Monday, January 17, 2011

Introducing Dari's Archives

Here's the first of what we hope will be a regular series..."regularity" in posting being a relative concept here at Streets You Crossed of course.  A few weeks ago I received a lovely note from a lady named Dari S.:

"I just found your blog when looking for something else online. I love's such a trip for me having grown up in the Village in the 50's and 60's.  I went to all the places you've mentioned as a kid and then some. My family's apartment was across the street from the Albert Hotel on University Place between 10th and 11th Streets where almost everyone practiced and lived briefly.  Was at all of the Murray the K shows as a kid (my first rock concert was an Alan Freed Big Best show in 1958 when I was in grade school with, amongst others, Buddy Holly)...You name them, I saw them...the Beatles 5 times....Jimmy James and the Blue Flames at the Cafe Wha? (my hang out), etc etc. ... I'd be glad to share any recollections I have and whatever pix (unfortunately I never took a picture of anything back then...stupid!)/info/etc. I've saved from those days."

How could I resist such a generous and tantalizing offer?  Dari's a busy lady but she promises to make with the scanner whenever she has a spare moment.  Here are a few items that she's sent me already, all with a Murray the K slant.

"You mentioned the Shangri-las on one page and we actually got them to perform at my friend's high school gym in 1966. Since I helped her organize it we were backstage with them before the show. And I had seen them at a Murray the K show that year as well. Attached are a couple of the program pages for 2 of his shows that I can find at the moment...I hope to be able to send you things that you'll be surprised and glad to have access to. Not that I like being this old but seriously, if I wasn't I would have missed the best days of rock and roll. We didn't know how great we had it back then, growing up in a city where all we had to do was get on a bus or subway to see everything and everyone that mattered."

"Attached is another Murray the K ad and very people know about or remember this. When the Cafe Wha? first started to go from a basket venue (folksingers like Dylan played here passing the "basket" for tips) to a club that catered more to rock and roll (where the kids and the money were)...Murray helped them get a younger crowd by hosting shows there. Clay Cole also had a connection to a local teen club in New Jersey called the Hullabaloo so that might be where Murray got the idea. I don't know this to be true but I have the feeling that his connection to them ended when he decided to open his own club the World. But up until that point he probably helped supply the musical groups and thus younger audience to the Wha?.  Murray the K's World failed but by him having his affiliation with the Wha? he helped it get some of the earliest connections to groups teenagers wanted to see.  They were the first (or at least one of them) clubs in NYC back then to have teen shows on Saturday afternoons.  It didn't cost anything to get in but you had to buy 2 (non-alcoholic) drinks which were each about $2.50-$3.50...a fortune to us as teenagers. I saw Jimi Hendrix play there (as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames) in 1966. Also saw the Castiles/Bruce Springsteen's first band, Kangaroo (John Oates' first group), the Blues Project, etc. etc...

"The best Murray the K show I saw was his 1967 was March 25,1967 and the reason I remember this date so clearly is that the next day was the very first Be-In in Central Park which I also went to.  So did all of Cream, and they were so into the whole scene in Sheep Meadow that they forgot to get back to the theater in time for the next show. Murray was pissed!  Attached is the NY Times ad for this show and the program page for it as well. Some of the groups listed in the ad didn't play. I wrote about this on some music board awhile ago and if it isn't over-kill, here's that post.

"Saturday/March 25, 1967

"Not a date that will live in infamy, at least not one that you were expecting....right? And how many times in your life can you name the actual day of the week when something happened not just the date? If you can you know it was monumental. It’s written in my brain because it was the start of something earth shattering for me and my generation. Hell, the world had already spun on it’s axis on february 7, 1964 when the Beatles landed.  This was gonna take it one step further.  If I’d have thought about it that day maybe I’d have realized that the world was gonna change again.  But, I swear that you never know these things when you’re smack dab in the middle of them.  You don’t have a god-damned clue.

"It was 3 months before Monterey Pop and it was in a freaking movie theater for god’s sake. Tradition had it that every year for Xmas and Easter, my friends and I would wait on line to get into the first Murray the K  rock and roll shows that were usually held at the Brooklyn Fox theater. Even with the Beatles having played at Shea Stadium a few years before, most rock and roll was still played in movie theaters or small concert halls.  At Murray’s shows there was always a large roster of well known and unknown acts who each got to do a few songs.  This was the Easter show and for the first time it was in NYC at the RKO 58th Street.  The headliner was Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels...couldn’t wait to see him.  Didn’t really pay attention to who else was on the program because it was all about Murray the K and being around people your age.  Back then without the internet, we had no place to hook up with other kids. So we pay our approximately $2.50-$3.50 to get in and sit in the third row of the center section. Now here’s where it gets hard.  How do you explain your reaction to something when you’ve never heard anything like it before in your life?  I try to do that constantly with Beatles stuff (that’s another story) and it never really works.  After a few acts, these 3 guys walk on and all we know about them is that it’s their first time in America.  Never heard of ‘em. There’s no single on the radio...AM radio that is.  It’s what’s ruling the airwaves at the time. Back then it was all about the singles and what was number one on the charts.  It’s TRL without the visual.  They plug in.  Then this sound comes out.  I mean SOUND...the kind that is deep and loud and it rips your head off.  We’re all thinking how the hell does this SOUND come out from just these 3 guys?  It is not humanly possible.  I look around for the 20 other back up musicians figuring that they are hiding somewhere off stage somewhere to help make this SOUND.  Nope.  It’s just them.  And that bass line is driving me right up the wall.  Well you can say all you want to about Led Zep.  I love them to death.  But it was at that first show of this run of Easter shows in 1967 that heavy metal was introduced in the USA.  Do I have to say their name?  Do I have to speak the words?  Cream. Holy fuck. Polite applause when they leave the stage with Murray’s encouragement after their allotted 2-3 songs. I didn’t even catch the name of the songs.  I can’t even guarantee you that it was “Sunshine of your Love.”  That song wouldn’t even be released 'til the following year but I think they played it that day.  Hell most of us kids had come to hear Wilson Pickett sing "Mustang Sally."  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love that song and probably was begging to hear it too.  But this was a whole different dimension right there on that stage.  At that moment the swinging 60’s ended for me and the psychedelic 60’s were born. And it had nothing to do with drugs or being high.  You didn’t have to be. But gets better...

"Next out...four guys.  At least I’d heard of them.  They’d had some airplay on AM radio.  So they plug in and another wave of LOUD SOUND blows our earlobes off.  I was starting to get used to this but still wasn’t sure how I felt about it.  Then another U.S. premiere on that stage at that moment in time. This guy takes his guitar and starts breaking it up by smashing it into the huge (for that time) amp. What the hell is wrong with this guy???  My brother had saved up for years to buy his old 1958 Guild hollow body electric guitar and this guy has the balls to smash his on purpose...we are stupified.  In the era of bands bowing and smiling these guys do neither.  The Who just walk off the stage when they’re done.  There are lots of boos to be heard in the audience.  I might have been one of those people.  The waste of that instrument went against everything our “depression era” parents had taught us.  As a jazz musician who treasured his instrument, my dad would have had a coronary.  Still on some other level, we secretly smiled.  This was the continuation of the rebellion that had started with Elvis and the Beatles.  Inwardly I think I was loving it.  Yeah...I remember Mitch Ryder coming out and us all crazy over his set and his great showmanship.  I still love his music to this day.  But I knew something had changed that day and there was no going back.  Within 3 months the Beatles released “Sgt. Pepper’s” and Mitch Ryder and early rock would have a hard time getting airplay on newly formed FM stations.  The very next day the first ever NY Be-In was held on Easter Sunday in Central Park.  When you came over the rise in Sheep Meadow, all you saw was kids and they were dressed exactly like me and wanted to listen to the same music I did. That day 1,000’s of kids found out for the first time that we were a life force to be reckoned with.  So we took it and ran.  The rest as they say...well, know what they say.  But I have to guarantee you one thing as you look at this program from that Murray the K show on March 25, 1967... it was the last time that the Hardly Worthit players ever got top billing over the Who and Cream. Guess they really were hardly worth it."

"Oh and one more thing...I saw a comment on one of the links you sent me asking about the Bloodless Revolutionaries, one of the acts at one of the Murray the K shows. This was one of the Murray the K groups that Murray tried to promote that got nowhere. It consisted of 2 girls and a guy, and I think Murray was hitting on Pattie Michaels, the stunning lead singer in the group.  That was probably the reason he put them on the show to begin with.  I don't think they ever recorded anything and they probably had no talent...but a pretty face went a long way with him so I assume that's why they got a spot on his show to begin with. Attached is a picture from the program of 2 of the 3 Bloodless Revolutionaries.  If I had been the 3rd girl I would have been pissed that I was the only one left out of the program. Guess she wasn't as cute as Pattie."

Thanks Dari!  Looking forward to your future contributions!

Belated R.I.P. to Bobby Robinson...see the Hound, Jeremiah's VNY, and Stupefaction for good coverage.  Also check out Stupefaction's post on Brooklyn's recently closed Zig Zag Records.


NYCDreamin said...

Great stuff, DC. So cool she got in contact with you and offered to share her memorabillia and memories...looking forward to more!

R. Phil said...

I was at that show! I lived on Long Island and a few of my friends told me about this band that destroyed their stuff at the end of their show. I wait to go. When the Cream came on I was in shock. You told the story beautifully. I have been looking for info about this show for years. I also went to the Be-In too, Thank you for the memories. One more thing. I wen to Murray the K's World every weekend it was open. It was great. I was so bummed when it closed.