Dewayne, Me (rear), Paul (front), Bart, Carmichael, Barry (rear) ......You see, once upon a time in the land of "Doo Wop"......
"Wow, it seems like just the day before yesterday that I
was back home in "Ohio". On my way across town to audition for the part of fifth man in the hottest vocal group in the city, state, "the world" (to me). I lay awake nights for at least a lifetime, constantly thinking of this day.
You see, the leader of the "Vallejos" singing group had approached me outside of East High school during lunch period. I would go out to "East" and hang out with my buddy, "ole Butch". Afterwards, I'd "scoot" on back downtown to "Central".
Anyway, Paul said that he and the other fellows in the group had been holding auditions to replace "CB." He said that they had been talking about singers and my name came up. Then, he asked me if I would like to try out for the 2nd lead and 2nd tenor part. Well, I was already doing very well as lead singer of the "G-notes". We were always booked, had a class "Act", was very popular and was making money, too. What more could I ask for? Well, you have to understand. This was "the Vallejos" we were talking about.
The smoothest, best looking, best performing, tightest, and most popular group that I had ever seen. Bar none. And, my this time, I had seen them all. "These Guys Were Bad". These guys were knocking off Pro groups like the Clovers, the Turbans, Gary U.S. Bonds, Luther Bond and the Emeralds and many more. As a matter of fact they made it a point of getting on shows with the best professional acts, and than blowing them and the crowd away. "Kinda like a 50's Boys 2 Men with the Temps routines".
Anyway, as the story grows, and as it so happens, one member got kicked out of the group. He had committed three cardinal sins of "this" group. First of all he had gotten cocky. Second, he would periodically go "Flat". Which, in this act, you just could not do. And last, but not at all least, he couldn't "dance-dance"! Mostly it was personality conflict!
I kinda felt sorry for him, although to me, this day was my dream come true. Of course, with my little pride, I couldn't tell Paul this. So, laying all pride aside, and with a mere "Sure", I agreed to the audition. We shook hands and went our seperate ways. From that day, until I walked into the room with "the piano in it", I was in a daze! In a state of shock! Mesmor.., Mez..., mezmorii..., Stunned!!!
I got up real early the day of the audition. I must have spent about 2 hours getting my two outfits ready for school (yes two). I finally got dressed, stuck my "doo rag" in my back pocket and put the other suit, shirt, tie, underwear, and shoes in my clothing bag. "D' Head" picked me up in his "Buick Dynaflo" and off we drove to school.
The bag also held my favorite pair of brown high wasted flannel pants, brown button down suspenders, and a pale yellow "Mr. B" (Billy Eckstine) elbow length roll collar shirt. And to top it all off, my highly spit shined, brown hightop Stetsons. This was my "Audition Outfit". So, when I got to school I neatly hung everything in my school locker (careful, don't get cut by the creases')..........Ready!
Boy, what a long day.
Finally, the day passed and school was out. Now on to Paul's Aunt's house, where the audition was to be held. (The room with the piano in it)
Now, You have to understand something. I went to Central high, which was located just west of downtown Columbus. Everybody in the group went to East High School. Which meant they all lived "out east". Which also meant that I had a long, long walk. Because, not only did they live "out east", they lived "way out east". That's my school in the bottom of the picture. Just, follow the street going across the bridge to the end of the picture and make a left . Go eight blocks and you're there. But you know what? Never did it even cross my mind that I had walked, from my school, to the eastend of the eastside. I was too young to drive, clean as the board of health, and too excited. Plus, didn't I already walk everywhere anyway? Yep!
So, with only the thought of politeness and the confidence of "Aceing" this audition, I knocked, entered, and after all the formalities and being greeted warmly, I proceeded to be auditioned in the "room with the piano in it". We went very quickly from vocal scales, to harmonizing. Than they started teaching me their reputore of songs. We went through their whole list and they learned some of the songs that I did.
5 hours later, I have to say, they were very impressed. So much that Bart bassed. "Man, as far as we're concerned, you're in". I felt like Steve Erkle after being kissed by Laura. I could have fainted.
Little did they know, I already knew all of the songs they sang. By going to all of their gigs, and sometimes being on the same shows as them with my other group. I had studied them for as long as they had been together. I'd been dreaming about being in that group. I knew all of their routines, which I had practiced in my mirror at home. I had patterned my personality to match theirs, long before they really even knew me. This was like fate. More like destiny. They all liked school, always got good grades, and were always striving to be perfect gentlemen. I mean, these were boys, all in high school, who had acquired the status of being a true professional singing Act. They all carried themselves as though they were born to be a "Class Act". Their gentleman-ly influence on me has lasted for as long as I can remember. Even to this day.
The audition was on Tuesday and that Friday night "we" sang at East High School, and Saturday at the new Veterans Memorial. "East's" auditorium held about 500-700 people (standing room only). The "Vets" held about 7500. (just a guess)
Dick Clark was touring with his "Calvecade of Stars" at the Vet's along with Fat's Domino, Little Richard, the Flamingos, Moonglows, Frankie Avalon, Screamin Jay, Freddie Cannon, the Turbons & the Clovers, to name a few. That night, back stage at the "Vets", I was awed. Here I was talking to people like Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, Fabian, Screamin' Jay and other stars that I had only seen in movies or television. In fact, Bobby Freeman was on that show, too. You know, we met in Columbus and have been California friends since.
Anyhow, our group was in the "Moonglows" dressing room and some of the "Flamingos" were there too. You see earlier Harvey, the lead singer of the "Moonglows", had heard us warming up in our room. Just by coincidence, the song we were singing was a song that his group had recorded called "When I'm With You". He had been outside our dressing room listening, so he knocked on the door and said "Hey, you guys have got to come down to our room and let the 'fellows' hear this". So, off we went down the hall, still singing. He opened the door and, and we "jammed" right on by him and into the room, still singing. We were in their "jammin", when somebody knocked on the door and said, to make a long story short, that we were not going on. Everything just stopped. Paul dashed out and went to find Doug .
Doug Comer is a story within itself. He was the head social worker and administrator of the "Neighborhood House" Recreation Center located on the bottom eastside. It was the toughest recreation centers of them all. Hey, now that I think about it, it's the toughest I've ever been in, no doubt about it. Even as a little kid, when we had to play sports at all the centers, the Neighborhood house was the one that you may win the game but you would definitely loose that war. I mean, it seemed like all of the toughest, roughest, gruffest kids, teens, and grownups went there. At any given time, you might find a few roughnecks mixed in with the crowd at any of the other centers. But the "house" is the only one that they all hung out at, at the same time. In orderly manner.
Of course, Everybody else would probably say that the Godman Gill was #1 worst .bar none! (smiles)
Now, even as tough as all those people were, we all respected Doug Comer. He was like a Saint to them/us. I'm dead serious. He was one of the nicest guys you could and would ever meet. You've seen'em. Help everybody. Might remind you of the Pastor of your church. Without the church. His center was much smaller than any of the others, but he personally did more for people than all of the others put together. He, not only, knew all of the kids all over town, but he knew all of our parents too.
He was also "tuff". Even the most violent thug respected Doug Comer. He was also our manager. He was the one who had the influence to get us, along with Eddie Sanders, booked on Vet's bill...and most of our other engagements.
Anyway, Doug and Little Richard were standing in the hallway backstage kickin it, when Paul rushed up to them and said to Doug. "Hey man, why aren't we going on". Little Richard said. "Who told you that, Baby?" Paul told him and Richard stormed off. Shortly after, the same guy who had told us that we were not going on was knocking at our door and shouting. "Vallejo's, you're on in 4 minutes". Right behind him, Little Richard sonnered into our room saying, with a great big grin. "You boys should know that `Richard' takes care of all his"chillins". And glided on out.
So, finally it was time to "go on". Sure, I'd been singing since I was about six or seven years old on street corners, at rec. centers, talent shows, high schools, and, what seemed like a million nightclubs, halls and auditoriums. And hey, I was still in a dream world from last night. Whoa, I had just made my debut with "the Group" in front of all those people at East High school. And passed with flying colors.
But now, standing in the wings of the "Veterans Memorial Auditorium", I was reminiscing about how "clean" we were in our white sport coats, black shirts, black gabardine slacks, and our Black, white, and red silk ties. Even our tie clamps and cuffs links matched. All the way down to our black pat n' leather Stetsons. Day dreaming about how strange I was being drawn from "Flytown". How great I felt just being able to go on "stage" and perform with the group of my dreams. Me, lil' ole skinny Kynne.
When right at that point, I was awakened to a very loud. "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Veterans Memorial is proud to present to you Columbus's own........"VaaaaaaaaalllleeeeeJooooooossssss".
The crowd went wild and the echo seemed to drown the whole place.
Have you ever felt the blood just drain from your whole body? Have you ever felt like your legs were made of Jell-O? Have you ever felt your jaw drop to the floor, but your mouth is still shut? Well, that was me. The cheeks of my butt tighten up so tight, I felt like the back pair of suspender buttons on my pants were going to pop. I just knew my pants were going to drop to the floor. Sweat, by the buckets, wanted to pour out all over my body. But not a drop came out. All of a sudden, I thought. " I've got to go to the bathroom. Too late, now! You're on!
Even with all this going on. I knew that I had to, above all things.........stay "too cool to wrinkle".
We "went on" and everything dazed and glazed by. Before I knew it, we were through. We had moved and grooved to the crowd and they were still yelling and screaming for more as we were going off. After taking our second bow, we exited back to our dressing room. We all changed from our "uniforms" into our street clothes, wrapped our heads in our "Do Rags", threw on our trenchcoats and prepared to leave. When we came out of the dressing room, back stage, fans were crowded around asking for autographs, pictures, phone numbers, parties, and even room numbers. After all of the people had left the "Vet's" and the stage was cleared, I sat in the middle of the auditorium and stared back at that big, empty stage. I thought and prayed to myself, "Lord, I don't know how, but I' ve got to keep doing this". Sitting looking at that stage, for the first time in my life, I felt "at home". I sat there for a long time. (man, can I day dream!) And, all the way home I kept saying to myself..........."Hey, guess what? Finally, I'm a Vallejo!"."I'm a Vallejo!" Me!