[Several years ago then site manager Allan Jackson (under the moniker Peter Paul Markin like he needed a cover name like he was on the run, as he had been in his youth for a while after making a few wrong decisions about the virtues of being a stone-cold outlaw living as he once told me “you had to live on the outside to be honest”) in commemorating the 50th anniversary of, Christ I forget what it was, either this graduation from high school, or maybe what was then called junior high school and now almost universally middle school commissioned, and that is exactly the right word a series of sketches about the music of our youths. About the role that we admitted the gathering clouds of rock and roll had on our already weary working- class heads.
Now since I am a little younger that the brethren who have written here forever or if not forever like Bart Webber one would have thought that my line of march would have been somewhat different than those “present at the creation” like Zack James’ oldest brother Alex who actually saw and heard Big Joe Turner blast out Shake, Rattle and Roll on the television (although when Zack inquired Alex did not remember what show it was back in 1954). Had heard the first Elvis fits and starts on something called the Louisiana Hayride before he really started grinding his ass and making the young girl, hell their mothers too sweat. Had heard Warren Smith cannonball his Ruby to rock and roll heaven. Probably a little different too that guys like Allan, I won’t use his outlaw name since he may feel he needs to use it again if he doesn’t get steady work soon to pay off those three alimonies and paying for the graduate school programs of a brood of young adults who need to be kept off the streets until better times come.
You would however be wrong, and maybe that is why despite much pressure at the time from his remaining hometown North Adamsville corner boys Seth Garth and Jack Callahan he gave me the assignment (that rundown derelict hometown which produced more armed robbery aficionados than anywhere else in the country for a town that size and where they listened to WMEX the pirate radio station out of Boston run by an ex-junkie, seriously, named Artie Ginsberg, something like that who had been a Time Square hipster, really an upscale name for a junkie back in the 1940s and early 1950s and had frequented a lot of rhythm and blues clubs downtown in Soho or better right in the mix up around 125th Street in Harlem and to his dying day claimed rock and roll had been invented by guys like Smiley Davis and Eddy “The Can” Edwards). And here is where Allan was exactly right since my uncle “Slim” Deauville ran the great rock and roll radio show Rock Me, Mama out of WABD in Olde Saco up in Maine, or really off the coast of Maine since this was the Pine Tree state’s version Ginsberg’s pirate operation (you might remember my uncle’s name if you were from somewhere in Gaspe in Quebec where the family hailed from back in the early par to the 20th century and his series of hits on covers of One Night Of Sin, Swish and Sway, Bingo Baby Rock and hopefully have forgotten that he was “anybody’s darling,” my mother’s bitter term when the big payola scandals hit in the late 1950s). So I breathed rock and roll, breathed stuff that guys like Alex James breathed at the creation and that gangster-in-waiting Allan Jackson grabbed second hand a little latter.
When new site manager Greg Green, well maybe not so new now since the coup that ousted Allan happened a couple years back wanted to do an encore presentation to recognize the 60th anniversary of what Allan had done for the forlorn 50th he tossed Allan to the wolves and got the “real deal” to do the new introductions to the revived series. Josh Breslin]
Frankie, Frankie, king of the old North Adamsville neighborhood, Frankie, king hell king, Frankie, king arbiter of the teen social mores, was the alpha and omega. Or that is what his relentlessly self- promoted image would have you believe. Most of it was strictly “flak” and now that we have some serious distance of time and space to shield us from retribution it can be safely told that a lot of this “mystique”, this Frankie, king of the hill, mystique, was made up by me to enhance his authority. Nothing wrong with that kings, and lesser kings and, hell, just average jacks and jills have been using this gag for centuries. What is not a gag, what is not “flak” is what I have to tell you here.
Frankie and I, of course, if you have been paying attention went back to old North Adamsville middle school days and although we had some tight moments old king Frankie, giving the devil his due, guided me fairly well through the intricacies of, well, ah, girls, girlish ways, and girlish charms. No question that I would have been left to dry out, alone, in that great teenage angst night if not for my brother, Frankie. And I’ll just give you one example, and you can judge for yourself. Okay.
I was just the other day telling someone about how in the great 1960s teen night a lot of our time, our waiting around for something, anything to happen time, was spent around places like pizza parlors, drugstore soda fountains, and corner mom and pop variety stores throwing coins into the old jukebox to play the latest “hot’ song for the umpteenth time (and then discard them, most of them anyway, after a few days). This is the scene that Frankie ruled over wherever he set up his throne. I was also telling that person about a little “trick” that I used to use when I was, as I usually was, chronically low on funds to feed the machine.
See, part of that waiting around for something, anything to happen, a big part, was hoping, sometimes hoping against hope, that some interesting looking frail (girl in the old neighborhood terminology, boy old neighborhood terminology that is, first used by Frankie, and then picked up by everyone else) would come walking through that door. And, especially on those no dough days, would put some coins in that old jukebox machine. I swear, I swear on anything, that girls, girls, if you can believe this, always seemed to have dough, at least coin dough, in those days to play their favorite songs.
So here is the trick part, and see it involves a little understanding of human psychology too, girl human psychology at that. Okay, say, for a quarter you got five selections on the juke box. Well, the girl, almost any girl that you could name, would have a first pick set, some boy romance thing, and the second one too, maybe a special old flame tryst that still hadn’t burned out. But, see after that, and this is true I swear, they would get fidgety about the selections. And, boy, that is where you made your move. You’d chime up with some song that was on your “hot” list like Save the Last Dance for Me, or some other moody thing and, presto, she hit the buttons for you.
That choice by you rather than, let’s say Breathless by Jerry Lee Lewis which maybe was your real “hot” choice told her you were a sensitive guy and worthy of a few minutes of her time. So you got your song, you got to talk to some interesting frail (you remember who that is, right?), and maybe, maybe in that great blue-pink great American teen night you got a telephone number even if she had a boyfriend, a forever boyfriend. Nice, right?
But here is the part, the solemn serious part, that makes this a Frankie story although He is not present in this scene, at least not physically present. Who do you think got me “hip” to this trick? Yes, none other than Francis Xavier Riley, Frankie, king of the teen night, king of the North Adamsville teen night. And, this is why he was king. He was so smooth, after a while, at directing the selections that girls would not even get a chance to pick those first current flame and old flame selections but he would practically be dropping their quarters in the machine for them. Hail Frankie.