Playing rock & roll music in the 60's was a lot of fun for me. Memphis was full of good bands, at the very first of the British invasion there was magic in the air. We had a few teenage night clubs , The Roaring 60s -The Go Go Club, The Tonga Club, T.Walker Lewis YMCA, Clear Pool. The Go Go was a little more raw then the others, maybe not as clean or something. All it had was four black walls, a stage, a small bar with soft drinks. It's the one I went to the most, a good friend of mine live right by it at Bellevue and Lamar. I really like watching and listening to some of the bands, but mostly just being around all the other kids.
The 60s and Tonga were more supervised, they all had some great bands too, T. Walker Lewis had a band down stairs and one up stairs on Friday and Saturday. For me 65 thru 67 was the best of Memphis neighborhood and garage bands, I guess the main reason was I was fifteen and full of life. I never did get to play any of the teen clubs, I would have loved to have played a few, they were however a great place to meet girls, I did do a lot of that. I went right from practicing in living room to playing in bars, I was making a little more money, but I know I didn't have as much fun, for sure. I did have a different kind of fun, with much older people. While my friends were playing and going to the teen clubs, I was 60 miles outside Memphis. Looking back now, The Sugar Shack where I was plying was a very dangerous place to be. We were lucky.
By far the coolest club in Memphis for me was not for teens, it was an old beatnik club on Poplar Av. called The Bitter Lemon. It too had no alcohol, but it had some of the best sounds in town. One of the best I ever heard there was the Knowbody Else,1967. My favorite memories of The Lemon was on a week night, it was slow and The Guilaloteens were playing all that week. Our band, The Teiffids cover one of their songs, 'I Don't Believe', it was one of our favorite songs. One of the reasons we went there on week nights was the owner Charley would let us in free. We liked going places as a band and did just about every night, we were setting there waiting for the band to start and Laddie, the guitar player came over the P.A. asking if there was a drummer in the house. My guitar player Gundy, jump up hollering here's one! pulling on me to get up. Laddie said for me to come on up and help them out, their drummer wasn't coming or something.
One of the main reasons I like The Guilaloteens was because of their drummer, Joe Davis, he was the best I'd ever seen, they advertised him in national magazines as being the fastest drummer in the world, and he was for sure the best in Memphis. I was totally out of my comfort zone, the dudes in this band were my heroes, and this wasn't a small bar out in the country where I was use to playing. Part of me wanted to do it bad, to get to jam with The Guilaloteens was a dream, but the other part of me was scared to death. I looked up there, the stage was about three feet high, and then it had a drum riser another three feet, with a ton of lights. We always set up on the floor, but I always loved the look of a drum riser. I got up and headed for the stage, my legs felt like they were going to brake, and my hands were so wet from sweat I didn't think I could hold a drum stick. I climbed up on that big oh set of Ludwig's, man I was nervous. Laddie said they would just do old standards, the first one was 'Memphis', and then we did 'Knock On Wood', 'Hold On', I started feeling a little better about the hold deal. I started to ask him to do 'I Don't Believe', but I didn't. The last song I did with them was 'Matchbox', and then Jerry Lee Lewis' drummer came in took over for me. That was really a big deal for me, Gundy and Wayne got a kick out of it too.
It was around this time, the spring of 1967 and I had had enough. The red necks in Memphis were terrible, they were a few in my neighborhood that hated me. New York or Los Angeles was the place to be. I got it in my head to go, I wasn’t 18 yet so I was just going to go with out telling any one. I had a friend, Rick Climer talked into it. We were going to take his girlfriend’s car. At the last minute he back out. One of the dudes that hung around The Triffids and helped carry equipment, Mike Simpson was from California. His daddy still live there, and he was all for it. The Triffids were all put over, I didn’t really have anything holding me here. I’m not sure about the date, but WHBQ radio was doing an exclusive on The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. When ever they play it, about every 30 seconds or so, in a real deep voice you could here “ This is a WHBQ exclusive” so other radio stations couldn’t copy it. At that time we were hanging with Knowbody Else at The Bitter Lemon. They had a small tape recorder and taped Strawberry Fields off the radio. The very next night Mike and me were leaven for California.
The house we all hung around throw us a going away party. There were about 10 of my closest friends there. Everybody had said their goodbyes, and the door was opened and Mike had already walk out. Debbie, the girl that lived there came running up. She said that Brenda, a girl that I had been trying to go out with, FOR EVER !!! She was in the kitchen crying because I was leaven. I went in to talk to her, she only lived right down the street, across from my parents house. So I was going to walk her home, I was holding her hand and talking. Just before we got to her house we stop, and with that I kissed her. I had been in love with this girl for months, she would not have anything to do with. That kiss went all the way to my soul, I had never had that kind of feeling before. I had had lots of girlfriends, but I’m talking the earth moved. I did not want to let her go. But California was calling, I told her I would be back in a few months. I ask her if she would go out with me when I got back, she said she would.
I wanted to go by The Lemon to say bye to my friends there. I couldn’t believe it, Knowbody Else played Strawberry Fields, the intro and ending and everything in between was great. What a cool band, and some nice dudes. In just one day they worked up a great song and did it very good. Everybody in the club knew we were going to California and they all hollered good luck when we walked out. Now here we are, 11:00 PM, half drunk walking down Poplar Ave. heading 2500 miles west.
We did some walking and sobering up that night, we got a few short rides. We were only a little past Little Rock at noon the next day. The one thing I do remember very well, happened just outside Texarkana. It was kind of like a town I guess, about a half mile long and that was it. I seen a few people looking out their windows, I was use to that. This one house setting just off the road with a couple young girls looking and yelled something, I think thats where the trouble started. It only took about 10 minutes to walk through town, what ever it was. We were just getting outside of it, no more houses. It was just about dark, and a truck was coming up. We were hitchhikingbut just about the time the truck got to us it pull off the side of the road. It had 4 dudes in the front and 5 or 6 in the back. They all jump out and made a circle around us before we knew what was going on. Most of them were my age, late teens. But the one doing all the talking was older. He said “we’re going to cut this queer’s hair”. Now Mike is two years younger then me, 15. But he’s 6’2” 260lbs. and love to fight. He got right in the dude’s face and said, “you’re going have to go through me ”. I'd never been so proud, it wasn’t the first time Mike had stepped in to help me. The dude told Mike he didn’t want any trouble with him. Mike again stood his ground. A few of them were just kids along for the ride. One of them was about my size, he wasn’t watching me, he was looking at Mike. I had a target on his nose, maybe take him out so I could get another.
I could tell it was about to happen, and just then. The main dude said “you look familiar”, talking to Mike. Mikesaid, “so do you”. He ask Mike if he had ever been in Tall Trees, a juvenile prison. Mike sad yes and call him by name. After a minute or so of how you beens, the dude said your friend needs a haircut. Mike again toll him it wasn’t going to happen. The whole thing had only taken 3 or 4 minutes, nobody else had said anything. Just then a cop car pull up, an old man got out and started calling them by name. In a few words, he told them to get their asses home. No body talked back, it was over. The old man said for us to get in the squad car, so he could take us to the county line. He was a pretty nice old man, but he didn’t want us to come back that way. That was ok by us. We hadn’t had any sleep in two days, and nothing to eat in 20 hours. It was dark and when we got out of the squad car, we got off of the road into the woods. I was worried about the redneck coming back, but I didn’t like sleeping in the woods either. So we started hitchhiking again. We got a ride to this side of Hugo Oklahoma, it was 3 o’clock in the morning. No traffic, so we set down by this tree in a front yard. Both of us went to sleep, a pack of dogs woke us up. The whole time all of this was going down, I couldn’t stop thanking about that one kiss with Brenda. I could still taste her, smell her. I was so tired I couldn’t think about anything else but her. What the hell was in California as cool as her, NOTHING!!! I told Mike I was sorry, but I had to go back to Memphis. He called me a few name, but we both walked across the street and put our thumbs out.
It was getting light when a car picked us up. Mike got in up front and I got in the back. The next thing we knew the dude was telling us to get out. He took us 200 miles south away from Memphis, El Dorado Arkansas, almost to Louisiana . That’s what you get for going to sleep without telling the driver where your going. I don’t remember anything after El Dorado, my body shutdown. Mike was like me, running on empty. We got home sometimes that night, don’t know when nor how… Next Story - Haight Ashbury