Let’s pick up from where we were last Saturday – with US funny man called Stan Freberg. As I said – he’s in my box twice. The ‘British’ disc has Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Rock Island Line’ on one side and the take on Mr Presley’s ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ on the other.
Well – in the summer of 1956 I went on a holiday camp holiday with my parents – probably Butlin’s at Clacton. There Butlin’s provided their typical on-camp entertainments of the time and every evening Red Coats performed to Stan Freberg’s fantastic version of ‘Rock Island Line’. But they also did the other side of their disc – Harry Belafonte’s then very popular ‘Banana Boat Song’. As I write this I can still recall situations from both pieces – particularly from the Banana Boat when the ‘Belafonte’ character was singing and when he sang: A beautiful bunch a’ripe banana, Hide thee deadly black tarantula he stepped away saying, very clearly, ‘I don’t do Spiders’.
Be it Rock ‘n’ Roll, Skiffle or Calypso Stan Freberg certainly had his finger on the pulse of 1950s pop music.
At this time, opportunities to see the new and the great performers in the flesh were rare for teenagers like me in rural Cambridgeshire. However – there is one ‘live’ performer that sticks in my memory box. Many of his disks remain safe and secure in my boxes and his performances in real life are still embedded in my memory box.
Who is this individual? Well, if you are of my sort of age, records such as ‘Be Bop a Lula’, ‘Blue Jean Bop’ and ‘Pistol Packin’ Mama’ may help.
It’s Gene Vincent – an archetypal rocker who moved to England in the late 1950s and toured small halls across the country. One of these small halls was that of the canteen of the Kayser Bondor factory in Baldock, Hertfordshire. It was used for regular dances and ‘not quite’ performers. Sad to say Gene was one of those but when I was sitting on the edge of the low stage while the black leather clad rock icon performed, at times inches from me, and once standing on my fingers, is another lasting memory.
The Bondor factory ceased production in 1983 and was redeveloped by Tesco as a Superstore. The original façade remains but the factory has ‘gone’. I wonder how many of today’s ‘visitors’ realise that they are in the land of Gene Vincent!
Anyway – I’ll call it a day here and come back next Saturday – same time, same place – with the third part of what’s in my ‘Memories Box’.