Rising Star

I received two distinctly different reactions from the wasicu kids at Central to my rising stardom. It was hard for anyone to deny that I was a serious musician. A few thought it was cool and sought me out, but most resented me for the fame I had accrued, like my success somehow diminished their life. Of course, the North End kids, the Indians and poor whites all loved me. I even became friends with Champlain, my rival for the Lafontaine sister’s affections and boxes.

Actually, I got quite close to Champlain. He knew most of the people in the Hayward area, which is near the Bad River Res where he had come from. I invited him to accompany us that summer when Dynasty would return to the resorts of Hayward. He assured me that he knew many girls like the Lafontaine’s. “We will mount many together, my brother,” he said confidently. I believed him. He hadn’t been wrong yet.

One of the wasicu kids felt it his duty to fill me in on some dirt. It seems that back in the early 1900’s the house at 314 John Avenue had been a “red light” house. Prostitutes would place red candles (lights) in their windows to announce to sailors that there was sex to be had there for a price.

“You hang around with them, don’t you?” he asked.

I was sure that he didn’t know that he was insulting my friends and me so I played with him, “Well, it certainly isn’t like that now.”

“Really, I’ve heard that they through huge orgies over there all the time.”

“That’s bullshit. On Friday nights we hold a Bible study group. You know, memorizing verses and learning about the Apostles.”

“Really,” his mouth gaped. “They do that there? Wow.”

I nodded and walked off because I didn’t how long I could resist the urge to strangle the racist little fucker. That is the kind of shit I heard all of the time up there.

Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett was added to our repertoire around that time. Man, what a great song for Hammond. It became a perennial hit that has never fallen out of style.

We also added a song called Money (That’s What I Want) by Junior Walker and The All-Stars, a cooking song with a huge sounding Hammond driving the tune with a Gospel feel that was so familiar and comforting to me.

As spring finally poked through in late April I felt the relief approaching that only came with the ending of dreaded school; one more month to suffer through before I’d be free for three months once again. Our gig schedule increased too as spring dance and prom season dawned upon the land.

Prom’s always featured a theme. At Senior High that year the attempt by the prom committee to use a popular Rolling Stones song as their theme was quickly shot down by the principle and his advisors. Let’s Spend The Night Together was deemed as an inappropriate theme. We played it anyway during every set at that prom just to rub it in. We had a reputation to uphold.

Loraine served as a prom volunteer in the high school kitchen where her mother worked. She volunteered because I was playing that night and she wanted to actually see me play for the first time. I assured her mother that I would see Loraine safely home after the dance. The old lady smiled knowingly and patted my forearm. She knew what we were up to.

Ted dropped us off at 314 John around midnight. The prom ended at 11. We packed our equipment and got out as fast as we could. Everybody had other plans for that night. When we reached the loft it was clear that we weren’t the first up there. Champlain and Mary were in the nest. Modesty is not a concern that Indians have. Historically, we were used to all living in one wigwam throughout a brutal winter. There isn’t much else to do when the winter sun sets at 4pm in the Northern Plains. It wasn’t unusual for several couples to mount at the same time in the same teepee.

Loraine and I drank wine and enjoyed getting each other naked. Champlain and Mary were already quite naked and in the throes of intense passion. The next several hours were spent with one couple exciting the other with their sounds. It almost became something of a competition with each couple trying to making more noise than the other.

~~~

With the first weekend of April the temperature finally reached about 45 degrees. After months of below zero temps 45 feels like Miami. On Saturday, we opened for a band called The Unbelievable Uglies at the Duluth National Guard Armory. The Armory was a large Quonset hut with a towering corrugated metal roof, terrible acoustics, and no seats. The stage was enormous.

The Uglies were a great bunch of guys who hailed from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, which is located on the west side of the state a stone throw from Fargo, North Dakota. Their band was huge in the upper Midwest. They were in high demand and gigged constantly. Uglies minor hits included Keep Her Satisfied and Sorry, which was produced by Bobby Vee.

Bob Eveslage was their keyboard man and singer. I forget what he was playing that night. I believe it was a Hammond B3 and Hohner Clavinet, but I could be wrong. He may have used my Hammond A-105. What I do remember is that the cat was great. His fingers flew across the keys with ease. I was quite jealous because he was so much better than me. I usually hated guys like that, but he was such a nice guy I couldn’t hate him.

The Uglies played a bluesy set with a hard rock edge to it, all original compositions. They rocked the packed house of nearly 2,000 for over two hours. The musicians in that band were all stellar performers in their own right, easily better than the players backing either Peter Noone or Eric Burden.

That is another theme that theme that has run throughout my life. I have played with tons of musicians that have never become big names but they are better than most of the big names out there.

The gig with the Unbelievable Uglies was witnessed by more of my classmates than any previous show. It seemed like half the school was there. I’m sure the high attendance was because the show only cost $2 at the door. All of my Indian friends were there from North End and stood at my end of the stage.

After packing up our gear I rode in Buster Lafontaine’s ’57 Chevy back across the High Bridge to North End with Loraine on my lap. I couldn’t walk for a while when we got back. It was a hilarious scene. After 10 Indians piled out of the car only Champlain and I remained. Neither of us could move our legs for about five minutes. Mary had been sitting on Champlain’s lap.

Then, the Lafontaine twins took us up to the loft and gave us both another reason to walk funny.