Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Brenda Lee performing her classic teen longing song, All Alone Am I.
Super Hits 1962, various artists, Time-Life Music, 1991
Scene brought to mind by the cover that graces this CD. Simple. A jukebox, a Wurlitzer jukebox gismo, bright lights inviting, all are welcome, standing alone in some off-hand corner ready to be played by the latest crowd of song-hungry nickel, dime and quarter carrying teens after they get out of a hard day of fighting boredom at school, in this case the hoary Olde Saco High School up in Maine (or down in Maine for the purists) or are getting ready to do the do on a Friday or Saturday night (in summer, any night) before heading to wilder visions out in the great snarl of the Atlantic Ocean wave machine that is the setting for more than one budding romance, teenage style, Maine ocean teenage style.
“No question, no question at all, Jimmy Jack’s,” answered Josh Breslin to the off-hand life and death question posed by Billy La Croix, king hell king or at least prince, given his age, a mere thirteen, of the be-bop-crazed young teen night around Olde Saco, and maybe farther.
And the question posed by young Billy? Who has the best jukebox with the best and most up to date tunes around town? Of course, the question was a no-brainer, a real no-brainer, for real, because Billy just had to know the answer before he said it. See Billy is none other than the son of the owner of Jimmy Jack’s Diner, the most popular hang-out for teens, young and old, in the whole southern coastal Maine area.
Perhaps an explanation is in order. First off, the Jimmy Jack’s Diner we are referring to is the one on Main Street (really U.S. Route One but everybody calls it Main Street just to be in tune with the seven million other Main Streets that are really part of some state or federal road system and are just as forgettable in the dreary pass through towns of wayward America) down by the old long closed MacAdams Textile Mills, the one with the primo jukebox I just mentioned. The other Jimmy Jack’s Diner, the one over on Atlantic Avenue heading to the beach, is strictly for the early supper, two dinners for the price of one before six, Monday through Thursday, discounts for seniors all day, every day, and tourista in summer, place. With no jukebox, and with no need for such an object to draw the oldsters in.
Second, don’t be fooled by the Jimmy Jack thing, like it was some wayward down home Alabama or Mississippi thing. That’s a vanilla American thing that Billy’s father, real name Jean Jacques LaCroix, picked out when everybody after World War II wanted to leave their heritage behind and drop hyphens. Billy, Jimmy Jack, hell, even Josh Breslin on his mother‘s side (nee Leblanc) are nothing but French-American from way back, not Parisian types though but from Canada, you know Quebec or Nova Scotia, places like that.
And don’t get any idea, any idea at all that Billy LaCroix, or Jimmy Jack’s Diner’s jukebox, is filled up with hokey Cajun ancient Arcadian twos-step jolie blon memory accordion stuff. No Billy is not the king hell king of, maybe prince, given his age, of that kingdom but the, like I said before, be-bop teen night. That means rock, rock and rock for the squares, maybe a doo-wop tune or a weeper for the girls just to keep things interesting. And that has been true for a while.
Here’s how it works. Mr. LaCroix (although everybody calls him Jimmy Jack, except Mrs. LaCroix who still calls him some romanticky, smoochy, lovey-dovey, Jean Jacques, for some reason) figured out that with two diners in one town he wanted to cater to two different clienteles. You already know about the nursing home diner over on Atlantic Avenue for cheapos trying to impress nobody since everybody is already married. But the real Jimmy Jack’s with jukebox in tow is now strictly for teen-agers, for those who want to be teenagers but can’t because they are too old (or too young, maybe), and at night, especially weekend nights a little older crowd, a motorcycle and hot road crowd really for action but in need of early evening or late night (Jimmy Jack’s is open 24/7) refreshments and a little hot music to get things going. And to check out, ya, check out the honeys who line up around the place to be checked out. But you figured that out already. I hope.
And this is where Billy comes in, although now that you know some stuff asking Josh that question about who had the best jukebox was nothing but pure vanity on his part. His part now that he is king, or prince or something. But what got Jimmy Jack pushing the teen scene business is from the time he met Stu Miller, the king hell king and not no prince either but a real king of the hot road night, the only serious night around Olde Saco. Stu came into Jimmy Jack’s one day, one afternoon, from what I heard, for some coffee and. Business was a little slow so they got to talking and during the conversation Stu mentioned that the joint could use a jukebox so that kids who wanted to hear the latest tunes about twelve times in a row could do so in comfort, maybe dance a little, and just hang out.
Jimmy Jack didn’t think much of the idea while Stu was talking until about a half hour later while they were still mulling it over, pro and con, at least fifteen girls began filling up the booths and ordering Cokes and. And, of course, if fifteen girls are, just casually after a hard day looking beautiful at school and all, sitting in any public space for more than two minutes then, like lemmings to the nearby sea, thirty guys are going to be hanging around the booths ordering their Pepsi and. Of course, the real draw was Stu and his custom-built ’57 fire red Chevy that every girl in town, and from what I heard a few women, a couple married, wanted a ride in. And enough had, girls and women both, so that hanging around old Jimmy Jack’s, or any place else was just plain good luck for any girl (or woman) looking to try her luck.
You know, naturally, that Stu still has a special parking spot out in front of Jimmy Jack’s and no one, not police or anybody, had better be seen in it, or else. What you don’t know is that once Stu made Jimmy Jack’s his headquarters the jukebox was a sure thing and the master mad man in charge of keeping the machine filled with the latest hits and throwing out last week’s faded flowers was none other than Billy LaCroix. And his vanity question. And although Josh, as is his wont, will probably be scratching his head for a while over why Billy asked that question one and all should know that what makes Jimmy Jack’s jukebox jump is one William La Croix.
See Billy, since about the age of eight, has had an ear for the rumble coming out of the hills of rock and roll, for the real deal stuff, and the fakos too. So you can be sure that there will be plenty of Brenda Lee and her All Alone Am I and Break It To Me Gently for the swooning girls, and guys who have just been dumped by their true loves and couldn’t express themselves better than listening to Brenda eighty-six times to get over it, and they do. Get over it, that is. And the Drifters up-beat Up On The Roof (and whatever dream image that roof brings to mind) will get play as will the soapy Everley Brothers’ Crying In Rain. And Billy says Shelley Fabares’ Johnny Angel is nothing but candy for those self-same swooning girls and, get this, guys too because she looks kind of innocent foxy the way a lot of guys like their frills.
Jesus, you know every last dance dee-jay is hoping and praying that nobody ever, ever gets tired of last dance of the night because ‘Til by The Angels is built for nothing but last dance time. And every guy is hoping he gets lucky, and girls too. By the way forget Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, The Lettermen’s When I Fall In Love and Brian Hyland’s Sealed With A Kiss. Strictly faded flowers. You see what I mean. Ya, Jimmy Jack’s was the best.
Labels: growing up absurd in the 1950's