A Commanding Presence……………#91 (the 60’s)

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis

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.

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 wrench 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 confront was a means to transport the heavy musical burden.  The piano rested in mundane silence at the 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 a 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.

Innovative Glenn

The Pink Monster

Innovation was Glenn’s middle name when it came to relocating the piano from the Oklahoma St. house 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 ad 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 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 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 seated  at a table 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 entered the entertainer,  either inhaled or digested.

Jerry Lee & 2nd wife Myra

It was showtime, the Great Balls of Fire celebrity strutted on stage,  the manager shouting over the mic, “Lets 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.  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 marrying his 1st cousin once removed,  13-year-old Myra Gale Brown.  The Colony Clubs evenings extravaganza a success,  the true star remained on stage that night having provided its acoustical gift to the performer and the audience, the star, the Pink Monster.

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