Blog Party for BAND, memoir of A Naked Car Thief

Larry-photo-stillnakedHi, I’m Larry J. Dunlap, and I’m introducing my memoir BAND, memoir of A Naked Car Thief. I’ve been writing since the late seventies when I was in the business side of music. I did artist reviews and a cartoon strip for local music magazines then. Wrote my first story, a science fiction tale about built around a play-by-mail space empire game I was addicted to about then, too. I began professional technical writing after I’d gotten involved in technical training, eventually writing for Fortune 100 companies on contract. In recent years as the press of professional life lessened, I have returned to something I knew I’d have to do before embarking on any other authorial projects, a remembrance of my transition from a young Midwestern man/boy dreamer to a creator’s life in the warm California sunshine via a mid-sixties rock band. An excerpt from this memoir was published in an Inlandia Institute anthology last November.

I’ve always known it was likely I’d be a writer since I have been such an inveterate and addicted reader. For many reasons, I never attempted to write for a wide audience until relatively recently. During the six plus years I was leader of the rock band that grew out of my homespun vocal group in Indianapolis, I formed incredible bonds with my band mates. When we gathered to reminisce, we’d always remind ourselves of the interesting adventures we’d survived. I was always prompted by the guys saying, “Man, you have got to write a book about this.” As the years went by I heard from several of them saying that it was hard to talk about what we’d accomplished because no one could relate to their memories. When I could finally devote myself to this project I wanted to rectify that impression. I realized that vignettes, told out of context, sound like either bragging or disconnection. Telling our story would put it all in context. However, with our fading and differing memories there was only one way to do that, as a personal memoir. The more I settled into the project the more I realized I’d come to the right conclusion. I needed to write about my story, how I felt, what it meant to me, and let the rest of it shine through as I remembered and retold it.

My memoir starts on New Year’s Eve of 1964, though Book cover, BAND, memoir of A Naked Car Thiefchapter one covers a dangerous and violent night relating to the near hit record our vocal group in Indianapolis almost accidentally had in our nearby big city, Chicago. As a husband of two wonderful little boys and my high school sweetheart wife I loved, I was struggling with finding my creative place in the world. The environment around us in the structured world we grew up in and the hard line taken by our parents finally blew up when the group and I tried to turn ourselves into a working band. Though the first incarnation failed, a miraculous event sealed my fate and I was off to California to join my old buddies in a desperate attempt to create a rock band within a week in the seething musical chaos of San Francisco’s east bay dive bars. At the cost of the wrenching destruction of my family, the journey began that would carry us into adventure after adventure, to the top of San Francisco’s night life, through Hollywood, famous personal managers and record producers, to the heights of Las Vegas’ rock scene and the top of the largest Vegas resorts. A side trip to the Hawaiian islands found us performing for American warriors on R&R during the height of the Vietnam war, where I met a Hawaiian girl who touched me as deeply as my first love. As our status as performing stars rose, though we struggled with recording success, I was certain I’d reached the pinnacle of happiness and success. But there were undercurrents beyond my control that would bring me to the edge of sanity and the end of the music. Somehow I’d have to save my band, hope to save my new family, and try not to lose myself.

I’m currently working my way through the second edit. Memoir is a special form that I’ve come to really appreciate; I learned a lot from Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, and Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody, and read many, many others as I prepped for, and continue to write. I’ve adopted a narrative style including dialog to my memoir because that’s how I remember it even though it was so long ago. We moved through a time of great historical and cultural change the background behind the events of the story; there is no need to embellish the dramatic arc at all, it just is what it was. I hope other memoirists see their story as vividly as I see mine. I’m looking forward to finding more examples of this style to continue to inspire me.

Unfortunately, most memoir readers and many memoir authors see them as tearjerkers, while there’s certainly a low point in my story, so low that it feels more like black humor to me, I’m not looking for sympathy or redemption. Personally, I hate saccharine sweet stories. In my eyes I’m just trying to recount what I think of as a great adventure that I was lucky enough to be a part of, and survive — without judgment. To do this requires honing the skills and dramatic arts of authors of fiction. I hope from the Memoir’s Discussion Group on LinkedIn to be influenced by others who approach their life adventures in this way, and to be a source of influence to others in the style I’ve chosen.

Jimmy O’Neill dies at 73

Jimmy O'Neill, manager of Stark Naked and the Car Thieve 1967-68 It with deep regret that I read in this morning’s LA Times that Jimmy O’Neill had passed on at 73. Only a couple of weeks ago I posted a story about Jimmy, how he was our personal manager from early 1967 into 1968. He introduced us to Eddie Cobb of the Four Preps who became our first producer, and Seymour Heller, who became our personal manager after Jimmy. Jimmy’s partner was Burt Jacobs who after managing us with Jimmy, went on with Bill Uttley and Reb Foster to form and manage Three Dog Night. Jimmy’s second wife, Eve Johnson, was with him when we met him. It was a difficult time for him, he never quite recovered from the cancellation of his TV show Shindig! I’m sure I speak for all my bandmates of 1967-68 when I send condolences to his children and the hope that he rest in peace.

OBITUARY LOS ANGELES TIMES JANUARY 15, 2013

General George and the Ventures

The Ventures Instrumental Guitar Band

The Ventures

When Dave, Mac and I first met Les, we didn’t realize what a good singer he was. He had an instrumental guitar band called the MG’s, who were highly influenced by Nokie Edwards and the Ventures. They were playing weekend sock hop dances with Bouncin’ Bill Baker for WIBC radio in Indianapolis, where they also backed our vocal group for a few appearances. Later, the MG’s backed us as the Reflections in our first studio sessions. When the vocal group made its first attempt to become a band, Les joined the three of us as a singer, and later became Stark Naked and the Car Thieves’ guitarist and vocal arranger. I do remember what a big deal it was when Nokie Edwards came in to a club to see us.

I just recently discovered that the Ventures’ first drummer, when they recorded Walk Don’t Run, and practically still a garage band, was George Babbit. Apparently, he was too young to play in many of the venues they were booked into when their record started to break. He entered the U.S. Air Force  and went on to become a four star general.

If your love rock ‘n roll, and remember the Ventures, I invite you to click on the link below to watch this reunion. I think it’s pretty cool and I enjoyed it a lot. Hopefully you will too, and it brings you a smile.

General George Babbit and the Ventures reunited

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

Naked in Vegas at the Pussycat A’ Go Go in 1966

LAS VEGAS HOTELS AND LANDMARKS IN 1966

A Two Night Stand at the Cat

Major Las Vegas hotels and landmarks in October 1966 for Look Back In Love, memoir of A Naked Car Thief

When Stark Naked and the Car Thieves came to play the Pussycat A’ Go Go in 1966, there were twelve major hotels on the Las Vegas strip. The Cat was behind a race book, on ground that is now covered by the Wynn Hotel, south of the Desert Inn. It’s sign was a slyly smiling silhouette of a cat that stood high above the boulevard. Continue reading…