I went to a garage sale a few months ago and found a set of five VHS tapes that had been unopened for only $3. Since we were off the internet for over a week lately I watched the videos and enjoyed hearing 37 rock and roll stars of the 50’s and 60’s talk about their experiences and sing the great songs many of us grew up with over those two decades.
One of the singers told about singing to an audience in the south with a rope dividing the blacks and whites into two sections. They returned a year later and the rope was gone and the blacks and whites were sitting side by side and high fivin’ each other.
Carl Gardner the only surviving member of the Coasters told about a friend of his who saw two water fountains with one labeled color and one was designated as being white. There was a policeman guarding the water fountains to make sure that no blacks drank from the fountain for whites. Carl’s friend was fascinated about the two kinds of water fountains and said ” I’m going to try this white water first” and then tried the colored water and said “They both taste the same to me.” The policeman saw the humor in the situation and didn’t arrest him.
Dee Dee Sharp of “Mashed Potato Time” fame was headed to the front door of a hotel or a restaurant and was 15 at the time. She was told blacks weren’t allowed in the establishment but Len Barry who recorded “1-2-3” took her inside and made sure she was accepted and Dee Dee Sharp who is now a Ph.D said she would always remember his act of kindness.
Jimmy Clanton told he got out of show business when Alice Cooper was wringing the necks of chickens on stage saying this had nothing to do with singing.
Some of the singers told about the Dick Clark tours that traveled across the United States on busses and that Dick Clark roughed it like they did and slept on a cot and didn’t get any special treatment and how much they respected him for being like them.
Joanie Sommers told of dating Elvis Presley and how she wished she could have been with Elvis alone since he had four of his people along for the date and decided she didn’t want to date him again if it meant they would have chaperones.
Dennis Yost of the Classics IV sang Stormy and it reminded me of the time the Classics IV sang at Louisiana College a Baptist institution in Pineville, Louisiana. When the students started dancing to the music the president of the college had the Classics IV leave the stage since dancing was not allowed at Baptist colleges in that era.
Jimmie Rodgers who was famous for Honeycomb and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine was there and had been through several brain surgeries after a 1967 encounter with the Los Angeles police in which he says he was beaten by the police while the police maintained he fell while intoxicated and had fallen on his head.
The City of Los Angeles did settle out of court for $200,000 but that didn’t begin to compensate him for the inability to perform as he had in the past appearing only sporadically in concerts after the injuries.
Ketty Lester who sang Love Letters at the reunion told about her singing career ending when she returned from a tour and her son wouldn’t come to her but instead went to the babysitter and decided then to stop singing and hadn’t sung in 30 years before the reunion. She also told of Michael Landon offering a role on Little House on the Prairie which she accepted.
Jerry Naylor of the Crickets said he replaced Buddy Holly after the fatal plane crash in 1959 but that nobody could really replace Holly. He also said the Beatles chose their name of Beatles because they were fans of the Crickets.
D.J. Fontana the drummer for Elvis Presley in the early days of Elvis tells how Elvis and the band and all their instruments traveled in a car from city to city and how Elvis since he needed the rest slept under the bass belonging to Bill Black of the band.
Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Bonnie and Maxine also appeared on the program and told about how their dad went to Brinkley, Arkansas to pick up Elvis after his car had broken down on tour. Bonnie told about dating Elvis until she found out he was seeing someone else on the side.
Jackie Wilson stories were told at the reunion with one singer telling that someone was giving Jackie a rough time and Jackie told him that he had been a fighter long before becoming a singer and on another occasion he had punched out a policeman during a show but wasn’t arrested because Jackie’s fans wouldn’t have allowed him to arrest him.
James Brown was also mentioned with the singers telling how hard a worker he was and that his band would even rehearse after doing the night’s show. If someone in the band messed up he would give them a signal that they would let them know they were in for it when the show ended.
Frankie Ford sang the Ferlin Husky hit Gone which could have been omitted from the tape since it wasn’t really sang in a serious vein but more for laughs but made up for it when he launched into his signature song Sea Cruise showing why it was one of the rockingest rock and roll songs ever.
The British invasion was a topic of conversation about how they took over the record charts and how things weren’t the same for the singers at the reunion after the invasion since few American singers charted Top 10 hits during this time.
Gene Hughes of the Casinos sings Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye at the reunion. Hughes died five years later in 2004 in a car accident.
The great Jimmy Clanton singing his first big hit Just a Dream which he wrote after being jilted by a girl.
Ray Peterson singing The Wonder of You one of the best songs ever written in my book and Elvis Presley also had an excellent version of the song.
Joe Terry of Danny and the Juniors singing their classic hit At the Hop.
Mary Wilson of the Supremes singing Stop in the Name of Love.
Ketty Lester singing Love Letters which was the highlight of the reunion for me singing this song the way only she can sing it. Sad she didn’t sing for 30 years before this reunion.
There are even more songs from this reunion that can be found at YouTube listed under Rock and Roll Graffiti 1999 for anyone wanting to hear more of the music from the reunion.
Tapes of this program are extremely rare with Amazon selling a three tape set of this reunion for $99. The program may or may not have been a commercial success and to my knowledge no program like it has been filmed since 1999 but for those fortunate enough to see the entire series of tapings from this reunion will not only hear some of the great music from the 1950’s and 1960’s but also hear first person accounts of what it was like to travel on bus tours across the United States, how theatres included rock and roll shows along with the price of a movie on the popcorn circuit and how some of these songs came to be written and how prejudice prevented black singers from staying in the same hotels they sang in.
They also tell about how impostors are pretending to be members of the Coasters and Drifters while not including original members of those groups.
Long live rock and roll!!