In 1966, I was a fourteen
year old living in Boldo, a rural Alabama crossroads. My mother
had just married my stepfather for the second time and he had moved
the family from Birmingham to manage the Goodyear dealership in
the Northwest Alabama town of Jasper. There
was no available housing in Jasper so we rented a ranch with ten
acres of land and a small lake in tiny Boldo.
I was miserable and missed my friends and family in the city. The
locals didn't exactly throw open their arms to strangers and I was
stranger than most. Let's just say that farming wasn't my forte
and I had little to offer that most honorable endeavor. I wanted
to hurry up and get grown and be an actor in Hollywood.
is second from the left in this snapshot taken in the 1960's.
The Boldo Elementary
and Jr. High School looked like an old white barn on cement blocks.
My general demeanor seemed to infuriate my rougher male schoolmates
and I was harassed and made to fight or flee on a daily basis. I
desperately tried charm and humor to avoid getting beat up before
school, after school and during the dreaded "recess."
Doubtlessly entertaining to some, my attempts at fitting in were
met with snarled, angry taunts and pummelings. The older brothers
of these boys were already fighting and dying in Viet Nam. There
was more than a little fear and apprehension lying just beneath
the surface in these tough young country boys in 1966. I found them
all terribly attractive and that didn't help matters. This unsettling
truth was my deepest and most well guarded secret.
I deduced that my best prospects for reaching draft age alive (and
presumably being sent off to die in Southeast Asia) was to keep
my own company as much as possible. I practiced walking and talking
like the other boys so as to improve my blending capabilities. In
the afternoons I would tumble off the rusty yellow school bus and
my performed stiff and manly gait would dissolve into my own as
the bus rolled out of sight. I would take my transistor radio on
long walks in the woods by the lake listening to my two favorite
Birmingham radio stations, WSGN and WVOK. Late at night I would
listen through a thousand miles of static to get the latest pop
music news from WLS in Chicago. Pop music was a safe harbor for
I bought my first LP
in the June of 1966. To earn the money to buy "If You Can Believe
Your Eyes And Ears" by The Mamas and The Papas I swept the
front sidewalks and stacked tires out back at the Goodyear store
for a week. It cost $3.25 and I still have it. I hit puberty that
summer and I am convinced I was struck with it at precisely the
moment I played track four of that album. The song was a Lennon
/McCartney tune called "I Call Your Name" that Cass Elliot,
Denny Doherty and John and Michelle Phillips took to new heights.
Cass Elliot became a star the moment I heard this song. The honky
tonk piano intro still gives me chills. I instantly knew obsession
for the first time. I began to buy, read and save everything written
about the group. I started a scrapbook and used my allowance to
purchase every fan magazine and trade paper available. I was as
good as any clipping service and I amassed an incredible collection
of Mamas and Papas articles and just about every photograph ever
published of the group as a whole or it's members individually.
My self imposed social isolation left me with plenty of time to
kill in metropolitan Boldo. I was so in love with this group that
I spoke of little else. My parents became somewhat alarmed and consulted
with my Aunt Lo. Dear Aunt Lo was attracted to conspiracy theories
and almost convinced my mother that I had fallen victim to a clever
communist plot to destroy American youth. This cemented my bond
with these four singers forever. I was holding on to their reality
in order to survive my own.
I had a battery operated portable turntable and I would take it
and my one and only LP with me into the woods and play this record
at top volume for myself and the birds and deer and squirrels and
wild rabbits of Boldo. The birds seemed particularly to enjoy "Monday
Monday" and it's possible I may have reminded these birds that
the single had gone "double gold" and had sold over two
million 45's. There did come a time when I ran short of family members
willing to listen to my delighted recitations of the statistics
surrounding the Mamas and the Papas record sales. Even the birds
sometimes took to wing when I started proclaiming the latest chart
successes. I certainly never tired of listening to the songs on
that album. "Go Where You Wanna Go" became a kind of anthem