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.
TOMORROW, JUNE 11, LARRY J. DUNLAP AND MANY OTHER POMONA VALLEY WRITERS including Steve McCarthy and Rick Stepp-Bolling, will be signing books at the Glendora Library’s “Meet Your Local Authors” event from11 am to 1 pm. 140 S. Glendora Avenue in Glendora, CA 91741. I’ll be autographing print editions of “NIGHT PEOPLE, Book 1 of Things We Lost in the Night, A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves.” The book will be on sale for $14.99 and discounted, same edition but older cover, books for $12.99. Both print editions purchases will include a free eBook.
FREE ALBUMS AND MORE
If you are local to this area, please stop by and pick up a free album of the Songs From: “Things We Lost in the Night,” including all the recorded songs from NIGHT PEOPLE, and the upcoming, ENCHANTED. I’d love to meet and sign an autographed bookmark for you. More info at Glendora Public Library Events.
The topless craze in North Beach that rocked San Francisco during the 60s began with the legendary Carol Doda. She was an amazing character and a true San Franciscan. She died Wednesday, November 11, 2015. She was 78 and I’m sorry to be just finding that out and writing about her now. I didn’t know her but by all accounts she was well-liked and in her later years had her own clothing store. She was a Californian icon and I hate to see them pass. We worked in a topless club, the Galaxie, just across the street from the Condor Club, for most of 1966 with our own covey of topless dancers, singers, and showgirls, who befriended us and helped acclimate us to working on Broadway in the City. We were still fresh from Indiana after slaving away in the dive bars across the Bay, and it took some getting used to. It was one of my favorite years….
This short video is from the Channel 7 ABC News in San Francisco.
One of the best biographies written by a musician!
A Riveting, Mythic, Rock and Roll Memoir
Wonderful! Excellent Read!
A Great Read
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!
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
Meant to be savored
Rock and roll band life
Passion for music
Car Thieves take me away!