Nationally Celebrated………#132 (the 70’s)

Sami-K – a raising talent

.   With the advent of  ‘Sami K’  the Cove flourished but as time passed the avidity of her talent was also discovered by others.  The once vacant Meridian Ave. becoming a hub for quality entertainment with the addition of new facilities, the elegant Ramada Inn, the Airport Sheraton and a Sports Bar endowed Hilton Inn.  The inaugurating Pirates Cove  entertainment menu continued with the successful ‘ Sami K’,  but it was just a matter of time before  the much larger Hilton approached the Velma-Ala Oklahoma country girl.  Sami accepting an offer from Hilton, apologetically thanking Gary for giving her the opportunity to expand her entertainment horizons.

.   Researching for  talent wasn’t easy, the band able to continue with Jerry Connell and Gary briefly with the vocals, but the sudden loss of drummer Jim Hayes without a notice adding to the detriment.  Gary making a call to the Sallee agency about a drummer and was surprise when a percussionist with the Oklahoma City Symphony called to confirm he could fill in for a while.  Gary making  phone calls that led to a guitar playing itinerant vocalist who worked days as a part-time house painter and his hippy long haired Vietnam Vet drummer.  The pianist as well as the management realizing something would have to be done, wondering if there was another Jan or Sami out there.

.   It was almost unbelievable,  Gary receiving a call from Herbie Carpenter,  he had found someone.  The club owner stating her name was Debbie Swisher, and had been appearing at the Copa Club, in the Habana Inn with the Joe Davis Quartet, and enter rested in working, adding that she had given notice.  After meeting with her, Gary was elated,  but somewhat suspicious of someone taking a professional step-down, but deciding she was sincere with her desire to work with the band.   Gary having no qualms about giving the house painting vocalist notice,  but was more than satisfied with Vietnam Vet,  Eddy Ferguson on Drums, the band now consisting of Debbie, Eddy, Jerry Connell on guitar, Gary playing piano & keyboard bass and the addition of Jerry Willis lead guitar on weekends.

.   Debbie was no stranger to the world of music, in 1955 three school age girls from Hanover Pennsylvania  started a vocal group called the Pixie Three, rising to prominence,  appearing twice on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour  and in 1963  having a top 40 hit with Mercury Records.  Debbie changing venues from the Pixie Three in 1966,  replacing Toni Mason as the lead singer with another celebrated group The Angels of   ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ fame.  With Debbie on the Pirate Cove bandstand it didn’t take long for her vocal expertise to capture an audience,  the  club capacity again expanding.

.   Eddy Ferguson,  the Vietnam Vet was somewhat different from any drummer Gary had ever worked with, besides exhibiting perfect timing,  he professed a volume resiliency that was unique from most drummers, in that it didn’t override the musical expression,  but lifted it.  He was  a man of few words, not shy, but adding only prevalent observations to a conversation.  Gary wondering if he was always this way,  or it might be a reflection of his Vietnam experience.  One thing the pianist did notice,   Eddy and Debbie were inherently quiet individuals, and it became apparent when they began to spend time together,  an affinity for each other was in the developmental stage.

.   The early spring found Gary and his wife  journeying  40 miles to Eddy’s mother’s home in Purcell Oklahoma for the baronial marriage of the two.  The official ministering the ceremony, Eddy’s mother, Gary and Kaye the only participants attending the celebration,  a reason for the attendance was never asked,  but apparently the lack of invitations was a hidden resolve.  The ceremony acquiring their nuptial  joining with a presupposition of musical vowels,  Eddy singing his promise and devotion, Debbie vocalizing her acceptance and love, a memorable and appreciated ceremony.  Gary still declaring the event as an ovation to the couples life journey.

.   It wasn’t unusual for renown musical groups that performed at the Oklahoma City Auditorium, to stay at the Holiday Inn West.  Kenny Rogers and the First Edition having arrived from completing their highlighted engagement,  the band  making their countenance known at the Pirates Cove, but Kenny apparently retreating to eclipse a public appearance.   Gary waiting until a break to approach the band members,  asking if they would address their fans by sitting in.  With invitation accepted, the announcement made, The First Addition mounting the bandstand,  receiving  accolades from  the capacity restitution.  The visiting musician fulfilling their sit-in  commitment,  returning to their table, relating they had another show tomorrow night in Stillwater, and would drop by again.   Gary having a coherence for the coming event,  deciding he would bring his reel to reel tape recorder and record this second nights event for prosperity.

.   The following evening placing his tape recorder on the front seat of his car, starting  to the Pirates Cove,  but when turning left off May Avenue,  an oncoming pickup truck suddenly appeared like an apparition,  Gary not seeing it until the collision.  The Comet striking the oncoming  vehicle,  its forward momentum  sending it escalating up the May Avenue roadway.   Gary’s knees buckling the steering wheel and impacting his chin.  Gathering his orientation, the driverside door still operable, getting out glancing up May Avenue,  the pick-up coming to rest a hundred yards up the road, the driver sprawled half in and half out, exhibiting no signs of movement. Gary reacted immediately, heading to the 7 11 store adjacent to the accident, telling the stunned counter employee several times,  the person in the pickup might be seriously hurt,  to call an ambulance, then noticing his reflection in a window displayed and the reason for an aghast clerk,  the musicians face was covered with blood.

.   The ambulance arriving before local law enforcement, the pickup driver now alert declining the need of assistance.  Blood was flowing from Gary’s chin, the responders approaching Gary,  suggesting  they transport him to South Community Hospital, Gary hesitant, having a concern about the disposition of his car, being assured by the ambulance responders,  the police would see to it.  During the stitching of his chin, the police having arrived for their report,  following a prolonged time in X-ray,  Gary  finally calling the club informing them of his dilemma, he thought it best to abstain from the night’s performance, even in pain,  he was disappointed at missing another opportunity experience,  The First Edition

.   The seceding night,  bandaged and bruised, diligently mounting the bandstand,  the pianist once again advancing the motto of his craft,  the show must go on, thankful to be returning,  but sadden at the loss of his traveling companion, the 1963 Comet.


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