Everyone who attended owes a huge debt of gratitude to those few people who put thousands of hours (over a period of more than a year) into organizing and managing the reunion weekend! Congratulations for having done a super job!
Well said ,John, and worth repeating. It was also a wonderful reunion for our little Alta Vista Elementary School and neighborhood kids. Too much fun seeing each other and being together after upwards of 60 years. Here's to absent friends and departed loved ones, parents and teachers, as well,who gave so much of themselves so that we might have the wonderful lives we share.
Our greatest reward----and by "our," I mean the many, many classmates who helped put this Reunion together----is all the interaction and communication that has transpired during and after this event among classmates who are now reconnected.
May we never stop celebrating who we are and what we proudly have in common...graduating from Walter Johnson HS in the Class of 1964.
Stay in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
email@example.com (still working!)
Who are all those old people who crashed the party?
I'm with Janette on all she said. Let's not let this blog die. Fifty years ago we stepped out of our safe haven and started making contributions to the world in general. We reconnected and found we've done well. Let's not stop. A very Merry Christmas, Joyous Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all of you - to all of us.
Thanks, Sue...we need to plan something for 2015...maybe Rolf's idea of a 70th Birthday Party for all who are close enough to come?
Happy New Year to Everyone!
I was just reading an article that professed to name the top 15 songs that defined the Boomers - us. I don't necessarily agree. Beatles came in at #6 and were preceded by Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock", Buddy Holly's "That'll be the Day", a Chuck Berry, and some other one. Oh, and Ray Charles's "What'd I Say". I might agree with Ray Charles but the others were what my babysitters listened to not me. Beatles were followed by Stones "Satisfaction", Beach Boys, Dylan. No Temps or Tops. Martha and the Vandella's "Dancing in the Street" got in there. Anybody want to weigh in on this? I've always loved music, loved to dance but there are others I would have put in there and definitely left out the first 4 at least.
Hi Sue...I love music too and dancing to the right stuff. In HS, I was more into the bubble gum music... Neil Sedaka, Ricky Nelson, Everly Bros, Beetles, of course, Freddy Cannon, and such. I still want to dance when I hear it...love Abba and many others too...and some of my kids' stuff (born in 1982 and 1985). They grey up with my music too ... beetles, 60's and show tunes ... Camelot and the like...wish I had more time to enjoy it all!
Elvis, Buddy Holly, Temptations and Tops...more 50's. Agree, Sue.
Bruce Davis should be tuned on by this conversation ... I will have to alert him via Facebook....
I am going by what we played at gigs that were musts. Some of these may bleed into post high school days. What'd I Say -Ray Charles, Little Darlin' -The Diamonds, Love is Strange - Mickey and Sylvia, Walk Don't Run - The Ventures, In the Still of the Night - Five Satins, Peggy Sue - Buddy Holly, Stay - Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, Honky Tonk, Outa Sight - James Brown, My Girl - the Temptations, Hang On Sloopy - The McCoys. Louie, Louie - The Kingsman. Any Smokey Robinson and The Miracles tune. Hitchhike - Marvin Gaye. The tune that always got the biggest response, although it was probably during the college years was Wild Thing - The Troggs. The Stroll was a popular song to dance to. We didn't play Jailhouse Rock, but I think it was one of the last of a certain rock 'n' roll era. Blueberry Hill - Fats Domino has to be included. I don't care for Chubby Checker. My brother played with him in Ocean City and said he was a jerk. I'll pull out and old set list and come up with a few more.
I should have included Chuck Berry - probably Sweet Little Sixteen and Johnny B, Goode. His recording of Maybelline was ranked the number one event in rock 'n' roll history by Entertainment Magazine, as the first song to chart on the R& B and Pop Charts, simultaneously. I loved Jerry Lewis; Whole Lotta Shakin' and Great Balls of Fire." Little Richard deserves mention - Lucille, Rip It Up and Long Tall Sally. Elvis had a ton of tunes, but I always think Hound Dog epitomized the King. Gene Vincent's Be Bop A Lula and Woman Love. Paul Anka - Oh Diana and Put Your Head on my Shoulder. Fabian - Turn me Loose and Like a Tiger. The Coasters - Charlie Brown.
Roy Orbison: Pretty Woman, Blue Bayou,and (my favorite) Only the Lonely,etc.........They all sound so simple .Then you try to sing along,.. and wait........how many octaves was that?
Best song by Roy Orbison: Evergreen
Still Love Today: Everly Brothers
Gary and I bought the Time Life Series of CDs for the 60's....listen to them on every car trip!
Would love to hear your band play all of those mentioned above right now, Bruce!
I THINK WE NEED TO HAVE A "HAPPY 70TH BIRTHDAY" SOCK HOP....October 2015?????
I go to Junior High with the Philly sound, Paul Anka, Everly Brothers and Elvis. Bruce mentioned Little Richard and I just grin. What a character!! In my mind, there's a bridge from them to the Temptations, Beatles, Dave Clark Five, Martha and the Vandellas than lands me in High School. I dated boys from St. John's and that school would get "stars" to perform at their balls. Bobby Rydell was my favorite. My son loves OUR music - he says it actually said something whereas his didn't. I think a sock hop would be fantastic. Let's seriously think about that one.
Surely I remember and liked most of what was listed above. I'd add Sherri Baby and Dell Shannon's Runaway even though it was BEFORE high school. Boy, nobody mentioned PP&M, Kingston Trio our any of the folk singers. If I Had A Hammer, Blowin' In The Wind, Lemon Tree and who could forget Dylan. Am I the only conservative rebel left?
Okay, Rolf - you said it, not us! Dylan is still the coolest. The others weren't my speed. I'll never forget when my son came to me with a new CD he'd gotten and asked me if I had "any of this guy's dad's stuff." It was Dylan. We sat in his room all afternoon comparing the two of them. Fun. Peter needs to chime in on the PP&M stuff. Oh, Peter...
Back in September of '63 my then very first real girl friend ,Gloria Rutstein (she went to Whitman) loaned me her copy of "The Free Wheelin Bob Dylan".My mom poked her head into the den to hear where the the breathy moaning was coming from as I commenced listening to it for maybe the sixth time in a row.
"You've GOT to listen to this Mom It's BOB DYLAN!"
"That's nice dear..." she said with a benign indulgent smile "you enjoy..."as she quietly backed out and closed the door with a sigh.
Rolf....Gary and I also bought the Time Life series "The Folk Years" Some really good songs on it that I remember well...but I will still select the bubble-gum, dance-to stuff first! Kingston Trio was more for the 50's generation, but spilled into ours...and some great songs. My first husband, 11 years my senior, was totally into Kingston Trio....I heard it all the time on our Macintosh Stereo and Bose speakers - big in the 70's. Remember? (He also liked The Byrds, "Turn.Turn.Turn;" Aretha Franklin's music, "Hey Jude" and "Mr. Tamborine Man." Second husband, 3 yrs. younger, loved Jackson Brown ("Stay" is his best!) and anything done by Van Morrison (ok, but not a favorite of mine)...and others. Three different musical periods in my life....Gary and I like all the same stuff -- and big on ABBA! Now, if only this part-Norwegian boy had just a little rhythm and could dance! (He is the very best otherwise!!!!!)
That's the best way to put it, Janette - "dance to stuff". I think that's where I draw the line as well. The folk stuff was in the 50s, okay to listen to and sing along with, but who was going to dance to "Puff the Magic Dragon"? Van Morrison sang probably my most favorite song of the day, "Brown-eyed Girl". Having dark brown eyes, it still ranks high on my chart!! But it still comes down to, can you dance to it? Wasn't that one of Dick Clark's criteria for rating a song on American Bandstand?
Listening to 60's music on our way home last night, Gary and I both mentioned how great the full-orchestra backgrounds were on those old tunes. You don't hear that today. We often try to guess what instruments were making some sort of sound in the background -- like metal brush on drum or those wooden stick things rubbing together....the band and orchestra classmates out there are surely shaking their heads and rolling their eyes to my comments...but, hey, I love music even if I I only had 2 yrs. of piano lessons and never mastered any musical instrument!....xoxoxoxoxo
We need to go see Paul Pisciotta play sometime. His band plays in the area. Chris and Leslie went one time to hear it up near Annapolis (before the reunion) and really enjoyed it. I'll have to get some dates and details for here and face book.
Love your story about Bob Dylan, Pete. I drove my Mom crazy playing my new 45: Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" over and over and over -- when we lived in Walter Johnson's house at Oakmont & Old Georgetown Rd. Big old house and the loud music from the living room penetrated 3 floors-every room. My Class of 63 older sister, Maryanne, was into Dylan and used to drive us crazy with some of his "downer" type draggy stuff.
Nobody could cover Dylan like Jimmi Hendricks even according to Dylan himself. He admiringly complained that that to really hear "Like a Rolling Stone"and" All Along the Watchtower" you had to hear Hendricks perform them.I recently saw a 1970 doc. on Hendricks made just after he died, and the interviews with his friends and paramours saying how h'e'd pester them with "Hey! You gotta listen to this! It's Bob Dylan!" What creative genius,as brilliant in his own way as Mozart or Chopin. And just as doomed. Not everything he did was great, a lot just lost in a drug induced haze. But what came through was so brilliant!
I hate to tell you, but there are more things you can do while listening to music than "dance".......... ;-)
Agree, Rolf. Depends on the beat and tempo and who you're with. But if the beat and tempo make you move, you gotta move. Robert Redford in his youth (and mine) or George Clooney today .... I could give up the dance floor.
And, right you are, Sue!
Oh, yeah? This must be coming from a non-dancer. A guy knows that if he's a good dancer other things can (and will) be explored in the appreciation and pursuit of music. Right, ladies?
Besides certain songs by Elvis, Buddy Holly, & the Beach Boys, I love certain songs by The Chantels, the Chiffons, The Shirelles, Petula Clark, Lee Dorsey, The Crystals, The Mama & the Papas, & especially the Supremes, e.g. Words of Love, Ride Your Pony, Downtown, Will U Still Love Me Tomorrow, Then He Kissed Me, I Hear a Symphony, He's So Fine, Maybe, and Stop in the Name Of Love.
Love all those, John!
Dancin' in the Street! ,Martha and the Vandellas.
The perfect dance song.Transcendent.
(by the way,..what is a Vandella?)
Think about it, Peter. A female Vandal, of course. Geez...
I've got to chip in with all of this Bob Dylan talk. First, I was a rocker not a folkie, so little of the folk music appealed to me. I did like Dylan's songs, preferably sung by Peter, Paul and Mary and Trini Lopez. Our band actually played Lopez's versions of Dylan's tunes. When Dylan went electric, the folkies threw themselves on their swords, while rock an rollers welcomed him with open arms. Actually Bob Zimmerman (Dylan) was greatly influenced by Buddy Holly, whom he saw from the third row at a concert about three days before Holly's death. He said Holly peered into his eyes, and he modeled his singing style after Holly's. Zimmerman actually played a couple of gigs with the group that continued to play Holly's tour. Bobby Vee took over the vocals, and he and his brother hired Zimmerman, who played a beat up old organ from a music shop he worked in. After two gigs, they decided Dylan had nothing to add to the quality of the band and fired him. Bob Dylan also had his Christian period, including his "Slow Train Coming" album. My favorite Dylan tune is on the album - "You've Got to Serve Somebody. It may be the Devil or It May be the Lord, but You've Got to Serve Somebody. Bob Dylan went to a show of Robert Gordon's. Rob went to BCC, and he was the singer for The Confidentials and later The Newports until my junior year in college. Dylan took songs up to Rob's hotel room and wanted Rob to record some, Rob told him he didn't see anything suitable to his style and turned him away. I think Sue mentioned Jackson Brown's version of Stay. It is very good, but I am partial to the version by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, that by the way is the shortest song to ever make the top ten or make number one. I love the fade out,,,,woops, lotidah.
Me too, Bruce & Sue. Not into folk stuff then. My older sister (class of '63) was, and drove us all out of the house playing Dylan. It was akin to "hippie" music back then. Like his music today, but prefer it performed by others.
Your second sentence says it all, sums it up nicely - "First, I was a rocker, not a folkie..." I was the same. I enjoyed sitting on the beach singing some of the folk songs but the key word is "sitting". Thanks for the background on Dylan, etal, Bruce. I didn't know all that. Very interesting. And as much as I loved Brown's "Stay" I think it was Janette who brought that one up. Morrison's "Brown-eyed Girl" was my all time favorites.
Sue, Pull up Stay by Maurice Willians and the Zodiacs on You Tube. I used to love to play that tune just the way he did. There was nothing outstanding about the drum part, but I thought it was the perfect dance tempo. Whenever we played it, everyone danced and had a good time. Do you remember Tossin; and Turnin' by Bobby Freeman, I think. It was the number one song of 1961. Good dance tune, (The Frugue for girls.)
Yes....Maurice William's version of STAY is the one we all remember and I love it. Just hadn't heard it in a while (and more often, Jackson Brown's longer version)....until you encouraged me to go to You Tube, Bruce. Played it twice.
Tossin' and Turnin' was Bobby Lewis. That was such a fun song! As my son says, our songs told a story, even if it was a dumb one! And Wow to Maurice Williams's Stay! After hearing it, I remember it well. Thanks! I think I need to go dig out all my 45s and albums just to see what's there!
Sue, You are absolutely right - Bobby Lewis. We played Tossin' and Turnin' at every gig and the crowd always loved it. We also played "Tell It Like It Is," an early Aaron Neville tune. I love his unique style and have seen him in person. The first tune we worked up with Robert (Rob to us) Gordon was The Wanderer by Dion and the Belmonts. Love that sound. The only song Dion wrote about his wife was Runaround Sue. As The Newports we were handled by Paramount Artists, who also handled, The British Walkers, The Chartbusters, Link Wray and the Raymen, Little Willie and the Hand Jives, The Kalin Twins - #2 hit with When, Th others were making a living while we were students. They got the fat gigs because they were salaried and we were on a percentage arrangement. We played at the Bayou (Sundays), the Twin Bridges Marriott or The Hotel Washington (Fridays), elsewhere on Tuesday's and sometimes on Wednesdays in Baltimore every week for JOPA, a singles group owned by Michael Ohare. He told me he had enough bands who wanted our gig that he could audition and pay nothing for two years. The Bayou was a favorite venue. We backed up Jimmy Jones (Handy an and Good Timin') for an audience of two thousand in a Baltimore airplane hangar. I was chosen to play in a rock and roll band during basic training in the Army. Eddie Hodges was a guitarist and vocalist with us. As a young boy he partnered with John Glen on Name That Tune. He went on to star as Winthrop in the first Broadway version of Music Man. He is the red headed kid singing High Hopes with Frank Sinatra in the movie A Hole In the Head. He had a couple of hits, I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door and Girls, Girls, Girls. We correspond every now and then on FB. While in school I went to the Howard Theatre a lot - James Brown -5 times; Otis Redding -3 times; Smokey, Gladys, Chuck Jackson, Rufus Thomas (Walkin' the Dog - a favorite) Tommy Hunt, Ruby and the Romantics and Pigmeat Markham - "Here Come Da Judge," Martha and The Vandellas. Many others. I changed my drumming style as a result from a flamboyant swing style to a tighter R & B style. We were lucky to have such diverse music to choose from. Anybody remember in our junior year WJ having a Hootenanny? All sorts of music, even folk,
Bruce, have you considered teaching a course in Modern Music History? Damn! You're a fountain of info! Dion and the Belmonts were a favorite of mine. I saw them perform twice I think, once at a St. John's function. "Runaround Sue" was a really good one, good beat, great to dance to, "I give it a 10"! Otis Redding went too soon. Right up to my 40th birthday, I was grabbing tickets for Gladys Knight and the Pips wherever and whenever - never felt so short in my life as at a concert in Baltimore where the whole Washington Bullets team was in the lobby! Really great stuff. So much of it I used on the football field for halftime shows. People would ask if I was reliving my teen years. The answer was no - next to Dick Clark, I was the world's oldest teenager, simple as that. I had no idea you all played at the Bayou. That was one of favorite places to sneak out to. Archie wasn't big on my adventures into Georgetown and definitely on a Sunday he had a tight rein on us! He was "Da Judge"!
Sue, I just loved those days of rock and roll. In junior high I listened to "Teenage Meeting" on Winx Radio with San Sacco, I believe. Love is Strange, by Mickey and Sylvia, was always playing. Being the shy guy, I always hoped the girl I liked would send in a request. I think I was thirteen or fourteen when my family went to Atlantic City. In the morning we saw Bobby Darin in the Steel Pier's theater. In the afternoon, we saw Rick Nelson in its ballroom. Dressed in all black, he tried to out-Elvis, Elvis with his sneering and gyrating. The sides were open and it was hot. A girl standing in the front fainted, was pulled on stage and taken backstage. All of a sudden other girls realized their tickets backstage were to emulate the first girl. They were fainting left and right. As far as the Bayou, our Sunday night gig was for JOPA; the club was closed to the public. We did get to play The Bayou during the vacation of The Telstars, the Bayou's house band, and that was a gas. I loved Dion, too, but I never saw him in person. He has a lot of very interesting stuff on You Tube, including these tapes of him playing and talking on cruise ships about his influences and his career. I love to watch them. He also has amazing photographs of him with every known artist on Facebook. In our band, Bob King is the real rock and roll historian. Sounds like you were into rock and roll pretty good. Did you ever dance to (Bend Over) Let Me See You Shake a Tailfeather? Ray Charles brought it back in the Blues Brothers Movie, but I liked playing the Purify Brothers' version. Although it always filled the dance floor, Wild Thing by the Troggs was the tune that always got the joint jumpin!
Weren't Mickey and Silvia from DC? Sometime I'll tell you about how I knocked Bobby Darin down going through a door the wrong way in Miami Beach and freezing, totally petrified when I realized who it was. Ran to the elevator, got on, turned around and was face to face with Ethel Waters - do you know who she was? Insane.
Yes, I danced to Tailfeather and completely goofy Wild Thing. Movies like Blues Brothers made great material for halftime shows. I definitely was into Rock and Roll then, still love it and have enjoyed with my kids the evolution of pop music through their teens. They were always quick to point out a musician from my era who was performing with a group in their era. Best concert I can remember was with my son and a couple of his buddies to see Hall and Oates. I was deaf for 24 hours - we all enjoyed that!! Music has always been a constant in this house and a part of my English classes. It's just a huge part of life.
I don't know about Mickey and Sylvia, but Peaches and Herb were from DC. Herb was a DC cop. They replaced Peaches (too fat) when their record hit. I road in an airplane with a gal who had been Marvin Gaye's hairdresser. She had been offered the Peaches position, but her husband didn't want her on tour with Herb. Can't imagine why. When you ran into Bobby Darin, did he come up to your belly button? He was really short.
Peaches and Herb! Not Mickey and Sylvia.
I couldn't tell you if he was short or not! Like I said, I was completely mortified. And think about it - I'm vertically challenged so it didn't matter how tall he was or wasn't!
Around 1973-4, my mother sponsored a rock group out of St. Mary's County - The Impacts. They were fantastic. One was a principal at the elementary school, one a band teacher at Chapticon High School (the only white guy in the group), and 2 guys who lived at Tall Timbers where our marina is whose uncle and dad worked for my dad. They performed at the marina for all the holidays, Mom had them booked in DC. and Philly We spent a lot of time in recording studios. Andy was about 18 months and loved going in and watching them behind the glass and looking at all the slides and buttons. He bounced all over when they did Kung-Foo Fighting! It was really fun. I still have their "tape" but doubt if I could find a way to play it. I have a friend on the Eastern Shore who has a studio, maybe I'll see if he can put it on a CD for me.
Love of music came from Mom who even kept up with it all with her 6 grandchildren. She played a mean piano. And then I grew up in a great neighborhood with at least 5 pianos going before dinner and John Maxson and his Dad Web playing their trumpets out the window after dinner. We never needed a radio!
I played with John Maxson in the WJ Dance Band. WJ was the only school in Montgomery County to offer it as a course.
As The Confidentials, we have have a few recordings on You Tube. There are other groups with the same name. Ours are on The Loop Label and as an acetate from Edgewood Studios.
I want you to share with us these halftimes you've referred to.
A great movie about music during this era is "Cadillac Records," the (mostly accurate) story of Leonard Chess and his Chicago-based recoding studio Chess Records. The little Chess studio is still on South Michigan Avenue, has been landmarked, and is a popular tourist stop.
Another card carrying rocker in our class at Walter Johnson was Mark Swartz, who was a real treat to see at the reunion. He played trombone in the WJ orchestra and went on to play with several bands during college (University of Maryland?). I believe that his big success came as a member of the horn section with Rock Bottom in College Park. If Mark reads this he can confirm/correct me.
The 50th reunion was the only that I attended and I'm glad that I did so. My history playing trombone outside my home was at John Maxons's house where I joined his Dixieland band made up of members from the Bethesda area. I later joined a local soul group called Herbie and the Soul Set, featuring Richard Solow on guitar, Rick Berberich drums, Bruce Wilson? trumpet, Louie Burley on sax. I happened to be playing with another group at the Bethesda Youth Center before the Soul Set's rehearsal and they heard me playing. The band invited me to join them that night at a local high school gig and I did so; I didn't need any rehearsal since I knew most of the band's soul repertoire. I later played in a local group called "The Good Knights" which later added Jerome Powell as vocalist, Eddie Becker guitar and others that I can't immediately recall. Later played in a rock group with Mike Kidwell as vocalist (Larry Kidwell's brother), Jerry Bolds trumpet and again others that I can't recall. We played a gig at the Tick Tock restaurant in Langley Park that was supposed to last only 1-2 nights but we stayed there for at least a month or more. Later on I joined a group called "Rock Bottom" with Bobby Lakind vocalist, Richard Solow guitar and Gil Goldstein electric organ. Our big gig was at the closing of "My Mother's Place" in D.C. the night of the Moon landing. We backed up Andy Kim (wrote and sung "Sugar, Baby Baby, You are My Candy Girl") Peaches and Herb and another vocalist or two. Bobby Lakind quit the group and moved to California to become a lighting and equipment tech for the Doobie Brothers. A few months later I saw him on Saturday Night Live playing congas with the Doobies; as you know he soon after officially joined the group and played music with many others before he passed away at an early age. Gil Goldstein went on to be a famous instrumentalist, composer and author and has worked with greats such as Gil Evans, Randy Brecker, Al Jarreau, etc etc. -- winning a Grammy award in the process.
My brush with rock and roll fame came in 2004 when I became president of the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association in Chicago. On the first day I was introduced to my new secretary, Inga Maskin, a really beautiful, fashionably dressed 75ish-year-old woman with silver hair. When I first met her I thought that she must have been a knockout when she was 20. After a few days one of our members said, “Ask Inga about her first husband,” which I did. He was Alan Freed. Learning of my interest, Inga would occasionally say, “Did I ever tell you about the time . . . ? “ Alan Freed, a Cleveland disc jockey in the ‘50s, is considered to be the father of rock and roll, having coined the phrase “rock and roll.” He is a reason the Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. In addition to being on the radio, he discovered and promoted people like, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and several dozen more. Even though Mr. Freed had no musical ability, he would give preferential treatment to records he played on the radio if he had “co-written” the song. This made songwriters furious, but they were overall happy to get the exposure. Inga was still collecting royalties from these smash hits! Mr. Freed also produced huge international tours for American music acts and produced movies starring people like Tuesday Weld and singers Brooks Benton, Little Richard, and others. Alan Freed took bids on which song to list as #1, which got him indicted during the Payola Era. Inga takes credit for keeping him out of jail by testifying in court that he was a strong family man, loved his children, and was in poor health. Alan Freed died of alcoholism in 1965 at the age of 44. Inga, who remarried to a medical school professor in Chicago, died in 2006. I was a fan of the Confidentials from the start and always admired Bruce’s drumming! I have played guitar for almost 50 years and am currently in a really, really fun band with guys I have known for most of that time.
Yippee!! John, I've been waiting for you to get in on this. Sort of name dropped and hoped you'd take the hint! I think you and Bruce could easily go one for one in this discussion! The things you know!
So, So, So Interesting Bruce & John. Thank you!
Okay, Bruce - halftime shows. My oldest, who played trumpet and soccer, went to high school in 1987. After sitting through one football season of watching really dumb halftimes shows, I walked into the office of the music director and quite candidly said, "Your halftime shows suck." There was an audible gasp as people in general were afraid of him. I wasn't. And I meant it. So I said, "Let me do your halftime shows." After some interrogating (mild word for it!), he agreed to let me "try". I told him that he was not to walk in front or behind me but beside me, a team effort - a request that was a bit hard for him to agree to with an ego the size of the Chesapeake Bay. BUT it was the start of a partnership that lasted 23 years. I wrote and choreographed the halftime shows until we both retired from the school system in 2011.
I had charge of the silks (flag) squad and found a flag pole a bit different from the baton I was use to but we got over that hurdle. I designed and made their uniforms to go with the band. I had charge of the percussion unit because they were loud, bad, and a pain and nobody else wanted them. Their drum sticks were no match for a 5 foot flag pole so all was well.
When you do a halftime show you have to be on and off the field in 10 maybe 11 minutes. I had a background in theatre so what I was doing was a mini-musical. I introduced sets on the field, had singers and dancers in costumes, sound equipment and once even a movie projector and 20 foot screen. I created a three ring circus. I spliced the music, gave it to the arranger who wrote the music (no stops between songs!!) and then sent that and the story board to the drill arranger. We three worked together for all those years.
The first one that stopped the concession stand was "Annie". A local cop had a 1949 Packard. He dressed as a chauffeur and at the end drove the car around the track to pick up Annie and Daddy Warbucks and Punjab who had made Warbucks materialize out from a smoke bomb - the drum major who removed his hat and was bald. Streamers and glitter hoops tossed by the silks (who were the orphans) were all over the place following the car off the field.
The next year it was "Grease" with 7 silks in poodle skirts stripping 7 bandsmen to tee shirts with rolled up sleeves and dancing. It ended with a '57 Chevy coming across the 50 yard line and one of the sax players on the hood playing. That was so full of stuff nobody went to the stand at all! Then I was told by the athletic director I couldn't run anymore vehicles on the track or field. Bummer! He probably was angry about no money from the concession stand.
So I reached into my past and went for Motown. Great fun! The Temptations, The Supremes, on and on. Singing and dancing. The big ending was a casket copied from the Michael Jackson show “Thriller” built by a parent. Tombstones which silks changed behind into ghouls and the grim reaper came out of the coffin (while the band director did the Vincent Price piece) captured the assistant drum major and stuffed him in the coffin. I had two short silks in black against a black background with skeletons on poles like puppets. Of course, out jumped the werewolf at the end.
American Bandstand meant singing, dancing, and ended with the Village People getting the crowd going with them to YMCA. The stadium rocked.
"Wiz Biz" was putting the Wizard of Oz and The Wiz together but using songs I wanted to depict the story – “Hold On, (We're) Coming” when Dorothy was taken to the castle; “The Heat is On" to drown the witch; “I'm so in Love with You” sung by the Scare Crow to Dorothy. It ended with the crystal ball turning into a huge helium balloon with the characters in the basket.
Styx and Stones; Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll; Motown Part 2 (“Beat It” was the finale); Journey; A Tribute to Dance (“Footloose”,” One” from A Chorus Line; “Last Dance”) A Salute to Dick Clark; Honoring Sir Elton John (with a lit up piano on the field); Earth, Wind and Fire with the band with LED lights all over them; Salute to Broadway; A Night at the Movies with a real camera going on the field that ended with “Star Wars”. On and on.
I got emotional only once. The show was written and we were well on our way in rehearsals when 9/11 hit. The show was a fun one - Dueling Drum Majors where one liked the classical music, the other rock and roll. Example was Beethoven on one, the other interrupting with the Beatles “Roll Over Beethoven”. The finale was Scharazade meets Ahab the Arab, camel, Fatima and all. It hit me coming into work, My God, we can't do that! We can't offend anybody right now! I ran in the band room, spun the director around in his chair and said, "We've got a big problem!"
I love teenagers. Truly I do. In less than an hour our finale became Neil Diamond's "Coming to America". The beginning of that song is a string group. Five of my silks came from the orchestra and they played this part on violins, cello and viola, while the girl who was to be Scharazade, a ballerina prepared to dance in the center of the field with red, white and blue streamers. Meanwhile the orchestra kids met with me at night and we painted an 80’X40’ American Flag that they rolled like a scroll. Four singers – one Hispanic, one Asian, one Black and one as Irish as Patty’s pig learned the words. We were ready to rock and roll.
The first night we did it I was some kind of nervous. But, just like every year, my kids owned the show. This time it was a little extra special. It was a tough time and they knew it. We got to the end and you could have heard a pin drop as the girls played their strings. Then the drum line did their thing and we were off. Each singer came out one at a time doing their segment of the song, did a little dance. And the orchestra kids came down the 50 yard line behind the band. The drum majors turned to the stands, started into the Pledge of Allegiance and the orchestra rolled out their masterpiece. I think they heard the people in the stands clear to the Naval Academy, maybe even Bowie. I had tears running down my face and just beamed. They came together as musicians, the band and orchestra, and they gave a performance that came from their hearts. It was really fantastic.
The mother of a football player came up to me after a performance one year and asked, “How do you get those kids to do that?” Typical jock comment. Don’t get me wrong, While I was doing this I was also the girls jv soccer coach. On top of that, 45% of the band and orchestra were on athletic teams. I just looked at her and told her that the come to me and ask me to put them in the show. They want to perform. Her son, the football player would rather die first. Oh well.
Teenagers are wonderful. In the classroom I taught these same kids Shakespeare, Coleridge, Byron, Wilde, Chaucer, but on the field we all simply had fun together. So, Bruce that’s what my halftime shows were all about. I hope before the end of this year to have a DVD with all of the shows on it. I was blessed to have the opportunity to combine my love of music and dance, art and design and share it with kids who really wanted to do it. We were the first in the county to do this and after a couple of years others tried to follow suit. You have to be willing to let the kids take the lead and then you can’t lose. So it was long live rock and roll at Annapolis High for 23 years on, of all places the football field.
(And, you are such a good story-teller.)
Sue, what you did was phenomenal. Those were big productions. Took a lot of guts, organization and know how; all with teenage kids. My hat is off to you. Not many could have pulled that off. On a much smaller scale The Confidentials needed a makeover. We played at the Kiplinger's son's 16th birthday party, and we stunk. One thing I can't stand is a lot of dead space with the band not playing. Another thing I hate is playing songs I call hamburger helper tunes - songs that just take up space in the set. We were guilty of both at the Kiplinger's party. At our next rehearsal I told the band, "We will never play a gig like that again" We chose Bob King to arrange our set lists with nothing but high powered danceable fun songs. Bob made powerhouse set lists for each band member. I told the guys, "Study the set list, so you know when it is your song to kick off." If we did not kick off the next song within three seconds of the end of the prior song, I would fine the player who was responsible. I fined people if they weren't at the site one hour before the start of the gig. I fined for sloppy uniforms and for improper stage decorum. The first gig after the Kiplinger's was at was then called the Arabian Embassy. It was pretty posh. I girl came up to the bandstand who had been at the Kiplinger gig and said she couldn't believe it was the same band. Music to my ears. That was the turning point for The Confidentials. We were pretty tight from that point forward. Not as dramatic as your efforts, but this was a necessary step for us to make it to the next level.
I definitely applaud what you did especially in a time when we were trying to as lax as we could get. I had a thing about those "breathers" between songs. Hated it. Paul, the arranger, came up with some fabulous segways that gave sections of the band the chance to catch a breath while others played. Percs never needed that and were happy as could be when he worked in 30 seconds strictly for the drums. I left the discipline to the music director. We often played Mom and Pop, bickering or contradicting in front of the band, me calling him an old fart and what did he know about Rock and Roll, him telling me to go get him a cup of coffee and be quiet. Kids would roar. We were a family - the orchestra, my intellectual child; the band, my mischievous child. But all for each other as Coming to America showed. The orchestra was just devastated that the band had a problem and jumped right in. I think your disciplinary tactics were good and obviously much needed. It had to be done and the results were positive.
Thank you to those still writing notes to our gmail account: firstname.lastname@example.org....among them JOHN HUDSON from class of 1965 (and brother of Mary Hudson in Class of 1963)....who shared a lot with some of us in our class of 1964. He also attended our reunion on Oct. 11, 2014. Maybe you are in one of our photos posted on this website or on facebook...WE NEED TO IDENTIFY THOSE IN THE PHOTOS...I'LL FIND A WAY.
Nice hearing from any of you who have responded since the reunion. We just aren't ready to let go of the fun we had at our 50th Reunion...or the people with whom we have reconnected!
John, let us know what the class of 65 is doing for their reunion...just curious -- a lot of guys in our class dated girls in your class. Thanks for your interest and for staying in touch!
Whitman Class of 65 and 64 having a joint reunion in May....check google for information -- or I'll post something when I have it handy.
I'm sorry I took so long to reply but I haven't checked this blog for a long time. The previous entries on music were fascinating and of course since I know Bruce Davis well I wasn't surprised at his encyclopedic memory regarding music.
I believe the Class of '65 had a Monday night dinner at Clyde's Tower Oaks Restaurant this past summer. I did suggest that Susan Warren who did the lion's work on that eventcontact you for help in their preparation for another event in two years.
Hope all is well with you and Gary and the rest of the WJ Class of '64.
PLEASE SEE LATEST INFORMATION POSTED TO THIS SITE'S HOME PAGE ON FRANK HARMANTAS...SO NICE TALKING WITH HIM! ALSO A POSTING ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE "Walter Johnson Class of 1964 Reunion"....
We are thinking about a short email newsletter to those of you on our email list -- just thoughts and news and updates...
If you haven't done your bio for this site -- it's ok. THEY ARE STILL COMING IN A DRIBBLE AT A TIME....To be honest, I have not done mine yet!
LET'S STAY CONNECTED! Wed. 4/15/15