Uncle Frank's Radio Hour
Maybe by the Chantals
St Augustine and Frank Zappa
I am reminding myself here to post something later today about St Augustine, as Frank knew our family and this was another most curious coincidence .... we liked those!
None Dare Call It Reason: The Odious Cloud in the Pomona Valley
Those awaiting proofs on Alice Cooper at the Berkeley Community Theater or even the subsidiary evidence about sociology professors to substantiate, I am sorry .... due to technical difficulties beyond my control (my IT tech decided to drive to Torrance for a better paying gig), I will have to delay posting those items for a bit.
In the meantime:
The electric clarinet in the Frank Zappa interview on Steve Allen Show I am positive once belonged to my Uncle Taddeus, who I have mentioned on this blog several times before. He's the one who could play Bob (or Ray) and wail out schnitzel music. Because the clarinet went missing on a subsequent visit when Uncle Taddeus was called upon to play, and my sister confessed she had sold the instrument (Uncle Taddeus had given it to her, after all when she was trying out for the Marching Band at Enterprise Junior High School in Compton, but she decided to twirl batons instead in the parades .... but she didn't sell that clarinet for much which infuriated my entire family. And, Frank was like that sometimes. I know another person who is still waiting to this very day for that final payment from Frank for a xylophone purchased about the same time and in the same vicinity, you see.)
Because I tend to sometimes use a circular form of memory with free association thrown in, and it's as confusing to me as it sometimes is to you, I will tell you now of a curious coincidence, the kind that Frank enjoyed at times (because don't we all?)
Frank and Candy and the whole fam damily lived on cul-de-sac near my Oakmont Grammar School on a street called ...... OAK PARK
(that's in Claremont, California) That's right!
And the amazing coincidence is ......
My Uncle Taddeus and Aunt Ludmilla who visited and met Frank and took him and my sister and me to Denny's in Pomona .....
They lived in Oak Park, Illinois at the time. Frank would see the endless letters from Aunt Ludmilla on top of our TV, she tended to write 17-page letters, one after another, and we'd get three, four, five of them at once. (This is a trait her son inherited from her). They came originally from The Windy City of Chicago I would have to warn Frank in advance, as Aunt Ludmilla was a real how you say yenta.
And here's the SPOO-OOOO-KY part, scarier than any Hallowe'en .....
They'd come visit in the late '50s and early '60s ..... in Claremont ..... and let us know because they didn't like it too much and were ashamed to mention it at all ..... that the American Nazi party was holding rallys in Oak Park, Illinois, complete in full regalia .... and we'd go ooooo-oooo-ooooh! CREEPY! And laugh about them.
And it would be completely ooooo-ooooh! CREEPY! because to my way of thinking, there were an awful lot of Germanic types around the Pomona Valley at the time .... especially in Claremont .....
And .... there's probably a reason
the Neo-Nazi Party
decided to march in Claremont recently
The Claremont Institute
, when Frank worked at Running Greeting Card studio, which was adjacent to the little Folk Music Store on First Street, was slightly down the street from both those establishments, tucked away next to a bicycle repair shop near the corner of First and Yale.
I'd stop in to all the businesses in town, as a kid, and the interior was .... very intellectual and frightening ... Ach, dose Eentellecktualz ... I used to call it Der Local Schtink Tank. Or because of its darkened cavernous
near airless interior, The Hyperbolic Chamber.
So we'd rent an empty storefront right across Yale from them and have a combined gallery showing and sale of all our friends' art.
(I used to run into them, American Nazi Party members, quite literally in full uniform ... as I was rounding a corner at a big Peace March in Los Angeles in 1963 ... well, I suppose I can laugh about it now ... but they were in Pomona, too.)
You remember how I was hit on the head with a baseball bat? Not the dumb rednecks, they were probably more like the deranged offspring of the local inbred families of the Klan that operated in the vicinity.
But when I was hit on the head as I was rising from my knees and the boys running away, I shouted out, "Nazis!" after them. And guess what? The boy on crutches said to me at that critical juncture of my life, "They are not!"
First he was yelling "No!" as I was hit, and he moved forward to me on his crutches. And then when I yelled "Nazis!" he yelled "No!" again. "They are not!"
He had to explain that comment to me later on, I tell you.
As I got to know the boy on crutches as life went on there, I learned he was of German extract, and was proud his grandmother had not kneeled to kiss the flag back during World War I as an enforced bid to show patriotism. And Nazis, to him, as a bright boy, was strictly speaking a socio-political monstrous phenomenon during a particular course of extremely bloody world history and professed a particularly hideous genocidal economic platform all resultant from soggy esteem in National Identity among certain ascending cultural groups from losing the First World War and losing some land and needing more elbausraum for themselves.
You see, we had bright kids in Claremont, and he was a few years older than I so I listened to him eventually when we became friends for a bit. So there are Good Germans and Bad Germans, as any student of history will tell you. He was German, and his dad taught music at a nearby college.
Anyway, that was Claremont to me and because these things had really happened to me, Frank would listen to my point of view as I related my most recent experiences in town. My point of view, I will add, is the only one I had at the time.
Der American Nazi Party was on der very visible rise even in Kalifornia back in the early sixties as some weird identity crisis the local White People were having in response to the growing popularity of the Civil Rights Movement, and when they grew nostalgic for an era they had only heard and dreamed of being like.
(Ooh, Adolf, I imagined the blond bouffant girls in my school sighing. Ooh, Eva! I imagined those same girls longing for his passionate response)
But when Uncle Taddeus, Aunt Ludmilla, and my father were young, about the age I was in 1960, they lived in the family home on Maxwell Street in Chicago. So they had some stories about THAT, too. And that's the kind of stuff I would pay attention to, because that's more fun than thinking about Nazis even though they're in the geographic vicinity.
For a party favor or some kind of present at my own graduation, every student in my graduating class at Claremont High School reeived a copy of "None Dare Call It Treason
" from an anonymous donor. That's the kind of town it was then, and all you could do was laugh about it.
Nile Running had a logo of a person running (a visual play on his name)... and I would listen to:
Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home
) by the Capris
(On the Dick Clark Show, when they sang it, sometimes they'd do a little pantomime with the lip-sync, and one of the singers would swing his arms like he was holding an imaginary baseball bat right where the drum went "snap" to imitate hitting a ball .... and I'd go "eeew! Gabba gabba gabba" because if I'd been hit any harder, as frightened adults told me at the time, "you could have been killed!" or even end up speaking like "gabba gabba gabba". Ah, the kids in my town, I tell you.)
Alice Cooper is Previewed: Concert, Berkeley Community Theater, Fall 1971
Maybe it was Frank Zappa himself in the back seat ... the car pulled up to the curb, fancy ... a limo, maybe even a Cadillac limousine and handed the Sociology reader two free tickets to a concert in Berkeley. We were walking along lower Market Street in San Francisco , near a BART station. I stood behind her and pointed with both hands to her. She got the tickets, handed from a rolled down window. I kept walking up the street and she was distracted by this event and barely noticed me until I walked back down the street to where she was, and I said, "Oh, Hello! Fancy meeting you here."
She was the reader I had made friends with in a Sociology class I was taking.
I have to go to work now so I will post proofs later. I will name the name of the Sociology professor (Saul Geiser) and give you a link to him. I will post an actual picture of The Reader ..... and reveal her name inPUBLIC! I will also post some scans to PROVE THE DATE of the Alice Cooper preview concert in Berkeley ..... and I will reveal other things from my own Book of Life.
The date: Sometime during the fall quarter at UCB, 1971.
And in so doing, I will reveal the other things I know about Saul Geiser and the Sociology Reader to let you know I am a good observer, close up, and retain details about people I have know, so you may start believing me more about the Frank Zappa posts (even though I mix names up and can't give precise dates sometimes because so much time has elapsed in the intervening years).
Stay tuned, I will do this posting and explication after work tonight .... when I get off this borrowed computer. If I recall, I have promised to post some other photos from the past, which I will do, and maybe now an artifact that remotely is connected to Frank and Alice Cooper as this is a subsidiary proof of date. In the meantime, I have to say I don't really enjoy the electronic noise a Keurig makes in the morning as it is warming up the water, but I very much like the coffee.
But if I were teaching a class in music history, I would have people listen to Frank Zappa's "The Torture Never Stops" and list Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" as required reading, because he borrowed that book from me to read. If you were a social studies teacher, what would you work in to talk about current events either nationally or internationally? You can't mention "torture" per se, you know, and teachers are fired for discussing anything to do with the current wars (that have been ongoing for thirteen years now). How would you work that in?
But any of this would likely have to be taught at an Eastern school as no mention of Upton Sinclair ever finds its way into any classroom anywhere in California any more. That was true when I was a kid, too, in 1961. No Upton in the classroom. Not allowed to mention Upton in the classroom, either. But I could carry his book in full view on top of my science textbooks, and almost no one would notice as the kids genuinely weren't interested, either. But if the teachers who measured my skirts or bugged me in other ways had seen it, I'll bet it would have been removed from my possession, temporarily at least.
When I told Frank about my English teacher whose class no one wanted to be in and I was assigned there anyway as some kind of administrative punishment .... how she was in the middle of a nervous breakdown and would physically assault students .... she would tell me to stop reading, she would tell other kids to sit up straight and focus on them and wait until they slouched a bit and then lay hands on them by pulling the boy up straight by the collar on his jacket ... or she'd pull girls' hair, roughly, too, I might add .... All the school did was let her wriggle free and go off to a mental ward or something for the summer and return the next year to teach, until she got so bad even the school board had to encourage her to retire or go elsewhere.
And the boy who had been bullied by that English teacher, oh, he was a trouble maker .... and a math teacher (who fell in love with one of his child students in algebra class in 9th grade, and then got himself transferred to teach math at the high school so he could follow her around, and visited local prostitutes in town because he couldn't screw his young friend yet, because "that" just wasn't right .... )
That math teacher broke that boy's arm one day. The "trouble mnaker's". The math teacher would focus on other kids, too, he was aggressive and would walk up to kids (like me) who had arrived to help decorate a teenage dance ... he would wait for us outside and walk up and advise like a cop "you'd better behave in there" ... no this, no that ... you'd have to obey that fascist monster (he had been in the military and went to college on the GI Bill, like a lot of teachers ... ) wow, he tough. We'd pull up in a car smoking a cigarette and we'd be 200 feet away from the building, and he'd walk over and stick his cop/soldier head in the window of the car and say, "This is a school event. There is no smoking allowed." Where's the written rule for that? I'd wonder. So I would have my tough artist boyfriends take me to any school function from then on out, which I assure you this decorating the teen dance was the last with pink crepe paper and white baloons, although I eventually soon stopped attending nearly any school function, they just weren't my bag. In fact, I started recommending black crepe paper for school decorations ... as there was plenty of that rolled up in storage for the Halloween Dances and we could use it other times of year ... I suggested.
And from what I heard, that math teacher was divorced by his wife eventually (because he was caught visiting local prostitutes) and he ..... eventually married that little girl he had been following since 8th grade algebra. Ain't love grand, I would sneer to Frank as I recounted ("almost pull him straight out of the seat of his chair!...") some of the current episodes of going to high school there.
But it was a very good school district back then. California was Number One in the nation for public schools, and Claremont school district was rated Number Three in California (After Beverly Hills and San Marino, and those were rich rich rich rich rich towns).
I nearly forgot! There was another happy ending with some of those Neo-Fascist instructors. The boy's coach and gym instructor, who would lead pep cheers at the school assembly ... the fellow who was secretly
an alcoholic as I'd see a bar door open on Foothill and there he was with five empty glasses in front of him on the bar and he was sitting on a bar stool ... have I told you about him yet? He's the onewho not only didn't mind that his football practice team would throw rocks at girls walking past on their summons to the Girl's Dean's Office (namely me), but he would "punish" a small slight gay boy by wrapping his arm around the kid's neck and walking him back into the coach's office for a little "discipline" and the football team would taunt and shout, "Oooo-oooh! Arty!"
Though I had the football team threatened with suspension prior to a big game through the auspices of the Girl's Dean (and she really did not like me, but she didn't like the idea of boys behaving badly) so they had the sweats on for a week or so to learn how to behave, well, nothing really happened to any of them. The Coach however (who wore the school colors, had muscular thighs, and wore maroon short shorts as he bounced on stage "Give me an "A"! (and all the students would shout in a fervor, "A!" "Give me a "C" (Shit, I' think to myself, this guy can SPELL!) and the students would shout out in unison "C!" ... and on all the way with movements and chest thrust out and a big smile on his face to the (I'll skip through these fast) "I" "O" "N" (and I'd sit there wishing I had an atomic bomb or something as he spelled out ION) ... He although he was brought in for some complaints and la la la and the police visited him once in his home la la la nothing ever happened to him in the way of official punishment until he committed suicide. So he was gone eventually.
You know, my family used to get Christmas cards from Allen Cranston .... regularly,many years in a row.
Florian Zabach as a remote compositional influence perhaps
As a very young child, I developed an occasional penchant for Florian Zabach
Because of the Hungarian fiddle music.
Once in a great while, Florian made a televised appearance. Frank might not watch these with us, but he would laugh when my mother mentioned I had watched Florian on tv with my Grandmother, and my Grandmother would sigh, "Oh, Florian!" (because the little old bohunk ladies back East watched his show and were simply mad for him and she was making fun of them). Just like other little old ladies were mad for Liberace, but not so much his brother George, although even at that letters would pour in to Liberace criticizing him for not giving George enough air time. I'd say, well Liberace's the one with the fancy candelabra, what do they expect? Does Florian's initials remind you of any one?
Little Red Wagon
When I was very young, in Compton, I looked for cheap thrills. I'd take my wagon to the hills, and fly as fast as I could. The hills were the sections of sidewalk totally broken, and cracked and never repaired from the 1931 earthquake. The upward thrust had created hills in the concrete and they pretty much were left that way for twenty or more years. The concrete was all chipping apart, and you'd bounce along like heck on those flying as fast as you could. .
When Thelonious Monk had an album photo of himself with a little blue wagon, because he once lived near Compton when I was a kid, I thought I understood what he meant. ("Thelonious Monk", I would be reminded by my sister wasn't who I was talking about. "Charles Mingus" she would correct me when I recounted that story to Frank.)
Onomatapoeia in Compositional Intent
If I were teaching some kind of class, to give an example of musical color, I would have people listen to a Rick Danko guitar run (1977), where he dampens the strings with the palm of his hand on the fretting hand and flat picks with the other, all the better to be a storyteller in motion, and imitate a percolating pot of coffee.
Then I'd have to bring in the antecedants by playing some old Sun records from the early rhythm and blues days and explicate. But I'm not teaching a class, and I do this for my own amusement.
Tom Swift Revisted
Frank liked puns and wordplay, too, which is obvious.
When I knew him, "Swifties" were the rage. That's a verbal shorthand for "Tom Swifties
I'll give you an example:
"The critics are crucifying me," said Frank rather crossly.
Ego Surfing: A Writer's Joys and Perils
I am bursting with pride this morning, and feel honored. I discovered I was cited in an important how-to book. And, I am even a footnote! (I wonder where I stole that line from, though).
Tooning in: Essays on Popular Culture and Education
By Cameron White, Trenia Walker
Rowman & Littlefield
, 2008 - Education
- 158 pages
They quote me on p. 121, so I'll quote them, as turn around is fair play, especially when big entertainment egos are involved.
(But, wow .... it's like I helped inspire a whole chapter or something, so I am hugging myself in ill-concealed delight .... )
The Message in the Music
Using Current Music to Connect Social Studies
Songs are able to reach deep down inside the listener. This is the highest form
of musical expression. Where the music is not just listened to, but
-- Flaska 2000
Music is the universal language, or so the saying goes. Most people love music and may even find solace
they listen to their preferred musical genres. How often do songs "take
us back" to a memory long past? Because music can evoke deep personal
meanings, social studies educators often use songs to emphasize larger
historical moments. This personalization phenomenon continues as today's
youth explore their own musical genres and store today's memories.
I really wish I had written the first paragraph below my quote above, as that is what I
am trying to do in posting these memories of Frank Zappa I have.
I am trying to tie in larger media influences on his work and
interpersonal relationships, plus history in the making. So maybe I
have bitten off more than I can chew here.
Still, I like doing it, and don't plan on stopping any time too soon.
the reason for the German accent on the coffee commercial: "Be schmart
.... as schmart as a Yerman rocket scientist und buy dis product!" (Or
at least that's the way we heard it in my neighborhood, which was
surrounded by General Dynamics and Braun Engineering to the south, Olin
(new corporate building being constructed above Foothill) to the North, and a
subsidiary of Teledyne far to the East ... so go West, young man, you'll
only see the glow of the rocket testings from Vandenberg though you may start
at the sonic booms from the supersonics tested by Aerojet General (another
Teledyne component) ....
DERANGED MINERAL TRANSPORT (c. Barbara Flaska)
they shake it to the north
and shake it to the south
we shakin in our boots
and hush my mouth
Frank liked me because I dressed well even for a teenager. For instance, I wore a real African pith helmet when I rode my bike through town to the post office, to the drug store, to the book store, everywhere ... even up to Mt. Baldy road. When I returned from town, I would sometimes cut through the colleges and then shoot down through the area by the football field to pick up the small walking road through "The Jungle" and then hit it! when I got to First Street and I'd follow the tracks to Mills Avenue.
I felt like Elizabeth Taylor in Africa when I rode my bike wearing that hat. Rested perfectly on the head with small fingers that suspended the helmet slightly so you could get the breeze through the holes, and there was a tan sash for a hat band, neatly sewed by the armament company who made it, and a swoop that kept the sun off the back of my neck.
The guy whose National Fan Club I ran once gave me a ride down that street after a tour of town.
"Watch out for the quail!" I said. I knew how they'd run out of the bushes by the walkway into "The Jungle" as if to race a car, and he gave me a weird look then his eyes went back to the road. Then the quail ran out, a covey, and scuttered along the curb. He gave me another look. ("Told you so!" I thought to myself). People lobbied in town and soon there was a yellow caution sign there with a picture of a quail that said "Quail Crossing."
Ooh! "We will teach those kids a lesson or two for busting in on OUR turf" I knew we would as soon as I heard the Warhol group was coming to our Coast back then. "Frank'll fry 'em." I was satisfied he would. And he did. What exactly did he say to Lou Reed I know not, maybe you know the exact words, but they became enemies nearly for life.
That was Frank, because this our scene! NO INTERLOPERS!!
No Ginsbergs allowed not nohow! I would try to explain to people at the time, who just didn't get it.
One friend who had a flying saucer studebaker, he once was a friend and artist who burned his paintings rather than sell them to someone he didn't like, the one who showed all that promise and offered to carry me to a science deal in Pasadena when I was in High School (and we would have arrived like a KING AND QUEEN in that flying saucer car when it pulled into the parking lot) even he fell under a temporary spell and was obviously under the influence when he said he was thrilled to carry the Silver Elvis up a street for its eventual display. I was HORRIFIED!!!
They're oozing out here from the East Coast ... (Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg)
I'd had to borrow that first Bob Dylan album to listen to. From the girl who wore leather indian shoes and painted ZEN! in blue on the walls of her parents stucco home. Her Dad was a scientist and a pacifist, and because he didn't want to work in the war effort in the vicinity, he didn't have much work and would teach an occasional class in chemistry here and there. They'd moved out from BAH-ston. Or "Watertown" (pronounced Water-TON ..... uh-oh "heavy water" you know what i mean, likely, too, all in the vicinity)
She used to carry that record around with her, on the back shelf of the family fifty two ford and the sun melted it (as the sun is known to do to plastic things in Southern California). But it was still playable if you put a big ceramic bowl in the center (she made these bowls on a wheel, bury them in the earth, and RAKU!!!) so I had to borrow the blackened bowl, too, in order to play the Bob Dylan album and try to learn his fingerpicking style. As for the rest, I thought he was most unmusical, really. And any real folkie of the time will tell you so. Especially the ones who could actually play a musical instrument.
He's oozing out here from the East Coast ... (Bob Dylan)
Death is a hard thing to deal with, and the sense of loss is palpable when the ones we love have recently departed.
A few days ago, I traded a fine sort of Reisling for a blue shirt with a bear patch on it.
That day before I left, my friend was coming out for breakfast, and Gene has been gone not quite six weeks. First thing in the morning, she knows she is alone because she sleeps in their bed still. She is sad and speaks of loss before her morning coffee. But it's disguised.
Her Ralph Lauren pants were ruined at the cleaners, she complained, they were a delicate pink, "and they were soft as butter."
On the day I traded the Reisling, I wondered should I get her a Thornton or Crozes-Hermitage to cheer her when I get home? I know she likes Syrah.
My friend Doug was born in Louisville, 'because his dad was a "vine" merchant', we would joke.
Yan undt Dean
(I can teach you how to zing zixteez toonz in churman , if you're feeling a little shy ....
"Vite Tennis Schneakers Dot Are Block!
(Boom Boom boom boom boom boom )
"Who put de Bomp in de bomp de bomp bomp
Any song of your choosing that would lend itself well to a super- imposed high A-ous -trian ogg-zent..
You've Seen That Face Before ....
When my sister tried to teach Frank to tango, once in our living room, he'd brought over a record of tango music. (Astor Piazzzola?!!! I laughed!)
We'd skip through the cuts ("Not THAT one! That's too fast for a beginner .... "Libertango"
We wouldn't settle on Oblivion
, but something in between that had a slow lead in and quickly built in rhythm.
But it all sounded like string laden movie theme music then.
We'd play "Hernando's Hide-away
"We're teaching modern tango!" I'd have to explain, that other stuff is classical movements and arcane dance study. Who knew how they danced then? Not me!
(Can't you just see them? Dancing in the living room?)
Frank could get the top part moving okay, but then he'd trip over his own feet even in a simple walking movement right about "silhouette" ... but he could get the quick head turn just perfect ... and the angle of holding his arms ... but he couldn't, you know, "float on a floor."
He knew it, too, and would be a little embarrassed, I could tell because his cheek would literally be slightly red and his mouth would be straight.
He knew how to sing, though, and always pulled himself up to perfect posture when he did, he'd throw his shoulders back, he made himself into a perfect "T" with square shoulders... so the air could fill his diaphragm ...
And he was smart enough not to move around too much when he played a musical instrument, as you get sloppy in your notes when you wiggle.
(And me .... I'd use words like "campestral" or "buccolic" to describe the scenery when we rode in cars through the pastures to the little markets to pick up food now and again. Though sometimes on a very long drive, I'd have to throw in a "pastoral" towards the end.)
We'd laugh about diacritics, the "Os-sent grah-hh-v" and glaces and tildes on the liner notes of foreign records. Frank was fond of umlauts probably because they reminded him of nostrils and his own moustache (Ummmmm..... der Umlaut! Those pretentious German ogg-zents were the funniest to both he and I. Und ve'd singenze Pop zongs eeen HIGH! TENor lak Fischer-Discau tremulous heh heh heh! All to practice der sprechenze.)
(I even showed Frank the mustache comb with a little handle made from ivory that my mother still owned, which belonged to one of her relatives ... and the ancient folding funeral fan belonging to one of her aunts that was jet black. And the huge family Bible from the South that her grandmother had started writing the baptismal records in and there was a geneaology page showing dates of birth and dates of death for family members).
He was FUN! He was so creative!
(Even now, he can be fun just remembering him. So you can pick out your favorite pop song of the sixties, the one you know all the words to, play it, and sing along in your best imitation of a German accent. Because that's the kind of stuff we did., even the ones coming out of the radio on the car. This could be
It Can't Happen Here!
To continue about the sale of my original "Freak Out!" album, the unautographed 2-disc set that had arrived in a sturdy cardboard mailer to me from the offices of KPFK ...
"It Can't Happen Here" was my favorite piece, because Frank and my family would watch the old movie on Huey Long (the one where John Ireland played Huey's political manager) which we probably saw on the Los Angeles RKO movie channel, and I'd go to the library and get a copy of Sinclair Lewis "It Can't Happen Here" and we would compare story lines.
Did I tell you?
Frank's sister Candy was right when she said "Beatniks are conformist" because by then I had met "Larry" (as he was known) at the City Lights Book Store.
The bankers got "A Coney Island of the Mind" (we'd have poetry readings from that .... Frank liked "Johnny Noland Has a Patch On His Ass" and I liked "elephantangelchildren")
And I didn't mind the bankers got the small 4x5 issue of "Howl!" because Allen Ginsberg was everywhere now, like he was the only beatnik who ever wrote poetry and he was the superstar, and all words streamed from him as the spokesman, which is just the way the media is shaped and presented in America, so screw Allen Ginsberg, I said to myself as I threw the book on the pile of beatnik stuff for the clerk to sort through. Shit. There goes Jakob Riis, too. And John Dos Passos. And ... ). (Although I should have thrown it straight in the face of a banker)
I didn't mind getting rid of that. Ginsberg was quoted as saying he was kind of sorry he wrote Howl, because there were so many imitators and they were all angry young men. (Well, what the fuck did you expect, Allen? Here I was selling your goddamn book of pauper poetry for a few bob to feed a banker! Do you think I was chipper that day?)
And it kind of didn't matter to me. I lived in a small cottage anyway, and the melic poets were beginning to take up alot of room on the book shelf, as was Aeschylus (and man, those ran volumes and volumes all across the shelf, with a little Plautus here, and Patronious over there, here a Homer, there a Homer ...
you get it.
Anyway, in 1967 one of my friends had a record out and we used to talk about surf music and laugh about the Johnson Presidential family and how they were hogging up the media to show they were as cool as the Kennedys (they weren't). He used to go to Studio Z, I think, because he liked surf music and the studio was in use to cut some surf tracks there in Cucamonga. Quite a bit North of the vineyards where sacramental grapes were raised.
Dead Man's Curve
And our tenure there in the Richmond cottage was tenuous, as the landlord might not like us so much despite a lease, because the neighbor up front who was a mail man thought he saw my photo in the Chronicle for that Be-In.
(I'll insert a photo here of me at the time, and you'll see what I mean, but I'm on a borrowed computer right now ... )
No! I can't insert the photo I wanted to, so I'll stick one in of Doug Green instead. My old friend Doug died a few days ago and I am remembering him today as I write about 1967.
(I forget what I was saying right then because blogger took away my post and I must recreate my thoughts).
Oh yes. I was selling my record collection in 1967 at a Berkeley book and record store and the clerk kind of liked me because we had a similar world view and he would joke with me as he set my records in a pile to sort through ... then I ...
(wrote something about how ...
OH I REMEMBER!!)
When I first heard from my sister the name of the guy who was going to produce Frank's first record, I said he had the name of a basketball. And I figured that he had to be related to that family to be so rich as to produce records ... I knew by then that Bob Dylan's first lp had cost $300-500 to produce, and that was one guy with material, a harmonica and guitar. And the Beach Boys at that time, some of their sessions for a single were running into $800 (because they were 4 guys with material, harmonies, and instruments, but they needed fill-in musicians for the background and they were union scale). And I knew that price of $800 because Jan Berry used to call me on the phone sometimes back then and he had the real dirt about studio pricing.
So Frank in getting a union musician with a history of success (playing on Elvis records) would be stretching the budget.
But then as I was selling "Freak Out!" I said to myself, "Emmet Sargent" I don't believe I even heard a cello anywhere on that 2-disc set, because it was so layered and actually was kind of hard to listen to all of a piece, and I would lose track of where I was sometimes.
So I said what the heck and sold it. But I hated bankers that day ... and those bloodsuckers didn't get my e.e. cummings.
It didn't matter a whit I sold Frank's record, because right about that time I met Doug Green in front of the University and he roped me into handing out some handbills for the Family Dog (he was a friend of Chet Helms.
(And don't you worry, I'll post a photo of Jan Berry to prove to you I knew him, too, although I have no tapes of our phone conversations. Just as soon as I get off this borrowed computer.)
I'd had to sell Jan and Dean's records that day, too, to satisfy those evicting rotten bastards at the bank in Arizona, the promo records the blond handsomes personally handed to me at the Rainbow Ballroom sometimes and even the original Jan & Arnie that Jan gave me .... goddamn those bankers straight to hell!!!
Life Can Be Suite
I sold my entire (just about) rare record collection in 1967 in Berkeley. You know, I was a fairly good hearted person, and I recognize could have been regarded as a soft touch by the wrong kinds of people.
My boyfriend's parents were on the verge of losing their little homestead in Godforsaken Winslow, Arizona to foreclosure because the Dad was sick and had medical bills, the mom was old and the only place to work was in their little store in the front of the house, and the tourists weren't stopping by to buy small trinkets as they once did when the Uranium mining rush was really on.
I sold my records. Even Frank's unautographed copy of his first Freak Out! album that was shipped to me in a fancy flat cardboard mailer from the KPFK radio-thon -- that was sold. The New Lost City Ramblers went, too, (woe! and I had lots of them complete with modified lyric sheets inside).
Lots of records had I. Mark Damon went, too. 45s, 33s, 78s ... they went out like shellac.
All the records were transmuted into a yellow postal money order so the aged couple might be able to throw some money to the bank and live in their home a bit longer.
I pretended I was confident enough in myself that I would be able to remember the music, and I knew myself well enough that I would probably just get more records down the road when circumstances changed.
Off went the helmetless padded samurai warrior outfit, too (the one I carried with great difficulty into Christopher Isherwood's office to show him one day because he said he was interested in "Japonisme"), and my "IFIC" button that I'd got at the Dick Clark Show.
The autographed Bobby Vee album (who cares? I'd say to myself when that one went. After Bobby autographed that album sleeve for me, the one he'd accused me of stealing from his car .... I'd sent him a taunting letter. "The black ink is so thin on your autograph, Bobby, the lines kind of skip and dot through to the final swing of your Y - - - with a little spit and a piece of kleenex I can obliterate your autograph forever!" )
The hardest to part with, though, was Rin Tin Tin's autograph I'd gotten at a Hollywood meet and greet, but I had a dog by then who looked like Rinty so I figured what the heck. These people in far off Winslow, a town I'd perhaps driven through once without noticing, needed to live out their lives as long as they could in their small desert town as they had absolutely no where else to go. The cottage we were renting in Richmond, CA was too small to easily accommodate a white bread couple from the Rust and Bible Belt of Ohio, and we were struggling there, too.
(Sh*t! Charles Ives! I even sold my Charles Ives, the 4th of July Suite
.... Frank and I had talked about that once, and tried to compare the form to Billy the Kid Suite ... Hell's bells, I thought at the time as I was selling that one. How can they call it a "suite" when life can sometimes be so sour? Because in selling the records, I was afraid I would lose part of my musical memory, as well as artifacts from my personal history.)
Ee Boba Liba
So while I also listened to "Ee Boba Liba" by Johnny Wynn (which would later no doubt be on Uncle Frank's Radio Hour), at home I would spin a 45 on Wynne records by none other than Mark Damon, the actor
. I can't remember what the record sounded like though, it had a white label and I think it dropped on a spring day in 1959, but I showed this record to Frank a few years later to explain why I had joined the Mark Damon National Fan Club and who I met there (Sabu).
It's true, though, the movie industry had all these actors make records and sing in an attempt to weedle their way in to teenage pocketbooks or in the hopes the records would be played and get some free publicity for the movie that was coming out. Mark's too good for that sort of thing, I said to myself. He was an unstoppable optimist by all reports and very very bright and didn't need such a cheap gambit.
But "Ee" (in "Ee Boba Liba") reminded me of another poet whose books I was getting from the small store on Yale, so I'd retire to my room to read some Cummings. And "A Coney Island of the Mind", of course that's why Frank listed Ferlinghetti as an influence, because we'd have poetry readings aloud on the couch when I first got that ("Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass" is the one Frank liked, but I liked 'elephantangelchildren"), and by 1963 I had actually met poet "Larry" as his friends called him, at City Lights. And, yes, Candy was right when she imparted Frank's wisdom to me just one year prior, that "Beatniks are conformists." Because all the beatnik poetry was streaming and one guy Alan Ginsberg was becoming the superstar of beatniks, like he was the only beatnik poet there ever was and had written it all, as that was the nature of how media stars are put together and written about in our culture.
As a kid, I would show and tell Frank some of the reasons I liked Mark Damon. First I'd hold it up as Frank sat across from me, eye level, and I would say something like, "Let's read the titles of the songs out loud in unison" and then I'd get down to "Party Crashers." Then, Frank and I would hold this record sleeve to the bathroom mirror for the full effect ... This is the actual print on the back side of the record sleeve. See, I'd say, somebody can be "hip" in Hollywood.
Television advertising has always been pretty bad. But recipes and commercials about coffee that would attract the attention of coffee hounds, were especially noticed. Why does the merchant have a German accent, I wondered?
The Blood Bank
When the small tins of soup, vienna sausage, and tuna fish went missing from our family larder, and my mother was upset, my sister would have to explain her friends were starving. She described the blood bank in Pomona or Upland, which was part of the Red Cross Southern California Blood Services Region. "Wow, the people in that place are awful. Mostly drunks and bums selling their blood" and she might likely never want a transfusion.
She knew about the blood bank because she had driven some of them down there, and she wouldn't even wait in the waiting room after walking them in, but went out and stayed in her car. There were some patriotic poster motifs on the wall, too, and notices about disaster preparedness. To pass the time, I read through a small government print offiice guide on artificial respiration left behind and how to pump water out of someone's lungs. In school, because of the threat of nuclear holocaust, a short course in First Aid was mandatory and not an elective, so I would study when I could.
At the Pomona blood bank, because they were pulling donors from the ranks of the very poor of Pomona (blacks, poor white trash, drunks, hoboes, bums, and a small group of starving musicians that the Red Cross didn't know about), they put out the cheapest incentive and reward for donating blood: a cheap box of instant mashed potatoes that had very large near yellowy flakes. Dehydrated and easily reconstituted by adding water, those were a new product then and perfect for storing in the bomb shelter in case of Nuclear Holocaust. As a food stuff for humans at large, their popularity grew throughout American and on around the world. So popular they became that people wrote songs about them and invented dances that were performed on the Dick Clark Show.
I've inserted a recipe here
in the event you might not know how to prepare such a dish.
Not just in the event of nuclear holocaust, but what if we made it into space, what would we eat then? Reconstituted foods were popular for the astronauts in training, too, and I very much enjoyed reading the recipe for Orange Cappuccino on the Tang cylinder: 1 tsp tang, 1 tsp instant coffee, and hot water.
Bring in proximity to one another, we listened to each others records, read each others books and magazines and comics, would see movies in common and so on.
We would rub off on each other in other ways, too.
For instance, when I was drifting into becoming a Suzy Rotolo kind of character, complete with trench coat and flowing scarf draped across my shoulders, with boots (though those were my riding boots), and listening to the early (very good) finger picking on Bob Dylan's first record ... With a bit of practice, I could fingerpick like Bob on that record ... I could play a few of the instrumental background and did, though I had to play the record over and over and learn each portion separately before reassembling them together,
Candy, Frank's sister, once issued a warning to me: Beatniks are conformists.
This was back at the time Candy looked a little like the girl who was assigned to me in History class, to prepare a joint paper on John Marshall, Supreme Court Justice (I took the biographical side to show how his past and the events he faced in his past and his movement into being a jurist and his decisions there may have helped shape his selection and his later decisions in famous cases in the supreme court, and I was awarded a National Rotary Award for Research Into American Heritage, and got a big plaque. My big theme and argument, as did Marshall's, rested on the Constitution. The girl I was assigned to work with I did not like so much as she was typically Claremont, which for the kids typically meant they were know-it-alls just like their parents.
I was kind of a smart kid and ended up on the Student Council, supposedly to help coordinate the student part of what was going on. The only reason I went on the student council was from the urgent plea from a friend who was sinking there in a project she held close to her heart. I went in to help her, and the school was going to put in vending machines on the upper campus for student sandwiches for the rich kids ... while the lunch room and lunches obviously would be impacted and in all likelihood eventually shut down ... and that meant the nice ladies who served lunch would have less jobs ... but our big argument was that if the machines came in, the moneys to provide free lunches and free milk for the kids who needed it would be seriously curtailed as well, as that filtering down of wealth was determined proportionally, the governmental largess was not based on the actual number of students in need. We lost I think. But we worked in how the companies would lie coming in and give a good show of good sandwiches to get everybody in agreement they were swell during the trial period and then we warned they'd turn to inedible crud, which they did. Automat tuna fish sandwiches on a high school campus, delivered from a machine. This is 1962. Who ever would have imagined! Our world was changing so fast it was hard to resist the onslaught sometimes, especially when clever adults skilled in business conspired against us.
Although at that time of my life, on a warm spring or summer evening, some other boys would serenade me with mandolin played under the moonlight in front of my house ... and I would hear their soft music coming through the open window of my bedroom and I would smile to myself because that was sweet. But I would just be satisfied they kind of liked me and I wouldn't go out to meet with them.
Laughter the Best Medicine
Frank liked watching Ernie Kovaks and especially the Nairobi Trio
, but who didn't?
People were so creative
Here's a pronunciation guide for Vlie
t... even if you knew something, there was a fifty fifty chance you were wrong. Back then, you had to take people's word for how to pronounce their names.
I'd clip out cartoons from Mad or New Yorker for Don. One was a self-portrait of Van Gogh with his ear missing and a dotted line with words "Cut on dotted line." Another was of the famous little dutch boy standing on a ladder painting a mural (Dutch Boy Paints) and the little dutch boy had his ear cut off, too.
All these cartoons started appearing because "Lust for Life" (the movie) was released and Van Gogh had made it into American consciousness ... imagine the public being aware of a fine artist now and streaming to the movie houses for such a film ... but they had to pick an aberrant artist for the film, you see ... it was the '50s ... but sometimes it seems they're all a little off kilter, aren't they? ... like that's an assumed prerequisite for being an artist.
While destruction is required component to the creation of any art, it's not always necessary, though, for the artist to destruct. I'd mark those words of wisdom.
We'd all seen the movie, and would watch it again when it came on television, but we'd also each read Irving Stone.
Don would collect these cartoons and things, self-references. Me, I preferred Gauguin. I figured he survived being on a remote tropical island because he didn't speak the language and so he didn't understand what people were saying about him or how they might regard him. He knew little of how the society was put together. Ignorance can be bliss.
My sister, who was 7 years older than I, was living in dire circumstances up in Antelope Valley
when she first got to know these people. She'd gone to a music show. More than one of theirs, as she mentioned an outdoor event, too. The desert was a remote and difficult place to live back then, and the winds that sometimes came up ... ferocious desert winds like something out of Lawrence of Arabia. The sand would pour through the edges of the windows and pile up around the inside of the kitchen door. And jobs were scarce. Mining was pretty much finished and a difficult way to make a living, and unless you wanted to be clerk in a sleepy gas station, help candle turkey eggs, tend to the occasional ostrich farm, or work for the military or in the aerospace industry, there was not much opportunity there. The drag strips in the desert, though interesting, as another version of land speed records, hard to make much of a living from that really.
Later, when she returned to Claremont and needed a full time job to get herself through life, based on an aptitude test she took in downtown Los Angeles, she was steered into making a series of choices according to her natural talents and preferences. So she went to school and eventually after studying in anatomy textbooks and physiology textbooks she eventually passed the rather brutal exam to become a dental assistant. This was back in the day when every dental chair had a ceramic spit sink. While she was working for a dentist in Pomona, one Ronald K. Walton, DDS, she helped Frank get a good deal on some necessary dental work he needed, and he was most appreciative. We always tried to help our friends.
Maybe he could do good dental work, but the dentist was a sick fool and had a photo of himself posed with a corpse with the flesh burned off (as they did then for autopsy in medical schools) that he'd later dissected. He maintained this 5x7 in a little white scalloped edge cardboard frame in his office. And the assholes in his class even stuck a little straw boat hat on her head for humor. Frank was lucky to go to Dr. Walton as the older dentists in the area would rill and fill teeth without so much as a shot of novocaine. Doctors, I thought, really have no respect for humans. He became famous when he in his high speed motorboat tore through the back of a whale when he was careening out of Newport Harbor, and the injured whale died. My mother when she heard of the photograph from my sister was horrified and angry, and she launched into her own story from years prior, something she'd heard about as a teenager growing up in Louisville -- the medical students at a university there would dismember a corpse and toss a finger at girls passing by on the campus. See what I mean? Sadistic assholes, doctors, many of them.
When Frank towards the end of his life said he'd been playing the blues all those years, I think I know what meant.
As I used to need rides into Pomona to get to a stationery store somewhere on S. Holt, for those purple waxy mimeograph templates or envelopes, well ... they sold a bunch of stuff in those stores. When my sister and Frank took me down there, Frank ordered some business cards once and he selected the style from a big book on the counter near the plate glass window..
Safety & More Flag Salutes
Did I tell you I was a hall monitor in a Compton elementary school? They usually reserved the job of Safety for the toughest kids. I got to wear an ivory cotton sash that went on the diagonal from my shoulders and across my chest like I was a foreign count. And they gave me a badge that was gold and in the blue circle in the middle was the word: "Safety".
About that time, we had to say flag salutes, too. In a much smaller classroom with much smaller desks. I believe I was in 4th grade. This was about the time "under God" was ad-libbed by Ike and installed into the flag salute.
Our desks opened from the top ... and we'd store books and pencils inside. One morning we all came in to school and as we were just arriving to our classroom, and settling in, the bell had rung and some were already opening our desks to get prepared for the day .... a girl went to the teacher showing her something. And the teacher told us to close our desks and not open them! And she had us go out into the hall while she went through every desk .... to retrieve .... the little pamphlets of hate literature placed in every student's desk. We had black kids and white kids all standing in the hallway together til she was done. And this was in Compton. That seemed to be the end of that.
So eventually they found out who did it because one boy in class a few weeks later raised his arm in a Seig Heil to the flag. His dad had put him up to the prank of putting the Nazi pamphlets in the desks.
(Meanwhile ... back in Claremont .... later .....
We'd have to walk quietly to the audio-visual room by to watch an historic movie of George Washington signing the battle orders with a fountain pen .... and ....
We had to walk very quietly almost on tip-toe to get there
Creep quietly down the arcade (as they called the outdoor hall way with no walls and just metal posts to support the concrete sunbrella roof)
The doors to other classes were sometimes propped open and other students would become distracted and turn and look as we passed by ... very bad behavior for the student of French ....
The teacher would tell us to be quiet and (no longer was it "no talking, no pushing", as we were older now, just "Shhhh-hhhh-hhh!)
Afterwards, you only heard the sound of tennis shoes shuffling along the concrete path
And I would softly sing the Compton Safety Monitor song we used to sing as kids:
(but I couldn't shout it out in the proper way as this was Claremont, and it was to the Bo Diddley beat)
Matson Lines July 1959
I had been an enthusiastic fan prior to being selected National Fan Club President (second choice for the job, I will remind you here, a fact I learned later when I was already hunched and probably permanently from sitting over a hot typewriter pounding out replies to fan mail, sending out photographs, writing newsletters, all of which required licking endless numbers of stamps to affix to envelopes bound with rubber bands before walking two miles to the post office to mail them ).
I gathered friends and we met the artist at the pier when he was moving to the Mainland from Hawaii. He arrived on the Matson line and we had enough time to paint a large sign and attach old broomsticks for handles, plus assemble suitable attire,
as well as arrange a ride. He was flabbergasted as we stood by the gangway and he walked down the bright white wooden walkway festooned with large strands nautical sisal ... "How did you know when I was arriving?"
(heh heh heh ... never underestimate me and my friends, I thought to myself)
If I were running Uncle Frank's radio house, I'd play some Mickey Champion in honor of Tina and my sister, because wherever Tina was, she would head over to hear Mickey, and in Los Angeles, those were some funky little clubs still going then in the late '60s and early '70s. Though I'd want to rebuild and recreate those clubs with all the artists and people who made them go.
You're Gonna Suffer Baby
(Mickey Champion and Roy Milton)
What Good Am I
(by Mickey Champion) one of the first
What Good Am I
(by Mickey Champion)
Bam A Lam (by Mickey Champion)
-- check those dancers' moves
But I would have to include
(by Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers) because that voice and that song says Johnny Otis to me, and that's where I saw Mickey Champion on television when I was a kid.
The Flag Salute at School
And so did I, had a sense of humor at least. Because I would tell
Frank the story of flag salutes at school. Where the flag salute was
read aloud, and not just by a teacher at the front of the room any more,
as this was a fancy Claremont High School now.
were small loud speakers installed in each room, from whence various
commands would be issued ... "Required Attendance at School Assembly" or
every morning the flag salute would drone out through the speaker.
sit in class in the new campus of the new high school with specially
designed windows, high up in the wall, so you couldn't look out the
window any more and just concentrate on what the teacher was saying and
also so we would evade being injured by flying glass in the event of the
shock wave from some nuclear catastrophe. And that last part was the
architect's actual intent when pushing to have his feature installed in
public buildings around town, and I guess he had clout at the time as
those same windows are in the new Library in Claremont, too.
they'd recruit kids from the drama class to read the flag salute back
in 1961 at the new new windowless rooms on the new campus . One fellow in particular .... you could tell he didn't like to do that, even though he was an audio visual helper and could set up the projector and movies for the required viewing in the AV department.
When drafted for flag salute duties, he'd turn on the microphone and announce the flag salute, and we would rise. Then he would stall, and stand there for more than a few minutes wondering what the hey? During which time all you'd hear were the sound of papers rustling amplified through the microphone and soon the sound of the door opening and a teacher saying, "Michael!"
Michael was one of the
kids in drama and he usually acted up, as actors are sometimes wont to do.
In the mornings, for the early arrivals to school, he would stealthily play a record across the loud speakers during home room before the teachers arrived.
One day, he read the flag salute aloud and stumbled through the words like a near-illiterate child trying to learn to read.
And he would also stick in funny lead-ins to
the flag salute ... which the teachers would warn him about, and they went back and forth like this long enough so that one time he completely rebelled.
On that fateful day, he called the children to
"Stand for the flag salute."
And we all stood there with hands clasped
over our hearts waiting for him to begin reading the flag salute, so we could recite along in unison.
We stood there hands over heart when
he said "Achtung, achtung!"
This command went out over the tinny loudspeaker directly into
every classroom simultaneously as all the kids were waiting for the
first line of the flag salute.
Which got him in a lot of trouble. I
mean, I think he was expelled.
Frank would hear those
stories from me about what I did in school that day or what happened at
school. Or I'd save them up for the next time I might happen to see
I could almost never win against that
administration in school. They ran the place very strictly, with this
big aura around it that was very right wing at the time, so the place
felt like a Nazi obedience factory.
I'd unknowingly wear skirts that were a quarter
inch too short, and my skirts would be measured by a teacher with a
ruler while I stood on the stairs ... and I'd have to go into the vice
principal's office and explain why I couldn't be sent home to change
(because I lived miles away and we only had one car in the family, and
my sister was at work with her car) .. though one time they did send me home, where I remained for the day. I wore
a black pleated skirt at the time, and I wore it five or six times to school, but
I was caught twice. So they'd tell us how to dress, how to do everything,
how to think, try to mold our minds, and .... I always seemed to be
noticed when I wavered from the path of the straight, virtuous, and true
minded of the white buckskin shoe set. Even though I was wearing white
buckskin shoes that had real functioning little ivy league buckles on the heel in an
attempt to fit in so I wouldn't be noticed.
make the mistake at school of talking in home room before class started,
and this was a Republican town, and I'd be talking with the boys who
played tennis, participated in the science fairs (of course) and over-achieved in other ways because I'd be required to
sit at that table, so I'd attempt to bring up the morning newspaper as
light conversation, and I'd say, "Richard Nixon! What a .... " and Johnny would agree
with me, which amazed me no end, and he'd say, "Richard Nixon is a
fool!" At which point the home room teacher who taught my Latin class
would swoop over and scold us, angry and shake his finger at us and yell in a loud voice, and remind us to say "I think .... " to
own our opinions and not just hurl insults, so we learned to say "I
think Richard Nixon is a fool" as that was ok to say, at least in
certain circles even in the school. And so did Frank, and all of us in
my family think Richard Nixon was a fool, so I could tell that story at
I'm going to make a wild observation here about Frank. Perhaps you have seen television shows that laud the strange skills of idiot savants. I went to school with some kids almost exactly like that, especially the math geniuses, and you learned to tolerate their other assortment of weird behaviors to try to get along with them because, say, they were good at math and could figure out small shortcut quick trucks to a solution of a formula, and they'd share with us other kids how they did it, so we could do that short cut, too.
So there's the idiot savant math genuises.
Or the ones who can play a variety of musical instruments and call out for requests from one part of the audience for a song and another part of the audience for a rhythm, and another part of the audience for an instrument (want to hear that on a banjo or a piano?) and assemble all the requests together and play any of those on a variety of different instruments.
Or the ones with perfect pitch who ride on trains and hear not just the rhythm of the train (and remember a piece of music that would fit in to that) but listen to the squeak and call out that's a "B" or another scrunch is an "A".
The ones who can fly in an airplane over a landscape never
before seen and then once again on earth, paint a circular mural in astounding
detail that recreates the entire landscape they'd just seen right from the airplane window down to a crack in
the window of a building or a bird flying.
Frank was like that to a large degree with his music, he had rapid-fire synapses and could put all sorts of things together. But for me, his was a gentler form and he usually had a sense of humor about it.
Don was new to the area, and driving a wretched old car ... maybe a 39 Hudson or something that had been beat to hell before he bought it. The interior smelled old, the roof liner had long ago been cut and the fabric dangled. I showed him where the Dips were.
The Dips ... was the highpoint of some evenings of local teen carousing in a small town. For thrills, an occasional car would make its way up past Baseline take a right turn and head through down a paved orchard road towards The Dips. This had to be done in the evening, as part of the right of passage. The Dips were a series of hillocks that had been paved over, and cars would begin speeding a bit with the effect of going up and down like a roller coaster but the effect was almost like boulder jumping.
Sometimes you'd just fly .... other times, people would head down the first steep hillock too fast and end up crashing the front end of their car (or their parent's car).
I admit, I showed Don the Dips and explained the calculus of the approach and trajectory modified by speed and all, and we did the Dips slowly a few times so he could get a feel for the roadway.
Later, he bottomed out that car while doing the Dips. As a local incident, the report of Don's small crash, because not much went on in that town, made both the local newspaper and a small column inch in the Pomona newspaper, what was then the Progress Daily Bulletin. Don was with a girl at the time, and that girl was not me. Avid Beefheart fans could find these reports by cranking through endless loops of microfiche at the Library (for both the Claremont and Pomona newspapers), or if the records don't go back that far for the Pomona paper, then check the morgue at the new merged Inland Empire Daily Bulletin.
Uncle Frank's Radio Hour 11:33 PM
Pledging My Love
by Johnny Ace
Work with Me Annie
by The Midnighters
Annie Had a Baby
by The Midnighters
Roll With Me Henry
by Etta James
Girl Can't Help It
(by Little Richard)
(by LaVern Baker and the Gliders)
(by LaVern Baker)
Tra la la
(by La Vern Baker)
Jim Dandy Got Married
(by LaVern Baker)
(by LaVern Baker)
Since I Met You Baby
(by Ivory Joe Hunter)
(by Esther Phillips)
(There was a slow version of "Cherry Wine" by a doo wop group with the lyrics:
"Cherry, cherry wine
Cherry, cherry wine
Taste so good"
(by Tony Allen)
Frank's friends and other listeners would call in requests during his lunch hour show. Frank's friends would request the records they knew he had in his collection, and Frank by all reports would makes notes of what other people wanted to hear and make humorous congenial banter.
In the Still of the Night
(by the Five Satins)
(by The Penguins)
There Is Something On Your Mind
(by Big Jay McNeely, the "Deacon")
Have Mercy Baby
(by the Dominoes)
(I kept listening ... 1964 ... though the show was off the air by then, I believe.)
The Clapping Song
(by Shirley Ellis) Like the clapping games we did in Compton. But I liked the baritone sax, too.
Short Fat Fannie (by Tommy Tucker)
Long Tall Shorty (by Tommy Tucker
) "Dial 24689"
Short Fat Fanny (by Little Richard)
Put No Headstone On My Grave
(by Little Esther)
Uncle Frank Radio Hour
Uncle Frank would have played THIS .... The Charms - Ling Ting Tong
But he might have had to borrow the record from someone else ....
If it hadn't been for one of his friends, I would never have heard all those wonderful Johnny Mathis albums in the way I did, which I played one after another, in my room for a week so I could drown in his voice. At some point, my sister was working for awhile in a fancy men's clothing store in the heart of Hollywood, and she recounted how Johnny Mathis had come in to buy a sweater. She could be amusing in her anecdotes, descriptions quirky with a humorous tangent. She'd also describe watching somebody on reds trying to get across the street, he couldn't walk between the lines in the crosswalk, and he'd stumble off into a tangent, too.
We all liked movies like this! Just the opening credits .... major
But on local television .... they'd have Steve McQueen sing the song ... and there was even a 45 at the time of him singing "The Blob". I believe that was recalled by management and all copies ... pulled back and hidden away somewhere.
Steve was sometimes in our vicinity, as he would visit the boys at Boys Republic, where he once was imprisoned. My sister even knew him! She liked real "tough" guys, the guys in the black hats ... but the guys in the black hats for real. She had a part time job wrapping Christmas presents at a department store along the Mall in downtown Pomona.
Uncle Frank's Radio Hour: 12:32 pm (Lunch time at the Claremont Colleges)
Uncle Frank's Radio Hour:
I Hear You Knockin' by Smiley Lewis
and most definitely
Frank hinted around, but because of that unhappy experience as a National Fan Club President, I wouldn't even consider it. At the time, I was listening to records and typing up the lyrics for cover songs so I could learn them and not forget the words onstage in the living room. None of those sheets survived the rigors of time. Some lyrics, I'd have to buy one of those magazines that had music lyrics of pop songs ... and just cut those out and stick them on a blank page of paper, which because I was cheap was newsprint brown. And I was too young, I wasn't even allowed to go to El Monte Legion stadium back then, but neither really was my sister, though she would sneak off and do so.
Buttons. I even had buttons made for the guy whose National Fan Club I presided over, with his picture on them. And I'd mail those off to people whose letters I particularly liked even though they were expensive ($1). And in the back of those teen fan magazines, were ads for buttons that you could have printed up with photographic images and even small perforated stamps with a photographic likeness of the artist (or you or your dog, they'd likely print anything just about) ... you could have your favorite artist's picture put on a stamp and then adhere it to an envelope. But those stamps in the fan mags were boring, they were all in black and white with a little neat border around them. Get my drift? Convergence.
Well, that guy whose National Fan Club I was President of .... You know, I was second choice for that position. I found out they'd interviewed another possibility first (how humiliating to find that out, that I was second banana right from the start). I only found that out because she told me so, in a letter that had the envelope covered with small hand drawn images of Bobby Rydell. So on my trip to scope out Berkeley campus (to which I was being streamed in 1960 whether I was aware of it or not) ... I stopped by her house in San Francisco and we had a swell visit.
But, as it ended up within a year she was as mad as I was, and we both QUIT the fan club simultaneously. That's it, Bub!
She and I each typed up the exact same letter of resignation, each in our homes nearly simultaneously ... then .... we snipped the letters in half, using pinking shears, and mailed each other the half (I forget whether I was left half or right half). Once we got the letter from the other, we assembled them and put them in an envelope and mailed them to him at his personal address at his grandmother's house. I thought that was clever, using pinking shears so he could assembled the letters and they'd fit perfectly and he'd be able to read the lines in each letter, which were duplicates of each other.
I'm not so sure why she was miffed, and though he was nice to me .... I tell you, I stuck a pin straight into his name on my autograph puppy. He arrived later to reclaim the mimeograph machine, which my mother had hidden in the garage and said we didn't have ... because I was using it to make cartoon books with my friend's adventures and other things, too ... I heard them talking from the kitchen in my house, and I did not even go in to say hello.
And then, I sent him all his records and pictures back, too. Even the autographed ones.
Frank thought that was funny, too.
Why musicians like Frank stop listening to other people's music; The Music Industry.
Can lead to
A Rush to Simultaneous Invention
Frank was more like Spontaneous Creation by then, self-creating.
I mean, Bogus Pomp
Uncle Tadeus, Federal Reserve Bank Examiner (ret.) came by to visit with Aunt Ludmilla. Uncle Tadeus was roped into a living room talent showcase. They hauled out the clarinet he had given to my sister when we lived in Compton, cleaned it up, got some new reeds, and he played what he could remember of "Schnitzel music". There was always a sticky key on that clarinet and he'd have to play around it or straight through it.
Cousin Jack, who spoke perfect German, would give us the names in German of all the pieces of living room furniture ... and on into the kitchen ....
We found plenty of ways to amuse ourselves even when sometimes stodgy relatives came to visit.
Frank liked the ethnic meals my mom would prepare ... the perfectly roasted pork, the sauerkraut with caraway seeds, pickled beets ... and sometimes dumplings! He loved the pumpernickel, "Eight pounds a slice!" The poppyseed cake. And any of the Kolache, especially in prune. But for New Year's, an old custom, we'd give him poppyseed Kolache.
As their rare arrivals always called for a special occasion, we would take Uncle Taddeus and Aunt Ludmilla out to a fine restaurant (i.e., Henry's drive-in) during their visits. Or a grand coffee shop like Denny's. In this instance, Taddeus and Ludmilla wanted to take the kids out to get to know them a bit. Frank went to Denny's with us for lunch. I honestly forget what everyone else had (I know mine was a sloppy cheeseburger, and my sister's a denver "omlette" which was misspelled on the menu) because .....
Aunt Ludmilla (former Marshall's Department Store employee and law suit victor) and Uncle Ted (Federal Reserve Bank Examiner, ret.) could (surprisingly) do a great impersonation of some of the old Bob & Ray routines. Now Aunt Ludmilla was always finely attired because of years working in upscale retail before she became a secretary somewhere and wore lots of lovely scarves and Uncle Ted .... elegant! Immensely tasteful pin striped suits (I even saw a photo of him in such a suit with finely cut lapels, perfectly knotted windsor, tie pin, wearing spats!, carrying a walking stick all while wearing a hamberg when "on the job".).
So we were seated across from them, Frank, my sister, and I, and the waitress brought the menus. Then she came back for the order and stood there poised with the pad and pen. Which was when Aunt Ludmilla and Uncle Taddeus, to my everlasting amazement, launched into a surprising expression of talent ... They threw their dialog back and forth about the order, like the old Bob & Ray asking a question strange answer double talk routine .... which I can't find easily online, so this Bob & Ray
will have to do.
Adventures in Paradise
The true story of how Chris Blackwell's yacht was named and why God
has a sense of humor:
The public might be suitably impressed hearing stories about what
they imagine to be high-ticket yachts, often christened with and
honored by bearing the name a beloved female. The scenic backdrop:
tropical islands with azure and turquoise waters.
"The Lady Blanche" was one such vessel. The Blackwells as you might
suspect from their original settlement in Jamaica were a certain
distance from the throne. Actually, in the real world of British
royalty of the time, they were farther yet. As despite any family
heritage, devotion or services rendered to their crown or homeland
England, any success in accruing wealth, or provision of nearly any
contribution, the family accepted the fact that they would be somehow
excluded from "real society," meaning "real nobility." For the simple
fact they were Jewish. The family emigrated to Jamaica in the
"colonies" where Chris was raised. After a prolonged political
uproar in Jamaica, with much social unrest, Chris gave away his big
pink mansion to one of his reggae stars (I think Jimmy Cliff) and was
a bit of an unlanded aristocrat for a while, the family now
dislocated in residence almost in the way that the Cambodian "boat
people" of the times were, and it seemed wisest to eventually
relocate in Nassau the Bahamas. In this instance, Karl Marx would dub
such a relocation "the flight of capital."
Chris named the new yacht for his mother, and the name with the noble
connotation was sometimes a poignant reminder, conjuring up a certain
image of devotion to a mom who suffered by never having achieved the
recognition of official nobility. The price is paid when the
distance from the throne is far.
After the christening of the boat, Chris discovered there was,
however, already another ship well known about Nassau named "The Lady
Blanche." This one not a sleek moneyed yacht but a derelict tub
dipped in pea-green paint which was a floating brothel.
This was not the pea-green boat of your nursery-rhymes. This tub
reeked of cigarettes, rum, and cheap cologne. For a certain sum,
local men could be treated to their idea of a romantic cruise on thin
unsheeted plastic mattresses as the boat ploughed through the still
evening waters of the harbor. And should you draw too close to the
boat at the dock, there's a French woman peeing at the curb in public
while carrying on a conversation with a male companion who has his
hair combed too nicely. All I can say is, when love isn't involved,
there's only prostitution.
King of the Jungle Jive OK
Soon, long about 1961 or 1962, new 45s began appearing in the house. "Endless Sleep
" (1958) and "Alley Oop
". Just my putting those two titles together in the same sentence should give you a hint as to who was in the area. (eeew .... "Ichabod".) My sister would sneer just thinking of him, just seeing a record he had anything to do with ... instant Fehring response. Though we'd laugh like hell at the spoken fade-out because that reminded us of .... (you know who). But the flip side of "Alley Oop" (1960), to my way of thinking, "Sho Know A Lot About Love
", showed promise ("don't know much about Russians .... )
Though the name of the record label "Lute" made me sneer a bit, as that reminded me of the guy whose National Fan Club I was running. And he was Hollywood, kind of, too, a weird kind of Hollywood, where his friends in the biz were lights like "Kim Charney
", the singing son of a rich architect who lived in a $250,000 home (which was a lot for 1960, you see), once a child actor and now hopeful teen heart throb ... and I would be dragged to those shows, too. And hear songs like this
.... (Largee was a subsidiary of Dot, you see). Frank would laugh and laugh when we listened to some of those free records I brought home.
I was humiliated and discomforted in Hollywood by Hollywood types and Pop Music Teen Idols almost wherever I went. Bobby Vee
accused me of stealing an album cover from his car! That's just one example .... (and that was Liberty LRP-3181/LST-7181)  just in case you still want to file a police report, Bobby) so of course I liked my real friends better.
As I listened to "Explosive Generation" (West Coast 1960) next to Johnny Tillotson's "Poetry in Motion" (1960 East Coast), side by side, I noticed something ... the enuniciation was quite similar, nearly indistinguishable one from the other. And I grew alarmed. "It's like they went to the same school! They've studied diction exactly the way it is taught everywhere from Coast to Coast! They're BRAINWASHING US!!! Teaching us how to speak and sing songs and speak in public, all the lessons given by the same voice coach! Oh my God! Like "Sit and say 'Arf!')
The Discussion Pt 1 vs Pt 2
This is undoubtedly one of the records
(Bill Dogget, Honky-Tonkin', Pts. 1 and 2, 78 on King records) that Uncle Frank played on his radio show all those years ago in Claremont. If you care to recreate the play list, that is.
And the records that were missing from my collection included:
Philip Upchurch Combo, "You Can't Sit Down" (both parts 1 and 2
, because they were assembled on the flip side of the same record).
Cozy Cole! Topsy Part Two
... most definitely Frank! He loved that! (Those drums! and the way Cozy's voice echoed in the spoken lead in) He wrote the whole thing around his drum solo! And like young music scholars, we'd try to figure out what famous old jazz standard was referenced at the ending in the horn section of the song)
(I'd once offered The Happy Organ
, but Uncle Frank said people could hear that any time on any other radio show, though he eventually borrowed it).
Jimmy Reed's, "Bright Light Big City
", but also "Big Boss Man
Definitely "High Heeled Sneakers" by Tommy Tucker
Slim Harpo, Scratch My Back
Slim Harpo, Tip on In
Anything tasty by the Penguins, even "Earth Angel".
Well, anyway .... My sister had a great collection of 78 rpm r&b from her juvenile delinquent days in Compton and nights later at El Monte Legion Stadium ... real jungle music! Rocket 88 (the original!)
And something by the Deacon. Doo-wop that would make you melt into the sidewalk. The Flamingos. The Orioles. Marvin & Johnny.
(While later in 1963, I had the Rivingtons, with "Slippin and a Slidin
(He would have put on Walkin the Dog by Rufus Thomas
for his r&b hour, as would have I, but his show was earlier in time, and anyway this version
is so much better! Rufus in Europe 1965 after the Rolling Stones 1964. And the original Rufus came out in 1963, much later than the Uncle Frank radio hour.
Though Frank like most musicians of his caliber stopped listening to anyone else's music at all (as he'd already absorbed enough) by 1966, he might have liked the title of "Do the Funky Penguin
" by the same artist, 1972. I felt I knew him. But what the heck do I know really, I was still buying Jimmy Reed in 1963, Shame Shame Shame
While at home, at my house, we'd also listen to Ella sing "Sophisticated Lady". And Julie London. Plenty of jazz, too. Drums ... the basic rhythm. I'd bring out my genetics report (I was in 9th or 10th grade college prep science), as I was better at writing than assembling an experiment and we were given a choice by then for requirements, and I was working on it still: the development of a fetus in utero ... how the heart beat was the first sound of the universe to a baby ... so elemental, that rhythm ... Don was there for that reading.