EVERYTHING OLD IS NEWS AGAIN! #5 “ROCK, ROLL,& RACISM PART TWO AMERICAN BANDSTAND DANCERS

May 16, 2012

I was born in New York City on January 22, 1942 and named Wayne Douglas Kent. I’m half-black and half-Jewish, which gives me the inalienable right to use “Oy” and “Yo” in the same sentence. I’m an only child, raised by my single working African-American mother and grandmother in theEast Bronxduring the 1950′s. I never knew or even met my father. I unconsciously seek male role models on TV and in the movies, but no one can live up to Roy Rogers!

I live on 164th Streetright off Boston Road. My family is one of the first black families on the block. My first experience with racism happens when I’m five years old. I’m with my mother at the Bronx Zoo, which is about a mile away, feeding food pellets to the long-horned mountainsheep. An older white woman passing by stops, looks down at me, and says to my mother, “What a cute little piccaninny!” then walks off. I ask Mother,” What’s a piccaninny?” She replies, “It’s one of those bad words you should never call anybody. Now why don’t you feed the little fella over there?”

It’s funny how certain experiences we have as kids can leave a mark on us for the rest of our lives.

I was born in Raleigh, NC on July 19, 1940 and named Hunter George, after my GGGGG grandfather, Col. James Hunter, Jr. The first 26 years of my life I lived at 2106 Breeze Road in the Hayes Barton – Anderson Heights section, which was considered a middle class area, although I don’t think we had class distinctions then. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t rich. I have one brother, who is three years older than I. My father was a printer/proof reader for a large printing company. My mother was a housewife and proud of it. My father was 19 years older than mom, and died of heart trouble when I was nine.

In those days, blacks lived in the south and east sections of Raleigh. Those sections were known as “colored town.” The only blacks that were seen in our section were maids and yard workers. We had a maid named Doretha Harris, whom I loved dearly, because she spoiled me rotten. Sometimes she would bring her kids to play with my brother and I. I had know idea how blacks lived until I was grown and sold insurance in the black section.

There is one thing I remember very clearly. In the summertime, when the black garbage men would come by to pick up garbage, my mother would meet them and serve them ice water, and she did not use paper cups. She used our everyday glasses. That one thing taught me a lot about respect. To my best memory, we all got along peacefully until the 1960s.

HUNTER – WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU BECAME AWARE OF ROCK & ROLL?

ARTIE – The first time I “ROCKED” when i went with my aunt Wan to see “BLACKBOARD JUNGLE” in 1955 starring  Glenn Ford, Ann Francis, and Sidney Poitier. the minute that “ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK” started to play…the theater came alive with people singing, shouting, and dancing in their seats. 

HERE ARE BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS WITH “ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRhYNLaziO8

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ARTIE – Tell me Hunter did you ever see Elvis in person?

HUNTER – I have been a Fan of Elvis from the start. I have nearly all of his original Sun recordings which started in 1954. I don’t remember when or how I first heard of him or his music. He was unknown outside of TN and the 3 or 4 surrounding states.

Elvis Presley’s first appearance in Raleigh, NC was on February 19, 1955. A Country Music (Hillbilly) show was booked into the Memorial Auditorium. The show had several stars and the headliner was Hank Snow. All of these singers were regulars on the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, TN. There was also a singer nobody had ever heard of, except for a few teenagers. His name was Elvis Presley. As the star of the show, Hank Snow was to go on last, but Hank learned early on that no one could follow Elvis. I was there. Elvis went on last, in the star spot because he tore that audience up. He was the talk of the town the next day because no one had ever seen or heard anything like him.

I don’t remember if his name appeared on posters advertising the show. Back in those days there were no video cameras, tape recorders were new, rare and expensive so I have no record of this appearance or the one in 1956.

On February 6, 1956 Elvis did 4 shows in one day at the Ambassador Theater in Raleigh. The Ambassador was an ornate grand old theater that had a stage from the old Vaudeville days. It was located in the first block of Fayetteville Street (the main drag), about a half a block from the State Capitol Building and square.

The day of the shows, lines started forming early. The line was over four blocks long for each show and I doubt if everyone got in. I went to the last show. I was 15 years old at the time and a bunch of NC State College students let me in at the head of the line with them. It was a madhouse but nobody argued with them.

I remember the show, with Elvis driving the girls to hysteria, cops across the foot of the stage getting battered by the girls and Bill Black riding that big old Bass like a horse. Even now I cannot find the words to describe the emotions of it. It was pure, raw Rock and Roll. It was new and it was ours….all ours!

He did all of his songs including his newest for RCA, Heartbreak Hotel. What a night. It is still imprinted in my memory. It’s funny, but i didn’t notice any black people in the audience.”

FOR THE NEXT 20 YEARS THERE WERE RUMORS THAT ELVIS WAS A RACIST

ARTIE -“On August 16, 1977, Elvis passes away at Graceland and the world mourns, but I feel guilty about crying over him. I was laughed at in my neighborhood, back in the Bronx, for liking and trying to emulate him. It angered the Black community that he allegedly said, “The only thing “Colored” people can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my records.” That afternoon my friend, DJ, Scott Shannon comes over to the house, and gives me a large picture book on Elvis and his life. I thank him with tears in my eyes and apologize for being so emotional. Then I tell him why I feel so badly. Then Scott says, “Artie, How could anybody who loved the blues, R&B and gospel music as much as Elvis did, ever say such a horrible thing. Isn’t listening to “In The Ghetto”, enough to convince you where his heart was really at?

Live 1970 performance  from Elvis…”In The Ghetto”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ox1Tore9nw

Elvis Presley and Racism : The Ultimate, Definitive Guide

By: Elvis Australia
Source: http://www.elvis.com.au
January 1, 2012 – 8:01:00 PM
Elvis ArticlesElvis Presley BiographyBy David Troedson

In 1957, a magazine printed a lie about Elvis, not the first one, not the last one, but one that has been often passed on through the years and at times artists of today like to throw out the slur when needing a headline, so there are those that believe Elvis was racist.  Yes, we know that the notion that Elvis was a racist is preposterous. It’s as stupid now as it was then, but here is our definitive response to this nonsense.When the ‘establishment’ accused Elvis Presley of being vulgar, of being deliberately sexual, they did not mean this. This was the cover for what was really meant, what was really feared, and that was that Elvis would lead to equal rights and racial integration. And not just Elvis any white person singing rock ‘n’ roll. Carl Perkins was warned to not do his show. Elvis was simply the number one guy and therefore got the most attention.Following his ‘Milton Berle’ show, Elvis was savaged by critics who described his leg-shaking, hip-swiveling performance as ‘noxious’ and his singing as ‘caterwauling’. Often the criticism had a racist edge, since Elvis was singing what was considered ‘black music’. One critic summed up his performance as ‘the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos’. A Catholic weekly ran its criticism under the banner, ‘Beware of Elvis Presley’. Ilva Price, an African American now living in West Memphis, TN, recalled how her father, angry about rumours (later found by ‘Jet’ magazine to be fabricated), that Elvis had stolen ‘their’ music and was a racist, quickly turned off the radio when he noticed her daughter’s reaction to his voice, then called him a ‘cracker’, a racial epithet as disgusting as any other …

James Brown and Elvis Presley were good friends and admired each others talents. James authored two books, and one contains this quote about Elvis: ’I wasn’t just a fan, I was his brother. He said I was good and I said he was good; we never argued about that. Elvis was a hard worker, dedicated, and God loved him … I love him and hope to see him in heaven. There’ll never be another like that soul brother’.

James was was one of the celebrities who attended Elvis’ funeral. George Klein : ‘One of the first phone calls I remember receiving came from James Brown, who wanted to tell me how broken up he was over the news. He asked if he could come to the house during the private viewing’. ‘I checked with Priscilla to make sure it was all right, and late in the afternoon James came up to join us – the first of many major artists to pay their respect.

I remember being taken aback by how truly distraught James was … Then he sat motionless in the corner of the living room for a long while before joining the rest of the mourners in the den. In his autobiography, Brown wrote, ’His death hit me very hard. When he died, I said, ‘That’s my friend, I have to go’.

Shortly after Elvis died, James Brown recorded Love Me Tender as the b-side of his hit record The Spank. Brown did this touching spoken intro: ‘I want to talk about a good friend I had for a long time and a man I still love, Brother Elvis Presley. You know, if he were here right now, I’m sure he would say the same thing for me. I loved the man and he was truly the king of rock and roll. We’ve always had kind of a toss up. Elvis and I. The King of Rock And Roll and I’m the King of Soul. So I wanted to say this for the people, Elvis, and myself’.

B.B. King defends Elvis

In a Sepia article, B.B. King supported Elvis. ‘What most people don’t know’, stated King, ‘is that this boy is serious about what he’s doing. He’s carried away by it. When I was inMemphis with my band, he used to stand in the wings and watch us perform. As for fading away, rock and roll is here to stay and so, I believe, is Elvis. He’s been a shot in the arm to the business and all I can say is ‘that’s my man’.

TO READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE FILLED WITH RARE PICTURES, AND PERSONAL REMEMBRANCES…CLICK ON TO http://www.elvis.com.au/presley/elvis_not_racist.shtml

WHEN I ASKED MY LONG TIME FRIEND AND PUBLICIST BOBBI COWAN IF SHE WANTED TO ADD ANYTHING TO MY DICK CLARK TRIBUTE AND SHE SENT ME THIS…

PHOTO L-R – FRANK SINATRA, BOBBI COWAN, AND STANLEY COWAN

When I was 16 years old, I was into teen fan magazines, and had a pile of them on my bed and night table in the hospital where I was recuperating  from a serious lung infection. I also had TV, and fell in love with “American Bandstand,”

I guess I became aware that this show was a phenomenon, when I saw the faces of those same kids in nearly every issue of those magazines in my hospital room. Their moves, clothes, and romances, Dick Clark and the joyous Rock n’ Roll music of “Bandstand”  became the  drug that healed me during my six weeks at Cedars.

In later years, I saw Dick Clark many times in the course of having my first PR office across Sunset Blvd. from his offices, shepherding many of the artists Beverly Noga and I represented, who appeared on “Bandstand”

Dick was always a gentleman, sweet and polite, one of the loveliest and nicest men in the business…somehow it seemed like he’d always be here.

Many years later, I met a delightful gal named Bunny Gibson, who was doing temp work in the PR office Warren Cowan had formed after the sale of Rogers & Cowan. Bunny had stayed in touch with many of her friends from the Philly “Bandstand”: days, and was a sort of “house  mother” to the group, helping organize reunions, keeping track of as many of her pals from those early days of “Bandstand” as she could manage…a task that became easier with the advent of computers and E-mail.

Today, Bunny is a working actress, doing character roles on a variety of TV shows, but always a  lifelong representative of those amazing days of “American Bandstand.”

Bobbi  Cowan http://bobbicowan.com

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THANKS BOBBI FOR PUTTING ME IN TOUCH WITH BUNNY GIBSON …SHE’S GETTING ALL HER BANDSTAND FRIENDS TO MAKE COMMENTS.

“Dick Clark has been in my life since i was 13 and danced on his Philly AB show. He is like part of my family! We thought of him like a “Father” figure 

and Kari was our “Mother”.

On May 8th, “Dancing with the Stars” gave their Tribute to Dick Clark and Steve Colanero and myself (Philly AB Regulars) and a group of wonderful LA Regulars were at DWTS in honor of Dick.

DWTS’ Judge, Carrie Ann Inaba, became an “Honorary Bandstand Club” member and she said that if it wasn’t for AB, there wouldn’t have been a DWTS. That says it all. Only Dick Clark could have done that – God Bless you Dick……God Bless you Kari……”

Bunny Gibson –http://www.bunnygibson.com

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“He was truly a great guy along with his wife who were always so nice to all of us….not only did i dance from 79-82 on bandstand i also went to all the ama’s the night time show and new years rocking eve.what a blessing to have most of all this taped in our back yard to make it easy to get to…dick thanks for all the memories,you will be missed !!!”

Robert Moreno

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“Hi there, i know i speak for a lot of dancers when i say it was a sad day in our lives when we heard of dick’s passing but the memories we have from dancing on the show and all the great times & friends we made and still have will last forever. i danced from 1975-1981. i was so excited to get that invite in the mail. i would drive every six weeks fromsan diegobecause i was still in high school. i remember my first day like yesterday, being mesmerized by all the dancers, their clothes, the set, and the icon himself, dick. i was surreal. i was a bit shy but as i kept getting asked to come back and became a “regular” i came out of my shell, became wild and crazy. dick always used to comment on what ever i had on when we were in the bleachers. i always seemed to get caught with gum in my mouth, hence he called me the “gum chewer”. he had a real cool sense of humor. he looooved the disco years (quoting him) “they were his favorite”. i loved going to the office and seeing the dogs run around, like being at home! so many great memories to list, but dick & american bandstand gave me 6 of the best years of my life and if i could do it all over i would. i thank you from the bottom of my heart for the experiences of a lifetime and the opportunities you gave to countless bands/singers.my love goes out to your family and someday we’ll meet you again up under that great disco ball up in the sky..”so long for now”

Lisette St.Claire aka Disco Liz, the gum chewer! ;o)

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WHATEVER HAPPENED TO YOUR FAVORITE BANDSTAND DANCER? FIND OUT ON FRIDAY WHEN BUNNY GIBSON GIVES US THE SCOOP ON EVERYTHING OLD IS “NEWS” AGAIN!

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A MESSAGE FROM ALAN O’DAY…Sonny Geraci  is very ill with AVM (arteriovenous malformation) and is in intensive care.
Sonny & his group Climax had a hit with “Precious and Few”.  He also was the first to record & release “Rock’n’Roll Heaven”.
If appropriate, consider sending a card to Sonny, c/o – –
Precious Time Productions
30799 Pine Tree Rd. #135
Pepper Pike OH 44124

Thanks,
AO

TRANSITIONS…VIDAL SASOON  R.I.P. ROCK IN PERPETUITY!

My condolences to the family and friends of Vidal Sassoon, who made his transition to the other side last week. He was a good guy, who cut my hair even when I couldn’t pay him. (London in the ’70s)

SPECIAL THANKS TO HUNTER GEORGE, BOBBI COWAN, BUNNY GIBSON, AND THE LAURA PINTO CONNECTION FOR HELPING ME PUT THIS ARTICLE TOGETHER

 Copyright 2012 by Artie Wayne  https://artiewayne.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/celebrating-two-million-views-today-on-artie-wayne-on-the-web/

NOW YOU CAN BUY THE ARTIE WAYNE BOOK ,“I DID IT FOR A SONG” AT AMAZON or Barnes & Noble or from Smashwords

TO READ SOME OF THE AMAZING AND INSPIRING COMMENTS  CLICK  HERE

BACK TO ARTIE WAYNE ON THE WEB  https://artiewayne.wordpress.com

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5 Responses to “EVERYTHING OLD IS NEWS AGAIN! #5 “ROCK, ROLL,& RACISM PART TWO AMERICAN BANDSTAND DANCERS”

  1. Loni Specter Says:

    Great one Artie. Somebody give this guy a new computer for cryin’ out loud!

  2. Paul Payon Says:

    What Loni said.

  3. Sunny Monday Says:

    What Loni and Paul said.

  4. Chiyoko Says:

    Love this!! I hope you get your computer quickly, Artie. Your stories and anecdotes will be sorely missed.

  5. Robin Munson Says:

    Thanks, Artie — So much fascinating information! And yes – I hope you get your new computer soon!


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