We had lived on Ronnie Rd. off Jackson Ave. since I was one, moving from Payton St. were Hurt Village use to be. I was pretty much a
normal kid, maybe a little more curious then the average. My first major recollection of life was in the late summer of 1954,I was just fixing
to turn four, on August 11. My hero was Roy Rodger and my bike was my horse, if there was a cowboy show on t.v. I was watching it and
then the arm of the couch was my horse. It was just another summer afternoon and I came in the house for some thing. My sister Dollie
and a couple of her friends were standing at the dinning room table, all of a sudden they started screaming jumping up and down. It
looked to me like they were crying in pain, just about that time my mom came out of the kitchen, she looked at me like she was going to cry
too. I was totally freaked out, I thought it was the end, I couldn't stand to look any more. I broke and ran, I hit the front door doing a
hundred, I don't know where I was going but I was just about ready to cry myself.
My brother Jimmy tackle me right before I got to the sidewalk , he said everything was o.k., they were happy not sad. They were screaming
over a record they were listening to, Elvis Presley. Memphis change that day, it was a lot more fun, music became a big part of my family's
life, we would have party across the street at some friends house and listen to the new rock & roll. My best friend got a set of Ludwig
drums for Christmas that year, I don't know what is was, put there was something about those drums, I fell in love with the way they
looked, the chrome and bright color I guess. He was going to have to take lessons, I didn't like that part, but I never forgot the way they
looked. We moved to Huntsville Alabama in 1958, it was like a boom town. In '58 they were working on John Glenn's rocket, it was an
exciting time. There were people from all over the world living around us, Germany, Japan, England, France, the town was way over
crowded. I only had to go to school four hours a day, I loved that. We lived twenty miles from The Redstone Arsenal Base, and it would
shake the ground and light up the sky when they tested the rockets.
We had a huge tree house in a vacant lot next to our house, I spent a lot of time up there. I had started smoking cigarettes a little before we
left Memphis, my best friend there smoked, so that help me get in to it more. I was only eight years old but I was full of it, my brother and
sister both were good kids, I had a little evil in me. My friend Charley had lived in the same old shack with his mother and brother all his
life. His mom stayed working most of the time and was gone all the time. They had just built a big supermarket right across the street from
his house, it was always crowded. Charley would go in it get a carton of cigarettes put them under his shirt and walk out. It was to easy,
so I started doing it too, and so did a couple of other friends. Some times we would get two a piece in one day, we always had plenty of
cigarettes. We lived on the out skirt of town, there was a clover field right behind our house, and some woods across from Charlie's. There
were some cliffs in those woods, some of them were about ninety feet high, that's the ones we played on, it would take over an hour just to
get to the top. There was a real old jail house up on top of the cliffs.
We were all up there one day , my brother and a couple of our friends were messing around the old jail, Danny a friend of my brother's
tripped over a lock on the ground. We moved all the leaves from around the lock, it was a trap door. Pretty weird looking, a trap door
out in the middle of nowhere, we broke the lock off and opened the door. It was a underground reservoir, cold water, and it was hot out.
We wasted no time getting in it, it was a little dark and spooky. It was about ten feet to the water, and I couldn't swim, so I would jump in
and go under water to the side. It was hard getting out, that was one of the reason we didn't do it long. The other was when the turbine
came on it got real spooky, the sound was like being in a cave, a lot of echo. Jimmy went to school in the morning, I didn't go till the
afternoon. Danny also went in the morning, he would give me 25¢ to let him use our gas can, he would set up in the tree house a sniff it. I
never did like it, it gave me a headache.
Charley live in a run down shack, and the grass was real high and dead. He got the idea one day to burn the grass, we almost burn down
the house. We got in fights every day, I couldn't whip him, and he couldn't whip me, he was a great dude and I'll always remember him.
One of my fondness memories of Huntsville was the tree house, a couple of time I would be out there by myself after dark smoking
cigarettes. This beautiful little German girl, Gisela that live on the other side of the vacant lot where the tree house was, she would come
over to the tree house to smoke too. She was older then me, about my sister’s age –12 or 13. It was hard to understand her English, but I
sure did like being around her. I would give her a light off of my cigarette, and she would hold my hand to keep it steady, I was only 8
but I loved looking at her. We moved back to Memphis in'59, I hated leaving my friends, but it was good coming back to Memphis.
We lived in Frayser a few months and moved over on Faxson Ave. in mid town for a year, but we ended up back on Ronnie Rd. where we
first moved from. I did all the normal stuff, like baseball, football, swimming and so on. A friend from up the street, Phillip came and got me
one day, he wanted me to go up on Jackson Ave. and watch some car go by. They were race car being towed to Lakeland Speed Bowl they
looked cool, it was love at first sight. The next week we did the same thing, it was fun watching them go by. Phillip's daddy was going
to take him that night, he ask if I wanted to go, man did I ever. When I ask mama, she said that Mason McDaniel , her brother had two sons
Al and Willie that drove race cars. She called to find out about them, sure enough they drove B-cars, #19 & 21. I'd never seen anything as
exciting as this, the smell and sound was to cool. The very first race was B- cars, Al in car 21 was the first car out of the pits, Willie in car
19 was a few cars back.
Al won that race from the pole, Phillip's daddy didn't like the idea of my family winning, he was rude about it, saying he sandbagged.
It made me mad, and I didn't even know Al. The next week mama ask if I could go with them, Mason said I was more then welcome to come
along with them. The same thing happened again, Al won from the pole and wrecked in the feature. That night after the races, I got to meet
Al and Willie. I was hooked, my first big love was race cars, the smell of brake fluid, burning rubber, and motors being wound up all the
way, and a chance of getting killed. Al didn't have a lot of time for me, after all, I was a punk kid. Willie acted like he'd known me all my life,
of all the people I've met in my life, he's right at the top. Mason towed Willie's car home that night, and he let me and Willie's younger
brother Philip ride in the race car. I was just a few months older then Phillip, Willie was nine years older then me. They ran Lakeland on
Friday night, and Riverside Speedway on Saturday night, the only deference was the tires and carburetors, three twos on Fridays and
two fours on Saturdays. Lakeland was asphalt and Riverside was gumbo dirt, so that was the tire deference.
This became my home away from home, they opened up their home for me and treated me like one of the family. They had a sister too,
Patsy was a few years older then me, and another brother younger then Phillip named Gary Paul, he never hung around with us. Willie
would take us to the drive-in and roller skating, he was married so it would be the five of us all the time. One week day afternoon we were
over at Willie's house and he came in and said we needed to get some rest. He was going to take us to the fairgrounds to meet Elvis, that
the first I knew of that. We were to excited to go to sleep, but we tried. We left the house about 11:30pm heading for the fairground, I never
got to go to the fair, so I was looking forward to the rides. I was a big Elvis fan too, but I didn't really think I would get to meet him. We were
all standing out in the parking lot on Parkway, I guess about 20 or so people, I was staying close to Willie to see what was fixing to go
down. A car came speeding up in the parking lot and a dude jump out and said he's right behind us. A dude that was talking to Willie ask if
they had any trouble, the other guy said some one had thrown a rock but it didn't hit the car, no big deal.
About that time a black limousine came pulling in real fast and stop, some one opened the door and Elvis was setting in the back by him
self. My first thought was how small he looked in that big back seat, and a little lonely. He was wearing black pants, black boots, a hot
pink long sleeve shirt and black sailor hat. He got out laughing about who ever it was that threw the rock, he really looked cool, one good
looking dude. Phillip ran off some where and Patsy and me were standing out of the way. Willie motioned for us to come over to where
they were standing, he introduced me as his cousin, Roger. He said you remember Patsy, Elvis hugged Pasty and put out his hand for
me to shake, and said "how you doing", I said fine. He said some thing about how pretty Patsy was getting, then he started talking to
Willie. That was my cue to back up and get out of there, I wanted to go smoke a cigarette some where.
What the deal was, Elvis and his friends got on the Rocket and road it for a few minutes, then Elvis got off and ran it for a few more
minutes and then they let everybody get on it. I didn't get on it, by the time I figured out what was going on, they all were going to the next
ride, The Twister. I was warned about how Elvis would try and make you sick, and I'd never been on The Twister before, but I couldn't wait
to get on it. When Elvis got off, Phillip and me got on, Elvis was at the controls, it was the old type diesel engine and a clutch controlled the
speed. At first he would get on it, and then let off of it. It was getting to Phillip, I was on the outside and he was having to hold himself off of
me. That was my first time on a ride like that, and I loved it, I was laughing as hard as I could. Elvis opened it up and held it, Phillip couldn't
hold on, and he said he was about to get sick, I was trying to tell them, but we were going by them to fast. He finally let off and stop it,
just in time, Phillip lost it as soon as he got off. They all had a big laugh, I think Elvis knew how much I enjoyed it.
The next ride was The Pippin, just a few of Elvis' closest friends got on this time, Willie was one of them. Some would get in the front and
some in the back cars, when it started up the hill, the ones in the back went to the front, and the front to the back. It looked like a lot of fun,
one time at the very top Elvis was a little late getting to the back, it went into a turn before he was ready. He caught his toe on the bar,
that's all that kept him from falling about forty feet down, right in front of Patsy and me. This dude bet Elvis fifty dollars he would ride The
Pippin in a way Elvis wouldn't. Elvis told him he wouldn't do it but Bardahl would, Bardahl a nick name Elvis gave Willie. They took the bet,
Willie said he would go first. Elvis, Anita Wood were in the front car and Patsy in the middle of them. Willie got on the very front outside the
car,his crotch was on the head light, he was holding the bar that was suppose to hold you in your set, it was up. If I hadn't seen it with my
own eyes I wouldn't have believe it, Elvis was letting Willie know when a turn was coming up so he could brace for it. The other dude
wouldn't do it, so he gave Elvis the money. I didn’t ride The Pippin that night, just a little to much for me.
The next ride was the Bumper Cars, this is where I found out how powerful Elvis was. The only people that got to ride was his close
friends, Willie, Red West and Sonny and so on, they had a game going. All the other ride were still going, but it was more fun just watching
them have fun. Everything was going along fine, then somebody hit Elvis off guard, it knocked his cigars out of his shirt pocket out on to
the floor, almost knocked his hat off, it was a good lick. He hollered out real loud a few four lettered words, all the cars stop and everybody
stop talking. There were about thirty of us standing around watching them, I was still laughing, it was funny. This girl grabbed me by
the arm and said to be quiet so I wouldn't get his attention. Red had a few ha ha's with him, and after about two minutes of back and forth
cursing someone jump out and picked up his cigars. Elvis laugh, and then everybody had a big laugh, and they started playing again.
It was just about daylight when we left, it was the best time I ever had at the fairgrounds. My family wasn't rich and I never got to go to the
fair, and here I was having fun with the king of rock & roll, free food and rides. I'll never forget how he made me feel, the good and the bad.
I know it's not a good comparison, but it was the only other time I had that feeling. When I shuck hands with him, I looked him in the eyes,
and he had a power in his look. Several years later in the mid sixties they had a big bad gorilla over at the Overton Park Zoo, it was in all
the paper and on the news, a few friends and me decided to go over and see it. I don't know how it happened, everybody was trying to
get a good look at him. I was at one of the side glasses, and I knew the glass was two inches thick, that dude got right up in my face, I
looked him right in the eyes. This thing put fear in me, and at the same time I felt passion, and for some reason I thought of Elvis. I walked
away from there a little sad, knowing how powerful this animal was and how sad it looked, if it could have got out of that cage, the people
that were making fun of it would have died.
Willie invited me to go up to Graceland a few time, I didn't want to. I guess part of the reason was I didn't want to be called down like he did
that night at the Bumper Cars. I was a punk kid, they were way over me. Now looking back, I kind of wish I had gone over there, I know it
would have been fun. Elvis was a star, and it was great to get to meet him, but Willie was a star too, and a cool dude. Race cars were all I
wanted to do, the only thing I dreamed about. We started racing out of town in little small towns in Tennessee. Al would win a lot of races,
Willie won a few and came in second a lot. Willie had divorced his wife and always had a good looking girlfriend, I just enjoyed being
around him. The second year of the country racing Willie move to Dyersburg and almost stop racing, that sucked because he paid my
way in and came and got me. Al had a friend Eddie Anthony that lived a few streets over from me, he was building a car to run, I started
going over there to help out.
It was 1963 and I was riding with Al sometimes and Eddie sometimes, ever what it took to get there. When school started back we were still
racing four nights a week, Wednesday thru Saturday so it was hard getting up on Thursday and Friday. I wouldn't get in bed till 3:00am
most of the time, on top of that I hated school, I just wanted to race. It was pretty much the same in '64,we were going to a race track
almost every night, Al was winning a lot. He had two cars, one slow B and one fast B, but they did hot laps for both classes at the same
time. We were all standing around before hot laps one night, they were talking about the problem of warming up both cars. I wanted to
say I would do it, but I was to shy. My name came up and I made eye contact with the owner Jerry Donohue, I wanted to do it bad. Of all
things Mason was there, I think it was the first time he ever came out of town with us. He said I couldn't do it with out asking my mom, so
he got in it.
Mason hadn't been in a race car since his bad wreck years earlier, and that almost kill him. It was the first race my grandparents, his mom
and dad had ever been to, and it was the last one too. Anyway he warmed up the car, I was the first person to him when he stop, it wore
him out but he liked it. I think if I had drove that car that night my future would have been set. As it was, things were about to change in my
life. It didn't come up anymore that year for me to drive, but I was going to be fifteen the next summer, I knew my chance was coming. I'm
going to jump back a little to explain something. It was right before Christmas 1963,we were out in the backyard of a friend down the
street, another friend Sydney Clark came riding up on his Honda 50.One of the guys said, "take off you helmet, and let us see your new
hair cut", he did and I couldn't till what they were talking about. He was an ivy leaguer, at the time they were wearing their hair in a Caesar,
long in the front and short in the back and sides. They said it was a Beatles cut, he was pushing it to one side. I didn't know what they
were talking about, if it didn't have something to do with racing, I wasn't into it anyway.
They told me The Beatles were the hottest thing going in music, and to go look in the new Life magazine, I did just that. They were the
coolest thing I'd ever seen, it wasn't like Elvis, he was nice clean looking and a great singer, these dudes were just a little older then me
and not all that clean looking type, at the time all I could see was hair and noses, but there was something about the way they looked on
that stage. I had never even heard their music, but when I did later that day, I was a fan too. Over the holidays that's all you heard about,
The Beatles are coming. I was a greaser and proud of it, I wasn't into the ivy league deal. The Beatles were on The Ed Sullivan Show on
Sunday night February 9,1964 for the first time. Soon after that our school was having a sockhop, we were getting ready to go, a friend
of mine , Ricky Climer told me to wash the grease out of my hair. I didn't want to do it at first, but he kept on and I did, I already had long
hair, but it took some getting use to being down in my face and dry. That night was the first rock band I'd ever seen live, Tommy Burk
and The Counts, I enjoyed it but I didn't like being at school, that was my last sockhop. The thing that caught my attention the most was
the drums, they were almost as exciting as race cars.
Christmas 1964 was going to change my life big time, I got some drums and started a band, Neighborhood Band....
Next story-Neighborhood Band