Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bare feet and black oaks

Everything reminds me of something else.

I wanted to write about my first concert, Black Oak Arkansas at Charleston County Hall in the Summer of '72. Then I remembered that it wasn't actually my first concert, that distinction belongs to B.J. Thomas, whom I saw with my Dad at a high school auditorium in Wilmington, North Carolina. I don't remember much about it, other than being shocked at one point when Thomas took off his jacket and said "All right, time to raise a little hell."

So, thinking about the first concert I went to sans parent got me to thinking about WCSC radio and their brief trip underground. Back in those days of course there was no FM -- much less XM or Sirius -- your choice was between staticky Top 40 and staticky country and western. WCSC was a top 40 station, never as popular as the other top 40 station WTMA. And for a while in an attempt to lure listeners they did what they called "going underground". When the sun went down, they put away the Osmonds and Jackson 5 records and started playing Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep. Still staticky of course. I think I may have been the only person in Charleston who listened to this underground AM station, and I say that because before the Black Oak Arkansas concert they gave away a BOA picture -- no free tickets, no other cool swag, just a picture. All you had to do was answer the question "How many guys are in the band Black Oak Arkansas?" I had seen a picture of them somewhere and I ran to the phone, called, got through and said, "Six."
And the DJ said, "That's the correct answer, but it's not the answer I'm looking for." So I hung up, sat down and tried to figure out how the hell that was possible. It took me a couple minutes but I eventually remembered that earlier the DJ had said something on the air about there being "twice as many as a trio" in the band in question. So I called back, got through (probably woke the guy up) and said "Twice as many as a trio." And he said, "You win."
(Maybe the reason I was the only person who listened to this station was because they made you jump through hoops to win a crappy unframed picture.)

Anyway, that was not the only piece of BOA memorabilia I owned. I read in either Circus or Creem magazine that if you wrote to the Oaks they would send you the deed to one square inch of land in Arkansas, which I of course did. And that was when I learned that being a landowner did not impress the ninth-grade ladies.

So, I went to see Black Oak Arkansas at County Hall, which led to a fight with my father cuz I wanted to go barefoot like my friends Bruce and Buddy; he wanted me to wear shoes. He drove us to the show and I had a great idea. He was going to pick us up too by which time it would be too dark to see my feet, so I shoved my shoes up under the back seat intending to retrive them on the ride home and be properly shod by the time we crossed our threshold.

How was the show? Eye-opening. In my neck of the woods, over the ear was still considered long hair. These guys had long-flowing manes that they swung around like nothing I'd ever seen before. They also played things I'd never thought of as musical instruments -- like washboards.

Tom Waits's voice has been described as sounding like "(H)ow you'd sound if you drank a quart of bourbon, smoked a pack of cigarettes and swallowed a pack of razor blades. . . . Late at night. After not sleeping for three days." And if you screamed at the top of your lungs with a voice like that you'd sound like Jim Mangrum, BOA's lead singer. I honestly don't know if I liked the concert or not. But I do think now that these guys don't get near the credit they deserve. They basically invented southern rock and paved the way for Skynyrd and everybody else. (Don't even talk about Gram Parsons or Poco or the Eagles that's not southern rock; that's Southern California rock.)

And of course my Dad was a lot smarter than I gave him credit for. I should have wornm shoes cuz I stepped on a lit cigarette and blistered my foot. Then when I got back in the and reached up under the seat my shoes were gone. He'd taken them out of course. My punishment -- besides the burnt foot -- was that I was not allowed to go to the next concert which just happened to be the greatest concert ever in Charleston. I'll tell you about that some other time.

1 comment:

Norrin2 said...

David Lee Roth owes more than a little debt of gratitude to Jim Dandy Mangrum for his image too.