Thursday, January 12, 2006

PCB and Billy's First Singing Gig

For a while now I have been copying old LP record albums into the computer into a MP3 format. Before we had children we accumulated about 500 albums of all types. Now, this is a way to archive them. Today I copied Al Hirt's Swingin' Dixie.

But while going through my collection to pick from, I came across an album of an old friend, who shall remain nameless. For the purpose of this entry I will call him Billy.

I grew up with Billy and his brother. We and other friends in the same little circle had some hell raising times. I remember on a country road one time Billy was driving behind me and I was driving about 70 mph and he eased up and he made his front bumper tap my rear bumper. It scared the heck out of me. Several times in high school we got caught drinking in the parking lots of evens and Billy was an expert lying out of it getting us off free.

Billy loved to sing. He could imitate any body, soul, rock, or country so close, if one didn't know better you would swear the sound was coming from the person that made it famous.

The night after school was out for the summer in 1959, Billy, his brother, three friends, and myself crammed in Billy's '50 black Ford and drove to Panama City, Florida, otherwise known as the Red-neck Riviera. That is where most of our high school friends were going.

We did not have much money. I had only $30 and that was more than anyone else in the car. We found a motel called Key of Rest Motel, which was a dump. It had no paved parking lot and you had to share a bathroom with the next room, and no air conditioning and the buildings were made of concrete blocks with no type of insulation, but that was fine for $8 a night. There were six of us, but the owner-lady charged by head. We told her there were four of us, which was $2 each. After we made the deal we went to the nearest package store and bought some Spearmen 8 six-packs of beer for $1.50 a six pack.

While driving around the area we ran into 5 or 6 more friends that did not have a place to stay. We invited them to stay with us. Then we played on the beach and layed in the sun.

I noticed that a sign on the beach put up by the City of Panama Beach, Florida, said, "No Colored Maids Allowed On Beaches With Bathing Suits". I thought that was very sad. We were living in a cast system and didn't even know it.

That night was a place called "The Hangout" which was a shelter overlooking the beach and the Gulf. The music was loud and people were dancing. Teenagers drunk their beer in the shadows and the police looked the other way unless there was trouble.

About 11pm we returned to our room at the Key of Rest Motel. I think there were about ten or eleven of us. We were feeling the effects of cheap beer and also feeling the effect of a Florida sun-burn. We could not possibly sleep against each other in a crowded room. One of us went through the bathroom to the other door to the other room and knocked on it. Nobody answered it. He eased the door opened and looked inside. It was all clean and ready for occupancy. About half of us moved to the newly discovered room. Needless to say, we had no pajamas. We slept in our jockey shorts.

In the middle of the night the door to the unpaid room opened. It was the lady owner showing the room to a newly wed couple. There was a bunch of screaming and hollaring.

We were evicted. The lady-owner checked our suit cases before we were allowed to leave. It is a good thing she did, she found four towels.

We had no place to go so we went to the beach. Panama City Beach has very beautiful soft white sand. So, each of us nestled us a comfortable mound of sand and fell asleep.

As I was sleeping I thought I heard the sound of a lawnmower approaching. Then, we were all showered with a chemical. What we didn't know was each night or early morning the City sprays the beach for insects... they ride by in a crop dusting kind of contraption that shoots out some type of insect killer.

That was about all of Panama City Beach we could take for that year. As I remember, we left sometime before noon that upcoming day.

We went to see Billy and his brother's uncle and aunt in Valdosta, Georgia. We ended up staying in the area for a week. After a couple of nights they decided there were just too many of us to sponge off them, so another uncle and aunt came and picked three or four of us up and carried us to their home in Tifton, Georgia.

The uncle that lived in Valdosta sung in a country and western band in a furniture warehouse every Tuesday night. Billy had never sung in public to a big gtoup of people before, but he was going to give it a try. The Tifton uncle and aunt carried us back down to Valdosta Saturday night for Billy's first time singing in public.

Billy did great. The crowd went wild. Also that night, Billy and his brother's mother and sisters came down from Marietta to hear him sing.

That next morning their mother carried us all back home to Marietta, except Billy, he stayed there for the summer singing.

After that he got a job singing in Savannah and later put out a record which became a hit and through the next dozen years or so he put out a string of hits and became quiet famous, here in metro Atlanta, anyway. Later, he became fairly popular in Las Vegas and Nashville. He stills sings professionally, and occasionally I hear him on the radio, but I don't think he has put out any top 40 kind of stuff in a while, but they still play his old top 40 songs.

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Blogger kenju said...

Awww, aren't you going to tell us who he is???

I loved reading your story about going to the beach. Good times!

12:47 PM  
Blogger ET said...

I have some more memories with Billy tucked away, which might be used as blog entries later on.
And you might figure out who he is. But most of our misadventures were over 45 years ago, back when Marietta was a small town and Down in the Boon Docks.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Funny story! Now I'M curious as to who Billy is too. By your response to Kenju I would venture his initials are B.J.R. ?? I'm probably wrong but if you want to tell me you can email ;)

6:14 PM  
Blogger ET said...

I would say that is a very Royal answer!

6:39 PM  

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