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Driving To The DarknessSplinter's journey through the 1960's
By Thomas Harrison Moore
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Thomas Harrison Moore
All right reserved.
The beginning of 1960 brought in varied sounds in popular music. There were the silly songs like" Alley Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles, and "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini " by Brian Hyland. They were great summer sing along songs. There were also teenage angst-death songs: "Teen Angel" with Mark Dining losing his love on the fateful night on the railroad tracks; Billy Preston's" Running Bear" of two Native American teen lovers drowning; Ray Peterson's "Tell Laura I Love Her" with Laura losing Tommy as his car burst into flames on the racing grounds; Marty Robbins losing his life when he returned to "El Paso" to find his love, after having killed another of her paramours. Three singers became instant hits makers: Roy Orbison with "Only The Lonely"; Brenda Lee with "I'm Sorry", " I Want To Be Wanted", "That's All You Gotta Do" and "Sweet Nothins"; Connie Francis with "Everybody's Somebody's Fool"," My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own", and "Among My Souvenirs". Hank Ballard wrote an incredible dance song, "The Twist", that Chubby Checker made into a huge dance sensation. There was the Philly sound with Bobby Rydell singing "Volare" and "Wild One". Bobby Vee sounded like Buddy Holly with "Rubber Ball "(written by a young Gene Pitney). A song on the Sue label called "A Fool In Love" featured a new soul sound from Ike and Tina Turner. Splinters loved how Tina screamed it out to Ike. The Drifters sang the great love song," Save The Last Dance For Me". An obscure singer named Gary US Bonds had a hit with "New Orleans". Jerry Butler sadly sang "He Don't Love You", a rhythm 'n blues song where in the final light he will have the girl. Elvis had come home from the US Army and had hits of "It's Now or Never", "Are You Lonesome Tonight "and "Stuck On You". An obscure singer- songwriter Maurice Williams had the first version of "Stay", later to be performed by The Four Seasons and Jackson Browne. The Everly Brothers made it big with "Cathy's Clown", where everyone was pointing out the poor guy as her clown. They also released "When Will I Be Loved", "So Sad", and "Let It Be Me". Even country was popular with Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go", Hank Locklin's "Please Help Me I'm Falling" and Floyd Cramer's "Last Date". Was that Floyd playing the piano on Please Help Me I'm Falling? It sounded like him. The music was fantastic, and the rock 'n roll sound was going to stay.
Splinters and Boomer agreed there were two songs that were their favorite, but one would be a classic. "Only The Lonely" was almost song of the year due to Roy Orbison's operatic voice, but "Save The Last Dance For Me" was for the twins the best song of the year. Splinters felt Ben E King took that song and totally put himself in the position of the boyfriend at the dance, that she could dance with other guys but she would return to him for the last dance.
A young president was elected in November. He made people feel good and confident with a feeling the country was headed in a progressive direction with rights for all colors. A sit – in by four black students in a Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth's lunch counter had taken place in February. By July Woolworth's was serving meals to black people. Progress seemed on the way.
Splinters and Boomer were beginning high school. Latin class with Mrs. Drumm was the favorite class for both. Mom and Dad had their split level home built down the ravine from the old home. Rush Creek ran by the new home. Splinters felt Mom and Dad were resentful of the Frank Lloyd Wright type homes being built around the old home. They were triangles, silos, circles of concrete block and wood with balconies extending into the forested ravine.
The homes were designed by the architect Ted Van Fossen and built by Dick Wakefield , in what would be known as Rush Creek Village. Mom and Dad had been upset when their front yard was destroyed by South Street being extended east and coming in and taking their old oak trees and privacy. The street became the main route of Rush creek.
Norm Sielisch became the twins' best friend in early 1960. His wit and humor was as large as he was. The three boys collected 45 rpm records, the top forty, through the 1960's. Norm and the twins met whenever one or all of them had purchased new records. It wasn't until Boomer and Splinters began loving folk music that Norm decided to could no longer sit with them for hours listening to the 45's. He hated folk music and never liked Bob Dylan.
Splinters was beginning to taste teenage love with Joan Pixley that summer. Boomer had his taste with Sue Armstrong. Playing croquet and french kissing combined was exhilarating, while listening to Ray talking to Laura in the chapel to tell her, despite his death on the race track, that he loved her. Ray cried it out, and Splinters used to sing it to Joan. He and Boomer were becoming tan by hanging around the Worthington pool. Splinters felt his stick legs looked better in mahogany than pale white. Norm often joined them at the pool as did Joan and Sue. The music was loud from the outdoor juke box.
Splinters began ninth grade at Worthington High School. His highlight of the school day was Mrs. Drumm taking him back to the early Roman era, and Splinters felt she would have loved to have known Aeneas, as she talked about him incessantly. Splinters wondered if she talked to Aeneas alone at night in her home. She was a widowed woman with a lisp, and she was one of the nicest teachers Splinters would ever meet. Splinters thought he always liked people who were a bit on the crazy side.
The Beatles had just taken on their new name and were performing 48 nights in a club in Hamburg, West Germany. Bob Dylan was ready to leave Minnesota, never to again be a Minnesota boy and never again to be Robert Zimmerman. Splinters would discover Dylan at nineteen, and something incredible would happen. His mind would intellectuality and emotionally mature to whisper "Oh My God", over and over to Dylan's singing and expressing on Bob Dylan's " Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", "The Times They Are A Changing", and "Another Side Of Bob Dylan". These were not lyrics. They were lines from someone as great as Shakespeare and from deep inside a genius.
The cars of 1960 resembled, for the most part, the ones of the previous decade. There were still fins on most, but change was coming. Compact cars like the Corvair, the Falcon, and the Valiant were popular. Boomer and Splinters felt the 1960 Chrysler 300 was the number one car of the year, with its sweeping fins and modern look. Desoto, Splinter's favorite car of the fifties, now looked like a horribly ugly Chrysler. It was if a child had a picture of the Chrysler and slapped junk all over it. That was the 1960 Desoto.
There seemed to be hope in the air. It was refreshing.
Rock 'n roll became categorized in 1961. The girl groups had a new whiney -love rock sound: The Shirelles singing Carole King's "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", and" Dedicated To The One I Love" coming out as "deicaated"; Phil Spector's future wall of sound was the sexy Paris Sisters singing the romantic, "I Love How You Love Me". One female country singer took the country by storm with," I Fall To Pieces". Patsy Cline sang it so well Splinters cried to it. It was always his favorite crying song and his choice for best country song of all time. It was his second favorite song of the year. It was followed up with "Crazy", a song written by Willie Nelson, and Patsy gave it a deep throated jazz sound. Her voice was like no one else.
A new sound was beginning from Detroit with The Miracles smooth and polished "Shop Around". It was the voice of Smoky Robinson. Some Doo- Wop had returned with "My True Story" by The Jive Five. Splinters thought about poor Lorraine who was a wonderful girl in the love triangle song. Chris Kenner talked about the name of the place as, "I Like It Like That", a soul song that was just about a place called, I Like It Like That. The Marcells' "bompabompbompbompabompbompdangydangdangdingydongding" thing made Splinters sing so he tried never to mess up the best part of the song. The Capris' smooth "There's A Moon Out Tonight" ended with all the voices singing "moon out tonight" differently then all blending in with a final "there's a moon out..... toooooniiiight". Shep and The Limelights had the song "Daddy's Home" that had Splinters feeling the Dad would actually come home to stay, even though little Rhoda told us there were teardrops in her eyes. Then Ernie K Doe showed his frustration about his mother-in-law knowing the constitution in "Mother-in-Law". But Bobby Lewis was the number one song maker with, "Tossin 'N Turnin". Roy Orbison did it again with "Crying" and "Runnin' Scared"-which one would it be? The Everly Brothers released " Ebony Eyes", a tearjerker with his girlfriend dying on her inbound flight. Connie Francis had three hits. Gary US Bonds got it all rocking with the saxophone to the brilliant-chaotic "Quarter to Three". But who was Daddy Gee? Bobby Vee had more of his own voice and sound with "Take Good Care Of My Baby". Ben E King, on his own now, had a monster hit with the slow moving but very vivid feel of standing by each other as a cataclysm occurred in "Stand By Me". Some more dance numbers were hits as The Dovells " Bristol Stomp." Chubby was still on the charts with "The Fly", "Pony Time" and " Let's Twist Again". Again Tina belted it out to Ike in, "It's Gonna Work Out Fine", another Sue label masterpiece. And the Atlantic star Carla Thomas released "Gee Whiz". Of all these great sounds, Splinters thought the greatest song of the year was "Quarter To Three". It had jazz. It had rock. It had rhythm 'n blues. It had a disorganization about it, as if Gary were singing from the club.
In politics john Kennedy had started The Peace Corps, and it was a wonderful choice to a college student recently graduated. President Eisenhower was warning about The American Industrial Complex as a threat, but no one listened to him or took him seriously. Then the aborted and failed Bay of Pigs invasion into Cuba would bring everlasting harm. It would not be forgotten to those Cuban exiles and their devotees. It would not be forgotten to those in organized gambling. It would simply not be forgotten as merely a blunder on the new President's part, but possibly reasons to destroy him. In that year the United States did break diplomatic ties with Cuba.
Another significant event in the country was Freedom Riders in the southern states who were being beaten by white southerners.
Home life was very mellow. Splinters and Boomer did their studies. They were nothing like the delinquents of a few years ago. The twins worked hard on their studies, especially Latin. That February of 1961, Mom and Dad left for a convention, that was part of Mom's work. They told the twins Norm could come over to stay for the three days. George Leach had also been a friend of the twins for a year or so. But George did not have the brains Norm did. Nor did he have the cunning traits Norm had. George was expected over in a couple hours one wintry day. Splinters had invited him to lunch. Norm came up with an idea. He would dress as a woman watching the twins for the few days. Then the three of them would come up with a recipe for lunch. Norm made a Tabasco sauce cola. Splinters made a sandwich of hot peppers. Boomer made a soup of every hot ingredient in the refrigerator. Once Norm dressed, the twins could not believe how he looked-like a big framed woman in her forties. They decided to name her Mrs. Grundy. George arrived and was introduced to Mrs. Grundy. She was very unfriendly to him and said in a scratchy high voice lunch was nearly ready and that he had better like her cooking. Once seated at the table, Mrs. Grundy and the twins ate the sandwiches with mayonnaise, the soup Mom had left, and the cola that was normal. As George ate, his face became red. Mrs. Grundy yelled at him to take a drink of cola, and he did. He almost turned purple and gasped, "This meal is really hot, boss". He liked to address others as boss. Mrs. Grundy scolded him and told him she expected him to eat and drink his whole meal. After lunch he went to the twins' room with them to see their new spring track uniforms. Splinters told him to try on his track suit. Once George was naked, Boomer shouted the code word "Track", and Mrs. Grundy opened the door of the bedroom. She caught sight of his exposed crotch, and said, "Dear, you must get a larger piece of sausage, or you will never date any girls". She then slammed the door shut. Poor George. He never caught on to the deception. He went home with a scratchy throat and a huge embarrassed feeling. Splinters felt a little bad for him. Norm thought it had been funny.
The 1961 cars, for Boomer and Splinters were becoming too stodgy, with straight lines and less chrome. They were still huge machines, and Splinters began to like foreign cars like the Volkswagen Beetle because there was no other car like it. It looked so cool with no chrome, and Splinters felt driving must feel so German. There was a flat dashboard and window screen. There were cute plastic knobs. There were still running boards. It had old fenders. It had an engine Dad described as a washing machine. Splinters thought it sounded like an electric beater. It was his best car of the year. And Desoto, unfortunately, said its goodbye to the American consumers.
Bob Dylan was arriving in New York City. He seemed a lot like Woody Guthrie, but he was further out there to soon be further out from anyone, who had once been close to him in folk music. This music was now and it was angry. The Beatles were evolving their own sound, but based on rhythm and blues, Chuck Berry and some Everly Brothers in their harmonies.
Bob Dylan had written "Blowing InThe Wind" and handed it over in 1962 to Peter Paul and Mary to record (both had Albert Grossman as their manager). They did, and the song became a sensation in 1963. It would stand for civil rights and for answers that would, hopefully, someday be answered. It was about wind and possible change the wind would bring. The other songs of 1962 were mainly dance songs like a comeback of "The Twist", by Chubby Checker, "Slow Twistin' "by Sam Cooke, "Wah Watusi" by the Orlons, "Mashed Potato" and "Gravy" by Dee Dee Sharpe. "Soul Twist" by King Curtis, and "Loco Motion" by Little Eva were hits. Phil Spector produced his hit of The Crystals singing "Uptown," a girl group expressing a boy who could be a rebel. "Sherry" by the Four Seasons hit it big with Frankie Valli's high pitched voice and for the girl to please come out after asking her mother. And Patsy Cline did well with a sad reminder of "She's Got You". There was one blockbuster of a song that was a country song performed by a black singer. And it was big. It had been written and recorded by Don Gibson, and " I Can't Stop Loving You", by Ray Charles , dropped previous norms. It was a country and a rock 'n roll hit. Splinters felt it to be the best song of 1962, as did most of America. Ray mournfully sang that song almost to the point of tears, as Splinters could feel it.
The Beatles had their first and only audition for Decca records. They were turned down. Later that year they signed on Parlephone Records. On October 1, they released their first single, "Love Me Do". Ringo Starr had also replaced Pete Best as drummer in August. Bob Dylan had taken the New York folk scene by storm and released his first album in March. It was liked by the folk crowd. Many new devotees thought it was highly influenced by Woody Guthrie. Dylan sounded and looked like Woody. But his look was that of an attractive urchin.
Latin class was getting harder as Miss Frye took over for Mrs. Drumm. She did not put up with nonsense or lack of discipline. Some students could not compete or deal with her incessant verbal drilling. Porter Stark was very embarrassed and flustered one day ,when he was the unlucky one to translate the word "vagina", which meant the sheath of a sword. But a teenage boy having to talk to the class about a girl's vagina got Splinters and Boomer laughing so hard they were crying with laughter. Miss Frye was not pleased. She was fuming and had Boomer translate after Porter.
Both Splinters and Boomer went out for cross country with the well known Coach Eisenhart coaching them-"Come on Splinters, get the lead out of your skinny ass", he would yell so everyone heard. Splinters was pleased how his skinny legs could so easily carry his body over the hilly terrain for two miles.
Excerpted from Driving To The Darkness by Thomas Harrison Moore Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Harrison Moore. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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