DWS's TRIBUTE TO
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What a night it was. The show was sold out a week in advance, but the LA Weekly's half-page on Hunter Hancock, plus Tammy Trujillo's spot on KFWB news radio, kept the phone ringing right up until showtime.
After the house band, The Boomers, started off the evening with a rendition of "All Night Long" (featuring Dave Cadison on tenor sax), DWS Board Members Ray Baxter and Phyllis Bardone came onstage to make a few announcements and introduce the evening's emcee, Steve Propes. As soon as Steve took the microphone, he brought out the evening's honored guest, Ol' H.H. himself, the West Coast's first rhythm and blues disc jockey. Hancock's once famous radio theme--"...from sweet to swing, from blues to boogie..."--played over the sound system. The crowd was on its feet. Hunter Hancock was visibly overcome with emotion. With his hand on his chest, he apologized to the crowd for not being in top form, saying that his doctor had told him to stay home that evening because his heart wasn't in the best shape and his blood pressure was low, but then he added, "I wouldn't have stayed home and missed this for anything."
Steve and Hunter then introduced the evening's first vocal group, The Storytellers from the San Gabriel Valley, featuring Al Sanchez on lead vocals. The last time these veterans of Doo-Wop Society shows performed, Al was backed by only two cohorts, Ruben Ochoa and Nick Delgado, but this time they were back to being a quartet again with the addition of a new fourth member who definitely fattened up their sound. Besides their 1959 Los Angeles hit, "You Played Me a Fool," they sang their popular "The L.A. Shuffle," "Never Forget" and Huey Smith's "Don't You Just Know It."
Next up were Jeanette Baker and Johnny Flamingo, real life husband and wife, who have been singing together for 45 years, since their original Caddy Records recording of "Hey Boy Hey Girl," the song that was covered by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Since each was also a solo act in the '50s, they individually sang their own songs. Johnny brought back "I," "So Long" and "You're Mine," while Jeanette crooned "Johnny." They also joined together to sing that great Shirley & Lee song, "Let the Good Times Roll."
Next up were The Calvanes (Herman Pruitt, Bobby Adams, James Corbett, Fred Willis), and what can you say about these guys? Polished professionals all the way. Since they were the only group to perform two sets that night, they added a lot of popular songs to pay tribute to some of the groups they'd listened to back in the '50s, such as The Chords ("Sh-Boom"), The Coasters ("Charlie Brown"--complete with stage shenanigans), The Youngsters ("Dreamy Eyes"--featuring Pruitt, who sang with The Youngsters in 1958), Percy Mayfield's 1950 blues "Please Send Me Someone to Love," and their own 1955 rocker, "Crazy Over You."
Jewel Akens of "Birds and the Bees" fame made a surprise appearance to give Hunter Hancock an award for...well, he was simply paying Hunter back for a little 3rd-place trophy that Hunter had awarded him at a talent show back in the mid-'50s. When Jewel held up the little cup, everybody got a good laugh, but as Jewel pointed out, that piece of plastic meant a lot back in those days. [Photo at top of page.]
Big Jay McNeely was scheduled to end the set, and Hunter Hancock insisted on introducing him. After all, Big Jay put a lot of money in Ol' H.H.'s pocket back in 1959 with "There Is Something on Your Mind," the debut single on Hunter's Swingin' label. Big Jay, as is his wont, came from the back of the ballroom, blasting his tenor sax, and worked his way through the crowd toward the stage. He played through his best known tunes, including his 1949 hit "Deacon's Hop," "There Is Something on Your Mind," the sing-along "Nervous Man Nervous," "All That Wine Is Gone" (the song Big Jay used back in 1951 to introduce his young band singer, Jesse Belvin) and a rare 1949 tune called "Hoppin' With Hunter" which Big Jay had to relearn for this show. He ended the show with the lights down low and several blacklights turning his painted saxophone into glowing orange and green.
At the end of Big Jay's set, DWS Board Member Jim Dawson came out with a large plaque that enclosed a 78 rpm disc of Big Jay's "Hoppin' With Hunter" on Exclusive Records, along with a written thanks from the Doo-Wop Society to "Ol' H.H., Legendary and Premier Rhythm & Blues Disc Jockey (1947-1968)." If that wasn't enough, The Medallions' Billy Foster came out and presented Hunter with a certificate from the City of Los Angeles.
During intermission, Hunter Hancock was scheduled to sign autographs, but unfortunately he was feeling rather badly at that point. He had been intermittently napping backstage, and by now the evening's excitement had taken its toll. He was spirited out to the limousine that the DWS had leased for him for the evening and whisked home. (Two days later Ol' H.H. went into the hospital with a low blood count and spent a couple of days there, but by the following week he was calling in to report that he was feeling much better and that he wanted to thank everyone for such a wonderful evening.)
But Hunter's departure didn't stop the show. The Hollywood Saxons, featuring two originals (Stan Beverly and Joe Louis) did a quick set singing their best songs, including "Yes It's True," "L.A. Lover" and the stirring ballad "Everyday's a Holiday"--all of which were released back in the early '60s on Hunter Hancock's Swingin' label.
Then came Vernon Green & The Medallions (with longtime members Jimmy Green and Billy Foster), always a crowd pleaser, grooving through their well-known Dootone local hits, "The Letter," "Buick 59," "Speedin'" and the bluesy "Magic Mountain." Vernon sings in a wheelchair these days, but that hasn't affected his strong bluesy delivery one bit.
The Calvanes returned to end the show with a whole new set, including "Chapel of Love" (the song they recorded for Art Laboe back in 1958 as The Hitmakers), The Robins' "Smokey Joe's Cafe," and their own "Have You No Heart," "Don't Take Your Love From Me" and "Flee Oo Wee Oo Wee."
All in all, it was a great show that kept the Petroleum Club jumping. If there was any disappointment, it was only that Hunter Hancock couldn't personally meet his hundreds of fans.
Hunter Hancock died on August 4, 2004.
|Doo-wop legend Arthur Lee Maye
visits Hunter backstage.
|Hunter jokes backstage
with Sylvia Propes.
|The Regalado family (Ray, Olivia and
Jimmy) shares a reunion.
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HUNTER HANCOCK PAGE
OUR NEXT SHOW: July 8, 2000
We're looking forward to our next show on July 8, which will tentatively feature The Eternals of "Babalu's Wedding Day" and "Rockin' in the Jungle" fame. Stay tuned.
The Petroleum Club is located at 3636 Linden in Long Beach. Doors open at 7:00, show starts at 8:00.
Prices are $20 WillCall and $30 Reserved for Members; $30 WillCall and $40 Reserved for Non-Members. Send your checks to 3553 Atlantic Avenue #251, Long Beach, CA 90807.
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