Archive for December, 2016

A Command Performance……………#91 (the 60’s)

December 30, 2016

The Rythm Tamers band was in turmoil, while playing a club date in Lawton, Troy Elledge suffered what appeared to be a nervous breakdown just before starting the last set.   Don (Red Eye) Kinder a long time friend and promoter of Troys musical aspirations was in attendance, intervening and taking Troy to the hospital.  Gary’s friend, drummer and once business associate Glenn Froman having been discharged from the service at Ft. Sill remaining in Lawton making Gary an offer to join him in reorganizing his band.  The drummer desiring to replace Carl, a sergeant and veteran of the Korea War who was a guitar playing wannabe vocalist more interested in the female activity off the bandstand than the music. Glenn also having secured a sax player named Fred that was in the military and whom like Gary was from Oakland California.  Glenn proposing and Gary finding it difficult to decline the opportunity to change bands, questioning Glenn covert conspiracy to also coax’s the unsuspecting guitarist Jerry Willis away from a semi disabled Troy and the Rythm Tamers band.  Gary relenting, Glenn having rented a two bedroom house on Oklahoma St, not the best neighborhood but sufficient for the musicians, Jerry soon followed Gary’s lead giving Troy notice, the Glenn’s Hi-Liters having a new look and sound.


Gary discovered accordingly,  club dates can be difficult, especially when involving a piano.  There’s a built in handicap with having a pianist in a band,  most clubs or dance facilities were often deficient in having or providing a piano,  and if by chance they did,  the instrument was often out of tune.  Gary discovering the purchase of a hand-held accessory, a tuning lever in most cases resolved the first predicament,  enabling a slightly discoursed piano to sound disciplined.   The second asperity was mitigated with a purchase of an inexpensive antediluvian upright piano to be transported for provisional installation, to insure the bands integrity.


The biggest difficulty to be confronted,  was a means to transport the heavy musical burden.  The piano rested in mundane silence at their Oklahoma St. address,  its worn ivory giving vestige to past accolades.   it was waiting to be summoned,  but the custodians of the appendage desired more than just another performance from this heirloom from the past.    A decision was made, a striking new finish to garnish its exterior,  something to instill conversation,  promote awareness,  and broadcast its appellation.   The artistic coating was completed,  the stenciled name of the group  embolden in black letters, ” The Hi-Liters”   standing captive on the side of the lustrous brilliant,  Pink Piano.


Innovation was Glenn’s middle name when it came to relocating the piano from the Oklahoma St. residence to a performance venue,  as the Hi-Liters normal transportation was limited to a passenger car status.    When necessity intervened, Glenn would scourer the newspaper ads,  selecting pick-up trucks for sale ads,  and inquire as a prospective buyer,  asking permission to afford the vehicle to his brothers residence across town for approval.  Leaving his car parked with keys in it at the marketeers,  to still their concern about  Glens character,  time consumption,  or  aspirations,  the drummer returning the pick-up after moving the piano , with an apology for declining to buy.


The Pink Monster,  an apropos designation for the exceedingly heavy upright piano was residing on stage at the Colony Club in Altus.  There was electricity in the air,  never have the Hi-Liters performed before an anticipated crowd such as this,  only the congested throng wasn’t present for them,  but for the one and only,  Jerry Lee Lewis,  whom would perform that night.   The Hi-Liters entered their break-song,  halting at 10:30 to begin moving their equipment backstage for the coming gala performance.   Gary and Glenn commenced to roll the Pink Monster behind the offstage curtains,  securing room for the clubs slightly out of tune baby grand piano at center stage.


The arriving entourage consisted of four,  Jerry Lee, a drummer, a bass player, and his manager.  The drummer and electric bass player rose without hesitation, approaching  the stage to assemble the band equipment,  while Jerry Lee and his manager remained surrounded by enthusiast,  mostly of the female gender.  Gary could tell from Jerry Lee’s appearance, the glassy eyes giving notice of something more than alcohol having been consumed by the entertainer,  either inhaled, or digested.


It was showtime, the Great Balls of Fire celebrity strutted on stage,  the manager shouting over the mic, “Let’s hear it for the great Jerry Lee”.   Jerry leaning on the grand piano,  plunking a few notes on the keyboard and then to everyone’s start, rising up and  disappearing off stage behind the curtains.   The crowd silenced by his departure beginning to murmur,  then a rustle of a curtain stilled the air, from behind the drapery enter the commanding presence of a Pink Piano,  being pushed by the pretentious Jerry Lee Lewis to center stage.


With Jerry Lee at the ivories, This was the Pink Monsters finest hour, boisterous, exclamatory, melodious,  the keyboard punctuating a convergence with never felt before dexterity.  The acoustical electricity accompanying the vivid choral vocal lyrics of Jerry Lee,  exploding the perceptive club atmosphere with song.


Jerry Lee was not concerned that the front cover of the piano had been removed,  exposing the strings and rows of hammers,  he soon realized the purpose for its absence,  reaching up and pulling a hammer loose when it refused to return,  it was almost as if the two were acquainted,  Jerry Lee and the piano  having been together before.  The Hi-Liters finding Jerry Lee a hard act to follow, but were resolute with their dance music.  The second show was repetitious, a quick and robotic presentation,  a realization that the young Jerry Lee  performance showed that he was only interested in obtaining the meager monetary compensation and moving on.

It was almost understandable, the accomplished musician having fallen from the pentacle of success rivaling Elvis for the title of King of  rock-n-roll, all because of the public’s perception of scandal,  Jerry Lee marrying his 1st cousin once removed,  13-year-old Myra Gale Brown.  The Colony Clubs evenings extravaganza a success,  but the true star remained on stage that night,  having provided its acoustical gift to the performer and the audience, the star, the Pink Monster.

The Heavens Descending….. #91A (60’s)

December 29, 2016

The wrath of nature lighting up the night sky

Mom’s 24 hour Cafe in Altus was the concluding  gig  for some members of the Rythm Tamers Band after playing the Pink Elephant or Colony Club.  The band found  the name of the  pleasant elderly lady  behind the counter,  who everyone addressed as Mom,  was very fitting.   Most often the band members  would enjoy breakfast, including Mom’s famous  “Sop’in  gravy”,  before beginning their highway travel.   It was nearing 3:30 a.m., the weather remaining stormy,  tornado watches having been in effect thru most of the night.  Guitarist Jerry Willis having made a decision to travel home to Frederick instead of returning to Lawton,  providing Gary could determine a means of  transportation.  The Pianist concluding with the rain abating,  he could thumb a ride at  the junction,  four miles east of town, where Jerry would turn south towards Tipton and Frederick.


Disembarking at the Junction,  watching as the tail lights of Jerry’s recently purchased Ford Convertible faded  from view.   Gary taking notice, the  wind beginning to gather some momentum and a rumbling in the distance, the sound of thunder giving notice of another  approaching disturbance.  Confident of thumbing a ride,  the only destination of consequence traversing  east on highway 64 was Lawton and with a presumed certainty,  he knew that availability would soon appear.


Across the highway standing solitude was  the remains of a once proud service station,  its reason and purpose forgotten,  the pumps long ago removed,  a shattered building still erect,  standing watch over its domain.  On the corner by the station rested a derelict wooden wagon, standing barren,  its tongue affixed,  hounds still fastened,  a reminisce of a by-gone era,  yet still baring witness to reality.   The night sky suddenly coming alive,  a crackling,  the forked spears of lightning cresting the shadowed clouds with their transient illumination.  A blue flash,  a bolt  having struck nearby,  the atmosphere vibrating with a thunderous sound, a wind filled gust,  blatant movement being disclosed, the regal wagon regaining  its heritage and beckoned before the wind to signal its  display of esteem.


Sequestered on the highway,  the rain once again resuming  the night sky a showplace,  natures caliber on exposition, the figure still awaiting passage east but to no avail,  then twice the approaching glow of headlight, but traversing west the direction he had departed from.  The volley from the heavens descending its fury with rapture, the musician scurrying,  seeking  shelter,  the relic from the past, the remnants of the gas station according  hospitality, an  asylum from the liquid profusion.   The structure shuttered with the gale, the sky perforated with suffused streaks of radiant spears,  the resolute wagon continuing to stay its post,  the scene finally broadcasting a conclusion.



Another hour having advanced and again oncoming headlights, but as before approaching from the east, a quick decision made to acknowledge an excursion back to Mom’s Cafe.   Once again at the cafe, the ascendancy of sunrise finding Gary having no difficulty securing transportation to Lawton.  ‘Mother nature having indelibly inscribed a lasting presentation.


A Show Of Gratitude……………..#92 (the 60’s)

December 28, 2016
The Wurlitzer #112 with the bonnet off.

The Wurlitzer #110 with the bonnet off.

The Hi-Liters musicians having discovered Glenn’s two bedroom residency on Oklahoma Street in Lawton very appreciable , one of its amenities was provided by the neighbors.   During practice sessions the group would conveniently leave the front door open,  the melodious sound resonating outside and soon the neighborhood children would be standing in the doorway conveying their parents request for songs.   Often the parents, showing their gratitude would  send the kids baring gifts of homemade eatable sustenance.   An inconvenient aspect, but more like an occupational hazard was when their night-life following acquaintances discovered the residence.  The musicians when returning in the wee hours of the morning from a weekend out-of-town engagement would discovering a residue of fans residing  in the house,  not minding so much their crashing,  but didn’t appreciate the raid on the refrigerator and the vacancy in cupboards.  The decision was made, it was time to padlock the house but a problem still remained,  many of the windows refused to lock and on occasion an uninvited guest could find the alternate entrance.

Glenn was in need of further transportation, his  52 Chevrolet having  “given up the ghost”.   Jerry’s 53 Ford Convertible the sole surviving mode for getting around.   Gary wasn’t surprised one Saturday afternoon when Glenn drove up in rough-looking 1953 Nash,  his one thought,  “how did you come up with this wreck”.   Glenn’s explanation was to the point , ” I found the cheapest car on the lot,  offering to put a hundred dollars down, and sign a promissory note for the balance”.   The Hi-Liters soon discovering besides providing transportation,  it possessed another much need trait, Nash being one of the first Detroit cars with 90 degree reclining front seats.  On warm nights when discovering their beds taken by various guest after returning from their weekend gig,  Gary and Glenn would grab a blanket and partake of the cars reclining seats.  The downside of the automotive resting place was not only waking to the sun shining in your face but the neighbor kids staring at you thru the windows.

The first to offer

The first to offer

The invention was a “God Sent”  for road-traveling piano playing musicians.   It’s first notoriety was sculptured by Ray Charles utilizing the instrument for his number one national hit,  “What’d I Say”,  the acclaimed musician introducing the Wurlitzer Electric Piano to the spotlight of  prominence.  The city of Lawton having two prevalent music stores,  the multi generational  ‘Hardy Suggs Music’ and the much newer store  ‘Lawton Music’.  The band preferring business with the elderly Hardy, but discovering Lawton Music was the Wurlitzer Piano distributor and just happen to have one in stock.    Gary immediately seizing the opportunity to  bring the piano into the fold,  the Wurlitzer #110 model becoming the newest member of the band.  The piano having a 64 keyboard range,  about a octave shorter on either end of a regular piano keyboard,  Gary soon discovering  the bottom octave could be utilized as a keyboard bass by splitting the sustain bar from the pedal action and plugging into an amplifier with the bass setting turned up, adding a much-needed sound to the band.

Ray Charles at the Wurlitzer

A Saturday night, the band loading the equipment in the Nash,  Glenn at the helm  Gary riding shotgun,  Jerry following in his Ford, their destination once again, The Colony Club in Altus.   The 55 mile drive very uneventful,  except for the last five miles, both Glenn and Gary hearing a new sound emitting from the Ramblers 85 hp.  six cylinder motor.   It wasn’t loud, but telling, both having experienced this sound before, it was the beginning voice of a cylinder rod bearing in distress.   The sound seemed to mellow and with their destination just a few minutes away they continued on.   The Club performance coming to a conclusion, they loaded the band equipment in the Nash and and began the drive back to Lawton.  All seemed well, the return trip  beginning,  Jerry following in the Ford,  the sound they had first heard didn’t sound as threatening as before, giving raise that their trip could be completed.   About 30 miles from Altus their sense of security began to wane, as the slight tapping sound from the engine  increased in volume becoming noticeably louder.  Glenn beginning to slow down, a knocking began then increasing echoing like a hammer striking metal, but then abruptly, silence and for an instance the motor was smooth, the only noticeable sound was the wind through the drivers open windows, as the Nash continuing down the highway.

Rod making an appearance

The silence wasn’t lasting, another knocking began and like the first,  its sound raising in volume reaching a crescendo, a jolt and once again a sudden  silence,  but this time it was short-lived,  immediately smoke began to fill the traveling vehicle.   A third rod began protesting,  its knocking voice straining to be heard, even with the windows rolled down, the smoke making it difficult to see and breath, the Nash’s forward progress rapidly descending.  The two riders bearing witness to a motorized death, the Nash coasting  to the side of the road.   Jerry who was following in the Ford stopped, excited and aghast at what had  happen,  relating how it was difficult to see the road because of  the smoke bellowing from the Nash. Transferring the band equipment to the Ford, the three leaving the Nash at its resting place making the decision to return with a rope and tow it back in the morning.  The next morning finding the three back on the highway towing the disabled car to Lawton.  Once at the Oklahoma St. reside, Glenn lifting the hood to perform a visual autopsy, the oil bathed six cylinder motor providing an unreal sight,  the left side of the engine block destroyed,  a gaping hole where the cylinder rod traversed,  exiting its domain.   Gary well aware of the bands dire financial situation, inquiring to Glenn as to a remedy for the situation.   Glenn shaking his head, replying the only alternative would be to stop making his payment, leave the keys in it  and let the dealer repo the Nash.  It was weeks later when as expected the dealer showed up,  approaching the house his knock at the door unanswered, returning to the car, sitting behind the wheel attempting to start it.  Glenn watching as the dealer drove away but soon afterwards a tow truck arrived.  Gary somewhat concerned about the dealer being a victim, but Glenn responded,  he was the victim,  being sold a car with a pre-existing rod bearing problem.

Gary was still troubled about the dealer and could imagine the shock he would ensue when lifting the hood,  but then again payback can be unrewarding.


The Day Of Reparation………#93 (the 60’s)

December 26, 2016

A new experience – stock arrangements

The day of reparation having arrived,  a representative of concern about Gary’s military commitment approached the Oklahoma Street residence,  requiring the pianist to accompany him.  Gary accepting his repression and subjection to a hearing of his indiscretions,  acceding to its outcome and discipline that was instilled.  Interned in the post stockade subjected to a General Court Martial, the outcome upheld by the convening authority but subject to review by the Military Court of Appeals, Gary  dispatched and flown to United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth Kansas.  The Castle as it was known is a maximum security facility situated on 2500 acres, its center rotunda with  eight wings,  25 out-buildings and 26 buildings within it walls,  providing residency for up to 1777 discredited members from all branches of the service and staffed by 752 military and 158 civilian personnel.  On entering,  the interned soldier was introduced to the #3 wing of The Castle, a 8 tier edifice for transit and new arrivals normally a three-week period for medical physiological and work skill evaluation for permanent placement location.  The new arrival soon discovering that inmates  remained subject to military protocol and discipline, being issued a brown military type uniforms, boots and subject to a military haircut with facial hair, mustache and beards strictly prohibited.  Their 6 x 10 living space included of a lavatory/commode, metal bed, standing locker and fold down table and upon departure for work, their area was to be ‘inspection ready’, bed made, clothing stored properly, much like basic training.

The de Havilland Beaver

United State Discipline Barracks Fort Leavenworth Kansas

The Castle cell blocks eight tiers high



Gary accepting his new-found circumstance, transferring to the 2nd tier of cell block #4, discovering a silver lining in his new environment, the opportunity to audition for a full-time work assignment with the 12 member Garrison Dance Band.   A sense of anticipation as he mounted the stairs to the  bands working environment on the upper floor in the confines of the smaller administrative #8 wing.  Introducing himself to the Band Director Sergeant First Class Demand,  the sergeant inquiring about his music experience and then asking the enviable question, can you read music, a shadow cast upon his hopes.   The pianist giving a yes and no answer, elucidating he was an intermediate, able to distinguish sheet music and read charts, but was hesitant at sight-reading.   The brief interview coming to a close with no acknowledgement, Gary following the Sergeant into a large adjoining room.  The room laden with musical instruments,  standing before him a group of men of various age,  apparently the members of the band.   The NCO giving no introductions, but pointing to an anteroom,  instructing Gary,  ”there’s a piano in there,  go in close the door and play.”   Gary entering  the room, closing the door realizing he wasn’t auditioning only for the sergeant, but for the members of the band assembled behind the closed-door.   The pianist seating himself before a console piano,  starting  his selections,  encompassing a variety of music, from Debussy to the Bumble Boogie and Stardust,  demonstrating his versatility.   The door opened, a somber looking bandleader instructing that he could return to his billets,  Gary hesitant, then noticing the slight grin on  the NCO, ”you’ve got the job Willson,  welcome to the band”.

A new outlook prevailed the musician analogized his confinement and the experience of a new spectrum in the world of music, one construed as a detriment the other as an asset, but even that was subject to change.   As a member of the band and his low risk infraction he status was changed to minimum risk and he moved from the rotunda 8 tier cell block complex to Building 462, a three-story billets with its own mess hall.   A new perseverance of music ascended the aspiring musician,  the orchestrated sheet music arrangement.   Gary finding the members of the  band all professional musicians, entertaining years of musical accomplishment,  but also exposed to the street wise life that is part of the musician experience.   Gary was impressed,  the bands instrumentation was congruent with the published stock arrangements provided for each instrument, Clarinet,   alto, tenor,   baritone sax’s,  trumpet,  trombone,  piano,  guitar,  bass and drums, Sergeant Demands’   trumpet adding an additional brass when called upon.   The repertoire was  reflective of the NCO’s age,  composed  of classic standards,  The Way You Look Tonight,  All The Thing You Are,  The Nearness Of You, Glenn Grays Smoke Rings and the regimented enterprise was hi-lighted with a vocal quartet with popular hits by the Marcel’s,  Coasters and the Platters.  The auspices of the post NCO and Officers Club were regular host, the band members provided sport coats,  white shirts and ties from a band room rack to enhance their appearance, the patrons savoring the nostalgia from the past and the flavoring of the present.  On occasion the Band performing for the inmates and also in concert with full orchestration contingency of the Post Military Band for ceremonial gatherings on post giving insight to the big band era of Count Basie,  Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brother,  those of another generation and a harmonious time.   The Musician savoring the experience of being a  part of this melodious life, but the bands daily activity wasn’t always confined to music, they were called upon by other departments for menial task.  Gary and another band member were completing a chore in the Castle’s power building when they happened upon a raised platform with 13 steps, immediately recognizing for what it was the gallows, everyone in the facility aware of the upcoming sentence of a soldier named Bennett, death by hanging.


A Day Of Appraisement….#94 (the 60’s)

December 24, 2016


With the passing months, the day of appraisement approaching Willson was called to report to  the Discipline Barracks Judge Advocates office.  The staff officer informing him that the Military Appeals Court in Washington D.C. had reviewed his case and had determined that the sentencing instructions given to the  Court Martial Panel was in error and the results of his Court Martial have been set aside and he is to be restored to active duty with all back pay benefits, Gary was stunned.  The Officer detailing, he would be assigned to a retraining group for six weeks, reintroduced to a missile battalion, but because of his record would no longer retain his MOS having lost his secret security clearance, his service time would be extended as there was no credit for absence or incarceration time-served and his military record would reflect his past activities.  Gary having totally forgotten  the Court of Appeals automatic review of his Court Martial and a return to duty was the furthest thing in his mind.  It wasn’t that he wanted to remain although in some respect he would miss his repertoire with the band and his recently discovered world of music.  He discovered there was no enthusiasm about returning to military life especially after eight months of incarceration, it would be like a continuation of punishment.  Gary seeking Sgt. Demand’s help in seeing if it would be possible to speak to someone from the Judge Advocates Office about his upcoming return to duty.  When questioning the representative at the Judge Advocates office about the possibility of a discharge, the JAG officer informing him that his record reflected no justification for a discharge, then interposing something that almost sounded intentional, unless one was subject to a judicial process for an infraction during his retraining.

   The move from the Castle didn’t entitle far to go, the training unit was in located in the 3 storied MP Headquarters Building on Bluntville Ave, across the street from the west wall the Disciplinary Barracks.  His introduction was reminisce of the past, much like basic training, the groups billets was  a second floor bunk lined bay, the participants standing at attention as a SFC informed them of their good fortune and the opportunity to return to duty,  then removing the pleasantries,  bellowing the ‘what not’s’  of discipline that would be instilled during their stay, including not to converse with anyone but those in this unit.  During evening mess, Gary recognizing some the MP cadre as Castle guards, including Sergeants Demands well liked assistant Corporal Dan,  Gary acknowledging his hello with a nod saying Hi.  Upon returning upstairs to the bay, he found the SFC waiting for him, lambasting him for breaking the rules on his first day, speaking to someone in the mess hall,  listing the removal of future privileges as punishment.  That night in bed found Gary struggling with his conscious, whether to even attempt to travel down this once traveled road again, there has to be another way.  Returning from the mess hall that first morning, the group once again standing at the foot of their beds awaiting inspection from the duty NCO, all the beds properly dressed and displayed save one.  The NCO halting at Gary’s bed, questioning him why the bed wasn’t made, asking “ are you refusing to make your bed?”  Gary breaking his silence with one word. “yes”.   It was repeated three times, “Willson I’m giving you a direct order to make your bed”,  Gary refusing to comply.  The sergeant escorting Gary down the hall to the duty officer, giving an explanation, the Lieutenant looking somewhat perplexed having never experienced something of this order before.  The officer reiterating that by his noncompliance of a direct order,  charges could be filed and he could be returned to the DB to await court-martial proceedings.  Gary having made his decision finally making a statement “I would rather be there than here.”  His restoration to duty preparation having lasted less that 24 hours, handcuffed and escorted to the DB’s  below ground level solitary confinement, the cell a darken enclosure with a solid door having a small barred opening.  His stay was short live, the second day being transferred back into population to a cell on the ground floor tier of the #4 wing,  assigned as a minimum security custodian responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the 8  tier cell block.

The justice system at Fort Leavenworth moved swiftly, a special court-martial was convened in less than 30 days, unlike the large hearing room with a convening judge and six man panel board for a General Court Martial, the Special Court Martial was held in JAG office almost like an informal hearing with a presiding officer and a three officer panel.  Gary agreeing to answer questions about his infraction and a summarized that it would be best that he would be separated from the service.  The sentencing was delayed, Gary being interviewed several time by a physiologist, given a battery of test, including physiological and a IQ test.  Once again ordered to report to the JAG office, the staff member conferring the intrinsic results of his Special Court-martial,  in brief it gave notice that Pvt Gary Willson would be issued a 257A General Discharge Under Honorable Condition and separated from the service on August 29th.   The day of restitution having arrived but for some reason its reception was without fanfare, there was no feeling of contentment, a cloud of solitude engulfed him as he made  the rounds picking up his fitted summer weight  ‘jody suit’, white shirt and tie, and brand new shoes.  Boarding a jeep at the gate, his only possession being a small satchel containing what few personal item he had but including the army issue boots. He questioned the driver why he was being handcuffed as they were going to the Post Out processing Center, the driver saying one word, regulations.  A glance back at the The Castle knowing the catharsis effect it had on lives those it acquainted, but also knowing that it would take time to adjust to his departure from the confines of regiment, and obtain an exit to ambiguity.





Exit To Ambiguity……..#94a (60’s)

December 23, 2016


Glenn Froman

As Gary fulfilled his final military discourse at the Post Out Center,  Glenn was anticipatory, the drummer having driven 560 miles west from Kokomo Indiana to reunite the pianist with the band.  Gary somewhat surprised to see Glenn walk into the center as he waited for his name to be paged to receive his accumulated final back pay.  The two leaving the Army post, Gary questioned himself,  why he was traveling east to Kokomo and not west,  home to California.  His decision to  join Glenn and guitarist Jerry Willis in Kokomo Indiana  was not decisive but transitory and the long drive provided an opportunity to give his actions some thought.   Darkness having set upon the travelers,  a rain beginning, the product of a passing thunderstorm, the two deciding it would be a good time to halt their journey and find a roadside diner.  Gary asking Glen what he thought about him and Jerry joining him to California and see about booking the band.  The roadside pause in the trip giving Gary an opportunity to place a call home, telling his mother the drummer in the band had picked him up and they were on their way to Kokomo Indiana.  To his dismay his mother was upset that he wasn’t coming home, the musician was at a loss, it had been a year since he had seen or talk to his parents and he understood the grief he had caused them.  He came to a decision, promising he would come home but first wanting to see what the band thought about venturing to California and asking if his old downstairs apartment room was available.  The call concluded, mom satisfied, Glenn asking about the call, Gary conveying what he had said., the only question mark was Jerry.


Glenn’s Bride June (Brewer) Froman

During Gary’s absence, Glenn had taken a giant step in entering a matrimonial union, the pianist recalling that he had meant June Brewer once before when she was dating Glenn.  Gary was made aware, that June was far along with a pregnancy and had left to visit relatives in New Mexico. He listened as Glenn related that he  convinced Jerry not only to accompany him and June to Indiana but to haul June’s horse and trailer to his fathers farm.  Arriving at the apartment Glenn and Jerry shared, it was good to see Jerry again, the two having shared not only their approach to music but some serious and humorous times in the past.  Gary awakening to the sudden change in his environment and though de javu’ when told Rickenbacker Guitar playing Tom Holt, the Ft. Sill soldier whom lent his 49 Ford to Gary to drive to Californian, (ending up leaving it there),  had followed Glenn and Jerry to Indiana and was absent from his army unit.  Glenn mentioning that Tom had secured a job as a single act playing in a bar.  The discussion turned to California and the cost of making the trip, Gary mentioning that he received over seven hundred dollars severance from the army.  With California trip decision made, Glenn proceeded to see what Gary and  Jerry thought about  changing the name of the band, that a group called the Untouchables playing at Indiana Beach had dissolved , going their separate ways and he thought the Untouchables would be ideal for them. With one more night remaining the Lawton Oklahoma Hi Liters would be no more.

A heartfelt loss

A Fender Stratocaster, a  heartfelt loss

  It was the final night in Kokomo, the Club date having come to a conclusion, the band stopping at a restaurant with a  well-lit parking area, able to view the Ford Convertible conveying all the band equipment from inside the eating establishment.  The meal completed, the band members approaching the car,  something seemed amiss, Gary recognizing a laundry package containing  white starched shirts on the ground.  The shirts having been placed with others in the convertibles boot, the packages covering Jerry stowed guitar case with its  pristine black and white Fender Stratocaster.  Taking a closer look and moving the remaining packages, the guitar was missing.  It was apparent someone must observed it being put in the convertibles boot when embarking from the club and in all probability followed them to the restaurant, somehow seizing on the opportunity to steal it.  Jerry Placing a call,  law enforcement was notified, but to no avail, there was nothing they could do except take a stolen property report, the situation futile, the guitar irretrievable.   The 780 mile journey to Lawton Oklahoma was still scheduled to commence in the morning, a sadden Jerry very dishearten,  but resolute about the future.

It was a familiar hearth for Gary, the town, Lawton Oklahoma and Hardy Suggs Music store on D Ave.   The three unemployed musicians greeting the familiar Hardy.  Jerry venturing the question about the store having a used Fender guitar,  to his  benediction,  Hardy answering in the affirmative.   The guitar not a Stratocaster,  but another fender product that was an ample messenger of music, a Telecaster.  The Lawton visit providing Gary a fortuitousness call upon Lawton Music on 3rd street,  the establishment that rendered him the #110 model Wurlitzer electric piano,  the musician desirous of replacement metal reeds  that produce the resonating piano sound,  aware of the limited music stores that stocked the item.   Packing the Ford convertible for their continuing venture to California had found every available expansion consumed.   The top of the convertible was unable to augment,  giving meaning to a fair weather watch.  Gary having acquainted his family of the groups embarkation,  being assured of accommodations upon their arrival in Oakland. The journey would encompass well over 1600 mile, with a stop in Clovis New Mexico so Glenn could visit his wife,  then a non-stop continuous excursion west.  The enterprising exploit beginning, the Ford incurring the responsibility for success, the front seat of the open air jitney  providing a temporary home for the three Untouchables.

Route 66………….#95 (the 60’s)

December 22, 2016
The well traveled road west

The well-traveled road west

The 1953 Ford with its consignment, Glenn, Jerry and Gary all packaged for delivery,  traveling west from Lawton Oklahoma on Highway #62,  the musicians first stop Amarillo.  Coming into view were the statures silo’s and scattered high-rise building silhouetted against the horizon,  providing a preview to a building performance by the budding West Texas town.  A detour was enhanced,  negotiating southwest on Highway #60,  the venturing trio befalling the heritage cow-towns of Hereford,  Bovina,  Texico,  their destination,  Clovis New Mexico and an overnight visit for Glenn to illuminate prospective scenarios for his expectant wife June and himself.

Amarillo and budding West Texas town

The High Plains of New Mexico

Weather watch time

The early morning establishing a Clovis departure the Ford acquiring  passage west on highway #60 then northwest on #84 discovering its junction with infamous Route 66.   Traversing below the Sandia Mountains entering  metropolitan Albuquerque,  the documented highway 66 still entertained its path thru the center of town,  the new Route #66 soon to be interstate 40 by-pass still under construction.   The westward road plotting its course on the scenic  New Mexico plateau,  the occupants of the Ford having to maintain a weather vigil unable to protract the convertibles top.  On the horizon, the omnibus rain clouds dotting the sunlit vault,  threatening a cascade curtain of condensation,  but yet had made a presence to intersect the postured roadway.   The celebrated expanse of landscape, it’s  bellowing raised islands of rapture giving form to the mesa’s of the high plains plateau.    Approaching Gallup, a small community located in the center of the 27,413 sq. mile Navajo Nation,  the horizon showcasing a darken brume of a towing thunderhead threatening their path with a  possible deluge from the sky.  Good fortune when entering the town was bestowed,  a  A&W Drive-In  providing shielding cover for the undressed convertible, the delay enabling an early lunch for the three wayfarers.  Gary noting that all of the town was located south of the railroad tracks, commenting that Gallup appears to be a one side of the tracks town.

Gallup New Mexico – A one side of the tracks town

Down hill from Flagstaff

California state-line inspection station

Traveling thru Winslow Arizona, the marauders continuing the uphill journey reaching the mile high citadel of Flagstaff, stopping for fuel and then a downhill slalom through the celestial ponderosa pines that blanketed the omniscient mountains, the Ford  journeying down from this enduring ambiance, its next projection  Kingman Arizona.    The throes of Kingman in the rear view mirror, a border crossing,   a hesitation for the Arizona-California state line inspection station.   Into the cauldron depth of  Needles California and the up coming Mojave desert, its barren boundaries  stretching to Barstow.   The hour registered late afternoon,  a brief stop for fuel and a suggested six-pack of beer for the three to consume on the Needles to Barstow Mojave run.   The first indication of something being aberrant  was the appearance of desert water bags decorating the hood-ornaments of the oncoming cartage.   The surroundings giving way to insipid landscape frequented with desert bloom,  cacti and chaparral yucca,  a wonder to some,  but desolate to others.   Jerry was mindful of the engine temperature and the Ford continuing to cruise Route 66,  the overhead sun basking the  wind-driven rays on the uncovered musician seated in the front seat of the Ford, the threesome,  inexperienced and unaware of the ultra violet radiation consuming them.  The small town didn’t broadcast its name,  but the injured ones in the convertible found refuge in the air-conditioned diner.  The red glow that permeated their appearance gave notice of the pain.   Gary concluding,  the combination of wind, sun and possibly the beer may have been the culprits responsible for their exposed scorched parchment.    After inquiring at the lone retail convenience establishment  adorning this wide spot in the road,  the only available possible remedy to provide some solace was  a bottle of Jergen’s hand lotion.  The fragrance of the Jergens permeated the occupants, but the unrelenting pain continued serving notice, to never venture thru the desert without covering.

The perilous Mojave

Automotive generator


Darkness having descended when the quandary travels became a talent of a change,  their perception of the road was different, the three noticing that the headlight illumination on the road appeared  dimmer.   The Ford projecting both an amp gauge as well as a generator light and it was then noticed a faint flickering glow from the  dash-light,  finally it energized,  a steady red warning glow proclaiming its presence.  Continuing on Highway 58 toward Bakersfield,  the three realized the audacious consequences with a generator failure and the farther they traveled the farther their expectations of finding a solution was  wane.   Visibility was approaching inadequacy,  a decision to continue or stop was in mid discussion when miraculously a service station with garage appeared and even more astounding it was alight with patrons.   Disembarking,  explaining their plight,  finding the proprietary help only able to assist with a phone call,  expressing the nearest parts emporium would be closed and not available until morning.   Inside the open garage,  an individual was concluding activity on his transportation, having just replaced generator parts in his car.   Gary and Glenn addressed the garage work bench discovering old remnants from generator repair work, again approaching the attendant inquiring about them.  The attendant relating that they were remains of past work and in all probability were of no use.  After a brief discussion the two musicians deciding they might as well pull the Fords generator and at least give it a visual once over.   Rising the Fords hood, Glenn  removing the generator,  the two examining the brushes,  rotor and armature, Gary having been here before in high school auto shop,  finding the latter looking suspiciously damaged,  the armatures wiring looking parched.  On the bench amongst other parts was a similar looking armature, the two began to scrutinize whether it was any value not knowing its condition or even if it would fit.   Arrested with no meter to validate armature continuity, the two armatures appeared to look identical,  Gary suggested that it was worth a try, as they weren’t going anywhere anyway and once installed it would provide a yea or nay test of success.  Fate or luck, either was acceptable, later the hours before dawn finding Glenn navigating the Ford north,  the yea or nay generator test a resounding yea.   The ceasing of motion stirring a slumbering Gary and Jerry,  Glenn halting at the side of the road, a silent agreement,  a short recess for dormancy was in order before continuing on.

View of Gary’s neighborhood from Skyline Blvd.

The morning dawn bringing the final leg of their quest,  the Ford maneuvering from Bakersfield heading north to Fresno on Highway #99 the  long journey soon to end.  Once past Modesto Gary directing Glenn to take the Tracy turn off, the wayfarers  soon traversing the wind-driven Altamont Pass into the Livermore Valley.  Passing the Dublin Canyon Rd turnoff, cresting the rise looking towards the horizon, Gary beholding the indelibly instilled view reflecting his past and the San Francisco Bay Area

Association Confirmed………………….#96 (the 60’s)

December 20, 2016
Jerry's 53 Ford

Jerry’s 53 Ford

The Ford convertible,  jaded from its sprint of traversing mountainous palisades and decumbent plateaus,  enduring searing temperatures and component failure,  finally achieving a placard of recognition at Gary’s parents house on Greenly Drive in Oakland California.  The itinerant musicians fulfilling a 2500 mile quest from Indiana adding  a new chapter to a musical score entitled titled, California.  Over a year having transpired since Gary’s last return home, an aire of  the past remained, recollections, the experiences and memories of youthful endeavors,  his boyhood home still commanding an atmosphere from its anointed past.

The Willson’s home as seen from Shone Ave.

Unloading the Ford of its melodious burden,  the three comrades would domicile in Gary’s old room the downstairs apartment with its private entrance, his parents welcoming Jerry and Glenn with an acceptance equating family.  The travelers ready for an intermezzo, a time to reflect and chronicle an itinerary, to survey the location of local entertainment facilities and make an assessment of their employment possibilities.  The music trio discovering an unexpected dilemma, California was an organized labor union state.  For a  musician or musical group to conference or audition for employment required membership in the American Federation of Musicians, an affiliate of the AF of L,  the American Federation of Labor, one of the strongest and largest unions in the nation.  Gary and Glenn finding upon closer examination, all services, including bartenders,  waitresses,  delivery services,  involving a public entertainment facility in the San Francisco Bay Area embraced mandatory union membership.  An inquiry to musicians union  Local #6 in San Francisco found that union membership for non-residents including first quarter dues would equate to  $185.00 per member.   The Trio was taken aback with this precipitous cost-prohibitive disclosure, aspirations beginning to ebb,  with their diminishing funds a solution was not readily conceivable.

Gary’s Aunt Loretta

Perseverance,  resolution prevailed, Gary was not without supposition, advancing a prospective solution,  a telephone call to his aunt Loretta in San Francisco presenting the bands obstacle.  The phone call to his Aunt enabling the nephew to present the bands financial predicament and the possibility of financing of their union membership with the promise of repayment   The three musicians arriving in San Francisco at her Steiner St. address,  after a brief introduction Gary’s Aunt counted out six one hundred dollar bills, adding not worry about paying it back.  Gary always believed his aunt Lori was special, now she was esteemed, the musicians extending their gratitude, Gary not so much for the monetary capital but for her confidence in their endeavor.

American Federation of Musicians Local 6 - San Francisco

American Federation of Musicians Local 6 – San Francisco

The 53 Ford convertible once again burden with instruments parlayed across the scenic Bay Bridge, taking the ninth street exit,  entering the Tenderloin District of San Francisco achieving their destination at 230 Jones St., an edifice constructed in 1924 and home to the American Federation of  Musicians,  Local #6.   Entering the reception area of  the august building, finding two others prospective members seated,  the three inductees receiving application forms and upon completing the calligraphic aspects were asked to remain seated until called upon.  Gary noticing that one of the waiting individuals entered a large open accommodation room, removed a violin from its case and commenced to perform.   The second  seated person rising, accompanied by a representative to another adjoining area, with sheet music in hand seated himself at a  piano invoking the composition.   After a brief wait a union representative approached the remaining the three, cordially addressing them about retrieving their instruments from the car,  then questioning whether they  preferred to apply as a group or individuals.  The decision was forthwith, it would be a group effort, the three hastily setting up the instruments, the official observer remaining  present, the Untouchables rendering a version of Yellow Bird, an acknowledged new instrumental hit by Arthur Lyman.  The official nodding his approval, the association with the union was confirmed with their payment, the Untouchables were now card-carrying union members of San Francisco’s Local #6.

The Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge

Approaching the bay bridge,  the Untouchables in an animate mood, one of confidence and attainment, now possessing the credentials to prospect for fame and fortune in the world of California entertainment.   The convertible beginning its traverse across the top deck of the premier span, as in the past once again enabling the homespun musician the visual reflection of the surrounded aura.  The return to Greenly Drive, the group now accredited  and licensing to venture into the land of musical opportunity, researching the bay-area periodicals.  Glenn and Gary finding many  perpetuating entertainment established venues,  their prospective business hours and locations.   A decision being made to constrain their initial pursuance to the East-Bay rather than San Francisco, realizing they were strangers in a strange land but concluding that assertiveness cultivates discovery.

Meaningful Discovery………….#97 (the 60’s)

December 18, 2016
48 Chevy Pickup

48 Chevy Pickup

The band having secured their license from the Union to solicit for employment were ready to sample the musical opportunities that the East Bay had to offer.    Gary’s parents augmenting a journey to their Sierra Mountain Pioneer retreat,  still in the construction stage,  it’s colloquialism designation,  a cabin,  but in reality a future two bedroom small retirement home.  The purpose of the trip being to convey building materials for the project and extending a weekend invitation for three musician to respite from their prodigious endeavor of securing a booking and to immerse themselves in the aura of the foothills embracing the Sierras.   During his military service Gary’s dad had purchased an additional pick-up truck, a 1/4 ton 1948 Chevrolet,  giving retirement status to the responsive 41 Chevy Four Speed.   Setting about his parents occupying the piloting seat  the three wayfaring  musicians occupying the pickup truck-bed like steerage passengers among the amassed amount construction  material stored aboard.   Traversing thru the Livermore Valley it was soon discovered that the 1948 transports performance was struggling,  vacillating with hesitations.  Gary’s father finally halting its progress, diagnosing  a fuel pump problem and accordingly turning about  nursing the pickup back to Oakland before the fuel inadequacy caused a standstill.

Pioneer, a remnqnt of the past

Pioneer, a remnant of the past

The cargo transferred to the old responsive 4 speed 41 Chevrolet the group once again resumed their travels bound for the Sierras.  The three cohorts thankful that the building material in the back of the pickup provided some protection from the on rushing wind.  Leaving the stifling calidity of the San Joaquin Valley turning east on highway 88 that venture thru Kit Carson Pass to Nevada.   The rolling acclivity of the foothills becoming prevalent Gary pointing out to the California newcomers the hillside tailings, the residue giving notice of past excavation for the accolade of precious metals, gold.    The stage-stop town of Pioneer having remaining a timeless remnant of the past coming into view, the encompassing travelers turning north onto Buckhorn Ridge Road, the last blacktop, then gravel and dirt the remainder of the way.   As the pickup made itself down the final dirt lane still very much familiar, Gary affronting  the recollections of youth, a waning,  the prospect of adventurer no longer the precursor of record but still a viable memory.

Pine engulfed Buckhorn Ridge Rd.

Disembarking, viewing  the raising walls predicated the sub floor proclaiming a beginning credence to its oracle, a signature of accomplishment addressing the cabin structure..   The visitors more than willing to assist the elder Willson in the fabricating task at hand, their labor a welcoming  addition to the complex, but Gary awaiting opportunity having another calendared event  readied for activation.  The night in the forest laden environment was enshrouded in darkness, save the hue and shadows cast by the pitted bellowing flames of the bond fire, a much remember tradition from Gary’s past, its essence surrounded by a captive family.  The morning would bring an undertaking to corral the clandestine remains of their accomplishments,  once accomplished allowing the applauded help a time to begin a quest of promontory discovery,  a search for the hidden remains of past gold excavations.

Pine needles on a mound a sign of mine tailings

Pine needles on a mound a sign of mine tailings

The three explorers flashlight in hand venturing down the frequented path of Gary’s youth,  past the natural water source, the spring still flowing from the track laden abandon mine.  Traveling deeper on the zoological trail with its tree enshrouded covering canopy seeking signs of the vigilant  mounds, mine tailings, remnants off past excavations.  Eureka, the discovery of pine needle covered tailings leading from a draw, a positive sign.  With further investigation, behind the concealing brush the remains of a mine entrance, from its appearance its ground level small opening could be access from a prone position.   A closer examination found a steep sloping incline, Gary well aware of the possible danger of vertical shafts of twenty feet and deeper, having stumbled upon them in his youthful discovery era.  Knowing from experience, a first discovery would accelerate Jerry and Glenn’s enthusiasm just as his exuberant was vaulted in the past, noting that it was often ensued during haste and that inventiveness sometimes would preclude precaution.

Entrance openings to a possible subteranean adventure

Opening to a possible subterranean adventure

An approach was conceived to ascertain the entrance could be breached and what lay beyond the entrance.  It was devised that Jerry would enter laying on his stomach breaching the entrance slowly lowering himself into the subterranean abyss, Gary would follow holding his legs and following suite, Glenn holding Gary’s extremities.  Jerry could then determine whether this was just an exploratory hole or the entrance to a once workable mine.  The results from Jerry’s observation were  discouraging,  if it was once an entrance the tunneling was no longer viable, having been sealed decades ago.  It was only after the abortive attempt did Jerry mention a concern about being first into the darken abyss,  the possibility of rattlesnakes.

The exploration continued with two other findings, both relics of the past with a non attainable entrance and no certainty of opulence, but with the act of  discovery Gary achieved introducing his friends to his youthful past and the sharing of enduring memories.   The returning transit to the bay-area was a non-event, the 22-year-old  Chevy still a reliable highway performer,  the three returning  musicians once back in Oakland, still hopeful of a discovery, not a gold mine from the past but a mother lode on the bandstand.

Common Practice Clause…………….#98 (the 60’s)

December 16, 2016
San Francisco American Federation of Musicians Local #6

San Francisco American Federation of Musicians Local #6

The three musician began their forage for employment, but soon a sense of ambivalence was beginning to prevail,  the bay-area clubs hosting live music were mostly cataloged by music designation, country, blues, jazz, rock, latin, etc.,  very few catering to a versatile band with a total inclusive repertoire.  A survey of several east bay clubs distinguishing that most were four piece bands with the basic two guitars, bass and drums or if a five piece group an added instrument depending on the genre of the music.  Gary conjecturing it would be ambitious to try and dislodge an acknowledged a country or top forty band with a confirmed cortege of followers,  but a struggling club might be open to a new musical venue.  It was always made good business sense to have one individual represent the band as lounge and club managers preferred negotiating with a display of  leadership rather than with even a consensual group.  The Untouchable discovering two east-bay  opportunities in Oakland presenting themselves, not the best in atmosphere but a start,  the first in 3200 block of E. 14th St. and the second in 9400 block on MacArthur Blvd., both clubs laboring with four piece bands.

A little known Italian Cousin…Sylvio Tognazzi

Jerry’s Ford once again journeying across the Bay Bridge  the band members venturing to a downtown business district lounge on San Francisco’s Sutter St.  The establishment was acknowledged to Sylvio Tognazzi, Gary’s little known cousin by marriage, the son of his Aunt Loretta deceased husband Dino by his first marriage. His Aunt Loretta having ventured that the band might inquire with her step-son Sylvio, as his nightclub sometime frequented live entertainment.  Entering the club, the band discovering an interesting concept,  a small raised performing stage behind the bar a provisional area for entertainment. A congealed  conversion with Sylvio disclosing the club had provided entertainment during the busy afternoon and early evening hours in the past but by single or duo performers.  Gary thanking his cousin but it was obvious the raised platform behind the bar lacked the stead to accommodate the band.

Glenn positioning his rehearsed trump card,  an overall sound of five instruments but having to compensate for three musicians, a financial saving for club management and the two east-bay association showing a definite interest.  An audition presentation for the East 14th St. and MacArthur Blvd. clubs in the making but the band deciding to forgo the East 14th St. club with its shot-gun bar and make-shift stage, lack of atmosphere and location.   Audition for the MacArthur Blvd. lounge, known as The Elbow Room was at 10:00 a.m., a time chosen to prevent disclosure to the current latin band of managements desire for a change.  The Elbow Rooms street appearance was lacking but the interior more than made up for what it desired.  The club having a luxurious mirrored bar on the south, the bandstand and dance floor on the east and able to seat 75 in a carpeted well decor atmosphere.  The band setting up on the dance floor to audition, Gary having mixed feelings about auditioning with the other bands equipment still on the bandstand and presumably unaware that they might soon be replaced.  It was confirmed The Untouchables would start the following Tuesday on an open-ended contract for five nights a week.

The Elbow Room at 9424 McArthur Blvd.

The Elbow Room at 9424 MacArthur Blvd.

The Union contractual agreement signed by the club management that was filed with Local #6 of the musician union in reality didn’t correlate with the actual agreed upon terms.  The union contract imposing the union wage plus calling for an additional stipend amount if the band supplied a piano, a P.A. System and to compensate for the Band Leader, the Untouchables meeting this criteria.  Management offering a take it or leave lessor wage if they wanted the job, the owner advancing what he referred to as  a  ‘common practice clause’  in lowering the amount the band would receive,  asserting it was adherent of all the clubs in the Bay Area.  The union setting the contractual demands beyond what management would pay, even though a band was required to sign a receipt for the Union contract amount, Gary acknowledging a better term for the ‘common practice clause’ it was called  ‘kickback’.

The par 6 – 673 yd/ 18th hole at Lake Chabot

The view of the Bay Area from Chabot Golf Course

The last time Gary ventured to the memorable  Lake Chabot golf course was in high school, the recollection of Hank Ball and him caddying on weekends and the many after school tee-offs indelibly etched in his memory.   Glenn and Jerry having never been exposed to the eighteen holes of challenge,  their expertise was limited to an entertaining past time called miniature golf, but this would soon change.   The three traveling to the  6018 yard par 72 course that opened in 1923, a five dollar rental fee providing a golf bag of used clubs enabling them to charge the fairways and hole the greens.  The scenic hilly course a wonder, the feel of the clubs once again bringing back an awareness to the chapters of past events that had transpired.  Gary was absolute about one thing with introducing his friends to golf and Chabot, its monstrous  673-yard,  par 6,  18th hole, something that every gofer would remember, even these two novice’s.  Gary wasn’t at all surprised that once Glenn and Jerry experienced only what only golfer can, they would be hooked.

The Untouchables tenure at the Elbow Room was interrupted when Glenn received news his wife June had given birth, the arrival of daughter Kimberly.  Glenn thought it best that he return Oklahoma and join June in Lawton as soon as possible, Jerry and Gary in agreement having no qualms about leaving the Elbow Room.  The management was dissatisfied at the length of time it would take to build a different clientele with the change of music venue.  Glenn wanting to leave by bus immediately giving Gary and Jerry assurances  he would secure a local engagement for the band upon their arrival.   Gary having braided emotions about departing, , but thought it might be best to view the contingencies of his Oakland  home from a distance without undue influence of family.  These thoughts were prevalent, but so was the task at hand, he and Jerry to ferry the Ford convertible laden with band equipment back to Oklahoma.