Means Of Expression………………….#114 (the 60’s)

The Hi-Lo Club and Patio Restaurant on the Classen Circle

  Sparky Anderson, a district manager representing a faction of the Zenith Corporation  would invariably find the Untouchables when the band was on the road especially  during their peregrinations in southwest Oklahoma and Texas.    Gary and Glenn resigning themselves that Sparky was just another salesman purporting ostentatious conversation  when indulging in liquid beverages dispensed by a bartender.   Most of Sparky’s dissertations were taken lightly but when he conveyed he was the proprietor of the Hi-Lo Club in Oklahoma City,  the two musicians interest abruptly  peaked.   A further inquiry discovering that  Sparky indeed did own the prestigious Hi-Lo Club established on the Classen Circle in Oklahoma City,  but also  enlighten that  the club’s management and operational perspective was the responsibility of his son-in-law Herb Carpenter.

The Hi Lo Club was a very efficacious nightclub,  augmented to a professional and upper middle class business clientele.  The clubs current entertainment was afforded by  The Preacher Smith Trio,  a well established negro group  assembled behind a piano bar.   Gary and Glenn introducing themselves to Herb,  discovering Preacher Smith firmly embedded with a Monday thru Saturday booking.  The two soliciting an opportunity to play on a Sunday night, Herb showing no interest on adding another night of entertainment.  Gary placing a call to Sparky asking if he might say something to his son-in-law about the Untouchables playing a Sunday night,  a reluctant Herbie conceding. The Untouchable debut with Sparky present was well received,  their four musician nine instrument accord giving a new sound to the Hi-Low Club.  Gary could see a dispersion between Sparky and Herb surfacing about their Sunday night appearance, the band seemingly caught in the middle.

Gary sensing from the first their introduction, Herbie and Glenn were not congenial and it was obvious it was going to have an effect on any further employment negotiations.   The second Sunday night found the band playing to capacity array,  Sparky’s admonition having  prevailed,  advocating they be hired six night per week.   Herbie reluctantly agreeing but making one point clear,  he was the boss not Sparky and there was would be no recourse.  The forty-year old Thomas (Preacher) Smith having attended Paul Quinn College in Dallas studying divinity and music,  thus the name Preacher,  was given a week’s notice, the Untouchable starting full-time.   The Hi Lo’s piano bar availing Gary an innovating idea,  instead of moving the console piano from behind the bar he would place the Wurlitzer #120 on top of it having two keyboards, enabling him to continue providing keyboard bass and paint a canvas of authority with the regular piano with his right hand.   He took the set-up a step further,  utilizing a wah-wah pedal to the upper keyboard octaves of the Wurlitzer,  endowing  special effects.   He was now at the controls of the keyboard bass,  special effect from the Wurlitzer and the normalcy of the piano, plus able to step aside and play vibes when either Jerry or Larry adding  electric bass.  The pianist having found a new satisfying means of expression, with it came an inner feeling that this new musical endeavor could flourish.

Bill Hurst a Oliver Hardy look-a-like

Bill Hurst a Oliver Hardy look-a-like

Bill Hurst is inimitable in every respect,  his employment and environment were scripted out of a movie.   Bills physical appearance reminiscent of Oliver Hardy,  from the Laurel and Hardy movie fame, with a black suit,  sporting the characteristic mustache and emulating mannerisms he could pass for Ollie.   His employment domain was the Ace Pawn shop located  downtown Oklahoma City, between Sheridan and Main St. on North Broadway,  a prime location,  just north of the city area  referenced to as Skid Row.   Gary and Glenn having made his acquaintance when frequenting the downtown pawn shops in search of microphones and other audio paraphernalia.  Bill’s  knowledge of the brokerage business was adherent,  his awareness of the coding system employed by the several downtown pawnbroker’s enabling Gary and Glen to discern a store marketers margin and to barter.   Bill acknowledge another talent,  an ability to project the musical talents of Ray Stevens,  Nervous Norvus,  giving life to a vocal rendition of Ahab the Arab, Monster Mash, Transfusion,  his Character  carriage and vocals  making him an immediate celebrate.

The new-found asylum of the Hi-Low Club enabled the group to flourish,  emulating a variety of sounds,  from Jazz to country,  but  as the time passed a professional quietude began to prevail.    Gary finding the ensuing months of performing six nights deserving a recess, the Untouchables all in agreement as well as club management.  Gary’s wife Kaye scheduling some vacation time from FAA employment, the family deciding on a brief road trip to California.  The journey would include a stop in Long Beach to reconcile a bizarre situation, Gary’s wife Kermece (Kaye) Rice had never been introduced to her biological father Kermit VanLeuven.   Her mother Helen having meant Kermit prior to her marriage to Rice in 1939.   With the ensuing war years, each having established a separate life, it was apparent that a decision was made to let the past remain dormant.  This would soon change, Helen arranging that on their arrival in Long Beach Kaye could place a call and her estranged father would meet his daughter and grandson for the first time.

A California Journey

A California Journey

The journey beginning,  Gary making a decision to drive straight through from Oklahoma City to Long Beach and then north to Oakland, discovering Route 66 was still interspersed with construction projects for the proposed four  lane thoroughfare Interstate 40.   The 1400 mile stretch of highway from Oklahoma City to Long Beach a  long 24 hour arduous journey, Gary thankful when reaching their destination.  The late morning late arrival presenting an unusual circumstance, Kaye needing to place a call and  freshen up before meeting her father for the first time, but because of their limited budget, Gary hesitant about the expense of a motel room for just an hour,  deciding to make an unusual request.  The person behind the motel counter having an inquisitive look when Gary approached her about the cost of a room for an hour, taking notice of the couple and baby Scott, once being informed of the circumstance the clerk agreeing to let the room at half the price of a nights stay.  Kayes father Kermit VanLeuven,  an attorney,  appointed as the Head  Court Clerk that schedules the dockets for all the judges presiding in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Gary’s newly discovered father-in-law receiving his daughter call,  arranging their meeting,  giving them  directions to a restaurant on W. Ocean Blvd in Long Beach.   Gary finding the atmosphere somewhat estranged, especially to be present when your wife meets their father for the first time.  An inner curiosity prevailing, a wonderment if Kermit’s family was ever told of his daughters existence, but he wasn’t there to question,  but to witness this emotional moment.  The brief reunion coming to a conclusion, this initial introduction a first step in a new relationship and the promise of a future.  A tired Gary beginning to feel the effects of his 30 hour day since leaving Oklahoma City with another 8 hours of highway remaining to Oakland.

A wind driven rain on 101

A wind-driven rain on 101

Highway 101, a route  familiar to the Musician having traversed the black top course on the back of Dale Spady’s 5 Hp. Cushman motor scooter upon high school graduation, but unlike before, this time encountering a blinding rainstorm.  Gary was having difficulty seeing, the windshield wipers unable to clear the cascading water, especially the spray when coming up behind a ten wheeler semi.   With the heavy downpour deciding to stop at a Shell Station, the attendant fastening a set of heavy-duty wipers to the Comet, at least one problem was solved,  the road excursion again progressing.   The 450 mile trip from  Long Beach to Oakland about to conclude, the Comet on the Nimitz Freeway north of San Jose, Gary having gone without sleep for 38 hours.  Even with the cool bay-area dampness and the wind confronting him thru the open driver side window it was difficult to keep his eyes open, Kaye doing her best providing a damp wash cloth to wipe his face.  With their arrival the elder Willson family welcoming the weary traveling family, Gary was ready to cash in his remaining wakeful chips calling it a night.

Joe DiMaggio’s at Fisherman Wharf

The visit enabling Gary the opportunity to introduce his wife to the City by the Bay, the couple having garnished  baby Scott with Grandma.  Gary having spent many days visiting San Francisco as a youth, but could never have imagined sitting in Joe DiMaggio’s at Fisherman’s Wharf on Jefferson St. sipping a daiquiri with a wife waiting for the rush hour traffic to clear the bay bridge.  It seemed like this abbreviated California journey had come to a conclusion before it got started.  A more reasonable return journey finding a first nights stay in Kingman and Albuquerque their last night on the road  before acknowledging Oklahoma City.  Their mission accomplished,  an inquisitive Helen questioning each about their visit with Kermit.  Gary was not privileged to his wife’s conversation with her mother, but his private view concerning the years of sequestered relationship between Kermit and his daughter was simple,  justification sometimes defies logic.


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