|STARK NAKED AND THE CAR THIEVES|
A Retrospective on our band in the California Fifties, Sixties and Seventies
LES & THE MG COMBO
I was surrounded by music from birth. At
around 13 or 14, I decided I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to be a
part of what was happening. I wanted to play the saxophone, because I
was hearing some great players playing what would be called later--
So, I was taken to a local conservatory of music and given tests to determine if I had the aptitude for formal music training. I did. So, I began a journey down the right road, but in the wrong lane. I quickly realized I was getting bored with formal training. I wasn’t being taught what I heard on the radio, and what was in my head. Then the most obvious revelation of all, I couldn’t sing and play the sax at the same time.
Probably the most significant event that shaped my future music involvement happened in 1961. I went to a summer camp that year and had a great time. One evening as we were winding down from the day, one of our counselors, I believe his name was Carl Stoicheff (I probably just completely misspelled his name), took out a ukulele and began to play a song called “Five Foot Two (eyes of blue)”. I was fascinated and asked him if he would show me how to do that. He showed me where to put my fingers and to his surprise, I played it correctly the first time.
I didn’t know that what I just did was difficult for a novice. But he was so impressed, that he gave me the ukulele and a simple chord book and told me to keep it all summer. By the time school started in the fall, I was playing all the songs on the radio on it. When I showed him, he said you’re a natural born guitar player, you’ve moved way beyond a ukulele.
A couple of weeks later, I purchased my first guitar for $5.00. A real beauty. Light blue. Someone painted it that color with a two-inch brush I think, and it only had 5 strings. I didn’t mind, it was one more string than I was use to on the ”uke”. Now I was getting somewhere.
A couple of weeks later, I went to buy a set of strings and now I had a guitar with six strings, I’m ready for “Bandstand”.
I practiced every extra minute I had, and in about three months, I knew how to sing and play several songs. I would sing anywhere, parities, “sock hops”, anywhere. One Saturday night the girl I was dating took my guitar to a large dance, and she told the band that was playing that I wanted to sing a couple of songs. I was totally unaware, and shocked when they announced that Les Silvey was going to come up and sing. Could someone have the same name as me? Nope, I was trapped. The crowd was cheering, I had no real choice, but to run. I’m glad I didn’t.
If I had been given some time to think about it, I’m not sure I could have gotten past the fear of singing in front of about 200 people. But, I did it and I was actually experiencing my dream. People were cheering and dancing, and most importantly, the girls were screaming. Now I’m completely hooked, and I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.
The disc Jockey who was running this dance was “Bouncin’” Bill Baker. He was the top DJ in Indianapolis at that time. He asked me if I would like to be the featured singer at the “hops” he worked. Yes, I did. This was the start of my career in music. I put a small band together, The MG Combo and started playing music as much as I could.
Before long we found ourselves being booked as an opening band at some local concerts. We opened up for The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and The Ventures to name a few. I’d only been in the “business for a few short months, and I couldn’t believe how exciting my world had become. I wanted more, a lot more.
Most of the dances we played I used my own MG Combo band. But occasionally I would play somewhere that had a house band. There was a vocal group that showed up on one of these events, called The Reflections. They were a talented quartet comprised of David Dunn, Larry Dunlap, Pat Baldwin and Chuck Tuna. I loved their harmonies. We were friends immediately.
There was a recording studio in Indianapolis run by Jan Hutchins. It was a place where most of the bands and musicians went to try to become the next big star. This is where Dave, Larry, Pat and Chuck and I would run into each other once in awhile. I would play guitar for other artists and they would do background vocals. This is how we would earn studio time for ourselves.
©2011 Stark Naked & the Car Thieves
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