The Revival of Rockabilly Music
in the U.S.A. Began
in Southern California
through the efforts of
ROCKIN' RONNY WEISER
in 1969 formed a magazine, a record company,
and a band called the
"Rollin' Rock Rebels."
The first shows were performed weekly here ...
and on to North Hollywood ...
Then continue to the Sunset Strip in Hollywood ...
and eventually to San Francisco ...
and the world ...
and continues ...
T O D A Y !
The Mystery of Charlie's Zipper
by Ray Campi / 2003
In September of 1957 in an office in the Brill Building in the heart of New York City's music publishing world, I overheard this conversation between a successful song publisher and four of his hit producing writers:
"What are we going to do about Charlie? It's become a problem."
"We can't take him with us to Vegas unless something changes."
"I'll have a talk with him."
"What will Nat think?"
"Nat will love him."
"We don't want to have a guy like Nat or any of us embarrassed."
"I'll think of a way to handle it."
"We must be tactful"
"We can't hurt Charlie's feelings."
"I'll be very tactful."
"With Nat getting his new record in the top ten already it's crucial that Charlie go with us.
"Nat will want to meet the writer of his hit song."
"Charlie's got to come to Vegas.
"He's got to come."
"He would be hurt if he were left out."
"We just can't hurt Charlie."
"But He's got to straighten up."
"He'll straighten up. I guarantee it."
"OK, but he never straightens up here at the office. He's got this problem every day.
"Yes, and it's our problem."
"It's even worse when women are around."
"Charlie doesn't realize the seriousness of the situation."
"Some days it's more serious than others.
"I'll have a talk with him. He'll correct the problem. I know he will."
"I hear Nat's Vegas show is terrific."
"Charlie would love it."
"He's just got to come with us."
"But we still have that problem."
"We haven't solved it."
"Hal, do you really think you can convince him to do something about it.
"It'll convince him; trust me."
"We trust you; that's why we're all signed to write songs exclusively for your company."
"I appreciate that and I'll continue to look out for your welfare and fair treatment."
"Yes, but we must be fair with Charlie."
"Let's be fair."
"Then it's all settled."
"It's settled. Charlie goes!"
Charlie is a large black man who has written many rock and roll hits. Due to his protruding stomach he finds it comfortable to arrange his pants zipper in a way that is sometimes worrisome to those around him.
1. Charlie's zipper becomes a problem when it is left:
a. all the way up
b. halfway up
c. all the way down
d. all of these
2. Charlie wrote a hit with a famous woman song writer named Rosemary. The song was recorded by Elvis Presley. it's title was:
"Trying to _____________ to _____________."
3. Charlie's last name, if cut in half could be discovered by finding a word that means the opposite of being married for the first half and the last half would be a word that means 2000 pounds.
Charlie ______________ --- _________________
4. Can you name the four writers:
Their first names were:
1. Jesse ____________________ 2. Winfield ___________________
3. Lincoln __________________ 4. Otis _______________________
5. "Nat" can be identified by filling in the words to this nursery rhyme:
"Old King ______________ had a merry old _____________."
6, The hit song that Charlie wrote for Nat had a three word title. The first word rhymes with "lend," the last word rhymes with "tea."
"_________________ for _________________"
7. Publisher Hal's last name is a word similar to the one needed to complete this expression:
"I looked for what I lost with a ______________ tooth comb."
8. The name of Hal's music publishing company was that of a famous US President who was paralyzed.
If you select all the correct answers to the Mystery of Charlie's Zipper send them to:
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 639
Burns, TN 37029
If you get all the answers correct and if I ever meet you, you'll win a Hearty Handshake! -RAY
The Bitterest End
by Ray Campi / 2003
"There's an amateur night every Tuesday night at a club in the Village. A man named Ed McCurdy is in charge. See if you can get on the bill." "O.K., I'll check it out," was my reply to this helpful fellow who owned a small used record shop in Greenwich. I had had my fill of a stalled music career in Los Angeles and had returned to the city of my birth to give it a second try. I say "second" try because it was in New York City in 1957 that I secured the favors of Roosevelt Music Publishing and its founder Hal Fein arranged a Dot Records (15617) release for me. It was now mid-summer of 1961.
I had finally gotten a job as a waiter at Stark's Restaurant and had settled into an apartment on W. 56th St. (My Famous Garbage Can) story documents this place. I was again ready to impress the New York music world with my original songs and the club scene with my impressive stage act. (HA!)
I believe I was drawn to New York again because I'd heard of the success of fellow Austinites Bobby Doyle, Carolyn Hester, and Sammy Allred of the Geezinslaw Brothers who had all recently signed to Columbia Records and that maybe a fourth Austin boy could make the grade. Sammy and his sidekick Dewayne had appeared on Arthur Godfrey's syndicated radio show and were becoming regulars.
I made my way to the subway on that particular Tuesday night dressed in my one blue business suit, a string tie around my white dress shirt, and on my feet my pink suede cowboy boots I'd bought in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. In one hand was my safely encased gold Gibson and in the other a small amplifier. In this hippy controlled territory no other country boy from Austin, Texas could have looked more ridiculous.
I reached McDougal Street, took a brief walk and reached the the club. I entered and spotted Ed McCurdy and introduced myself. "I'll put you on" was Ed's polite reaction to my request to be on the bill and I was added to a list of prospective new music super stars of the newly born 1960's.
I was to discover that this venue was becoming a staple for the N.Y.C. crowd and after I looked over some of the performers and the appearance of most of the audience I thought I'd been dropped off a newly created planet.
I had designed a set of some original songs: A Little Bit of Heartache, One Kiss Away from the Blues, I'm Laying Down the Law, Goodbye Love Hello Heartache, and a couple of country tunes I though would be fitting in this new "folk" music scene.
To me a folk song was about country people or even city people who lived close family lives and who in their art expressed simple lifestyles with traditional values often colored by religious conviction and their songs reflecting their day to day relationships on love, courtship, marriage, work, interests and hopes.
The array of characters I saw from the stage that night judging from their obvious attitudes and appearance were in no way "traditional." I chose a few songs from a list I thought would fit this formula: "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, hippy "work" songs like Merle Travis' Dark As a Dungeon, John Henry and Nine Pound Hammer, and for folkies who admired unjustly imprisoned criminals there was Jimmie Skinner's Doin' My Time, and Cash's Folsom Prison Blues. As I best recall I selected a couple of numbers from this group also.
On the amplified Gibson I used a distinctive tuning that my Texas guitarist had devised. The low E string was tuned to a B note and the fifth and fourth strings were tuned to A octaves; the resulting sound presented a very strong Johnny Cash musical effect, especially on the bass strings. I barred this strange E chord configuration with one finger and with the remaining fingers I would add simple riffs to the rhythm. I used this tuning in the past on some Rollin' Rock and Rockhouse tracks when I recorded in the 1970's and 80's. I recently re-cut One Kiss Away From The Blues for Pep Torres' Hollywood Vintage Records CD L.A. Rockabilly Again (HVCD 503-02) in this same style. I recorded this song originally in 1959 at Roy Poole's Austin Custom Records (Eagle Records, Ray Campi 1954-1968 Volume 2, EAR 90122, track 22).
The sudden appearance of me on stage, in my pressed blue suit and pink suede boots brought a hush from the audience; no hippy long hair or mustache; no medals, chains or jewelry; (the blue suit was a good as any you'd buy today from a Goodwill rack) and the pinks boots were shocking to say the least. (Where were the sandals when I needed them?) When I opened the guitar case and retrieved a beautiful well-preserved, gold, J 259 Gibson F hole and started to plug in, few in the audience could believe it. I was without a doubt the strangest, most out of place character they had ever seen on stage at the Bitter End.
I plowed through my set with energy and other performers preceded and followed me. Tom Paxton was one and "Mr. Dillon" could have been on the bill as the club was one of his hangouts. "Let's see what this bunch is up to" I thought as I began to take a close look at their way of presenting on stage this "folk" music and I began reacting to what I was seeing and hearing.
Immediately I was turned off by many of them: young, healthy, adults who began sitting on stools to play (I always preferred standup musicians and basses), and I realized the songs they were writing and singing were filled with introspective lyrics, often depicting the deprivations they were subjected to and the hopelessness of their lives in America. It started to occur to me that these were ingrates, never suffering the way the past generations did in the 1920's and 30's. There was no Great Depression years for them as there was for the brothers Guthrie, Maddox with sister Rose, Hank Williams, and the Presley family. These originals really knew the hardships of destitution, unfair labor practices, working in the fields, and having to move around the country endlessly to feed a family.
I was watching on that stage, so many youths who were mostly raised in secure upper-class and middle-class families who supported them, often paying for their college educations. Why were they so damned serious on stage? Where was the humor, fun and entertainment value of traditional show business?
There was implied an overt criticism of the preceding generation which I thought was uncalled for. Many of these complainers had parents, grandparents and uncles who fought and died in World War Two and they paid the ultimate price in many cases to keep these spoiled brats from becoming one of Hitler's lampshades or fertilizer for one of Tojo's gardens. Was there no appreciation of the earlier generation's contribution to their lives? (No one sang There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere, but Blowing in the Wind was popular).
To be fair I believe that all governments in the past and present are filled with corruption, regardless of political party and it has never been a perfect world and will never be, but why did so many in this music scene praise Communism, the most tyrannical movement imaginable, and why did so many of these hippies not only criticize their parents and their government but they glorified such values as unfaithful marriages: free love and love-ins filled with mate swapping was their main interest? Why was mental alertness and competence treated by them as unacceptable to be replaced by the glorification of psychedelic drug induced illusion, with habitual use of every cigarette, pill and stimulant know to man? While they were "turning on" I was "tuning off."
It didn't take me long to realize that I was in the company of a bunch of musical "phonies" - "poseurs" described them best; a word an English fan introduced to me in the 1980's. "Folk" music as it was evolving before my eyes and ears was Boring, boring, boring.
In fairness, as I later watched this music scene grow there were some artists that I enjoyed in person who did not completely fit this scenario. Many were great on stage as the Dillards, Randy Spark's group, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Hoyt Axton (his mom Mae was a song writer for TNT publishing), Carolyn Hester and on record there were many professional acts: The Limelighters, The Kingston Trio, The Brothers Four, and Joan Biaz was a great singer. Also, many good songs came from those years and the decade that followed. To my taste some of then were: Blowin' In The Wind, Walk Right In, The Universal Soldier, many of the songs of Creedence, The Beatles and several English groups who made the charts. Yet, there were many mediocre duds like Everybody Let's Get Stoned (Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35).
Is it fair to overly praise this music era of the 1960's when in the not too distant past great songs were produced? I'm thinking of the writers of music for the American theater: Berlin, Rogers and Hart, Gershwin, Porter, Styne, Comden and Green, and many others.
Also, let's review the quality songs that came from the original folks artists. I'm thinking of the music of the Carters, the Guthrie brothers, Jimmie Rodgers, and Milton Brown, The early country scene produced the work of Bob Wills, Cy Cobin, Rex Griffin, Bob Nolan, Fred Rose, Hank Williams, Ray Whitley, Vaughn Horton, Ted Daffan, Cindy Walker, Wayne Walker, Hank Snow, Floyd Tillman, and Hank Penny.
The more modern country music explosion in the 1950's was due primarily to the popularity of songs written by Don Gibson, Roger Miller, Harlan Howard, Tom T. Hall, and Waylon and Willie, to mention a few. Was El Paso by Marty Robbins a great song?
Should we leave out the music of the early Rock and Roll innovators? Weren't the songs of Jesse Stone, Leiber and Stoller, Otis Blackwell, Lincoln Chase, Winfield Scott, Charlie Singleton, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry noteworthy? Let's not overlook the writers for the big bands like Ellington, Mercer, Jordan, Prima, and Carmichael. In short again, great songs have always been written and always will be. I know I've written a few good ones and so have all of my friends in the music industry, And, one of my pet peeves was the idolizing of those they tagged "singer-songwriters." I've never known a player in any musical field who also wrote songs who didn't sing them and often make records of them. So, the "singer-songwriters" of the 1960's were not a phenomenon. We've always had them.
The first musical instrument I ever tried to play was a lap steel and over the years I've used them on stage and have recorded with them. I have today, a couple of dobros and use them with a raised bridge in the steel guitar style. My favorite instruments are the piano, guitar and also the harmonica. As I listened to early '78s I was thrilled by the sliding on the early blues records and the hillbilly records of Autry, Rodgers, and Acuff. I would try to play like Cliff Carlyle, Brother Oswald, and later on Shot Jackson on the Johnny and Jack records. They were all stand-out to me.
In the future column I'll relate an incident involving a dobro that was to seal my musical fate in New York City.
The Bitterest End
by Ray Campi / 2003
A little discouragement had taken hold after my first encounter with the Bitter End bunch and during the week that followed I had gone back to the Village to See Lightnin' Hopkins. He was appearing at Gertie's Folk City. I had admired his records for years and Bob Tanner once told me that he was the first musician Bob recorded for the new TNT label in 1953. Bob recalled that Lightnin' made up his song lyrics on the spot with the tape running. Years ago Tanner gave me a 45 of that record: "Lightnin's Hop" and "Late in the Evening." Again, that was in 1953 and three and one half years later I recorded "Caterpillar" and "Play It Cool" Tanner 'N Texas (TNT 145). The blues man and myself in common and after his set we had a friendly visit at the bar and talked "Texas." I was thrilled.
Often in life one incident will have such an effect on a person that it will stay in one's mind forever. What happened next did just that.
"I think I'll check out some other clubs," I said to Ed McCurdy after finishing my second stint at the Bitter End. Tuesday had rolled around again and I had completed my appearance on "Hootenanny Night" to only a nominal response.
After leaving the Bitter End I walked on to Bleeker Street. After a short distance I saw a sign that advertised a folk group. I walked into a coffee house and sat down. I ordered a drink and a string band took the stage to play. One musician was playing a dobro in the steel guitar style. His playing was good. I was impressed and it brought back memories of my earliest years in music when I was learning to play the lap steel guitar.
I watched the set and when it was over the dobro player sat down at a nearby table and began to read a comic book. I approached him. "I really enjoyed your playing tonight. I'm a fan of the dobro myself," I said. The player made no effort to recognize my presence but kept his eyes intently on the comic book, which to him was much more important than a favorable comment from a new found admirer of his playing. The moment or so I stood next to his table seemed endless as he refused to turn my way. Finally, he turned his head in my direction and without without a word (Elvis at least always had a "Thank you very much") he gave me the most hostile unpleasant scowl I had ever seen on the face of a fellow human (or sub-human) and turned quickly back to his highly intellectual reading material. Shocked beyond belief at such rudeness from an entertainer I turned and left the premises.
On my subway ride home I began to review the road I'd been taking in trying to fit in musically with these average talented, drug suckers, hostile and rude in many cases and I made a decision I've yet to regret; my days in New York were numbered.
I have never smoked a cigarette in my life and there was little chance that I could accept a life style in music that glorified marijuana smoking and use of every illegal drug known to man.
At this time it never occurred to me that in the years to come every major record company in the world would assist in pushing illegal drug use on impressionable children by financially supporting with millions below average folk and heavy metal bands, even going so far as to charge to the studio recording time, and building into the budgets the cost of buying heroine, cocaine, pills and the rest, you name it (Why weren't the stockholders of these media giants screaming in pain about this misuse of their investment monies?). In my opinion the world-wide drug problem that is unmanageable today is due directly to the glorification and encouragement of illegal drug use by the major label and television industry. It started in the mid-1960s and continues today more than ever ("Everybody Let's Get Stoned").
Another aspect of this "folk" entertainment was it was s direct path to heavy metal music with its emphasis on guitar distortion and the use of the sustainer and fuzz tone, evolving in extra long, tasteless and boring solos, relying on noise rather than skill. Although many of these guitarists could play fast and accurately they produced results that remind me of someone who complains or nags too much. They didn't know when to shut up!
Also, ** I was not use to seeing professionals tuning on stage, or coming on stage without shirts much of the time (I've never grown accustomed to seeing men with naked breasts except in the boxing or wrestling arena or a swimming pool - "Darling, may I borrow your brassiere?"
And, there was a rudeness and "know-it-all" mentality with this era of music, yet many of these male idols didn't have the work skills to hold the most menial timeclock job; loads of them during this period lived off of hard working, exploited and naive girlfriends. Many of them turned out to be what an English friend once described to me as "poseurs; phonies if you will, and after living through these decades until now my observations haven't changed.
So many of these "overnight sensations" who started out with false humility, rose to super stardom where their real characters were exposed. In the papers and on television we learn daily about rock and pop stars who don't know who the father of their expected child is, who bitch and complain about the wrong colored M&Ms being in the dressing room candy jar, and when demanding a limousine to ride to the Grammies they scream in protest if they can't select who will ride with them. Too many of these pampered arrogant fops live in twenty or more room mansions with not one room being available for a homeless person. And, when their latest compact disc fails in the market place, and their popularity with the new crop of emerging youth slumps, their bloated egos cannot handle it, and they and their phoney law teams sue the record company that made them rich and famous, for cheating them. This is where the '60s and '70s music scene has taken us.
I stuck it out in the "big apple" for two and a half years but circumstances were making it clear that my days were numbered. "Mr. Million-Seller" Aaron Schroeder and Musicor Records and Publishing turned out to be a dud. The "bitterest end" had arrived.
In April of 1973 with the help of Peer-Southern's Roy Horton, a helpful friend I had made, who was also a double bass player, in the basement of the Brill Building, in Allegro Sound Studio I demoed some of my newest sounds, Charlie Brave engineered. (Eagle Records - Ray Campi 1954-1968 Volume One - EAR 90121)
"I'm going back to Texas," I informed my fellow staff at Stark's Restaurant and within a few days I was heading to a place called "Alamo Village" near Brackettville. It was the movie set where John Wayne filmed "The Alamo" in 1958 and its owner Happy Shahan had given me a job as an entertainer and weed cutter. This experience was full of exciting surprises but that's the subject of another long-winded story on "Rambling With Ray" for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, from one village to the next. --RAY CAMPI
** "What does annoy me is the attitude of a lot of the new talent, and nothing's worse than a group coming on stage and then spending ten minutes tuning up."
The Story of the Shadows by Mike Read, Elm Tree Books, London, 1983
My Famous Garbage Can
by Ray Campi / 2002
"You can share an apartment with me. I'll be off the road in September and we'll find a place near the theater district."
I had first met Bill, or "Noel" as he was known in acting circles in 1957 when I was in N.Y.C. to do a promotional tour for my second record release (It Ain't Me-Give That Love To Me, Dot 15617.
Back then I had rented a tiny room from an elderly lady who had a huge apartment on 6th Avenue. She had lived there for decades and had divided the place into rental units. My room was small, just room enough for a bed, a dresser, a wash basin and one window with an exciting view of a brick wall outside-Noel was a fellow tenant and we became friends.
It was now four years later and we were making contact again. I had left Los Angeles because my music career was backtracking. I had recently returned to the empire city where I was born, to start over in music.
In 1959 when I arrived in Hollywood from my home in Austin, Texas I was lucky enough to land a job as assistant manager of the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, California.
The pay was meager but one "Jumbo Jim" hamburger and a cup of soup a day from Dolores' Drive Inn restaurant across the street, and all the popcorn I could eat from the theater kept me somewhat alive for a year or two. (And I mean "somewhat".)
Richard had a big mouth!. He was a teenager usher who worked at the Fine Arts who was originally from New York where his parents still. He often bragged about the big money he made during his summer school holidays when he worked as a waiter at a popular vacation resort hotel in the Catskill Mountains. He was guaranteed this job every year, and why not? His uncle was the chef at Grossingers.
"Quit this rat race and come with me back to New York. We'll get jobs as waiters and in the fall you can return to L.A. with your pockets full."
It sounded good at the time because the $38.00 I was taking home every Friday was not supporting my extravagant life style. (I owned two cars.)
"I'll try it; I need a change." So a week later I quit the job and with Richard boarded the most crowded Continental plane I had ever stuffed myself into. We hit the air for the east coast.
We arrived in early morning and made our way to a very old apartment house in the Bronx to stay with Richard's parents a day or so before we would leave for the mountain resort and new jobs.
Richard's father managed this place and there I met some wonderful Czech people with hearts of gold. The family was large and Richard had several younger sisters. They all lived in a basement apartment. This area was full of damp smelling old furniture left by tenants and stored there for years.
Little did I realize that this assembly of castaways was going to be part of my new home with a sofa for my bed.
"Well I'll see you Ray, I've got to catch a bus," Richard boldly revealed the next day.
"i'll be in touch-good luck." reality was dawning on me.
He calmly explained that we had arrived in town too late in the season to get me a job at the hotel, but not too late for him. He had a blood connection; Uncle Manny the chef.
Yet, thanks to the kindness of his concerned parents who took me in I was invited to ive in the basement for a time until I could produce some income.
In Greenwich Village I called on some employment agencies that secured waiter jobs and I was sent out to restaurants a few times. "Are you the new counterman?" I'd be asked. "Get an apron!" I would work hard and fast but after one day I'd get fired. It seems I didn't understand New York City's "food language." I learned the hard way what "regular" coffee was. Most businesses wanted waiters with lots of experience in "food talk". "blintzes, bagels, submarines anyone?"
Eventually, through another waiter who lived in the Bronx apartment building I found a job at Stark's Restaurant at 78th and Madison Avenue. The fulltime manager hired me, went on vacation the week that I started and wasn't there to witness my blunders. It was near the Metropolitan Museum of Art and did terrific business, especially on weekends. Old rich widows offered to take me on cruises, I'd deliver coffee to hideaway hotel rooms full of hookers in cute nightgowns in the middle of the day.
Famous people frequented the place; Arthur Miller having a malt at the counter. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sometimes came in for the great hamburgers with grilled onions. Mary Belle was a long time waitress who had a crush on the night manager Mr. K. She was jealous of any newly hired waitresses especially if they were attractive. The manager would treat them kindly until they learned the ropes but would scold Mary if she screwed up. "You'll all eat your mistakes" he'd yell out. That would set Mary off into a screaming match with him and to keep the roof on the place I'd hear, "take a break Mary Belle," and she'd head downstairs off the floor to cool down.
What a show Mary Belle put on; it was great!
One day a poor bus boy carrying a full pan of dishes slipped on grease from the French fry cooker. His arm went into the hot grease and a new exotic dish was added to the menu.
In the winter overcoat roulette became a fun sport. There was a rack near the front door to hang the coats. On busy days there would be twenty coats piled over each other. Sometimes an enterprising fellow would come in with a ragged coat, but leave with the newest and most expensive one he could find on the rack. We'd hear the reaction "Where's my new coat, I put it right on this hook where this old rag is hanging now!" Lots of laughs!
One day an old musician friend I had known since 1951 came in and I waited on him. Sonny James remembered me from Dessau Hall and the Skyline Club in Austin. "What brings you to New York Sonny?" I asked.
"I'm placing some new songs with Aaron Schroeder's publishing company. He might be interested in some for your stuff," Sonny replied. "Check him out." I did. Unfortunately I got two and one-half years of six month options to record, with no results. In 1957 I had much better luck with Hal Fein of Roosevelt Music Publishing, but this time my encore at the Brill Building did not go over well.
"I'm back!" It was Noel on the phone. He had been acting on the road all summer with the touring company of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and had returned to Manhattan to move into the apartment he had made a deposit on. "Meet me at 418 West 56th Street and we'll check out the place."
I grabbed a subway and met Noel near the building. As we reached the entrance I could see it was a very old three story. Upon entering I noticed it had no elevator. We walked one fight up to the second floor.
"Mary Belle ... take a break!"
Stark's professional kitchen staff resolves food complaints
quickly and effectively.
Two "Raymonds" at 418
The Manager let us in and we started to give the place the once over. "The bathroom only has a shower and commode, no sink. We'll have to wash up in the kitchen, my friend observed. "Okay, Noel;" I wasn't fussy.
The place consisted of one large room; beds could be placed around the walls and a sofa and coffee table could be accommodated. The kitchen was small and the apartment faced the street which could be viewed through large windows. In winter the wood floors would be kept warm by old steam radiators which often kept us awake with their screams.
My sleeping area was defined by a blanket hung over a clothesline which we secured to adjoining walls in one area of the large room. There was a little privacy, but we were busy during the days and just needed a place to sleep and eat at night. "This building was old when I was a little girl," my 75 year old grandmother told me when I brought her to visit the place for the first time.
One night weekly the manager would gather all the tenant's trash and put it in several cans which he would set out on the sidewalk in front. I saw the cans out there often but never paid much attention to them. One day Noel was all excited. An actress friend of his had informed him of a great discovery. "Guess what Campi? We have a very prestigious address." "What do you mean?" I asked. Noel went on; "You know how popular the musical West Side Story is I'm sure." "Yes I do," I responded. Noel's turn; Well i bet you've seen the original cast album of that show on Columbia Records." "I have." I had seen it in record shops often. It had a red jacket surrounding a black and white photo of Carol Lawrence pulling Karry Kert by the hand down a rundown New York City sidewalk.
Noel was still breathing heavily. "Well that photograph was taken in front of our apartment house. That's our place in the background. Check the garbage cans. One of them has 418 W. 56th St. painted on it.
I did investigate and had a look at that L.P. again. Noel was correct.
And that's why that one filthy, smelly, piece piece of dented metal turned out to be the most famous garbage can in New York City.
"That building was old when I was a girl."
"Brush your teeth here."
Sylvia and Noel Thomas
Tim, Ken and Ray ar the famous address.
... the album: a recreation
My Famous Can
A Two Dollar Bill
by Ray Campi / 2002
"Do you know these fellows?" a British jazz musician asked my friend Diz Disley at a B.B.C. radio studio in 1963.
"I've met them a few times before when I was playing with Kenny Ball's group (Midnight In Moscow was a hit by him) at he Cavern Club. They used to do some numbers to fill in between Kenny's sets," Diz recalled.
After leaving the English military service in the 1950's, William "Diz" Disley enrolled in art school and became a skilled illustrator and painter, eventually doing covers and cartoons for the weekly magazine Melody Maker and the political journal Spectator.
Music entered his life some years earlier when he became a fan of jazz guitar playing in the style of Django Reinhradt and his group The Hot Club of France which featured Stephan Grappelli on violin. He mastered the guitar and before long Diz was on his way up in the world of jazz music. After joining Tony Crombie's outfit (Britain's first rock and roll band) in 1958, Diz performed with Acker Bilk (Stranger on the Shore), Humphrey Lyttelton, Beryl Bryden and others who would gain success on record like Chas McDevitt, Ken Colyer, Nancy Whiskey and Lonnie Donegan. Eventually he formed his Diz Disley Trio and made contact with Stephan Grapelli whose music career had stalled and was playing piano in a hotel bar in Paris. Through Diz's connections with the British festival circuit he revived the violinist's career during the 1970's world-wide. On this day in 1963 the guitarist, artist, had been given the honor of hosting a popular jazz radio program for B.B.C. before a live audience.
.Diz continued the conversation with his fellow musician, "I really don't know too much about these boys other than what their agent posted to me. I've written some promotional items about them for Meldoy Maker, that's about it. I hear that they have a record coming up on the charts." This was true for in February of 1963 this band's record reached one on the U.K. pop charts.
Decades later Diz Disley recalled to me that to appear on the radio program was not a high priority with this group for they had been booked weeks before when they were struggling for attention. One this day, with success in music definite, one radio appearance was not that important, but their manager, knowing that British Broadcasting was important to their futures insisted that they fulfilled their contacted commitment, not offend important powers, and appear on the show which covered the isle over the nation's prestigious network.
The performance by the young band went well and the up and coming group did their best, were well received by the studio audience, some of which had heard their new record, and were fans already.
Nottinghill is a section of London I know well as on my first U.K. tour in 1977 with the Rockabilly rebels we lived at the now departed Monseratt Court Hotel in the area and often left the underground at the Nottinghill Gate Station. Kensington Park is nearby and Kensington High Street is a bust thoroughfare. The chance of meeting someone you know passing by is slim, but it happened.
"Hey there fellows, what are you up to?" Diz had spotted two members of the young band he had introduced on the radio the previous day.
One replied, "We're on our way to the Fairfeld Hall to do a show." Disley noted a tone of frustration in the voice. "Great!" Diz responded, "Good luck!" "We'll need more than luck to get there." The two musicians were fumbling through their pants pockets. "We've got to hire a taxi and we're short," one bumbled out as a few coins surfaced from their pockets. "10 shillings is the lot ... not enough."
Disley reassured, "Don't worry ... let's have it ... I'll make it up." He walked to a waiting cab and handed the driver the gathered coins and a one pound note.
"Take these boys to Fairfield Hall quickly ... they've got a show to do. " One of the two young men whose mood had improved considerably shouted as the car began to roll. "Thanks Diz ... we won't forget this!"
But they did!
And that's why John Lennon and Paul McCartney still owe my good friend Diz Disley one British pound note ... which in U.S. currency with minor interest over the decades would be just about ...
A TWO DOLLAR BILL!
(Posted Oct., 2004) ... My good friend, Diz Disley, one of the world's best known jazz guitarists and song writers, recently underwent heart surgery and would enjoy hearing from old friends and fans send your good wishes to me at Real Music, P.O. Box 250425, Glendale, CA 91225-0425. I'll forward the mail to Diz in Northolt, U.K.
How I Learned to Hate Monkeys
a true learning experience
by Ray Campi / 2002
Rolly Harper was yelling;
"Campi!" "Get cleaned up fast! We've just gotten a call to feed a crew at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood." "Hurry it up!"
It was late afternoon and my job at the movie catering company was always full of surprises and odd hours, depending on how busy film and T.V. production was at the moment.
After relocating from Texas for the second time, I had been working at this unglamourous time clock job since September of 1964. Since the advent in the U.S. of the English invasion there was no music career for me; it had been on hold for a few years as little music I heard on record or radio appealed to me. It was now 1966, the "sick sixties" were upon me.
My work duties were varied, from loading tables and chairs on trucks, sometimes dozens of them, to filling mobile kitchens with food and condiments. Number 19 was a truck that could break your heart. It was a 1951 Chevy tractor-type with a hitch for pulling a kitchen trailer. Behind its cab a rack had been welded to store tables and chairs which had to be lifted one by one from the ground to a fellow worker. I was often on the bottom of this nonsense and that's how I developed my strong arms for bass playing in years to come. I also became proficient with a water hose and a bucket of soap. Eventually I was bought a spray gun and was soon painting trucks and trailers. Cleaning out kitchens upon their return to the yard became a specialty.
"You guys can go in" the Columbia studio guard yelled to me as I drove in to the back lot with my fellow workers. Suddenly pleasant memories ran through my mind.
"Ray Campi to see Stanley Styne" was my verbal calling card in 1961 when I was a respected up and coming recording artist with Colpix Records, a fairly new company owned by Columbia Pictures. My association with Stanley began in 1959 after my trip to Hollywood from Austin, Texas to make my name and fame in the magic city.
Secretary Alice Wilt greeted me and soon I heard from an inner office, "Come on in, I'm Stanley the promotion man do a bit of lyric writing for films myself," Stanley revealed. "What you got?"
,br> I soon learned that song writing ran in the Styne family and that the famous Jule Styne, Broadway show lyricist with credits in music for shows like "Bells Are Ringing," "Gypsy" and others was Stanley's father.
I had recorded a demo version of the folk song "Shenandoah" and Stanley liked it a lot (Eagle records EA-R 90122 1996-Germany trk. #4) and we developed a "let's meet for lunch" relationship.
The frequent meals in and around Columbia soon brought me in contact with a fellow who was very encouraging to me; "Bunny" Botkin was involved in record producing, song writing, group singing and did string arrangements for Liberty Records and many of the records produced by Tommy "snuff" Garrett, including those of Johnny Burnette. After this he went on to co-write the piano classic *"Nadia's Theme" under his real name Perry Botkin Jr. (His father was Bing Crosby's guitar player on record and radio for many years.)
*"Nadia's Theme" was later titled "Theme From The Young and The Restless" after it became the theme song for the popular daytime television series."You sing good man," Perry observed, "We've got to do a record together." He and his partner in music Gilbert Garfield worked as a duo and were now "The Fraternity Brothers." In 1954 Bunny fronted a group called The Cheers and had a hit on Capitol called "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots."
"I'm all for it," I responded. That's why I moved out here. Let's get things moving." Very soon I got a call that "moved" me. It was Bunny. "We've got a project for you. Let's talk!"
I got myself right over to Columbia and by now I was a familiar face to the studio guard at the Gower St. entrance, and even elicited a smile from him once in a while.
"You've got to listen to this tune!" Stanley put a sparsely arranged demo on the record player. Bunny, Gil, and myself got our first earful of a proposed movie title song called "Our Man In Havana." Freddie Karger, a well established film music writer and band leader wrote the song's music. Stanley did the lyrics and they needed a finished recording of it to present to the film's producer Carol Reed. Our record would serve two purposes; a demo record and a record release as well, as The Fraternity Brothers had one more 45 to deliver on their Verve contract.
Things were now happening quickly and success was just over the horizon .... way over.
Bunny assembled some great musicians in 1960 and we gathered at Radio Recorders on Santa Monica and got got ready to record. I was impressed by this old studio where many great artists such as Bing Crosby made their record hits over the years. Still residing in one corner of the room were many sound effect tools used to make the live radio dramas of the 30's and 40's; a real car door, coconuts for hoofbeat sounds, whistles, sirens, etc. (Only a few years later I suffered the indignity of visiting this studio again while delivering coffee and donuts to an all night recording session for Elvis, from record star to donut man.)
For the flip side of this future hit Bunny had written "Reprieve."
Caryl Chessman was a California lifetime petty criminal and had been sentenced to death for his many years of lawbreaking. At the last minute he had been given a reprieve of this sentence and the word "reprieve" was on the headlines of all the California papers. The "Red Light Bandit" would live a little longer.
"It's a great title for a song," Bunny boasted, "This record will get tons of attention." (It did, all negative.) I suggested we call the song *"Reprieve of Love", which we did. The Browns were on the charts with "Three Bells" and I was asked to sing the solo lead on "Reprieve" with Bunny and Gil doing Brown type harmonies. We did both sides live and went home feeling we'd whipped the world.
* Both sides of the original Colpix 45 are on a bootleg, German L.P. called "Jukebox Hits" - 1989 from the West Coast office as Stu Phillips produced most of the Colpix releases from New York.
"We've had a bad break," Stanley complained a week later. Carol Reed the producer of "Our Man In Havana" had rejected the song he submitted. "Too commercial" was his comment and our record was not going to be heard in a movie.
Carol Reed was to suffer some disappointments himself a few weeks later when her potential hit film with Alec Guiness, Noel Coward, Ernie Kovaks and a superb British cast was to lose its potential after Fidel Castro succeeded in turning Cuba into a Communist prison camp. The Bay of Pigs invasion didn't help to add revenue at the box office either some months later.
If the movie was a "bomb" our Verve 45 (10208) on which the group's name was re-titled "The McCoy Boys" to fit a more country image also made a negative explosion when soon after its release California governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown canceled Mr. Mr. Chessman's reprieve and executed the man after all.
Stanley Styne, Perry Botkin Jr., and Gilbert Garfield stayed in touch after that until I moved to New York in 1961 to make my name with the Brill Building crowd. One of this bunch, Hal Fein of Roosevelt Music Publishing helped me a lot and had arranged for my Dot record release in August of 1957. ("It Ain't Me" - Give That Love To Me" - Dot 15617). so, on a lark I quit my Beverly Hills, Fine Arts Theater day job and flew off to the big town. That was in June.
A few months before my departure from L.A. I got a second chance to make a record through the efforts of Stanley and Bunny. They arranged a session for me of two Botkin penned songs, "Hear What I Wanna Hear" and "French Fries" (Colpix 166). The session was booked at the famous Gold Star Studio on Santa Monica Blvd. near Vine Street with musicians hired by Bunny. Larry Levine and Stan Ross engineered and Bunny produced. It was a very good commercial record to me and through the arm twisting of Stanley Styne and Colpix president Joni Tapps, the New York Columbia boys agreed to lease the master. It was the first master leased by Colpix.
"We're on KFWB and KDWB and in some rotation," Stanley boasted at another of our "lunches." I was lucky enough to actually hear "Hear What I Wanna Hear played once, late at night on Hollywood's KFWB, a prestigious Top 40 station. This association brought me in slight contact with Gene Weed, Elliot Field, B. Mitchell Reed, and George "Gabby" Hayes himself, Ted Quillan. Some of these jocks were ex-McLendon boys from Texas and held a warm place in my heart. The first man to play Caterpillar on TNT on radio was Don Keyes on San Antonio's KTSA in 1956 (TNT 156). Don was the music director and played the record right before my eyes and as a reward he advanced to be Gordon McLendon's main man, in charge of all of his radio stations working out of the Ft. Worth office. In 1958 he was nice enough to arrange a meeting with me and the creator of Top 40 radio himself when I proposed the possibility to him of being my manager. (It didn't happen!)
Colpix released #166 created a little interest around Gower Street for a couple of weeks but soon James Darren got on the charts and the Philly boy knocked the Texas boy of of the saddle and frustration set in and I was off to new York for another fresh start in show-biz.
"OK you guys, it's after midnight, clean-up time," Rolly yelled out. "Get this mess cleaned up so we can go home!"
Clean-up was always the hard part and these Hollywood back slappers spilled most of what you served them, overloading trash cans, spilling garbage on to the street and stage area, with coffee and drink cups hidden in out of the way corners. "Who are the slobs throwing this party?" I grumbled. "It's a new record company started by Columbia Pictures.. This is a record release party for one of their new groups," Rolly revealed.
"What an indignity! Just a few years ago I was a respected recording artist at this place. Now look at what I'm doing ... scraping cake off the soles of my shoes!" "Quit bitchin," Rolly shouted. "You're getting paid a buck twenty-five an hour and if you go over to that table over there you can take home a free record. They're giving them away like candy."
I took Rolly's advice, went to the table and picked up a 45. The label caught my eye as it closely resembled the now defunct Colpix label... "Colgems - A division of Columbia Pictures and Screen Gems Television" ... the song title on side A was Last Train to Clarkesville... and that's how I learned to hate monkeys...(sorry), the correct spelling is "Monkees."
RAY CAMPI'S official web site is http://www.electricearl.com/campi.html, a place where you can experience real life adventures with Ray and get a list of all of his recordings. There are also songs to download for your fun and amusement.