It was a night filled with magic – aside from the injuries
On Saturday night, Sugartush and I were enjoying our usual fun-filled, whiz-bang activities: I was counting the new liver spots on the backs of my hands, and he was watching TV through closed eyelids. I began surfing channels and there was PBS having a telethon, and they were airing a whole two hours of doo-wop! Zounds!
I can only assume that doo-wop was as wildly popular on the West coast as it was on the East, and for those of a certain age, not mine, of course, doo-wop was a 1950s-1960s pre-Motown kind of music that originated in Philly – Philadelphia – must I explain everything?.
A lot of the lyrics had to do with “Teen babee Ah luuuv yew” followed by soulful choruses of “Sh Do Shooby Do” and various thereof.
Anywhere from three to six guys would congregate on a street corner, every street corner, singing a cappella, and crowds of people would wander through the streets, stopping to listen here and there. I lived in Washington DC back then, and it was maybe a two-hour drive to run up to Philly with a few friends and enjoy some great music and good times.
“Dale! Wake up!,” I said. “This show has Little Anthony and the Imperials, Joey and the Starlighters, Lenny and the Chimes, even Little Richard!”
The music was terrific, of course, but I didn’t recognize any of the groups at all. Where did all those old people come from?
“Ladies and gentlemen – Jay and the Americans!” So who was the grandpa that stepped up to the mike to sing “Cara Mia Mine?”
Did handsome, dashing Jay really turn into that silver-topped codger? Sounded like him…could it be? I didn’t recognize his backup singers, either; their waterfall and duck’s tail haircuts of yesteryear had gone with the wind, baby; now they were wearing control-top cummerbunds and matching this size-won’t-fitcha-either flowered vests.
The host announced a rock ‘n’ roll quintet and flashed an early picture of five tall, slender, energetic young men with chiseled jaw lines grouped around a microphone. In the next moment, the very same guys tottered out in heavily sequined dinner jackets, size 49 Portly. Oh, they still had all the cool synchronized hand movements they were so famous for, but there was not more jumpin’ and jivin’ around the stage, I do assure you.
The Five Satins performed in conservative dark suits and jazzy red bow ties, looking for all the world like very hip church ushers, which they probably are.
(“Welcome, Brother Ames, won’t you strol-l-l this way?”) And while some of the lead singers had trouble keeping up, there were a few, in their 60s and 70s, who by dad could still make those high notes ring out.
There were long shots of screaming, clapping, dancing audience members, and they knew all the words to all the songs. There was a lot of tonnage in that audience, a lot of double chins, polyester shirts and pleated tops, lots of smiles and some tears too.
“Get up, honey buns, they’re doing ‘In the Still of the Night!’ Let’s dance!” It took Dale awhile to haul himself out of his chair and another little while to straighten up, but we did dance a few turns, at least until the dips made me too dizzy to go on, and then his back started cracking and he had to sit back down and eat some ibuprofen.
My charley horse felt ever-so-much better after an hour with a heating pad, and we finished the program sitting down. That’s probably the last wild night we’ll have in a long time.
Vivian Herron is a longtime resident of the town of Washington whose column appears on Saturdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945.
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