Monday, September 16, 2013

***Out In The 1960s Be-Bop Night-Doin’ His Midnight Creep

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Benny Brady, a freshly-minted teenager out in the 1960s be-bop night, 1960 to be exact, mercifully no more tween-dom for him, no more kid’s stuff and wait until you are older stuff, was sick, sick unto death of the music he was hearing on his transistor radio, on American Bandstand on the television, at school dances, and on the jukebox down at Doc’s Drugstore too. Squaresville. Enough of Connie Francis finding somebody to love without lipstick on his collar, Patsy Cline falling to pieces everybody she heard some no good guy who left her probably for some other twist, Brenda Lee being sorry, sorry practically for being born because she offended some guy, some mechanic or grease monkey and his macho sensibilities, and Sandra Dee flipping out on some ever so ever beach. Enough of the Bobbies, Rydell, Vinton Darin, and throw in the Everley Brothers telling some little Susie to wake up. Enough of Mark Dinning and the two hundredth time that Teen Angel came over the airwaves, as well as earth angels, paradise angels, Johnny Angel and every angel from here to L.A. Enough, more than enough too of emaciated, although he would not have known that word’s meaning exactly then, of raggedy doo-wop since the heyday with the Teen Queens, the Chiffons and the Shirelles had passed by. But enough of railing against the fouled-up airwaves around his native Hullsville. Benny needed, desperately needed, if you asked him directly, a new sound, a sound to go with his new found interests.

By the way that transistor radio, a tiny radio, battery- run which could be concealed at will, for the unknowing was his life-line, his and about twelve billion other tweens and teens dragged up in the cold war red scare night by, well, overprotective parents. Said parents the number one cause as far as Benny was concerned with the demise of rock ‘n’ rock as he knew it when he was just nothing but a wet behind the ears tween kid a few years back listening to his brother Prescott’s records into the wee hours down in the family room when those said parents were in dreamland. Listening to Elvis and his swivel hips that made all the girls go crazy (he would not know the why of why the girls, and women too, went crazy until later in his teen years); listening to Jerry Lee who was accused of every kind of unclean thing (again he would learn only later what that meant); listening to Chuck Berry ding-a-linging (ditto on the learning later thing) But enough too of railing against parent-dom.

If you haven’t figured out yet Benny’s new found interest was in, ah, girls, girls who when he was a tween were nothing but nuisances and a pain in the you know where. Person to be avoided at all costs except when absolutely necessary like copying homework from or borrowing money for ice cream, stuff like that, especially if they “liked” you and you were privy to that information. But after careful re-evaluation once he became a freshly-minted teen he saw that they might be, well, interesting. At least that is the way he figured, figured he had the whole boy-girl thing scoped out. What he was looking for in that vanilla music night was an edge, something he could talk to girls about and of which they were clueless. Not some prattle about Bobby slick-backed hair this, or Fabian smooth that which filled all the girl magazines. He needed something too that might, in light of his reevaluation of girls, give him a leg up with them as well, especially Lucinda, Lucinda Mott, the one girl he knew who might be interested in something new in music. Something not parentally approved. And who he had heard through that junior high school grapevine that was more effective that the whole telecommunications industry put together “liked” him.

The times were hard though just then, nothing looked like it was going to break-out of the cookie cutter ever since Elvis died, or went in the service or something, Jerry Lee got caught doing something wrong (although he couldn’t figure out what that wrong was), and guys Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed and burned. Then one Sunday night, it had to be a Sunday because he had gone up into his room early to try and see if he could get Murray the K, the big be-bop DJ on some New York station. See something in the air, something about radio waves and transmitters, on Sunday night allowed Benny to occasionally get faraway stations on his transistor. That night Benny got heaven, got the Brother Bopper Blues Blast out of WJDA in Chicago. He could hardly believe his ears.

Benny heard stuff that sounded like old time rock ‘n’ roll but not exactly like Elvis and Jerry Lee. He heard some stuff he couldn’t quite figure out but that Brother Bopper (real name found out later Milton Jones) said was from down in the Delta, wherever that was. Stuff done on acoustic guitar accompanied by raspy-voiced guys who kind of slurred their words, maybe didn’t know proper English for some reason. Stuff like that. And then Brother Bopper played a whole segment of the show, about one half hour devoted to one performer.

That night Benny Brady fell in love with Howlin’ Wolf, fell in love with that raspy, graspy voice, fell in love with the harmonica sound Brother Bopper between songs would describe as giving the Wolf (Brother’s term) his power (and which Benny would later see the Wolf almost ate when he was in rare form, when he was reaching for the high white note). Wolf spoke of smoke-stack lightning, big-hipped women, of little red rooster running amuck in barnyards, of pining away for women, and a lot of stuff that sounded like it might be interesting to know about; juke joints, knife-wielding guys protecting their women from other guys; hard work on weekdays and hell-raising on Saturday night.

That night too Benny Brady, freshly-minted teen knew, knew to a certainty that this was stuff that Lucinda Mott, once he definitely found out (via an older sister), that she “liked” him would flip out over, would want to endlessly discuss with him. And she did.

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