes the Sun,” at 5:30 p.m. , at Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast Highway. Join us for snacks and light refreshments and excellent writer’s reading their work from the new book. Would love to see fans and friends there!
The anthology of 30 short stories, poetry, and personal essays explores the sun as an agent of transformation, and includes my short story “Island Girl.” an excerpt from my concluding, soon to be released, Enchanted, Book 2 from THINGS WE LOST IN THE NIGHT, A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.
Enchanted covers the final three years of my experiences with love and music in during the late 1960s set primarily in Hawai’i, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, and Southern California. It is a rich and complex adventure balancing the emotional power of music and the search for success and happiness in a turbulent era. As the decade of change is eroding into the early 1970s so are changes that effect the band and people at the center of this journey are challenged in ways they’d never imagined.
Kindle $0.00 kindle unlimited logo This title and over 1 million more available with Kindle Unlimited $5.99 to buy
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IN THIS FAST-MOVING ADVENTURE AND ROMANCE-FILLED MEMOIR THAT READS LIKE A NOVEL, A young Midwestern singer and his vocalist friends experience the transformative power of love, loss, and music in a chaotic West Coast adventure in the1960s. If you liked memoirs from Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Robertson, Carly Simon, Keith Richards, and Patti Smith, you’re sure to enjoy Night People.
“I didn’t want to believe how much you’ve changed, but you’re a different person here. You live at night here, your friends are night people and you’re becoming one, too. You hardly see daylight on weekends. Here it is, nearly dusk, and you’re leaving to play music all night again to entertain your new friends–your new girlfriend–all the new people in your new life.”
In 1965, Larry’s rock and roll vocal group is disintegrating along with his marriage to his high school sweetheart. Despite his resolution to turn his life around in Indianapolis, he finds himself reunited with his scattered-to-the-winds friends in distant San Francisco struggling to re-make themselves into a rock band in the dive clubs of the Bay Area.
Barely surviving the transformation, they struggle to avoid the dangers,temptations, and insecurities waiting to trip them up in their new life. As the band scrambles to overcome, or at least endure, every obstacle in its path, Larry faces a painful choice that will result in loss fort hose he loves no matter how he decides.
Their strong voices and new skills are a potent combination. Soon, Larry and his new band are plunged into a breathtaking journey through mob-run nightclubs, Las Vegas showrooms and backrooms, famous Hollywood night spots, top West Coast recording studios, celebrity managers–and passionate romance.Everything they’ve ever dreamed of is just around the next corner.
Night People’s adventure is set against the backdrop of the West Coast in the mid-60s: a historic era of tectonic cultural, political, musical, and sexual upheaval–and the draft. Everything Larry thought he knew about life, love, and himself is challenged in the tumultuous nights where things and people are too easily found and lost.
PRAISE FOR NIGHT PEOPLE
“Dunlap’s sense of transcendence is similar to the sensation Keith Richards describes in his memoir, ‘Life: ‘ …you leave the planet for a while…‘ Reliving his rock and roll years in his wonderful memoir, NIGHT PEOPLE,’ Larry Dunlap, must have left the planet for a while, too.” I loved it, and highly recommend it. — Kiana Davenport, The Spy Lover, Shark Dialogues
“Whether or not you remember the swift intoxicating music of that era or theseismic shift of mores that burst from the free-love movement, [NIGHT PEOPLE] captures the beat of that misty time when the country suffered “agrowing thirst for individual freedom, a desire to escape from anever-darkening shadow of war, and a national hangover following thepublic murder of a young and popular president.” — C.D. Quyn, Steph Rodriguez, Manhattan Book Review
“Larry Dunlap lived it. His memoir ‘NIGHT PEOPLE’ is a frank, funny, frenzied chronicle of the 60’s West Coast music scene.” — Susan Shapiro, New York Times bestselling memoirist, FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART, GOOD AS YOUR WORD, OVEREXPOSED
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
One of the best biographies written by a musician!
A Riveting, Mythic, Rock and Roll Memoir
Wonderful! Excellent Read!
A Great Read
The Naked Truth!
A Window Into a Fascinating Era
Rock and Roll, baby!
A Must Read
A Great Read About An Exciting Life
Music Has Found Me Again
SO Worth Reading! Night People Left Me Weak!
My Life Seemed Extremely Boring After Finishing “Night People”
Lessons of Life, Love, and Sex in the 60s
Genuine, Exciting, Graphic and Memorable – life in the 60’s
Fantastic Coming of Age Memoir!
Great Look At An Era
Couldn’t Stop Reading!
As some of my friends know, I’ve always been a game geek and the love of all kinds of games pulled me into a couple of game ventures. The first was The Games Network, a cable television venture involving interactive computer gaming in the early 1980s, perhaps a bit before its time. Later, in the early 2000s I took on the task of developing an online multi-player strategy/role-playing game that had been burning a hole in my brain since the earlier experience. The company was Intelligent Life Games, and Imperial Wars was the game.
During the years of trying to pull together enough resources to develop this project I met some absolutely wonderful people. None stand higher in my esteem than Gordon Walton, who was the Executive Producer of Ultima Online (my first MMO and one I playtested), The Sims Online (when I first met him), Star Wars Galaxies, and Star Wars: the Old Republic. Now he’s got his own game company, ArtCraft Entertainment, and they’re readying their first game for release, Crowfall. As usual, it looks like Gordon is working on another winner, and there’s lots to like about it.
I love the game structure which uses some of the unique principles we were trying to implement in Imperial Wars – zero-sum games (worlds) so that there are actual winners, and so actions will have consequences; game worlds (universes in our case) that can have different game conditions; persistent, modifiable avatars that exist outside of the play worlds; and other great looking game balancing designs. On his team are Raph Koster, one of the big brains behind Everquest, and an excellent developer/engineer, Mike McShaffrey, two guys I have admired for years.
So, if you’re a game geek, like me, and you’re looking for a great looking new MMO, give Crowfall a try. Though their kickstarter funding has been completed, there’s always benefits for ‘stretch’ funding so you may want to check that out, too. I wish all the folks at ArcCraft the best of luck!