1902--OCS for Feb 2019 Elvis Day
and the Day the Music Died
Bobby Boy’s Old Curiosity Shop for
One of the many musical events I’ve
learned about from Evie Sands is Art Fein’s Elvis Birthday
This gathering is held every year, as
one might guess around January 8. Locations have varied
over the years; the first one I went to was the House of Blues
in West Hollywood in 2003. Evie sang “Too Much” and a
special guest was Ben Weisman, who wrote 57 songs for Elvis and
was a collaborator, friend and mentor to Evie for many years.
The 2004 edition was at the Hollywood
Avalon on Vine Sreet. This is a handy location because I
parked at the Gold Line terminal, went to Union Station and
transferred to the Red Line. As I recall, a Metro day pass
was about $5, and when I got off the train at Vine Street. I
passed parking lots that were asking $15! This was the
show that included the late Candye Kane, whose song, "You Need a
Great Big Woman," included such lines as “You gotta love
your body! Love everybody else’s body if you have a
chance…” and “Work what you got, whether it’s a little or a
lot.” I wonder how many in the audience were a bit
surprised when she sang Peace in the Valley." In keeping
with her "Women in Prison" CD, Evie chose "Jailhouse Rock"
and followed it with "Too Much." Also on the stage was
Marcy Levy, who used to be one of Eric Clapton’s backing singers
and co-wrote some of his songs. Some years later I
would see her with her blues band at, of all places, a church
carnival in Alhambra.
For 2005, the show moved to the Henry
Fonda Theatre, even closer to the Hollywood and Vine Metro
station. This show featured not just Evie Sands, but
former teen idol Tommy Sands (as far as I know, no relation) and
former Coasters singer, Young Jessie, whom I remember as a solo
performer on Zeke Manners short-lived music and dance show
singing "Here Comes Henry." His song was "Hot Dog," not to
be confused with "Hound Dog," but both songs were written by
Lieber & Stoller.
Records are sketchy about 2007, 2008 and
2009. 2010 had a conflict of interest: Evie was appearing
at Taix Restaurant, just a few blocks from the Echo in Echo
Park. I chose Evie, who sang among other numbers, "Sweet
Ricky," a blues song that lets her give the guitar a workout,
but has never been recorded. On the way home from Taix, I
spotted Count Smokula, a long time favorite at Elvis tribute
shows, heading for his car to ride back to Smokesylvania.
Attendance at following shows was off
and on, when we came to the 2017 show, I did a write-up for the
February 2017 OCS with photos of Emmy Lee and the Rockabelles.
I didn’t get to the 2018 edition, at Joe’s in Burbank, but did
scout the area and get photos of the Edison substation which is
surrounded by Burbank (it’s a switching station for the
subtransmission system, with no local customers).
When 2019 arrived, and the EBB was in
the same location, I knew where it was. Last June, I went
to a show with Skip Heller and the Carnival of Soul, at Petie’s
Place in Tarzana. Skip spotted me in the audience, and
introduced me as a “connoisseur of female vocalists” then
introduced me to the new singer in the band, Birdie Jones.
I saw them again on a couple more occasions, including one in a
basement room in Santa Monica. So when they were announced
as part of the Elvis Birthday Bash, along with Heather Lomax,
Anny Celsi and many others, I went to Joe’s and was glad I
Count Smokula is a long time favorite at EBB, coming all the way
from Smokesylvania to
entertain the fans. With his
accordion, one might think that Smokesylvania is near Louisiana.
Long time Los Angeles music impresario and author of the L. A.
Musical History Tour book, Art Fein
introduces Skip Heller and
the Carnival of Soul band. Art has been staging these
Elvis tribute shows
for over 20 years now, and his work is
greatly appreciated by music fans in the Southland.
The Carnival’s brass section is top-notch, and Ms Birdie Jones
is the perfect “cowboy’s sweetheart.”
Laura Smith is dressed for the occasion- no doubt who her
Many of the songs had the dance floor wall-to-wall with folks
rockin’ to the beat.
Heather Lomax just blew me away, singing two of my favorite
Elvis R&B covers, Lawdy Miss Clawdy
and his first commercial
release, That’s All Right Mama. Worth the price of
admission right there!
Even better, someone recorded the
songs on video, including one sweep of the area where I show up
Alice Wallace, whom I first met at one of Terry Okey’s Second
Sunday shows at
Adams Pack Station, has been touring the country
and has a new CD out.
Here’s Ms K. P. Hawthorne, whom I have previously seen as a
member of Calico the Band, who
played at an Alice Wallace CD
release party. For some of the Calico songs, she plays a
with that old-timey resonator sound.
Carla Olson, another EBB regular, rocked the house with an old
Jimmy Reed hit,
“Baby What You Want Me to Do.”
Ms. Anny Celsi, whom I first met at an Adam Marsland’s Chaos
Band show, and
whose Au Revoir My Darling video set in New
Orleans at Mardi Gras time, is
always a treat, sang "Marie’s the
Name of His Latest Flame," while the band kept
up a Bo Diddley
And this is just a small sample of the
many artists who came to pay tribute to the King. Elvis
may be gone from this earthly realm, but he lives in the hearts
of fans around the world.
In a few days, the music world will
observe the 60th anniversary of “The Day the Music Died,” the
plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa that killed Buddy Holly,
Ritchie Valens, J. P Richardson, and the pilot. I have
been in Clear Lake to see the now defunct Iowa Trolley Park
during a visit to the Iowa Traction Co., the last all-electric
freight only railroad in the US in 1990 as part of the Fight
Fiercely Tour. Since we were under a bit of time
constraint, I didn’t try to locate the crash site, but I’ve seen
guides to the location in a farmer’s field. There are
simple memorial markers, but no souvenir shops or other
commercialization. The Surf Ballroom, where the last performance
was held is still in business and they have special events
scheduled. The 2nd and 3rd are a weekend, which will be
good for those marking the date.
Poster from that fateful day.
Ties in with my old day job as a comm. tech (but I didn’t do pay
phones, or what the
phone company calls “Coin telephones”)
Surf Ballroom recent photo.
Here’s a Yelp review from last year.
It looks like the ballroom has survived anddone well,
apparently it goes back to the Big Band era. With so many
legendary performance venues nothing but fading memories (the
Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa CA comes to mind) this is welcome
Reviewed September 22, 2018
Enjoyed taking a self-guided tour of
this historical ballroom. Pictures, many autographed by the
hundreds of musicians who have performed here, are displayed on
several walls. The decor harks back to the era of Buddy Holly
who tragically lost his life shortly after performing here when
the plane in which he was riding crashed nearby. Every year that
anniversary is commemorated with an annual dance party.
A must-see for anyone who enjoys music
history and dancing.
Date of experience: September 2018
The Ballroom has a website, something
that wasn’t even science fiction 60 years ago:
That’s it for this month— our next section of this travelogue
will visit Kansas, mention Kentucky, get jazzed up about
Louisiana (or at least New Orleans), go about as far as you can
get from the Old Curiosity shop in Maine, and see how much
further we wander.