1953; Project Blue Book has 33 unexplained cases added to their files, Nature Magazine publishes Watson and Crick's original paper on DNA " A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid", the United Nations' Convention on the Political Rights of Women is held and the Feminist Chronicles is launched, the Yankees win the World Series in the 6th game on a hit by then second baseman Billy Martin, the CIA is trying to overthrow the Iranian government and bring Shah Pahlevi to power, Sir Edmund Hillary climbs the south east spur of Mount Everest, International House is founded, Mercedes Benz introduces the "Ponton" or "Fin" body style, the Korean War ends on July 27, The Original Drifters are formed, and the movie industry releases The Band Wagon, The Big Heat, From Here To Eternity, House of Wax, Julius Caesar, The Naked Spur, Niagara, The Robe, Roman Holiday, Shane, Stalag 17, Titanic, War of the Worlds, The Wild One, and It Came From Outer Space.
1953; The world loses poet Dylan Thomas, country and western artist Hank Williams, astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, playwright Eugene O'Neill, artist Marlene Dumas, author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, master architect Rudolph Michael Schindler, Catholic novelist Hilaire Belloc, jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, Russian classical composer Sergey Prokofiev, Communist leader Joseph Stalin, American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, dancer-teacher-choreographer Lester Horton, painter Everett Shinn, British composer Sir Arnold Trevor Bax, and artist Xu Beihong.
1953; The world gains future minister-to-turn-comedian Sam Kineson, artist April Gornik, neurosurgeon Thomas J. Purtzer, and musician/songwriter/singer...
I was born November 18, 1953, in Huntington, West Virginia. I received my first snare drum at age 5 as a Christmas gift, from my parents Sam and Pat Stinson. While the drum was made smaller for a child to more easily play, it was by no means a toy. It had a rosewood shell, with maple hoop rims, tunable lugs, round-wound metal tension snares, adjustable snare strainer, a neck cord, and two genuine calfskin batter and snare drum heads. I had no teacher, but I listened closely, to the marching band drummers of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Marshall University, during football games and parades. I also listened intently to the drummers on my father's Big Band albums. Gene Krupa was and is my favorite drummer from that era and was no doubt my most significant initial influence, toward playing a drum set. Using a matched grip, I experimented with, emulated, and created pattern after pattern and rhythm after rhythm. My first drum lasted many years and saw me through all the snare rudiments; rolls, paradiddles, flams, and the lot.
I earned my second snare drum, by selling gift cards door-to-door, when I was eleven. It was a cheaply made "toy" instrument, composed almost entirely of plastic parts, including the heads. The entire drum disintegrated in a matter of weeks and I went back to playing on my original snare drum a while longer. About that same time, my older brother Spencer was becoming very interested in pop music and playing the guitar. My parents gifted him, with a metallic-blue Supro six-string electric guitar and matching amplifier, and Spencer began taking lessons at Becker's Music Store, on 4th Avenue in downtown Huntington. I had become very interested in playing the full drum set by this time and, even though I had no drum set of my own, I too signed up for lessons at Becker's. Unfortunately, my drum teacher was only interested in (and probably only capable of) instructing on marching snare drum patterns and wanted to foster in me a respect for an unmatched grip on the sticks. I had already taught myself similar patterns years before, without benefit of the more traditional grip, and so I quickly became bored and dropped the teacher, after only three or four lessons.
My parents must have suspected that my lack of discipline with the drum lessons was not indicative of either my potential talent or my desire to play, because in 1966, in the Spring of my twelfth year, they bought me my first full drum set. It was a used four-piece set of white pearl Stewart drums, which belonged to a local Huntington fellow named Bill Green, who was one of my mother's co-workers at the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. I remember that day well, because another Boy Scout and I proudly carried the banner for the Barboursville High School marching band and majorettes, in the annual Tri-State Marching Band Parade. Playing trombone in the Barboursville band that day was Kim Peyton, a fellow Boy Scout Troop 763 member and soon-to-be co-founder of The Blue Beats. When the parade was over, my mother and I drove by Mr. Green's home near downtown and picked up the drum set. That was one of the most exciting days of my life and I was forever a changed person.
Within weeks, I had taught myself the art of using all four of my limbs, in concert, to establish and emulate basic Rock & Roll and R&B rhythms, as well as a smattering of rolls and fills. During those same weeks, my brother Spencer, also a Boy Scout in Troop 763, had decided that playing bass was going to be his bailiwick and to this end he acquired a Danelectro Longhorn electric bass guitar. Together, Spencer and I now comprised a rhythm section. We allied with Kim Peyton, a neighborhood friend and Boy Scout Troop 763 member, who, in addition to playing trombone in the high school marching band, played guitar and piano, (although he didn't have any portable keyboards at that time). Cap Hunter, one of Spencer's school mates, rounded out our original foursome, as the band's "lead" guitarist, and we began to practice and learn popular songs of the day. We founded "The Blue Beats" in the spring of 1966,...and another significant step in my life as a musician had been taken.
Within a few weeks of the group's formation, Jim Adkins, another of Spencer's school chums, was added to the band as a lead vocalist. This, however, was far from our last personnel modification. By this time, we were at the end of the 1966 school year, and Cap went to visit his father, who was an airline pilot living in Florida. While there, his father bought him a cherry-red Framus semi-hollow-body electric bass guitar and an Ampeg bass amp. When Cap returned home to Huntington, he had converted to playing bass, as if transformed by a religious experience. This was one bass player more than The Blue Beats needed and so Cap left the band, in deference to Spencer. The void created at the lead guitar position by Cap's exit was quickly filled by Richard Stacy, who was yet another member of Boy Scout Troop 763. (Richard would be instrumental in cementing The Blue Beats' final line-up by the fall of 1966, by introducing the rest of us to Dennis Snell, a lead guitarist and vocalist who was one Richard's closest childhood friends, and Phil Miller, a vocalist and one of Richard's high school class mates.)
Band rehearsals, for The Blue Beats' embryonic original quartet and quintet, were initially held in the living room of my parents' house and also five doors down the street, in the den of Kim's parents' house. While the den of Kim's home ultimately became our default rehearsal space, during our first year, once in a while we would set up and practice outside, under a carport attached to a house belonging to Richard's aunt and uncle. Richard and two of his siblings lived there with their Aunt Goldie and Uncle Bill. Of course, the outdoor practice sessions always drew a crowd of neighborhood on-lookers, young, old, and middle-aged. Some would dance, others would shake their head's in disapproval, and still others sat watching and listening with interest. The common denominator was that they were all affected by and compelled to react to the music, in one way or another. Just a mere 500 yards away from Richard's carport was a roller skating rink called Whirling Wheels, which would provide The Blue Beats with our first paying gigs and commercial exposure.
By the end of the first few warm weeks, of the summer of 1966, our song list had grown, along with our eagerness to perform before an audience, to the point that we felt it was time to debut the band. Our inaugural live performance was held during one of the periodic Boy Scout troop invitational meetings, which were typically attended by many of the scouts' family members. These special meetings were usually reserved for new member ceremonies, merit badge presentations, promotions, and other awards. On this occasion, however, (due primarily to the fact that four out of five of us Blue Beats were active members of Boy Scout Troop 763), we persuaded our troop leaders to permit us to entertain the troop and attendees...gratis, of course. We set up our instruments and equipment on a large, high-ceilinged, southern-style, front porch of the house which belonged to the church that sponsored our meetings. The other troop members and their families sat on folding chairs arrayed on the lawn in front of the porch. I cannot recall many of the realities of that evening, but I do remember the feeling of elation at having an objective audience and at hearing their unsolicited applause for our performance. That experience sealed it for me and, even at twelve years old, I knew that this was something I wanted to explore for the rest of my life.
Within a month of our band's initial unveiling, we had negotiated with the owner of Whirling Wheels roller skating rink to provide the music for a weekend teen dance. Inside the aluminum-skinned building, which housed the roller rink, was cavernous. The blue, red, green, and yellow doubloons of light that reflected from the sparkling, rotating mirror-ball were sporadic, nervously twitching and ever-moving. On this night, the crowd ebbed and flowed endlessly between the neon-lit concessions area and the skating surface, whose purpose had temporarily been transformed to that of a dance floor. The "butterflies" inhabiting Kim's stomach got the better of him and he hurled his partially digested dinner into a receptacle in the men's room, just before we began our first set. This opening-set-jitters reaction of Kim's would become a ritual "purging of the nerves" before nearly every Blue Beats' engagement, for the first few months. We wore baby-blue, ruffled, tuxedo shirts, with the collars open, and navy-blue slacks. Our rough-edged music flooded every inch of the wide open, nearly unfurnished structure and bounced from composite floor, to aluminum wall, to steel-framed ceiling and back. Echo, upon echo, upon echo blurred the musical nuances and lyric syllables, of every song, from beginning to end. It was an ill-defined pulsating roar, punctuated only by the ringing that invaded our ears between songs. The humidity rose with the heat generated by our tube amplifiers and the gyrating throng of teenaged dancers. Sweat ran down our temples, dripped from our brows, and soaked our clothing. The only relief from the heat and the onslaught of mid-range honk, manufactured by the enormous acoustic nightmare that was Whirling Wheels, came in the gravel parking lot, outside the front doors. Being out in the cool, damp, night air was to us like being in a padded room; gloriously muffled, free from reverberations. We took refuge there, during the intermissions between each set of songs, by sitting on the rear ends of our cars, while drinking sodas and (contraband) alcohol, smoking cigars and cigarettes, talking excitedly about the songs we'd just performed, and hoping that all the girls were swooning over us. We were paid a total of $14.00, at the end of the evening. We each received two bucks for pay, two bucks went for gasoline or beer or some other worthy expense, and none of us got a girl. It was wonderful!
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