Sometime twixt the ’60s and ’70s, I must have lost touch with “my generation’s” music. Looking back at those “eras”, we went from six-packs of cheap beer to “pot” in high gear. Just that I never caught up to the “pot”. Never could inhale. So when friends this winter came up with two disparate concerts, “Glen Miller Band” or the “Do Wop Classics,” I was quickly outgunned by the “Do Woppers.” Now you’ve got to understand, I’d heard the term “Do Wop” but never understood what it meant relative to the number of songs under its umbrella. Totally unprepared.
We get there, smallish theatre up in Venice. Settle in. No popcorn. Up comes the curtain, seven old guys. Youngest, late 50’s, on the drums, double keyboard and fancy guitar. Four singer/comedians out front dressed in tuxedos, white tee shirts, tennis shoes and white silk scarves tucked into lapels. Right to left, real big guy with long curly grey hair who dressed out would go 325 lbs. Next a tall guy with sunglasses, shaved bald and wearing a black beret. Next was the classic receding hairline, slicked-back ’50s, and then the Italian with full head of white hair. Classics all!
Few words of intro and they start off. Loud, “Book, book, book of love.” Audience comes alive. “Doomph, doomph, doomph.” Double bass comes on strong. I look to my left. Guy across the aisle has fallen asleep or perhaps in reverie. People in front row standing, swaying and clapping to this 1, 2, 3, 4 beat (I couldn’t carry a tune or beat in a hand basket). Lady to my right across the row is in a state of rapture, eyes wide, hands in motion.
The classics are in high gear. “Run, Run, Runaround Sue.” “Golden Teardrops”, wisecracks, history tributes, Neil Sedaka favorites. Everyone’s clapping time, singing along. Jokes start to fly and slip to risqué as evening progresses. Tales of marijuana in the ’70s. Bald guy loses beret as he breaks out as leader, “My Reverie”. Calls for us old “vets” to stand up for a bow and ovation. Audience having a ball...“Earth Angel”, “Only You”, “Sincerely”, “When You Dance”, prostatic elders beat a periodic path to the men’s room.
White hair leaves “for a break.” Few jokes about his “condition”, stage lights go dark. Hushed. What’s up? Audience starts to fidget and chatter. “Ba...bang.” Every Klieg light on stage lights up. Roll of drums, guitar and keyboard slam. From behind the door, white hair. “Duke... Duke.... Duke... Duke of Earl,” and he’s dressed up with gold crown, red vest, red cape, and swinging a gold baton. “Duke... Duke... Duke... Duke of Earl,” and the place erupts. Entire theatre on their feet clapping, singing, laughing. Lost to the beat of nostalgia and fun times. Bald guy has thrown his beret, grabs the mike and says in perfect ‘Joisy’, “Dis piece was choreated by Joe here.”
Short intermission and back at it again. “In the Still of the Night” by the Five Satins. Ink Spots, Mills Brothers, Marcels, Turbans, Little Anthony and The Imperials, The Cadillacs, The Drifters, The Platters, all represented. “When You Dance”, “Bye Bye Baby”. Del Vikings and “Come Go with Me” and the beat went on.
Throughout, the curly grey big guy is catching gaff about his weight and bulk as he keeps wandering over to this four-poster bed on stage. Says he’s tired. After a minute or two each trip he’s back as lead singer. Terrific voice. Toward end of evening he tells of his just (two days previous) deceased mother who he’d flown back to NYC to be with. Theatre is hushed. Dedicates “Cara Mio” to her in operatic voice. Unforgettable, not a dry eye in the place.“Anyone here from New Jersey?” Three-quarters of the theater is on their feet clapping. Where “Do Wop” started. “The Classics” talked of old groups. Who they’d played with. Guitar did a solo, taking bows and keyboard followed. Then the pony-tailed drummer, no spring chicken, let loose. He’d played with Gene Krupa, learned from Artie Shaw and when he let go, years dropped for this child. Dad the Doctor and my mother were great jazz lovers. This guy could really make the sticks talk.
And still the music went on. “In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle,” Earl Lewis and The Channels “Bye, Bye Baby,” “Earth Angel” by The Penguins and on and on. We were wrung out by curtain fall. My man Glen would have been great but the “Classics” were wild.
Quick healthcare story before the recipe. Wonderful girl from Greenville recently died of cancer. Had gone to Dana Farber Hospital in Boston for what was a probable cure. Dana Farber wanted 20K up front. There’s hardly 20K loose cash in the entire town of Greenville these days. She came home to die. “Thank you Congress with your total care package.” Trust you'll all sleep well tonight.
This recipe comes from the great Smoky Mountains where AJ and I became “smoked”-in by the densest fog I'd ever experienced. From a tearoom/luncheon place called ‘The Wild Plum’ and their cookbook, “Recipes We Use.”
Shaker Popcorn Soup
6 ears fresh corn
4 cups milk
2 large onions
2 T fresh parsley
4 T butter
4 T flour
1 qt. light cream
Salt and pepper
Freshly popped buttered popcorn
Cut corn kernels from the cob and place in a sauce pan. Cover with milk and bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Mince onions and parsley and sauté in the butter until tender. Stir in flour, slowly add light cream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add corn mixture, salt and pepper (to taste) and cook until thick. Garnish with freshly popped popcorn (use salted, buttered popcorn to add more flavor to soup). Serves 6-8.
Fair winds and good roads.