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 including a smitten young attorney Chase Gordon.   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 as did the attorney, Sami accepting an offer from Hilton and a marriage proposal from Chase, apologetically thanking Gary for giving her the opportunity to expand her entertainment horizons.

The renown Debbie Swisher – Gary at the piano

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, it was a mid afternoon when an attractive lady vocalist introduced herself to Herb Carpenter the club owner stating that her name was  Debbie Swisher and had been appearing at the prestige Copa  Habana with the  Joe Davis Quartet and was interested in work, adding that she had given notice after having a falling out with management over a personal matter.  Gary was elated but somewhat suspicious of someone taking a professional step-down for personal reasons 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 consisted of Debbie, Eddy, Jerry Connell on guitar, Gary playing piano & keyboard bass and the addition of Jerry Willis lead guitar and  tenor sax 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.

The Pixie Three

The Pixie Three

Debbie Swisher

The Holiday Inn West having expanded  with the completion of kitchenette rooms to accommodate the students attending the FAA flight instructor and Air Traffic Control Schools at the FAA Mike Monroney Center.  The piano bar  arrangement having been discontinued the previous year,  the bandstand location having been moved to the  left of the entrance door, a 4 ft. high petition with 2 inch dowels extending to the ceiling separated Gary and the piano on the bandstand from those entering.  In the summertime  the heat from the lobby would filter in with the opening and closing of the door, the pianist finding the heat  very uncomfortable, so to remedy the situation by placing a small  eight inch electric fan on the petition between the dowels for a constant breeze, but discovering one night that it was a hazard.  A lady with long hair waiting to be seated backed up against the petition, her hair getting caught in the plastic  blades of the fan and when she pulled away the fan came with her.  The only damage was the embarrassment of the situation, but she and her friends were compensated, receiving  a complimentary no charge beverage evening.

Eddy Ferguson the Vietnam Vet was somewhat different from any drummer Gary had ever meant, he exhibited perfect timing and professed a volume resiliency that was unique 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 observation 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 was Eddy and Debbie were inherently quiet individuals and it became apparent when they began to spend time together that 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 home in Purcell Oklahoma for the baronial marriage of 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 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 couples life’s journey.

Kenny Rogers and The First Edition

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 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 excepted, the announcement made, The First Addition mounting the bandstand joining Gary and the group,  receiving  accolades from  the capacity restitution.  The visiting musician fulfilling their sit-in  commitment returning to their table but relating that  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.

63 Mercury Comet - 10 years of fatihful service

63 Mercury Comet – 10 years of faithful service

The following evening placing his tape recorder beside him on the front seat of his car, starting his journey to the Pirates Cove but when turning left off  May Avenue an oncoming pick-up 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 driver-side door still operable he got out glancing up May Avenue,  the pick-up coming to rest a 100 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 that 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 having arriving before the local law enforcement, the driver of the truck up and moving about, the ambulance personnel asking but the pickup trucks occupant refusing to be transported to a hospital.  A profusion of blood was flowing from Gary’s chin, his knees in pain, the first responders suggesting that they transport him to South Community Hospital emergency room.  Gary hesitant, having a concern about the disposition of his car, being assured by the ambulance EMT’s that the police would see to it.

 During the stitching of his chin the police arriving for their report,  following a prolonged time in X-ray the pianist finally calling the club informing them of his dilemma.  Because of his physical appearance, condition and no transportation, 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 the pianist once again advancing the motto of his craft,  “the show must go on”, mounted the bandstand, but sadly minus one 1963 Mercury Comet.


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