- Rock 14,174,159
- Electronic 13,674,978
- Pop 6,586,393
- Funk / Soul 4,229,633
- Jazz 2,950,126
- House 3,295,769
- Pop Rock 3,190,841
- Disco 2,320,772
- Synth-pop 2,138,103
- Soul 1,715,042
|(Theme From) The Monkees||2:20|
|I Wanna Be Free||2:24|
|Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day||2:33|
|Papa Jean's Blues||1:55|
|Take A Giant Step||2:32|
|Last Train To Clarksville||2:40|
|This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day||2:08|
|Let's Dance On||2:30|
|I'll Be True To You||2:48|
|Sweet Young Thing||1:54|
|Gonna Buy Me A Dog||2:38|
|COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||Colgems||COM-101||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (Cass, Album)||Colgems||COM-101||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||Colgems||COS-101||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|430.950||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||430.950||France||1966||Sell This Version|
|SIV 29||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||SIV 29||Italy||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA||COS-101||Australia||1966||Sell This Version|
|RD.7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||RD.7844||UK||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||COS-101||Canada||1966||Sell This Version|
|CGL-28001||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||Colgems||CGL-28001||Brazil||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||COS-101||Germany||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, M/Print)||Colgems||COS-101||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|RD-7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||RD-7844||UK||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101, COM 101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor, RCA Victor||COM-101, COM 101||Canada||1966||Sell This Version|
|RPL-3405||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||RPL-3405||New Zealand||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||Colgems||COM-101||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM 101, COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor, Colgems||COM 101, COM-101||Canada||1966||Sell This Version|
|RD-7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||RD-7844||UK||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA||COM-101||Australia||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||COM-101||Uruguay||1966||Sell This Version|
|MIL-4025||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||MIL-4025||Mexico||1966||Sell This Version|
|LPV-7494||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||LPV-7494||Venezuela||1966||Sell This Version|
|RD-7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||RD-7844||UK||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101, COM-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono, RE)||Colgems, Colgems||COM-101, COM-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101, COM-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono, RP)||Colgems, Colgems||COM-101, COM-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101, COM-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono, RP)||Colgems, Colgems||COM-101, COM-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono, RP)||Colgems||COM-101||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101, COM-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono, RP, MGM)||Colgems, Colgems||COM-101, COM-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COM-101, COM-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono, RP, Pap)||Colgems, Colgems||COM-101, COM-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101, COS-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, RP)||Colgems, Colgems||COS-101, COS-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|COS-101, COS-101 RE||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, RP, Roc)||Colgems, Colgems||COS-101, COS-101 RE||US||1966||Sell This Version|
|FL-1411||The Monkees||Meet The Monkees (LP, Album, Unofficial, Ora)||First Record||FL-1411||Taiwan||1967||Sell This Version|
|LPM 10345||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||LPM 10345||Spain||1967||Sell This Version|
|SHP-5573||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||Victor||SHP-5573||Japan||1967||Sell This Version|
|SF 7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album)||RCA Victor||SF 7844||UK||1967||Sell This Version|
|COS 101.1 C, DS 017||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Club)||RCA Victor, Boek En Plaat||COS 101.1 C, DS 017||Netherlands||1967||Sell This Version|
|RD-7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||RD-7844||UK||1967||Sell This Version|
|RD-7844||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||RD-7844||UK||1967||Sell This Version|
|COM 101||The Monkees||The Monkees (LP, Album, Mono)||RCA Victor||COM 101||Turkey||1967|
“…and the rest was.....
.......Rock n’ Roll…...”
Crystal Books, Beverly Hills
This Crystal Book contains the complete text of the original
Hardcover Edition. It has been completely reset in a typeface
Designed for easy reading and was printed from new film.
…and the rest was
.......Rock n’ Roll…
A Crystal Book / published by arrangement with Jaeger
Enterprises and Crystal Publishers
2013, 2014 and updated 2015
Crystal edition published 2015
All rights reserved
Copyright 1955-2015 by Nate Jaeger.
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by
Photocopy or any other means, without permission.
For information address: Crystal Publishers Beverly Hills,
No author has ever written a book totally alone-somewhere along the line, he had assistance. In most cases, that assistance has been great. This book is no exception.
First, I thank all the pimps, pushers, prostitutes, drug addicts and Cops I ever had the pleasure of running into as a child. The Doctors I never saw and the Hospitals I never had the chance to enter. I would also like to thank all of the Priests who never knew I existed, but most of all The Juilliard School of Music that resuscitated a young child and saved his life…just because…
[Included with this book are 8 Compact Discs containing over 200 + Musical Performances, the original 1956 Gold Albums “First Kiss” and “Last Kiss” and several Videos by Nate Jaeger from the earliest year 1955 through the present day 2015? Most are live performances never before released. They represent historical Blues, Country, Rock n’ Roll and Rock music from the Thirteen Disk Boxed Edition “The Roots of Rock n’ Roll”.]
1. Body Bag, Please
2. Classical Only
3. Love At First Sight
4. Graduation & Jail Time
5. The Sunny Years
6. Welcome To Hollyweird
7. Next Stop Saigon
8. Cops And Rockers
9. Another Brass Ring
10. A New Era
11. The Fast Lane
12. Last Chance
13. The Jaeger School and Fade To Black
* Throughout this Book many people are mentioned who were enormous “Music Stars” but who have been forgotten by the young people of today, so we explain who they are when we mention them.
Body Bag, Please
ONCE UPON A TIME...
...there was the night I was born; the thunder shook the tenement building, rain poured like lava over a pitch black room. Alone, no doors, no windows, freezing cold, a second failed abortion and I still crawled out alive.…you couldn’t kill me, you could only set me free…Welcome to Hell's Kitchen 1940.…Welcome to the Jungle.
"Hell's Kitchen" New York, generally refers to the area from 34th to 57th street and was completely forgotten by the world. As a result, most of the buildings are older, dilapidated, walk-ups without running water. Hell’s Kitchen was a particularly infamous tenement district populated by the “dirt poor“, prostitutes and assorted criminals that congregated at 39th Street and 10th Avenue (my home). "Hell's Kitchen” was "probably the humanly lowest, crime ridden and filthiest area in the U.S., let alone the City of New York." At the turn of the century, the neighborhood was controlled by professional as well as aspiring youth gangs, including the violent Gopher Gang led by the notorious Owney Madden. The youth gangs were: White Kids, The White Shoe Boys, Black Kids, The Black Barts and the Puerto Rican Kids, The Del Rio’s Warlords.
The violence escalated during the 1920s, as Prohibition was implemented. The many warehouses in the district served as ideal breweries for the rum runners who controlled the illicit liquor trade. They made Mama Beasley rich. Gradually the earlier gangs such as the Hell's Kitchen Gang were transformed into organized crime entities around the same time that Owney Madden, (Owney "The Killer" Madden (December 18, 1891–April 24, 1965) was a leading underworld figure in Manhattan, most notable for his involvement in organized crime during Prohibition. He also ran the famous Stork Club, Cotton Club, and the 1953 Manhattan Escort Service and was a leading boxing promoter in the 1930s.
Madden gained the nickname "the Killer" after gunning down an Italian gang member in the streets, after which he shouted, "Owney Madden, Hell’s Kitchen" Despite the public nature of the murder, no witnesses came forward linking Madden to the crime. By 1910, at age 18, Madden had become a prominent member of the Gophers and was suspected in the deaths of five rival gang members. Owney was my mother's boyfriend from 1939-1945) he became one of the most powerful mobsters in New York. People who knew about my relationship with him made a wide berth around me. He once bought me a toy cowboy pistol with orange grips.
During the 1950s, immigrants, notably Puerto Ricans, moved into the neighborhood in large numbers. The conflict between the White trash, Irish, Blacks, Italians, and the Puerto Ricans was highlighted in the movie “West Side Story”. The movie was filmed at 65th Street and 69th Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenue, north of Hell's Kitchen. In 1959, an aborted rumble between rival Irish and Puerto Rican gangs led to the notorious "Capeman" murders in which two innocent teenagers were killed. By 1965, Hell's Kitchen was the home base of the Westies, a very violent Irish American crew aligned with the Gambino crime family. I ran numbers for John Gotti’s father and John Gotti was my best friend. The senior Gotti was a generous but violent man, who liked me as a son and feared Owney. He told me his family would always respond to my needs. When “Honor among thieves doesn’t work” violence ends the competition”. The rule of “The Jungle” produced me and John Gotti Jr.
In 1940 the Depression was just ending, World War Two was beginning in Europe, service men were everywhere and pretty young women worked the streets and tenement rooms with fervor to earn money, most of it for the pimp, some for drugs and the rest for milk and cereal for their bastard kids. Lucky ones died in the back alley from coat hangers and it was over quick. The kids that survived grew up angry, fearing the "Morgue Man". He was the precursor to the Coroner’s van and the black body bag. Every kid grows up going through the Boggy Man phase of childhood, the result of a vivid imagination. In Hell's Kitchen he was real and a lot of kids where around one day and gone the next, forever. When you saw a friend, instead of a “Hello” you’d ask "How you feeling" and you would listen to see if they had a cough before you played or got close. Kids in my building, with bad coughs, could be heard day and night until at some point, they just disappeared. Usually hauled out by the "Morgue Man". The Boggy Man in my neighborhood, folks, was the real deal.
There were only three ways out of Hell's Kitchen, a body bag, Riker's Island for life or the prize fighting ring. The latter was reserved for the really tough kids, mostly Hispanic and Black who stayed away from the heroin needle and learned to box at the dilapidated gym down the street. If they worked hard and avoided criminal acts they had a chance to survive another day. A chance to have their brains beat out at five dollars a match on Friday and Saturday nights. So there I was in the middle of Hell‘s Kitchen, bottom of the barrel, a white trash with a German last name in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. It didn't help to have an Escort Service woman for a mother and an older sister preparing for the same illustrious career.
Illnesses were handled without doctors, hospitals or pharmaceuticals and you got well by toughening it out. Nobody held your hand or kissed your forehead for comfort. No one said they loved you. They were too busy working the streets or raising hell in the rooms next door till morning. When you weren't running numbers for the Italians in the bar down the street, stealing food or other necessities, you went to public school. Welfare kids didn't get regular school books, just recess and colorful magazines. The caveat was "That'll keep them busy for now". School was interesting at best, you sat down and listened to how "If you applied yourself for twelve years with a primary education" you could go to college and enter into the world as a contributing member of society. Yea, if you jumped over winos, dead junkies and pools of vomit in tenement hallways and out ran gangs that took your lunch money, coat and shoes you might even get an athletic scholarship or signed by the NFL.
The angels of mercy were always out to save us with words, but nobody ever took action to improve our way of life. Each day the school got paid for every child who answered up for roll call. After roll call their job was done. If you were lucky you could read, write and do arithmetic at the end of twelve years. Nobody really survived in school for twelve years in Hell's Kitchen. Most were in Little Riker's, the Military Service or dead by then. There were very few youthful suicides. How do you jump off the basement? So we always gave outsiders a smile when they spoke about the future waiting for us in the real world. If you were lucky some poor sap of a temporary teacher would come in with a mission to save you, then you actually learned something in class.
Otherwise, your real goal was to acquire a switchblade knife and become a made man in The White Shoe Boys, Del Rio's War Lords or the Black Barts. Until then you had to watch the streets you traversed doing your daily business. You learned to use the shadows and conceal yourself going from place to place. Smart kids knew where every emergency exit was, “down an alley“. These skills would become invaluable to me as a Marine Corp. Scout Sniper in Viet Nam years later. You never wasted a second feeling sorry for yourself or dropping a tear for anyone or anything. When someone left with the morgue man it meant more food, more space, less competition and more room for advancement in the future. You lived for the day, yourself and trusted no one. Nothing you heard and ten percent of what you saw was reality. The rule, “Never give a sucker an even break”. No next month, next week or even a tomorrow. There was just today when the sun came up. If you were smart you were on the street long before that occurred. Every minute was spent trying to manipulate the system. Making a phone call was easy. You used a bobby pin, straightened it out, and placed it in the second row of holes on the receiver of a pay phone. The other end was touched against the money box key hole. When it shorted out with a spark you got a dial tone and a free call.
The good money was in the newspaper business. All that was required was a Newspaper Boy’s Delivery Sack and a bucks worth of nickels. Now you were self-employed with no overhead. You rode the bus, changing routes every day, getting off every three or four blocks. Drop a nickel in the coin box of the newspaper rack, open it, take five papers, and put them in your bag, hop back on the bus and ride down to Wall Street. The papers were gone in twenty minutes and you did the same thing heading back to school. Halfway, you got off the bus and sold the papers in the garment district. Then back on the bus with an initial cash out lay of $.40 and gross profit of $6.00, net $5.60 a day. In 1948 $5.60 a day was a small fortune for an eight year old kid. Welfare paid $26.00 a month for a family of three. Riding the Public Transit was lucrative.
Thirsty! You just went to the grocery store, back to the Coke Cola Machine Box and instead of putting in a nickel and dragging the bottle down the grate to the drop slot; you carefully "Popped" the cap, stuck your straw in, drank up, and replaced the cap carefully. Self-discipline over your intake meant success. In the Grocery Market you only took a third of a bag of chips, placing the bag at the back when finished. One piece of bread from the back of the bread bag and two finger scoops of peanut butter from the peanut butter jar. Then you made sure to smooth it out before putting the lid back on. Every day or so you would move the items you pilfered, to the back of the stack. Many times they were disposed of, due to age, before your theft was discovered. What we called “Backstopping”.
Control your greed and success was yours at all times and under all circumstances. You always paid for your desert, a candy bar, on your way out of the Mom and Pop Grocery Store. What kid would steal food and pay for his candy? There were a lot of those stores in Hell's Kitchen. When you move quick, “Backstop” and cover your tracks, you could finish the day with a full stomach and a pocket full of cash. Next Saturday at the movies you would be set to buy a ticket, popcorn and candy. You paid for the movie unless someone, already inside, opened the fire door quickly so you could slide in for free. I called that a “Half Price Movie” You paid $.10 for that.
If you’re big enough and tough enough, you form a gang. Now a gang can be a bunch of kids making noise and defacing personal property or it can be a well-trained and directed group of entrepreneurs. A good gang leader trains and supervises his “Crew”. He plans every move the gang makes and he enforces discipline. Setting up the mark is the first step. You select a store that you will have a legitimate business interaction with such as shopping for the Hookers in your tenement. Taking their cash to the selected store you place one “Spotter” across the street. Three crew are placed on each side of the store remaining out of sight. We call those “Passers”. One “Scout” would go into the store and make selections noting where the merchandise was located, return outside and advise the “Mover”. Noon time meant that most of the sales people would be out to lunch leaving two or three people to cover the floor of the store. In goes the “Distractions”, one for each salesperson. The “Mover” goes in and brings the selected merchandise slowly to the front of the store and places it. The “Handoff” goes in and the “Spotter” signals the “Pickups” to alternate crossing in front of the store. The “Handoff” passes the merchandise to the “Pickups” and they leave the area. The “Distractions” make their legitimate purchases for the Hookers and leave the store. Everyone meets up and 50% goes into our “Hold” and the rest is divided up amongst the gang members. Now to see if the rest of the day turns out alright. Today was a good one if you made it home in one piece and your mother's customer didn't tip a few to many, run out of smokes and punish you for their oversight. You learned to eat out and to amuse yourself in your area of the 400 sq. ft. you occupied with other family members and the visiting "Uncle" from time to time. I would always keep a few pints of liquor and several packs of cigarettes stashed in an old military trunk. Their possession came from some real savvy petty theft at the local liquor stores down the street from the tenement.
If a John got unruly and it looked like I would get hit, I would break out the peace gifts and get through the night until he passed out or left. My fondest memory was of a guy who, while waiting for service, picked up my silver cowboy pistol with the orange grips and clicked it repeatedly until he broke it. He smiled at me and threw it across the room. Human Beings, you gotta really love them. This is the way it went for most of the 1940’s until the glorious end of the war. After that, most nights, everybody was drinking and "Funning" until early in the morning, especially on the weekends. Sailors, Marines and Soldiers were everywhere, still coming home after cleaning up Europe and waiting for a discharge. Business was now booming for the newly formed "Manhattan Escort Service" in uptown. The pretty young girls from Hell's Kitchen got lots of work, plenty of penicillin and many new offspring. It was a real boom time and I was free to roam about the picturesque neighborhood at all hours. I had a gang and was big and tough enough, armed with a switchblade knife, that I knew how to use, to survive.
My favorite hangout was on the second step of Mama Beasley's Roadhouse down on the docks. I took a picture of the place with a small Kodak Box Camera that just jumped into my newspaper bag one day on my way up town. It is one of my favorite photos in my life. With the camera you would shoot snapshots, mail the camera to Kodak and they would send you back your photos with a new cardboard box camera. Years later I used the photo of Mama’s place for a Blues Album Jacket. Black musicians from all over Chicago and the South would gather there. People who would later achieve great fame with the ever popular boogie style blues sound which became Rock n’ Roll. Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Sunny Boy Williamson, Jimmy Reed, Ike Turner, Crudup and Little Richard just to name a few.
I had been listening to the radio, mostly “Race Stations”, since I acquired my radio under the long standing and unwritten rule "If it's not nailed down, it‘s yours". I attached the antennae to the tenement’s roll out metal frame window and suddenly I could hear those stations playing Howling Wolf, Sunny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon, Little Richard and best of all Jimmy Reed. Jimmy Reed was my favorite and I fell in love with the instrument he used to create his sound, the guitar. Mama Beasley would tell me who was going to be in New York and playing at her club each week. Finally one day she said Jimmy Reed would be playing on a Saturday night and I was invited. I got down to the docks at 10:00 p.m. and sat on my step looking in through the screened door. The music was loud and blaring and had a beat that was sexual in nature. The women wore tight blouses and skirts. They moved in the most provocative ways in front of their male dance partners. The booze flowed and every once in a while someone would come flying out the door with the warning from the bouncers to "Straighten up and fly right" or don't come back. It was very cold so Mama Beasley would bring me a couple of "Bourbon Shooters" and several cigarettes to keep me warm.
Winter in New York's Hell's Kitchen was a bit sobering. I enjoyed the relaxed feeling that the straight bourbon gave me on an empty stomach and the way it intensified the music's rhythm. That would come back to haunt me later in life. I quickly learned to love the blues and set out to use this fabulous music to get out of Hell's Kitchen. My childish plan. All I needed was a guitar and a little practice. I would become a STAR!
Night after night I would sit until just before 2 a.m. when the beat cop would come to close Mama down and get paid. I would slide out and head home only to get up at 6 a.m. to start my private Newspaper Enterprise on my way to school. The door man at Mama's, Mr. Pops, was a pretty good blues guitar picker when he wasn't loaded on "Horse". He showed me how to play the open "E" chords and taught me how to apply the blues rhythm to my strums. Then came individual notes between chords that gave the song some snap and let you turn it around to start all over again. It took months to learn because I could only practice when Pops wasn't loaded and could loan me the guitar. Finally, he constructed for me a fake guitar out of a flat piece of wood attached to a cigar box. He glued down some newspaper bailing wire, six strands, and the length of the flat stick and carved and painted the notes for each string at each fret. He then taught me scales, chord positions and fingerings that I would practice without sound.
When I had memorized them he would let me play them on his guitar. I started getting good and I mean “Real” good. When I got the chance to use his guitar I would play every note over and over, up and down the neck until I could hum each note as I played the Cigar Box Special. Soon I didn't need to wait until he sobered up to play songs. I could vocally create the sound for every note on the neck myself. That's the way I did it every day and night for two years. I was getting out of Hell’s Kitchen. I would carry that fake guitar everywhere while practicing singing, scales, notes and chords. Even going to and from school each day. When I needed an audience, I serenaded the bus patrons. It must have looked like I was a "Nut Case" to passengers until one hot summer day, a woman at the bus stop approached me and asked where I learned to play and sing. I told her I taught myself. That wasn't the actual truth, but close enough for Government Work.
After we met a few times she asked to talk to my mother, which was a ludicrous idea in my mind, about doing something with my alleged talent. We strolled back to my cold water walk up tenement and climbed the six flights to our room. My mother had just concluded a business arrangement and her customer was leaving. She demanded to know, from the woman, what I had done and how much it would cost to fix it. The lady explained that she worked at a special school where she felt I could benefit educationally. My mother asked if it was free because “she wasn't paying for nothin’“. The lady said that the schooling would include a regular education with musical training. The lady said she felt I was talented but would have to be interviewed and tested by others at the school. If I was accepted, the schooling and training would be free on a Poverty Grant from wealthy benefactors. Meals and my “open” bus pass would be included. My mother said she didn't care as long as she didn't get “a bill for anything“. So now I was going to get a strange break in life. I was going to be a "Poverty Grant" child at some place called "The Juilliard School of Music" in uptown. Sounded good, especially the free meals part, I was always hungry. What she saw in me I wasn’t fully aware of until years later on stage, in front of people listening to me perform and apparently liking it. Anyway, it was still a long road ahead, but at least I wouldn't be ducking and dodging to and from school every day. The bus stopped right on the corner of my tenement building, so it was a short walk and very convenient. It made my newspaper enterprise more lucrative. Just imagine a free bus pass, good on any Bus, at any time, day or night without "On and Off" restrictions. The most important point was I had a legitimate reason for being on the buses. I was special. I was a student at Juilliard School of Music, slick.
All of the stops along the way were rich with Newspaper Racks. I could pitch the morning paper on the way to school and snag the evening news on the way home. Neither paper company would miss getting short sheeted four times a week. Besides even adults steal. Kind of a public limo ride to and from school, a built in small business and three squares a day. All I had to do was play a guitar, which I loved doing anyway, and a real one to boot. Now I would see if the local "capo" would let me "Run Numbers" on the weekend. That would bring in some additional money each week to pay my way in the tenement. I could save up for a real guitar, one of those new "Electric Telecasters (Officially Broadcaster) like Jimmy had last time I heard him at Mama's place. Things were looking up in the summer of 1949 and I was ready to move on.
Well, what a surprise my first day at Juilliard (The Juilliard School), now located at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, is a performing arts conservatory. It is informally identified as simply "Juilliard," and trains about 800 undergraduate and graduate students in dance, drama, and music. In 2007, the school received 2,311 applications for admission, of which (149 were admitted for a 6.45% acceptance rate.) I got to Claremont Avenue in Morningside Heights an hour early. Just wanted to see which gangs were in control of the area, but I couldn't see anyone that remotely looked like a gang member. Kids showed up in Private Cars or Limousines and the boys were dressed like squares, with checkered shirts, khaki colored pants belted almost up to their necks and short Crew Cut hairdos. The girls had Ponytails and wore long Circle Skirts, the forerunner of those dresses with the dopey looking poodles sewn on the front in the mid-fifties. They carried neatly folded sweaters over their left forearms and had penny loafers with lucky pennies in the shoe bands. They all chattered about Frank Sinatra and Al Martino and how groovy this or that song sounded.
One girl was bragging about the new television her family had just purchased. I had only seen a TV, once, in a store window uptown. The main thing I noticed was how clean their appearance was compared to mine. I realized slowly their attention was drawn to me the longer I stood on the corner in front of the school. I was tall and skinny for nine years of age, with long dark hair combed into a pompadour style in front and a perfect Duck’s Ass style in the back. My ensemble consisted of a black beat up leather jacket, a white t-shirt and pegged black Levi's that could stand in the corner of a room by themselves, capped off with a pair of old black dress shoes. Want new shoes? Just cut out cardboard to fit in the shoes and cover the holes coming through the worn out soles. My fingernails were dirty and my general appearance was quite rough. Finally one of the teachers came out to muster everyone inside. He stopped a passing beat cop who then came over to me and said “Scram or else”. Saved by the bell when my benefactor came out and told the cop I was with her. The auditorium was large and the Head Master gave a welcome speech as I stood in the shadow of one of the pillars in the back. Each kid was asked to stand and introduce themselves and tell something interesting about their lives and their future goals at the school. I didn't have to worry about doing that because I was well hidden behind the pillar. Later my benefactor, Alice, told me to follow her to a large room where I was introduced to the Head Master Mr. William Shuman and an old man who was seated behind the longest piano I had ever seen. Around the room were scores of stringed instruments from guitars to violins to stand up basses. They were all in rows like little soldiers and on their stands were descriptions for each.
The man’s name was Fritz and he was a dead ringer for a photo of Albert Einstein I had seen in Sunday's paper. I was introduced to him as Nathanial Jaeger and he took notice of my last name. He decided that I would be called "Nate" for short as he had an uncle named "Nathanial" he despised. He was unhappy with my last name as it was German and the Germans were not popular in America in 1949, or anywhere else. Nathanial was apparently a significant Jewish name so I became Nate Jaeger there and then forever. He told me to go to the back of the room and turn around and face the wall. He played one note after another for me to sing. When I told him what each note was alphabetically he seemed amazed. It was simple for me because it was just another form of math. I simply could, in my mind’s eye, see every note; it's placement in the scheme of things and could hear it in my head. I told him that the last note was indeed off pitch on his piano. Apparently he couldn't hear it. He asked if he could see my fake guitar and wanted to know what it was I did with it. I told him that I practiced all the chords, scales and individual notes on the neck and that I could hear them in my head as I played. Fritz told me to pick out a guitar that I liked and which felt comfortable and bring it over to the chair next to him. I surveyed all of the guitars and picked out the best one, a near new Martin Acoustic. I sat down and he instructed me to repeat the strings of notes he played for me. Then he played chords and I followed suit. The Martin Guitar, I picked, was amazing. The action was very low, someone had shaved the bridge and the metal frets so the strings were real close to the neck and you could glide from chord to chord and note to note real fast. What an amazing guitar and it fit my gangly body perfect. Fritz told me he was going to play Paganini, specifically his Caprice # 24, and he wanted to see how many measures I could remember and follow. Who was Paganini, oops, I'm in trouble now? I then realized that I was able to repeat every note he played and could play the whole string back when he finished without error. He realized it too and told Alice I should begin classes immediately, but I was to be put in the advanced section, whatever that meant?
His final request was that I play some selections of music that I liked. I picked up the Martin and checked it’s tuning. He said it was now my assigned school instrument. I began with "Don't Start Me Talking" in the key of "F" followed by "Hoochy Coochy Man" in "G" and for my delightful finally I did my version of ‘Choo Choo Boogie” from the new music called Rock n' Roll. He looked at me and said "Never Again, Not Here". School consisted of classes in Theory (first year): Basic introduction to note reading, key signatures, scales, rhythm, and time signatures. Independent research culminating in oral presentation in the second semester. Music Workshop (first year): Uses theory, composition, and improvisation in an experiential way to approach musical performance. Musical challenges such as: What turns sound into music? How are ideas of unison, dialogue, and obstinate used to create music? Musical examples through a broad spectrum of genres illustrate the artistic application of these same principles. Theory (second year): Review of first year, especially circle of fifths and major and minor scales. Continued rhythm work. Introduction to intervals, dictation, and harmony. Music as Art (second year): Provides an historical context for Western classical music. Students learn about music through various points in history, from the pre-historic era to the dawning of the 20th century. Performance Workshop (both years): Basic concert etiquette for the performer and audience member is taught through the use of in-class performances. Issues discussed include practice, constructive criticism, combating performance anxiety, careers in music, and proper performance attire and preparation. An informal discussion format is used. Ear Training (PATHS): Melodic and rhythmic dictation, and solfège (ear-training). Introduction to chord structure and chord progressions. Piano Skills (PATHS): Provides working knowledge of the keyboard. Introduction to harmony, applied theory, transposition, sight-reading, improvisation, and piano ensemble skills. Provides working knowledge of the piano for non-majors. PATHS Seminar: Provides students with a more intense and focused performance setting. Students perform in class, and prepare two outreach concerts per year. Topics discussed include orchestral etiquette, leadership, and issues in the arts. Chamber Music (PATHS): All students are required to play each week in chamber music class. Small ensembles of mixed woodwinds, brass, strings, and piano. Math, English, Reading, Writing, History, and Geography were taught separately. What was nice was that each class had a maximum of 15 students and you could ask all the questions you wanted and the teacher would repeat things over as many times as you needed until you got the concept. There was no ridicule or chastising you for mistakes only "That a boys" when you finally got it right. No smacking you in the back of the head if you got your numbers crooked on the blackboard and most of all smiling teachers at all times. I ended up staying at the school through evening meal and until midnight in the rehearsal studio playing my lessons over and over until they were up to speed and perfect. Then a little Rock n’ Roll. I usually got home at 1 a.m., crashed and got up early spending as little time in the tenement as possible.
Eventually they gave me a part time job at the school as a janitor. The training I got from Manny Mendez, the Head Janitor, would really come in handy years later when I hit Memphis, hungry, homeless and on the run from the Juvenile Authorities in Harlem. They paid me $2.50 a week to clean the classrooms on the first level, the auditorium and bathrooms. That made it possible to keep my two changes of clothes in a locker and put them in the school laundry every other day for cleaning. I was able to shower every day after Physical Education and I bought a finger nail clipper and used it daily to increase my finger pressure on the guitar strings not to mention the cleanliness issue. I still looked like a thug and no student ever looked me in the eye, spoke to me, or sat next to me in class. I started wearing my janitor overalls to class each day and that seemed to keep everyone at ease, like I wasn't intruding anymore. I looked like staff and I looked clean, but the hairdo stayed. That's what made me, silently, part of the music that I could only play when everyone left the school and I was alone with access to acres of instruments. Interestingly enough I taught myself to play piano long before the school assigned me a piano teacher. The violin had to wait until I was accomplished on my first two instruments. One of the requirements for graduation, up the line, was the ability to read, write, transpose on the fly and score your original compositions. It was necessary for you to play, at a professional level, at least three different instruments. This included voice if you chose that to graduate. It was a given that you passed your studies in all academic areas as well and concurrently with the musical schooling.
As time passed I began to present myself at recitals. I attempted to hold back in my presentations so that I didn't become the star of the school and antagonize the parents and other students. It was difficult because I was putting in hundreds of hours of after school practice and many times slept in the laundry room all night so I could get back to the music first thing in the morning. I meticulously cleaned the Head Master's Office, staff's offices and made the morning coffee. This kept me in good stead with all of the teachers. Showering, getting dressed and ready for class early put me at the front of the breakfast line and entitled me to the best hot food. I was really starting to grow and gain some needed weight. I was also becoming civilized. One of the great side benefits of my traveling to and from the tenements looking like a newspaper boy was my ability to get off the bus on Friday nights at The Roxy Theatre in New York City. It was a 5,920 seat movie theater at 153 West 50th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. It opened on March 11, 1927 with the silent film “The Love of Sunya“, produced by and starring Gloria Swanson. The huge movie palace was a leading Broadway film showcase through the 1950s and was also noted for its lavish stage shows. It closed and was demolished in 1960. I would bring a pint of Jack Daniels to the side stage door where Mr. Tyrone James would be sitting and leaning back on his metal chair. I paid my admission with a pint and a paper and went into the back stage area and handed out free evening newspapers to the people who looked like they were in charge. Then I would watch the stars go out and perform. One night, in 1953 Tony Martin headlined and I watched him with his wife Cyd Charisse get ready to go on stage. He came up alongside of me, looked down at me and said “How are you young man”? “I said fine, I’m going to be a performer like you someday”. “He looked at me and said “Well when you do, come and see me”. Now I took him serious and on March 19, 2009 at the Catalina Jazz Club I was sitting at stage side when he came in to do his show. He was as dynamic at 96 years old as he was in 1953. I came to see him like he asked me too. I saw many stars perform from behind that curtain including Edith Piaf. I will never forget this tiny woman who stood next to me behind the curtain. I didn’t know who she was but when this little woman went out and started to sing the audience went to their feet and stood clapping for ten minutes. She sang “La Vie En Rose” to another standing ovation. She closed the show with the French National Anthem and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Finally, the last show I ever saw and the one that showed me the life long road to entertaining, the road I followed because of David Whitfield and the song “Cara Mia” that he sang that night. I wanted that kind of attention someday. I wanted to sing like him, but of course no human will ever do that again. Going home and being around the tenements was becoming harder every day until something marvelous happened. A beautiful girl moved into the tenement room one floor below me. It looked like 1953 was going to be a great year for a lot of reasons.
Love at First Sight
There she was with her mother, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I watched her climb the steps to the fifth floor and offered to help them carry their bags up. The apartment they rented was larger than our space and it had divided rooms, with real walls and carpets on the floor. It had its own bathroom with larger windows facing the street. The girl had a bit of a superiority attitude and that's because her mother worked for the Manhattan Escort Service where the big money earners worked. I later learned that she no longer did escorts but was instead put in charge of the girls living in our tenement. She was given the best set of rooms in the building with hot and cold running water. The company had apparently grown to the point that they needed to supervise the girls directly at the point of service. Anyway, her daughter Desirae was a dream come true and the same age as me, 13. She was very smart and made me chase after her whenever I saw her. I know she liked me because I would catch her taking sneak peeks at me when I played and sang on the tenement front stoop.
I had to start making decisions about her and how much extra time I spent at school and whether I should come home from school each day early instead of staying all night. The decision was simple, her. I also needed to work on my paper business to replenish my cash. I started coming home each night and began teaching her to play guitar and sing. Johnny Ray (John Alvin Ray (January 10, 1927 – February 24, 1990) was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Popular for most of the 1950s, Ray has been cited by critics as a major precursor of what would become rock and roll, for his jazz and blues-influenced music and his animated stage persona. (He was totally deaf.) He was the big heart throb by then and I bought her his records. He was going to play at the Paramount Theater in a couple of weeks and I just had to make some extra money so that I could take her there first class. So I went down to "Corky's", the local corner bar where the well-dressed Italians hung out. There were always two big guys standing out front checking everyone who went in to see the "Capo". When I walked up, there was Anthony, my friend, waiting to take me in and vouch for me to the Capo. So now I could get a job selling numbers in my neighborhood. He was a large, well dressed, diamond stud wearing Italian man with gruff manners and a dead mean stare in his eyes. Anthony vouched that I was dependable and had deep connections in the neighborhood as well as connections with Mama Beasley's customers. They were plentiful and loved to gamble. Italians and Blacks didn't get along well and blacks wouldn't buy "oxygen on sale" from them. So I was a shoe in for that market and I was now playing along with Mama's musicians with the moniker of "The Golden Boy".
The Numbers Game was the first real Lottery in America, I mean you really won good pay outs and frequently. My sales were great, both with my neighborhood call girls, their clients and the black population in the neighborhood. I would use my trusty "over the shoulder” newspaper bag and a phony receipt book to go from door to door in the neighborhood pretending to collect on a nonexistent paper route. I would collect money and give the customer their tab and number for the day. If they won I would bring back their winnings in an envelope the next day. Each week I would turn in my spent number’s sheets and return the net profits less pay outs, directly to the Capo. He in turn would pay me 20% of the profits. I was getting closer to that new guitar and the Paramount Theater tickets.
Desirae and I were now an item and were holding hands everywhere we went. I bought myself a cool pink and black speckled sport coat, a black silk shirt, black pegged pants, white bucks and a silver cross necklace for the Johnny Ray Show. I surprised Desirae with a sweater, blouse, skirt and penny loafers for the show. I wanted her to look like the uptown girls that attended my school. She looked great, we looked wonderful together and when I took her to a dance at my school everyone immediately liked her and seemed to accept me now too. I was on a roll. We would go down to Mama Beasley's every Friday and Saturday night and sit on the front steps while I played along with the musicians appearing at the roadhouse inside. Every once in a while they would move outside where "The Kid" could really whale with them and not have the beat cop charge Mama with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Those were some memorable jam sessions and I knew I had arrived when some of the pros would later ask me "How I did that" on the guitar. What I needed to do was find some kids my age that could form a band with me. Rock n' Roll was moving off of the black underground radio stations and becoming prominent with white radio stations. White singers were singing it and that left the music sorely deficient. White guys like Pat Boone had no rhythm. If a white guy could sing and play black Rhythm and Blues with a back beat like a black artist, then you might have a potential Rock n' Roll Star in the making. At the moment, being with Desirae and playing music on my own was fine.
One more year and I would graduate high school at fifteen. Still too young to do anything with my knowledge and ever advancing skills. There had to be something, somewhere for me after all of this work. We didn't have telephones in the individual tenement rooms and the hall phone was strictly for addicts to score with their suppliers. You didn't disturb them when they were placing their orders. Desirae's mother had a phone but that was for communication with the agency only, so we had to devise a way to talk to each other at will, day or night. One of the kids at school was an Eagle Scout and he showed me how to cut a milk carton in half, wax a twenty foot string with a melted candle, punch a hole in the bottom of each half and connect the string to both via a knot in the center of the bottom of each carton half. You step back, pull the string taught and take turns talking and listening by saying "Over" so the next person can answer or talk. I would slowly lower Desirae’s half carton down to her room window each night and we would talk for hours. Sometimes I would sing some of the songs I wrote until the neighbor woman would bang on the wall with a warning that I was "killing her customer’s mood". These were the times I always remembered when things got real hard and life was just a series of one night shows, crazy driving all night, noisy fans, cheap motels and brown bag room service. I missed those cold nights when we had lots in common and dreams yet to be realized. We would talk about buying a home with grass and a fence. Maybe have children born away from Hell's Kitchen. Big Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners with friends all around singing carols like in the movies. At night we would keep asking the same question after just a few minutes of idle chatter "Do You Love Me"? The answer was always the same "Yes" and the thought was always the same, "We got to get out of here if it's the last thing we ever do".
Graduation& Jail Time
Graduation was just days away when I attempted to deliver my weekend numbers money to the Capo's bar. While making my delivery the place got raided and we all ended up at the Police Precinct. We were charged with various misdemeanors including me being charged as a "Wayward" with no viable supervision or means of support. I didn't dare tell them that I had a mother and what her occupation entailed. So there I sat in Little Rikers awaiting a Juvenile Hearing. I was set for trial and allowed, under police supervision, to attend my graduation at Juilliard School.
Graduation consisted of playing one classical piece on three instruments or two instruments and a vocal rendition of choice. When you stepped up on stage you were told which musical keys were required for each piece. You were thrilled if the keys you rehearsed were the assigned ones. Previous to your final exam you were allowed 8 hours to prepare, and I was lucky enough to have rehearsed long hours before I was arrested. So I just stepped up on stage with a violin and an acoustic guitar and placed them next to the piano. The piece selected for me was the same piece Felix had tested me with five years before. I guess he was trying to help me since I didn't get to practice with him. Paganini's Caprice # 24 arranged by me for guitar.
I first played it on the piano, then the violin and finally on guitar flawlessly to a standing ovation and the presentation of my Diploma. I always felt sorry for the poor Old Cop sitting there waiting for me to finish so he could take me back to Little Riker's. Everyone was crowding around the students so I laid the guitar into the rack near the side door and slipped out of the auditorium. At a dead run to the curb I hailed a cab and told him my money was at home and that I was good for the fare. When I got to the tenement Desirae was stunned to see me and broke into tears. I had plenty of time because I never did tell the police where I lived. We spent an hour together and I told her I was facing jail until I was twenty one years old and that I couldn't let that happen. I promised her I would return and take her with me as soon as I got situated. It would be tough because I didn't have a Social Security Card or a Driver's License but I did look older then fifteen.
I was going to head down to Memphis, wherever that was, and somehow work my way into the music business. I knew it would be tough but I would come back and get her soon. We arranged it with her mother that I could call her at the Agency's phone once a week at 8 p.m. I grabbed my 52 Telecaster (Broadcaster) my five sets of clothes and the $800.00 dollars I had stashed for the future and left Hell's Kitchen forever. My mother looked out the window as I walked away and said "You still owe me rent". I started hitching rides down the East Coast and then inland to Memphis, Tenn. When I arrived I took a cab to RCA's Office where I had heard Steve Sholes worked. (He was born Stephen Henry Sholes, in Washington, D.C. His family moved to Camden, New Jersey, where his father worked in the RCA plant. He convinced RCA to build its own recording studio in Nashville on Seventeenth Avenue South in 1957. He also recruited Eddy Arnold, The Browns, Hank Locklin, Homer and Jethro, Hank Snow, Jim Reeves, and Pee Wee King. In 1955, he signed Elvis Presley for RCA. He became the company's pop singles manager the same year, pop singles and albums manager in 1958, and West Coast manager in 1961. The latter promotion took him to Los Angeles, California. In 1963, Sholes became RCA Records vice president for pop A&R and returned to New York.
I was going to be discovered, right there and then. I went in and asked if I could have a meeting with him as the secretary looked at me, laughed and said “NO“. I told her I was a Rock n' Roll guitarist and was also looking for Sun Records. (Sun Records was founded by Sam Phillips, Sun Records was known for giving notable musicians such as Elvis Presley (whose recording contract was sold to RCA Victor Records for $35,000 in 1955 to relieve (alleged) financial difficulties Sam was going through). Sam held contracts on Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Buddy McNeil, and Johnny Cash and was the man who launched their careers. Before those days Sun Records had mainly been noted for recording African-American artists, as Phillips loved Rhythm and Blues and wanted to get black music recorded for a white audience. She gave me the address of 706 Union St. and I took a bus instead of a cab to conserve money.
When I arrived it was January 5, 1955 and there stood the little studio called Memphis Recording Services, D.B.A. Sun Records. I straightened up, adjusted my shirt and pants, adjusted my guitar sack strap across my shoulder and walked into the small reception area. Marion Keisker was at the desk reading a United States Air Force Recruitment brochure. I asked her if the owner of the establishment was available and she very nicely asked if I was there for the janitor’s job. I immediately said “Yes” and I told her I wanted to sign up as a studio musician and touring sideman also. She asked me how old I was and I said eighteen. I showed her my Diploma and she didn't seem to have ever heard of Juilliard. A diploma substantiated that I was at least 18 years old. Suddenly a dark haired man came out and introduced himself as Sam. He asked me if I was there to record and if so what kind of music did I play and sing. Marion told him of my interests and he said the only thing he needed was a "Janitor Go-for " and a set up guy for live shows.
The job paid $25.00 a week and a room in the back to sleep. Personal needs could be cared for at the YMCA down the street. The only other requirement was "no noise" during recording and no annoying the talent that comes in "Yes or No". I told him I had experience along those lines and could start immediately. When I showed him my guitar and my Diploma he simply nodded and said he would listen to me later as "Pickers" were a dime a dozen in this town. He told me Taylor's across the street served good meals and that two meals a day were included in the employment. He wrote out a note to The Suzore Theater manager stating I was working for him and if they needed someone I was a good prospect. He told me I'd get to see the movies for free. I told him I had a new Sony pocket sized transistor radio for listening and he recommended that the best radio stations in town were WHBQ with Dewey Phillips and for "Race Music" WDLA and FWEM. He then said if I wanted to hear good live black music they all played out over on Hernando Street, but he doubted I could get in.
The only good TV Show was Wink Martindale's and there was a twelve inch B &W TV in the control room. “Make sure you turn it off or the tube will burn out“. He then walked back through the door as he said "You can move in now and start cleaning this mess up". That was Sam. Marion asked me if I needed an advance and I told her I was "Flush". Two hours in Memphis and I was "In". Little did I know that I was in the middle of history? That night I called Desirae collect and talked to her for ten minutes using our code for where I was and told her I had scored a job, meals and a place to sleep after an hour or so in town. It wouldn't be long and she would be with me. I also told her I was going to be able to watch TV. That night I finished washing and waxing the floors and hand washing the walls, really cleaning the place up beautifully. It had been a mess. I went into the control room and viewed the television set. Pretty simple, an on knob and a tuner knob with numbers on it. I turned it on and there was just some kind of pattern that looked like a bull’s eye. I turned the tuner and all of a sudden a picture came on of people playing a guessing game.
It was really strange watching this glass window with live action. I tried tuning in other channels but I had to move the rabbit ear device on top of the television to get a better picture. Sam had a list of channels and times written down so I followed that list the rest of the evening. I watched the local news and didn't realize how important Mrs. Stack's Strawberry Preserves Award was to the locals. It was a long day and I crashed. Tomorrow would be a day spent over at the theater trying to coordinate the two jobs since the lucrative Numbers Game doesn't exist here at all. What a huge cultural shock it was, especially the way they treated black people and the accents of the white people. They were not too bright either, but that's another story for another time. I now live in what would become the most important recording studio in history. One step away from fame and fortune and Nate and Desirae.
The Sunny Years
“We All Did Look and Sound Alike” 1955 -1957 Sam Phillips had entertained a steady stream of local black talent, most of whom had never seen the inside of a recording studio. In 1951 Phillips recorded local disk jockey and aspiring blues artist B.B. King and shortly thereafter recorded "Rocket 88" by Jackie Benston and Ike Turner often cited by music historians as the first Rock and Roll record. Then in the summer of 1953 a painfully shy young truck driver wandered in to record a couple of sentimental songs for his mother. He hung around over the next few months, and Phillips made a mental note of the young man with the strange name and even stranger appearance, Elvis Presley.
There was something in that voice, he thought. Phillips was solicitous of just such unpolished talent. Indeed, he had staked his tenuous fortune on the artistic enfranchisement of the poor and the racially marginalized, those who had never had the opportunity to record. Phillips mentioned Presley to a couple of session men and finally decided to call the kid in. After a lack-luster afternoon performing a repertoire of pop songs and ballads, Presley picked up his guitar and began to play around with a blues song, "That's Alright Mama." This anonymous moment with the microphone turned off could so easily have signified nothing. "I was surprised Elvis even knew the song," Phillips later said. No matter. What he heard, and what he understood about what he heard, changed American musical history. For he saw that Presley infused the simple country blues with an emotion and legitimacy that defied classification...Warren Smith had already achieved the same sound with “Rock n’ Roll Ruby” and Sam was looking for a more cooperative clone. Now people always asked me “Did you know Elvis? My answer was “I never knew the Elvis you think he was, I knew and observed the real kid from Tupelo”.
The first day I saw Sam's "Big Talent" was January 8, 1955 when he came into Sun Records to celebrate the release of "Milk Cow Blues Boogie" with "You're a Heartbreaker" on the flip side. It was the guys 20th birthday and Sam and Marion had a big cake ready for Elvis. Scotty Moore, Bill Black, D.J. Fontana, Gene and Junior Smith were there as well as many people I didn't recognize. Well I must say that I was surprised that this was the guy who recorded "That's Alright Mama" and started the real awakening of Rock n' Roll causing me to come South. He stood about 5'11" with Dishwater Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes, serious Acne, a Chipped Front Tooth with the rest somewhat crooked. His Nose appeared to have been broken at one time and not properly repaired. He had a terrible stuttering problem. He talked real fast once he got going and it was hard to figure out what he was trying to say most of the time.
He wore a chartreuse sport coat over a pink shirt with a black western tie of sorts and dark blue pegged pants with white buck shoes. Later they gathered around to play his new releases live. He managed about three chords on the guitar as he played and sang. He also apparently couldn't afford deodorant. That was my assessment at the time. I was amazed, the circus wasn't in it, and I didn't blend in here anymore then at Juilliard. I was introduced to him but he put me off with a "Yea" and then turned to talk to Scotty about a fair salary for the upcoming Tour and the Louisiana Hayride, Clarksdale, Helena, Boonville, Sheffield, Leachville, Sikeston and a live performance at The Eagles Nest in Houston, Texas to be broadcast over KNUZ radio. Elvis shrugged his shoulders and told Scotty "You don't cause the screams and yells from the girls, do you?" "They pay to see me". Oops! Another fat head and I had seen the same behavior at Juilliard from the rich kids and they were usually the least talented. After Elvis came back from Leachville, Arkansas he was tired. These guys were doing a show in one town and driving all night across the Southern States doing everything from, County Fairs, to High School Proms to Grocery Store openings. A lot of small work for someone who had the big hit "That's Alright Mama"
It turned out to be a local hit with 15,000 copies sold. Not a big deal in today's market. It also seemed that he was not getting the lion's share of the proceeds from all his hard work on tour. A guy named Bob Neal seemed to be making the big money off of Elvis's group "The Blue Moon Boys". Scotty Moore, Bill Black and D. J. Fontana were the backbone of the group since Elvis couldn't really play guitar except for playing Jimmy Reed's "You Got Me Running" over and over again with a simple riff turn around. Matter of fact he would confidently grab a guitar and play that one song all the time when girls were near. It seemed that was his repertoire. He did the same thing on his 68’ Comeback Show. The only thing he could play all the way through with minor mistakes in the rhythm. I thought it strange that Red West would take a new song they were working on and literally sing and physically perform it for Elvis as if he were Elvis, but coordinated. I found myself among some very good guitar players and one guy who was living the Rock Legend before he ever made it.
It was like watching some old World War II veterans retelling their exploits and puffing their chests out, except with these good old boys it was bragging about how good they were and all the chicks they balled and getting no work done. There wasn't much in the way of disciplined music practice. I just kept quiet about my abilities for fear of scaring them all into getting rid of me. After all, when everyone left I had full access to Sam's Acetate Studio lathe. If I put together a group and we recorded when the studio was closed and Sam was out of town, I could cut all the demos I wanted. We got an amazing sound from the two Ampex Taping machines wired together. The delay caused a "Slap Back" echo which was the secret behind all of Sam's recordings. All of my first recordings were pressed at Plastic Products on Chelsea Av. in Memphis.
Sam came in unexpectedly one night and I was playing and singing real hot. He looked at me and said "You’re amazing, to bad you’re so young". "If you’re smart you won't let these local boys know you can do that". Enough said. A guy named Whitey Ford was always coming around the studio carrying a dog eared contract for Elvis's parents to sign because he wasn’t 21 yet. He would then wander off after Elvis ignored him. I later found out it was Tom Parker who kept sending him around. , The Colonel ("Colonel" Thomas Andrew "Tom" Parker (June 26, 1909 - January 21, 1997) born Andreas Cornelis ("Dries") van Kuijk, was a Dutch-born entertainment impresario known best as
I was getting an idea that the foundation for this new musical birth called Rock n’ Roll was founded on Jack Daniels, country girls and bullshit artists. It wasn’t much different than the New York Grifters who taught me every scam in the book. None of these people ever learned the gentle art of "Setting Up the Mark" 101. So I set my goals for working and saving for Desirae and waiting for a chance to record a record. Hopefully, one that George Kline might play locally so I could get a foothold. I had to remember my limitations which were: I was just a tall, good looking and talented 15 year old in competition with some older, self taught, loudmouth Okies, or so it seemed. I had anger issues because I felt held back. The one person I thought had all the talent in the world, but no looks and less stage presence was a guy named Roy Orbison and his song co-writer Joe Melson. Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988). He was an American singer-songwriter and musician, well known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a Rockabilly / Country & Western Band “The Teen Kings” in high school until he and the “Teen Kings” were signed by Sun Records in Memphis. Orbison watched his classmate Pat Boone get signed for a record deal early on.
His greatest success was with Monument Records in the early 1960s where 22 of his songs placed on the Top Forty, including "Only the Lonely", "Crying", "In Dreams", and "Oh, Pretty Woman". His career stagnated through the 1970s, but several covers of his songs and the use of one in a film by David Lynch revived his career in the 1980s.The stagnation with his career was the fact that he and his wife were riding motorcycles and she was hit and killed. Later his house burned down, killing his parents and his sons. A good reason to stagnate, if not just die for ten years. He joined the super group The Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and released an album in 1988. He died of a heart attack at the age of 52, at the zenith of his resurgence. Roy could play a guitar, had perfect pitch, a deadly (4 Octave) falsetto range and the most melodic sad songs I had ever heard in my life. No one else can sing them because there is no way to arrange them in a single key. If you lower the song to hit the high notes you sound like a frog at the lower end and if you sing in the lower range comfortably then you sound like someone is "Squeezing Your Nuts" at the high end. The only song I ever covered of his was "Blue Bayou" and that satisfied me and it didn't hurt my privates to do it.
Jerry Lee Lewis was always stopping by with several girls on his arm. He played a mean piano, but was kind of stuck in a "Boogie" rut. Jerry Lee Lewis, in November 1956, came to audition for Sun Records. (Lewis was born to the poor family of Elmo and Mamie Lewis in Ferriday, Concordia Parish in eastern Louisiana, and began playing piano in his youth with his two cousins, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. His parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a piano. Influenced by a piano-playing older cousin Carl McVoy (who later recorded with Bill Black 's Combo), the radio, and the sounds from the black juke joint across the tracks, Haney's Big House, Lewis developed his own style mixing rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie, gospel, and Country Music, as well as ideas from established "country boogie" pianists like recording artists Moon Mullican and Merrill Moore. Soon he was playing professionally in Memphis. His World Wide big hits were “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On”, “Great Balls Of Fire and “Breathless”.) I once teased him about playing the "Devil’s Music."Are you still playing the devil's music?" Lewis replied Yes, I am. But you know it's strange, the same music that they kicked me out of religious school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I ‘m playing for the devil and they don't." He ended up as a well paid performer but only had a handful of hits. He was wild in nature and could become violent very easily. He loved to spread mustard inside your sun glasses if you laid them down near him during lunch, but became incensed if you played a practical joke on him. He took it as a demeaning act instead of something funny done for a good laugh. It could also be the result of the "Bennies" they all took habitually to stay awake when they drove all night and had to perform late shows with energy. I saw that with all of them including Elvis. Marijuana was like silverware at dinner time. They all smoked it and said it calmed them before they recorded. You can't imagine all the big hits that were recorded by "Stone Heads" long before the mid-sixties.
One day, out of nowhere, a guy pulls up out front of the studio in a turquoise 56 T-Bird Convertible with a whole entourage of people and cars including his girlfriend “Lucile”. He barrels through the door with a huge Pompadour Hairdo and some of the most well known sidemen ever to perform music. His flamboyant attitude was impossible to mistake. He was the guy I heard on radio doing jump blues as far back as 1951. He asked to see Sam, but Sam was downtown renewing his business license. Anyway, in the door comes his people with their instrument cases. "The Upsetters," which included saxophonists Grady Gaines, Wilbert 'Lee Diamond' Smith, and Clifford 'Gene' Burks, along with New Orleans drummer Charles 'Chuck' Connors, Olsie 'Baysee' Robinson on bass, and Chadrick 'Buster' Douglas on guitar. He had released records each year from 1951-54, but none were significant hits because he was black and his music was white. Pat Boone covered him. They set up and prepared to rehearse until Sam came back. I had heard the song years ago but with very sexual lyrics. I had played the song over and over for months while at Juilliard. I told him Sam wouldn’t record him on his label unless he changed a few things. He turned to me and said I‘m a movie star now, does Sam know that? I said you were great but the lyrics in "Tutti Frutti" can‘t be recorded, don’t shoot the messenger. He said a janitor shouldn’t stick his nose into the creative end of Sam’s business. I just went over to the closet and pulled out my Fender case, opened it and mounted up. I did a quick “Tune Check” and plugged into a hot amp. I cranked up the treble and the volume and stepped in front of the microphone. He looked at me and twisted his neck sideways saying “I’m not holding auditions ya know“. I smiled and said just listen to a few changes before you close your mind off. We changed "tutti-frutti, good booty" to "tutti frutti, aw rooty" which was black slang for “all right”. I thought I’d have some fun and combine the rhythm with individual note picking. I performed the song in a Rockabilly style and his guys jumped in with me. He gave me a sly look and signaled for me to turn it around so he could come in from the top on the vocals and piano.
What a fabulous moment that was for me. We were doing one song after another and pretty soon the street started getting crowded with people looking through the windows. Sam came in and was pleased to see Richard Penniman (Little Richard). ( Richard Wayne Penniman (born December 5, 1932) known by the stage name Little Richard, is an American singer, songwriter, pianist and recording artist, considered key in the transition from rhythm and blues to rock and roll in the 1950s. "He was "the architect of Rock and Roll," and history would seem to bear that out. More than any other performer - save, perhaps the errant credit given to Elvis Presley, Little Richard blew the lid off the Fifties, laying the foundation for rock and roll with his explosive music and charismatic persona. On record, he made spine-tingling rock and roll. His frantically charged piano playing and raspy, shouted vocals on such classics as "Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly" defined the dynamic sound of rock and roll." He was the “King of Rock n’ Roll” and the only King of this music.
Anyway they couldn’t reach an agreement on price and the lyrics were still a problem since Richard was very stubborn and had an ego as big as his talent. I heard he finally recorded it at Cosimo Matassa's J & M Recording Studio in New Orleans using less offensive lyrics. He had a straight run of about 14 No. 1 hits after that song broke. In my mind, then and now, he was the father of Rock n’ Roll and every beat and every rhythm you hear today can be found in his music of 58 years ago. Sam had no problem keeping me out of the recording room during anyone's sessions because of the smoke. The sessions always looked like the airport scene in "Casablanca" with heavy white fog lingering.
I remember one afternoon when Marion was out to lunch and Johnny Cash, (Johnny Cash was born J. R. Cash in Kingsland, Arkansas, and raised in Dyess, Arkansas). Cash was given the name "J.R." because his parents could not agree on a name, only on initials. When he enlisted in the United States Air Force, the military would not accept initials as his name, so he adopted John R. Cash as his legal name. In 1955, when signing with Sun Records, he took Johnny Cash as his stage name. Cash was one of seven children: Jack, Joanne, Louise, Reba, Roy, and Tommy. His younger brother, Tommy Cash, also became a successful country artist. In 1954, Cash moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he sold appliances while studying to be a radio announcer. At night he played with guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant. Perkins and Grant were known as the Tennessee Two. Cash worked up the courage to visit the Sun Records studio, hoping to get a recording contract. After auditioning for Sam Phillips, singing mostly gospel songs, Phillips told him that gospel was unmarketable. It was once rumored that Phillips told Cash to "go home and sin, then come back with a song I can sell," though Cash refuted that Phillips made any such comment in a 2002 interview. Cash eventually won over the producer with new songs delivered in his early frenetic style. His first recordings at Sun, "Hey Porter" and "Cry Cry Cry", were released in 1955 and met with reasonable success on the country hit parade. Cash's next record, "Folsom Prison Blues", made the country Top 5, and "I Walk the Line" became No. 1 on the country charts and entered the pop charts Top 20. Following "I Walk the Line" was "Home of the Blues", recorded in July 1957.
Carl Perkins, ( Carl Lee Perkins (April 9, 1932 – January 19, 1998) was an American rockabilly musician who recorded most notably at Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee beginning during 1954. His best known song is "Blue Suede Shoes". Carl Perkin’s songs personified the rockabilly era, and Carl Perkin’s sound personifies the rockabilly sound more so than anybody involved in it, because he never changed. Perkin’s songs were recorded by artists (and friends) as influential as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and Johnny Cash, which further cemented his place in the history of popular music. Luther Perkins, (Luther Monroe Perkins (January 8, 1928 – August 5, 1968) was an American country music guitarist renowned for his work as a member of the Tennessee Three with Johnny Cash and their "boom-chicka" rhythmic style.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis were smoking for about an hour while exchanging musical ideas. The front door opened and into the reception area came the old straight laced beat cop. I was cleaning the storefront windows. He asked if Sam was around and I told him I'd check. When I told the guys he was here they went into panic mode running wildly around the room waving magazines trying to thin the smoke clouds, while Elvis ran out the back door saying his Mama would whoop the shit out of him if he got pinched. They were like keystone cops knocking each other down and then tripping over each other trying to get out the back door. They jammed up in the doorway as the cop came in the music room. I wish I had a picture of their faces when they turned around and saw the cop standing there with the evidence all around. Then the old guy sneezed and pulled a hanky out of his back pocket and blew his nose. A nose I had always thought was red from hitting the bars all day on patrol. It turned out, in this case, that he had a bad cold and when he saw Sam wasn't there he turned around to walk out exclaiming "Smoking will kill you boys". I said "Your right Officer it's a terrible habit, have a good day"
When it came to girls hanging around the studio there was no question that Elvis’s friends would spread the word that Elvis would be in town, at Sun, and they would come running down. Many of them he apparently knew for a long time, like Caroline Ballard who was a minister's daughter. She would come to see him from East Tupelo once in a while. He used to introduce her as his first girlfriend “ever“. Then there was Eloise Bedford and Betty Mc Mann, very sweet and down to earth. Elvis wouldn’t stutter around them and he would drop his half Marlon Brando half James Dean swagger and speech mannerisms when he interacted with them. He seemed normal. There was also some very sexy off and on again local girls like Dotty Harmony, Barbara Hearn, Dixie Locke and most of all the girl who he wanted to marry early on, Anita Wood. She was a Disc Jockey at WHHM Radio. She was gorgeous, but I never understood why he referred to her as "Little Beadie" but then everyone referred to him as "Jimmy Sideburns ". He obviously felt at ease with them and trusted them. In time I would have the same effect on him, almost like I was his little brother. He apparently lost a brother at birth and ended up a lone child. When he was naturally relaxed he was very charming and witty. Although he would have lasted about a New York minute in Hell's Kitchen and met the Morgue Man very quickly. He just wasn’t tough enough to survive and he didn’t. I once showed him my stiletto (switchblade knife) and gave him an example of how you used it in a knife fight. Sometime later I saw him use my moves in "King Creole". He had a problem understanding how to keep time when strumming a guitar and one day I put down my broom and said try it this way. I was amazed when he said he didn't realize you could strum both up and down in the same measure. He would only change direction after each measure.
Only Roy and Scotty were great guitar players and could play professionally. After that exchange he said I was apparently a smart "Kid" and referred to me as such whenever he mentioned me to anyone. Johnny Cash started doing it too. So whenever anyone wanted a coffee and donut run they'd yell out “What's the Kid doing right now” and off I would be sent. Johnny was having a problem with Luther's electric guitar. He couldn’t hold down all the strings with a bar chord mid neck. He asked me to take it to a guitar shop and have it fixed. He gave me five bucks to pay for the work. I waited until he left and then I removed the strings and carefully cleaned and lightly shaved the frets with a fine file I had in my guitar kit. I replaced his strings with a new set of # 9s, lowered and angled the bridge low "E" to high "E" and tuned it at the first fret and harmonically at the twelfth fret. I finished by polishing the whole guitar. When he came back the next day and played the guitar he was ecstatic with it and started bringing other guitars in for me to take to the fictitious guitar shop. Soon many local pickers were dropping off their guitars to be worked on by my phantom repair shop. My overhead was $.49 per set of strings plus my labor. I made $4.51 profit per guitar and found a new source of revenue.
I eventually went to see Alex at Troy's Guitar Shop and offered to bring my customers there to do my work. Many guitars needed special work and I didn't have the tools to fix them. He agreed and I gave him 25% of my profit and worked twelve hours a day Saturday and Sunday on my customer's guitars and the walk in customers. I built up a great reputation in the Memphis Picker's Circle and eventually I pulled down good money by also giving guitar lessons in the evenings at the shop. I was now making $450.00 a month cash, plus Sam’s pay, no taxes. I went to Lansky's where Elvis bought his clothes and purchased a complete outfit in black leather, replete with pointed toe boots and a pair of Black Aviator Style Sun Glasses. Roy Orbison liked my look but more for concealment purposes. The concept of Nate Jaeger and The Rock n’ Roll Express was born that day. Now to find some cool band members who wanted to do music other then "Calling In The Cows" Bluegrass or "Drank Myself Drunk Cause I Lost My girl" Country songs. It felt like it was time after six months here in Hick Town. Sam heard about my guitar work and by now he had heard me play a lot around the studio. He asked me if there was any genre or style I couldn't play and of course the answer was no. When a band was absent a player or somebody just didn't show I would review the lead sheets or the piano guy would play the song for me and I would improvise the rest. Sam would still get the session and I would get paid extra. I, of course, was working up to him recording me with an original Rock n' Roll song.
Sam approached me one afternoon in the first part of June 1955 and asked if I wanted to move up in the company to the position of Tour Manager. It would consist of setting up all equipment, maintaining the instruments, doing the sound check, fueling and maintaining the cars, checking into the Motels and moving baggage etc. In other words “Head Gopher”. I would be his eyes and ears on the tour. Most important I was to report immediately any contact by "The Colonel " with Elvis and report what Johnny was doing with the booze and pills. I told him I had a good business going with the guitar shop, but that I needed his job for room and board. He said he was hiring a black man to do my studio job so that job would be over anyway. I asked him if he could keep me at $450.00 a month and provide me housing when I returned from the Tour? If so I would do it. He said it would be a lot harder work then I imagined and that it was $850.00 a month during the Tour and $450.00 when I returned. I could then start as a session man. I had to pay for my own room and meals out of my salary. I could also continue the guitar repair work when I returned. Then he said the big word. "If all goes well, when your back we'll look at a couple of songs Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup was writing for Elvis. “Elvis feels he's done enough of the high energy stuff“ and isn‘t interested.
Of course the song that started Rock and Roll was his creation and no one ever paid him a dime. I have to introduce him to you as an example of greatness. Born in Forest, Mississippi and living and working throughout the South and Midwest as a migrant worker for a time, he and his family came to Mississippi in 1926. He sang gospel, then began his career as a blues singer around Clarksdale, Mississippi. He visited Chicago as a member of the Harmonizing Four in 1939 and stayed there to work as a solo musician, but barely made a living as a street singer. Record producer Lester Melrose found him while he was living in a packing crate, introduced him to Tampa Red and signed him to a recording contract with RCA Victor's Bluebird label. He toured throughout the country, specifically black establishments in the South, with Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James (around 1948). He also recorded under the names Elmer James and Percy Lee Crudup. He was popular in the South with records such as "Mean Old Frisco Blues", "Who's Been Foolin' You" and the now legendary "That's All Right Mama".
Later, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, while he lived in relative poverty as a field laborer, he occasionally sang and supplied moonshine to a number of drinking establishments, including one called the Dew Drop Inn. This was his occupation prior to his death from complications of heart disease and diabetes. On a 1970 trip to the UK he recorded Roebuck Man with local musicians. His last professional engagements were with Bonnie Raitt. It would have been an honor to record one of his songs and the possibility made me accept Sam's proposition.
I was really jazzed about the possibilities of having a hit record of my own and bringing Desirae to Memphis. So I started getting everything ready for the "Tour", and I use the term lightly, since it would probably be like the prior tours I heard about from others. A little music, lots of booze, broads and pills while driving all night from town to town to make the dates. We packed up the cars and piled in on June 14, 1955 and headed for Tupelo, Mississippi. It was a huge crowd of screaming and shrieking females chanting Elvis, Elvis, Elvis. I started to think that maybe I had underestimated this fellow named Elvis. Our next stop was Gobler, Missouri and Elvis's parents wanted to meet us there but " The Colonel " nixed it and I think that was a good idea. After the shows it was a steady stream of women in and out of Elvis's motel room all night long not to mention the other guys. I asked Red West if the guys were being careful and he said "Only Wussys wear crash helmets for nuts driving hot rods". That would come back to haunt Elvis with Lucy DeBarbin, Barbara Jean Lewis, Patricia Ann Parker, Terri Taylor and Barbara Young to name a few that I learned of through the grape vine. Bob Neal and " The Colonel " met us at the Big D Jamboree show at the KRLD Radio Station and I reported everything immediately to Sam. Country singers Martha Carson, Anita Carter and June Carter were also there. Elvis dated Anita for a while until she caught him with two girls at her sister's house "Jay Bird Naked" in June's bed.
They had broken in to eat and sleep. We performed at the Sportatorium in Dallas and then on to Magnolia Gardens in Houston where the boys got into a fight at the motel over another tenant's wife. We then hit Beaumont, Texas then on to Vernon, Texas, Lawton, Oklahoma, Altus and Biloxi, Mississippi. It was in Biloxi that I met Marty Robbins, a real guitar player who could read and write music. We played all day together when he wasn't backing Elvis. We started singing together and he told me if I ever needed a performance partner when I came of age he'd be more then glad to add me to his show. We played the NCO Club at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and the Radio Ranch Club in Mobile, Alabama. Next Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Hayride Show. We drove back and did a radio show on Keys Radio in Corpus Cristi, Texas and The City Recreational Building in Stepenville, Texas. It was on to Odessa, Texas, The Field Artillery Armory, Tampa, Florida, Orlando, Florida, Jacksonville, the Gater Bowl, Daytona and on to Sheffield, Alabama and finally ending up in Tupelo. We finished at the Overton Park Shell in Memphis. By now I had learned to drive and was able to get a driver’s license back in Memphis. I needed to buy my own car, and then maybe I could drive up to New York and bring Desirae back with me. You could marry at 16 in Memphis. Again I use the term "Tour" lightly. I'm referring to the truck stop appearances being made for $400.00 to $600.00 a show. Bob Neal and “The Colonel " took most of the money as Talent Managers. Sam was paying me and that came from traveling record sale profits of Elvis, Charlie Rich, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis to name a few.
When I talk about record sale profits I am referring to local popularity in the South where the live shows were performed. Radio Stations would, for a little brown envelope with cash, do Sam a favor and promote his artists. An example would be the sale of a new record of about 20,000 units from Memphis to Houston in a thirty day period. They were dropped off at radio stations and record shops all along the route with a return, stamped envelope for payment. That was also part of my job since I seemed to do real good with math as I had for my "Capo" in New York. The pressed records were now small 45 rpm discs that didn't break when you dropped them so the boys and shops couldn't keep a little extra cash by claiming breakage. Cost per disc was about $0.16 X 20,000 or $3200.00 and $.49 a disc retail would be $9800.00 gross. A profit of $6,600.00 gross less Record Shop revenue of $.20 a record. This left the recording company with $2200.00 or so. Warren Smith who was the original designated "ELVIS" persona for Sam sold 65,000 records in a very short time before I arrived with "Rock n' Roll Ruby". That's a big pay day and a real incentive to have the most successful small recording studio in the country handle you. Being right in the center of the musical storm was a real chance for stardom as we can see with Elvis. He would have burned out and gone back to driving an Electrical Truck had it not been for Tom Parker aka “The Colonel “purchasing his contract from Sam for an unsuspecting RCA.
Elvis was the last in a long line of men Sam tried to mold into the "Elvis" image created long before Elvis came along. My count was about eleven. Those who could sing and play guitar but were homely. Those that were handsome but didn't sing well or play well and those like Warren Smith who could do both and were good looking. Warren Smith was the one everyone up North at RCA was interested in around late 1955. For the young people here in 2010 it should be stated that in 1955 there were few personally owned cameras, no video cameras, no computers, no email to send photos, no wide spread Television transmission and no cell phones. You could be a huge star in a geographical location and people wouldn't know what you really looked like unless they saw you in person or in a bad black and white photo in the local paper. Most papers wouldn't even acknowledge a sinful "Rock n' Roll" antisocial and lose their local advertising revenue. Your record radio play sold you and no one could see you on a radio. That's how Elvis got to RCA and why Sam sold him for $35,000 to RCA through “The Colonel “sight unseen. Elvis's "That's Alright Mama", his appearance and his singing and playing skills would never be good enough to draw RCA's direct attention then or now and both of them were right there in Memphis. In the beginning Elvis looked odd, performed oddly and wasn't all that talented, maybe that's why you never hear about his guitar skills or vocal teachers or any reference to his training with the exception of that old and tired story about his mother seeing a $12.00 guitar in a Pawn Shop Window, buying it, and launching his career.
That's really nonsense, believe me, a $12.00 guitar is good for one thing only, a fly swatter. You couldn't keep it in tune between strums and it would be a source of so much frustration that you would quit playing in ten minutes. There goes the Rock n’ Roll career and fast. The major part of my success came from the finest teachers, guitars, violins, and pianos Juilliard had to offer and I spent 8-16 hours a day utilizing that opportunity. Music and the sound I heard on that little radio tied to the window frame in New York was going to be my ticket to having the girl of my dreams and all the beautiful things I was going to buy her. When I looked around me I realized that although Hell's Kitchen presented me with a life of imprisonment, Memphis, with its sense of freedom, still existed in a bubble of Country Twang Music and the new sound was as close as it could get to being aborted. I had to get a score on the board as soon as possible. Although I was young, there had appeared at the time magazines promoting teen heart throbs most of which were young actors and East Coast singers my age. So the age issue was fading except for the ability to perform in bars or a venue that served alcohol. The spots that we played on this last tour were either open air venues or high school auditoriums and the audiences were as young as me. Now was the time to approach Sam about moving up front and performing on his tours. The question would be how would the others feel about more competition and losing another share of the pie. I had to convince Sam and them that I could increase revenue for everyone.
Sam still hadn't found the person he was looking for as his "Total" package. Warren was perfect but he wouldn't take orders from Sam after his big hit and he wanted to go in reverse as far as song selection. Sam needed to promote what is termed today as Rockabilly or as we called it back then Rock n' Roll. The money was in satisfying the teenagers. The Search for "The Elvis" or Warren’s Replacement was Sam’s goal. Warren Smith (the original Elvis personality created by Sam Phillips) February 5, 1956. Phillips, who was hedging his bets over whether rock and roll would maintain its popularity, released that record with a country crooner, aptly named "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry", on the flip side. By May 26, "Rock & Roll Ruby" had hit No. 1 on the local pop charts. Smith's first record for Sun went on to outsell the first Sun releases by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Carl Mann was raised in rural Tennessee; his parents owned a lumber business. He sang in church and did country songs for local talent shows, playing guitar and piano. In 1955, he released his first single on Jaxon Records, "Gonna Rock and Roll Tonight" b/w "Rockin' Love." Several further singles on Jaxon followed, after which Carl Perkins' drummer, W.S. Holland, became Mann's manager, signing him to Sun Records. Sun owner Sam Phillips signed Mann to a three-year contract, and soon after Sun released Mann's rockabilly version of Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa." Mann and Conway Twitty both released single versions of the tune at the same time, and both charted; it was sixteen-year-old Mann's first hit. Johnny Burgess (born Albert Austin) on May 28, 1931, on a farm near Newport, Arkansas to Albert and Esta Burgess) is an American rockabilly guitarist and singer. In the early 1950s, Burgess played boogie woogie music in dance halls and bars around Newport. Burgess, Kern Kennedy, Johnny Ray Hubbard, and Gerald Jackson formed a boogie-woogie band they called the Rocky Road Ramblers. In 1954, following a stint in the US Army (1951–53), Burgess re-formed the band, calling them the Moonlighters after the Silver Moon Club in Newport, where they performed regularly. After advice from record producer Sam Phillips, the group expanded to form the Pacers. The band's first record was "We Wanna Boogie" in 1956 for Sun Records, in Memphis, about 80 miles southeast of his birthplace. The flip side was "Red Headed Woman." Both were written by Burgess. The songs have been described as "among the most raucous, energy-filled recordings released during the first flowering of rock and roll."
Sam recorded just about every black or white artist he could find. It was like he was on a mission to document all the original music ever played or sung in the south. He was always looking for a handsome white boy who played guitar and was uninhibited enough to withstand the cat calls he would receive if he sang and moved with the raucous black music (Race Music). The term itself, Rock n' Roll, was a black term used to describe the sex act between a man and a woman, pure and simple. Everyone knew it and that made the music described by that term a "filthy sound" produced by black artists only. Sam knew that white kids loved the back beat and it gave them music of their own and they didn't, for the most part, have the same ingrained racial attitude that their parents had learned from their parents. Sam had a vision and he auditioned a lot of local white boys and asked all the booking agents to send any talented prospects to see him with a promise of a free recording session. Most of the searching had been done by the time I got to Memphis and Sam was about to give up since he now had a pretty good stable of revenue producing acts. Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich and others. Elvis made Sam good money but you never knew how he would be received from one show to another.
At many of the shows I watched, Elvis was received poorly after Roy Orbison or Jerry Lee Lewis played. I remember at one show after his first song the crowd just stood there staring at him until one teenage boy yelled out "What the Fuck was that". Elvis came to the edge of the stage in his purple coat, green shirt, yellow pants, white bucks and western tie and yelled out "I'm singing Rock n' Roll boy, have you heard of it?" and the guy yelled back "I heard you and it sounds like shit to me". Elvis took his guitar and strap off of his shoulders and beckoned to Scotty to take it from him. Johnny Cash ran up and started getting between Elvis and the kid as the other guys in the audience yelled things like "The Sissy’s going to fist city" and the girls started pulling back on their boyfriend’s arms. Johnny took Elvis off stage as the band started playing again and things got back to normal. That happened because, I believe, Elvis was insecure and couldn't turn it around by changing up his performance with, say, a great guitar solo or something extraordinary like a Roy Orbison vocal.