Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Mother Of All Cruises, And Lottie The Body


As 1962 drew to a close and 1963 began certain changes were occurring in Lapeer, and among the InVictas in particular.  Del Herrington had graduated Salutatorian of his class, and had left the band to pursue a career in the medical field.   Fred Bibber, who'd been working at GM and playing on weekends, had joined the Air Force.  This left Dick, Cary, Jim and myself as the remaining lineup.

By this time Terry Knapp had secured a job on Flint's WTAC, and had become extremely popular.   Terry had, on occasion, sat in for me with the band so as soon as he could he started booking us for HIS dances.  There was a popular drummer at the time, Sandy Nelson, who had a national hit with “Let There Be Drums.”  My style was similar to his, so naturally we played the song.  Terry... never being one to miss an opportunity to hype something... would always introduce me as Sandy Nelson.  No one ever caught on!

And the change hadn't affected us as musicians, really.  We could still book clubs whenever we liked, we'd just pick up an additional player.  We recruited Dude Newton, a talented guitarist/singer, and we went right to work as the house band at The El Toro with him out front.

I still picked up studio gigs too.  By this time I was allowed to use the car on occasion, so after the session I could join in the Mother Of All Cruises, the Woodward cruise.  The Woodward cruise started at Ted's Drive In at Square Lake Rd and Woodward and continued all the way to the waterfront in Detroit.  That's about 15 miles!  The cars would stop at several drive in locations along the way and take a turn around the lot of each.   There was The Suzie Q, The Wigwam and the best of all Mars Showbar . The owners had cleverly deduced that they could get the kids to stay longer, and consume more chow if they played music over the metal speakers that were used to call in orders.   They had built a little, glassed in area on the roof and installed a DJ.  It wasn't long before the local bands, fresh from their latest recording sessions, would stop by with an “acetate”... a kind of one-up record that could be played on a regular turntable... and watch the audience reaction when the DJ played it.   Early auditorium, focus group testing.  I remember going there one time and running into a local group who'd brought a dub over.   I recall the guitar player was one of the scariest looking dudes I'd ever seen . Turns out he was scary in real life too, it was Joe Jackson, Michael's father!

I also picked up some side gigs in pick up bands, and backed up national artists who traveled solo.  I vividly recall one such “star.”  A good 45 minutes after the show was supposed to start he stumbled into the venue... a teen dance sponsored by some gentile little ladies who had no clue who this guy was, or the reputation he had... dead drunk with two fellows holding him up helping him to the stage.  Once seated at his piano he sat there weaving back and forth for at least a minute or two, then he pulled out a can of lighter fluid, set the piano on fire and kicked the piano bench onto the dance floor, breaking the legs off.  This was my first experience backing a national “star,” and I recall thinking to myself “I'm not even out of school, and this moron is going to burn me to death!”

I also recall seeing another, major recording artist sitting in the tour bus shooting heroin.  He was 18 at the time.

I also had an opportunity to mix it up with the more exotic side of the club scene.  I was booked to sit in with a band at a Detroit venue backing up Lottie Graves.  She was billed as “Lottie The Body” and was Detroit's answer to Gysy Rose Lee.  She was a trained dancer, and wore a fringed costume.   While it's true that this was considered Burlesque, it bore no resemblance to today's pole dancing strippers.  This was ART, and if you didn't believe that you could ask any of the guys at the tables.  You could've asked Lottie, but she'd have smacked you upside the gourd had you inferred that she was anything but an artiste!

I recall she was annoyed with me, I wasn't kicking the rhythm hard enough for her moves.  She loved those Afro-Cuban tempos and I had never played that stuff before.  To tell the truth, I was getting annoyed at her annoyance, so when the time came for her finale I had it planned to fix her wagon once and for all.  I was to play a long drum solo, while she shook it down! “Play it loud and play it FAST” she told me!

Heh, heh, heh...

I played it loud and fast all right, long too I made damn sure of that.  The sweat was flying off that fringe on her costume like Niagara Falls.  I could see her catching her breath.  At one point I thought she was going to pass out, but I kept going.  

I hadn't seen a booty move that fast since the time I dropped a spider down my sister's short-shorts!

By the time we finished, she dragged herself off the stage and plopped down at a table near her dressing room.  As I was heading to the men's room she called me over.

Uh oh here it comes, she's gonna' raise Holy Hell now

She had me sit down next to her, and she panted in my ear.  “That's EXACTLY the way I like it!!” Man I just can't win!

Oh and by the way, the thing about the spider and my sister's short-shorts.  Completely false, but a GREAT visual don't you think?

1 comment:

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