I was living in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The year was 1964. I was thirteen. I was in my first rock band. Beatlemania was running wild and millions of kids across the USA were buying cheap Japanese electric guitars and drum kits and forming garage bands. My dad bought me a set of drums made by a company called Kent and I formed a group called The Continentals. We covered tunes by The Beatles and our set list included “Louie Louie,” “I Got My Mojo Workin,” “Shout,” “Glad All Over”—a couple dozen three and four chord rockers that kids could shimmy to. We played at Elks Lodge dances, supermarket openings and the Princess Anne Plaza movie theater Saturday morning kiddie show. At those kiddie shows we were the only performers who weren’t lip synching to some Frankie Avalon or Leslie Gore tune. We were the real fucking deal.
I wore a moptop and it got me into trouble at school, where the rule was no hair over the ears and bangs had to be the width of two fingers above your eyebrows. I broke the rules on a consistent basis. One day I was sent home for wearing madras pants to class. Those were some fucking slick slacks. All the other kids were wearing Gant shirts and Weejun loafers so my madras pants were an affront to the refined sensibilities of the pre-yuppie status quo of the early 60s. In those days high school had a caste system comprised of longhairs, straights, jocks and greasers. I was a longhair. And greasers hated the longhairs. But I dug the greasers. Cause they were rockers. We were fellow parishioners in the church of rock and roll. It took a woman to help me discover this. Her name was, and I’m not bullshitting, Rhonda.
One Saturday morning, The Continentals were working the crowd before a screening of some cartoon marathon at the kiddie show. We were tearing through “Eight Days A Week,” “Not Fade Away,” “Gloria” and some other cool tunes. The teenyboppers were really digging our shit. At the end of the set, we got a nice round of applause sprinkled with a few squeals. We took our bows and walked off stage. As I made my way up the aisle to the concession stand, there she was: Rhonda, a greaser goddess from the planet Maybelline.
Rhonda had a beehive that defied fucking gravity. Marianne Antoinette had nothin’ on this home girl. Rhonda’s do was sculptural: a follicle wonderland where Antoni Gaudi and The Ronettes sniffed hairspray and dreamed of Mayan pyramids. Rhonda had the fairest skin, the pinkest lips and the palest blue eyes I had ever seen. She was graceful and tall and moved with a serpentine stroll that would make a black snake moan. Rhonda was way out of my fucking league. This was “woman” in all her archetypal majesty—Shakti with a serious wighat. To my amazement, she seemed kind of love-struck. She said she liked the way I played the drums and she leaned over and gave me a kiss that tasted of lipstick and cigarettes. My knees buckled and I felt for the first time that rock and roll was more than music. It was supernatural.
Rock and roll was something that kids in the 1960s not only wanted to listen to, they wanted to make it themselves. They wanted to enter rock’s magic circle. Bands were formed in the thousands. Regional record labels popped up in every state in America. Way before the D.I.Y. explosion of the 1970s punk scene, we were doing it ourselves in towns like where I grew up. Anyone who had a garage could start a garage band. And since many garages were situated in the suburbs most of the bands were comprised of suburban kids. This was definitely not an urban phenomenon. And it was almost exclusively white despite that most of the music we were playing was created by black artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. But that’s another story.
So you want to be a rock’n'roll star
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
And take some time and learn how to play
And when your hair’s combed right and your pants fit tight
It’s gonna be all right
In these pictures you can see just how young and innocent most of these fledgling rockers were. They took on tough names and struck bad boy poses, but for the most part were just kids. We all wanted to be The Rolling Stones, The Seeds, The McCoys and The Blues Magoos. Most of us grew up to be average folks doing exactly what we rebelled against. Some of us stuck to our
guns guitars. I know I did.
If you want to further explore the history of garage bands of the USA, Garage Hangover and 60s Garage Bands are great places to start. Plus, there are other websites devoted to regional rock bands of the 1960s just a few clicks away.
Dan And The Wanderers.
The Bar Boys.
More after the jump…