I was about eight years old when I first stepped on to a stage at the Camp Hale talent show. I had no intention of entering the contest, but the camp bully stuck his finger in my chest and said, “You’re better than everyone so far. Get up there and sing or I’m gonna kick your sorry butt.” He was after the winner’s prize. I sang Johnny Ray’s Cry and won the contest, but the bully took the prize. I wonder if he’s managing bands now?
In my early teens, some friends and I put together a calypso band called The Jaguars. A year or so later we tried out for Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. After our performance, the other kids that were auditioning gave us a standing ovation. We thought we were “in,” but Ted, asserting that we were “obviously professionals,” disqualified us. His claim was untrue. We had only played church socials and the like, for cookies and milk. It was a bummer not to get on the show, but it made us celebs in the hood and also made me think…hey, maybe I can do this!
Just about that time, in the late 50s, rock & roll/DooWop began to dominate the airwaves. The Jaguars canned calypso and dove into DooWop. On summer nights, vocal groups gathered in our neighborhood park to compete. The Jaguars were a favorite — even the cops liked us. We caught the attention of a popular disc jockey named Joe Smith and began doing sock hops. I will always remember opening for Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon. It seemed we were on our way to the big time until a couple of the band members “had to” get married, and the group broke up.