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.
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.
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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!
I 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.