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Tutti Frutti and the Good Time Boy

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In 1957 I had moved from a small town in southern Vermont to a small city in central New Hampshire. Laconia, the home of motorcycle races, linen mills and knitting needle factories, and the place where I discovered the "good time boy".

Up to this time I had been moved by music seldom. I was surrounded by my parents music, ie: the Ames Brothers ("The Naughty Lady From Shady Lane") Perry Como ("Find A Wheel And It Goes Round Round Round"), Patti Page ("How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?") and other chart busters of the middle part of the 20th Century.

Only once before did I get it. That was the day  a year earlier and back in Vermont when I stuck my head next to a record player down in the gym where kids would get to play their music once every other week when we had "dancing" (substitute Phys Ed). I slipped a song on the turntable by some guy named Elvis Presley called "Hound Dog", dropped the needle and the sound that came out made me feel funny all over. Not just my head but my body. The chords, the rhythm, the sheer joy of the man singing the song. I grinned like an idiot.

But that was a year ago and nothing else had touched me until I began watching American Bandstand weekday afternoons at 3:00. I would rush home from school, fling my books into a corner and turn on ABC. What music. What youth and happiness. I knew all those kids from South Philly High.

I had met a guy earlier in the school year who lived just a little ways away on Union Avenue and I really wanted to be like him. His name was Ron. And he was the "good time boy." He was cool. He had a cool smile. He wore his clothes cool. (flipped up collar) He had cxool taps on his shoes that would clack as he walked down the hallways. His hair was ultra cool. Swept back into a DA. No. Not district attorney. Ducks ass. And he had a cool girl friend named "Frankie". Frankie was a Catholic and wore a Demolay jacket. He had everything I wanted.

I, on the other hand, had a short haircut. Wore doofusy clothing. (I thought) Walked around in penny loafers. I wore dark rimmed glasses and looked like a geek. Well, let's face it. I was a geek. And I had no girl friend. Not that I necessarily wanted one. Girls scared the hell out of me. There was something utterly mysterious about them that troubled my mind.

Most of all I wanted to dance like him. 

So several times a week we would retire to his little bedroom on the sefcond floor of his house and practice dancing. One of my favorite songs was "Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard. Oh my God! Talk about ripping up the joint! I made the rafters sing and sway to that song. To be honest just about any song by Richard Penniman got omy glands to racing.

I remember the label. "Specialty" records. Black. White and yellow. 45rpm with a giant hole in the middle that required a special plastic insert if you wanted to play it on your parents record player, As a disc jockey later in life, I always kept a pocket full of those inserts whenever some new 45's came into the station.

It started with Richard screaming...."A whop-bab-a-loo-ba-a-whop-bam-boom! Tutti Frutti oh rootie...." And it took off from there. It was so infectious that you just couldn't keep from boppin' and moving your body when you heard it. We also danced to "Long Tall Sally" another Little Richard song and Elvis, of course.

On this day in 1955 that record was cut in a New Orleans record studio using Fat's Dominos back up band along with Huey Smith helping on the piano and Earl Palmer on drums. The original words? Too risque with lyrics like ..."tutti frutti. Good bootie. If it dont fit don't force it......" Well, you get the idea.

This song is considered by many the true first rock and roll song that ever hit the big time. Mojo Magazine considers it #1 on its list of "100 Songs That Changed The World" and Rolling Stone puts it at #43 in their list of "500 Best Songs of All Time".

There were several covers of this song including one from Pat Boone. Little Richard would later say that the kids kept Boones version on the top of their dresser for his parents to see and his version under the socks in the bottom drawer for there own use when the folks weren't home.

Several weeks after practicing how to dance I went to a Laconia Park club house dance. Slick hair. Flipped up collar and cool pink and black clothes. Ron introduced me to a girl. The lights dimmed. The music started. It was "Tutti Frutti". Oh wow. I began to bip and bop.

She began to laugh.

And I went home.

Never to date in high school again.

But its alright. Fifty-five years later I have nine kids. A great wife. Five grandchildren and Ron is finishing up a stretch in the federal prison for his involvement in a "Ponzi" scheme. Seriously.

I couldn't make this stuff up.

And I still love to hear Little Richard screaming at the top of his lungs......"A-Whop-BaBa-Lou-Ba-A-Whop-Bam-Boom."

(C) 2014 George Locke

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It was 1960 and I was fresh out of high school. I had left rock and roll behind for a while after Dave Guard and the Kingston Trio crept up to whack me with a "Tom Dooley"-stick in 1957. Then came "The Brothers Four", "The Highway Men" and "The New Christie ." and I was hooked. I joined the Army because Uncle Sam promised he would send me to Public Information School to learn journalism, photography and a smattering of radio broadcasting. Hootenany was in the air. I followed my favorites, including the heart-breaking clear voice of Joan Baez to Korea while I wrote for "The Cavalier" and "The Stars and Stripe". I was a correspondent and photographer. Then it was on to New Mexico where I found "Peter, Paul and Mary", early" Bob Dylan" and some scratchy "Jimmy Rodgers"('The Singing Brakeman'). I bought my first guitar while I was producing radio programs for "White Sands Missile Range" and learned a few chords. I recorded a few live concerts, using purloined equipment in Coffee houses through the Southwest. Places like "The Don Quixote" in El Paso, Texas. And I listened to performers, gaining knowledge along the way. When I got out, the 60's and ྂ's came hurtling at me, dressed with songs from new writers and performers. I went to broadcasting and drama school for a season in Boston and began to listen to the likes of Dylan, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, Donovan, Mark Spoelstra, Patrick Skye, Jim Kweskin and Phil Ochs. I traded my $30 red and black Stella for a Gibson and began haunting places like the "Unicorn" plus "Club 47" in Cambridge and numerous clubs in New Hampshire. Then a group called "The Beatles" changed my view on everything. I became lead singer and rhythm guitarist in a band called, "The Notables". I bought a more expensive Gibson and an electric 12 string. We did 'Stone's' covers and 'Lovin' Spoonful'. I plunged into James Brown. A 22 year old white kid doing James Brown. I was nothing if not audacious. I went into commercial radio in a small market station back in NH. I wrote news, sports, rip and read weather off the teletype and interviewed everyone from William Shatner to Eugene McCarthy.and George Gobel. I got another twelve string. I got married. I acquired 4 children, and lost everything in the war. And I stopped playing for awhile. Then I met my passion. The love of my life. We married. We produced 5 children together. I was writing in earnest, after I began a spriritual journey. I started telling stories. Childrens tales, Anansi, Coyote and all the worlds mythical characters were part of a woven tapestry I still am adding to today. A friend gave me a Martin D35. Another gave me a Yamaha acoustic/electric 12 string. A few months back I sort of 'retired'. That's another way of saying I was let go. It was then I received my 'Dana Fligg' long neck banjo and am now writing for a local literary mag. I sold the Martin. I bought a Washburn acoustic/electric. My wife gave me a fire-engine red solid body Epiphone electric. I have five beautiful grandchildren. There is much more to say and much more to sing about, but I am glad to have found this place.

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