Friday, July 22, 2011

"What it was, was......".

....the summer of 1955.

It was late July of that year, when some family friends invited me to vacation with them in Florida.

One week is not nearly enough time to even touch the surface of the many unique and amazing features of the land the Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon named La Florida (land of the flowers). It was the first part of what is now the continental United States to be visited by Europeans. That happened in April of 1513.

Daytona Beach 1957

Seeing that wonderful state for the first time caused this 19 year old boy's eyes to become about as wide as the famous Daytona beach.....with cars driving on it!

Andy Griffith 1955

But what sticks in my mind most about that trip were the sights I saw there that only a relatively few other people ever saw.

And I didn't even know what I had seen.....until years later.

It was a Hillbilly show we attended one night that featured several musicians such as Ferlin Husky, Tommy Collins, and somebody named Glenn Reeves and a couple of others. Its main attraction was a little known country bumpkin-type comedian named Andy Griffith, whose only claim to fame at that time was a record called, “What it was, was football.”

Griffith's Broadway hit, No Time for Sergeants was still one year away. His movie, A Face in the Crowd was two years away, and the TV show Mayberry wouldn't even be thought of for another five years.

So, realistically, Griffith was pretty much of a “little known” headlining a show of “unknowns.”

But it was an entertaining evening. Andy did reasonably well in the role of a “loveable, dumb hillbilly.” But he was no “Gomer Pyle.(Gomer wouldn't be either....for another 7 years).

The local newspaper's review of the show was luke warm. In fact, it suggested that the show wasn't very good, in spite of the fact that the audience loved it because, “fans come out for these shows simply because they love hillbilly music.”

However, the writer did acknowledge that "Ferlin Huskey was real sharp singing that ditty about living fast, loving hard, dying young and leaving a beautiful memory, and added that the performer who stole the show was an unknown 20 year old kid wearing an orange suit who he called "... not much more than a hootchy-cootchy dancer. “

A year later, that same kid would appear on the Ed Sullivan TV show and, in the words of New York columnist, David Hinckley, would “toss a cherry bomb through America's living room window.”

I was there in 1955, when, as Hinckley wrote, “the fuse was lit and burning.”

Rest in peace, Elvis.        


Elvis in Florida 1955