(Circa the Sixties) Shy Guy Learns Guitar, Stage Manages a Tribute to a Mythic Elvis, Gets to Kiss Actress Named Kathy.
Oh One Last Kiss
"Oh one last Kiss--
Oh Give Me One Last Kiss!
It's Never Been like this,
No Never Been Like This----
You Know I Need Your Love!
One Last Kiss!"
You have to understand the time. It was the 60's and Dylan was brand new. And the Beatles, The Beach Boys were just explosive and the Stones were doing their controversial thing. You could FEEL that time, but no one comprehended it, because no one understood that these were all going to be SOUNDS, not just songs. Some as new as Neil Diamond would emerge and stay for decades. At the time they saw him as a blend of stars. But the 60's would keep on going.
A Thermonuclear Hurricane of Musical Expression
At the time, it was just all the new groups coming out with their stuff. It was like a thermonuclear hurricane of tune after sound after song. There were lots of sounds that intrigued, but it was a roller coaster, not yet a series of unforgettable concerts that would immortalize so many artists and groups. Those would come, but nobody knew that. Not at the time.
If you have ever snow skied, imagine in your mind that everybody was learning at the same time, to varying degrees. Imagine the whole lot of skiers were drinking and laughing as they "wooshed" down the hills. The artists and singers were all born in the late 40's and early 50's. They BOOMED onto the scene. During this time artists were congregating in L.A. and the big cities and having fun, while they struggled.
AND THEN THERE WAS THIS SHY GUY
My parents were on TV and the professional stage and later movies. I grew up, however, an extremely shy Introvert. Straight A's and religious/philosophical. I WAS NOT GOING TO BE A HIPPY. I was going in another direction.
My father was disappointed in me. I sang solos in church. So one day he yelled out to my Mother---- "Damn it! Get him a guitar, so he can sing and accompany himself. He needs to stop being so shy! Where's the Actor in him?"
That changed my life! From then on I would Be the Shy Guy who consumed the Guitar.
That was 1963. I was much like my cohorts. I played and learned and listened to the radio endlessly. In 1966, I could sing scores of rock tunes, jazz, country, folk and old Irish songs. I not only learned guitar chord changes, but learned to hear chord changes and lyrics (I could not FORGET lyrics. Once they were in my head I just sang and sang.) I tried to sing like Hoyt Axton and Willie Nelson and all the Rock Soloists. But I could not even come close to Roy Orbison. But no one could or can. Except KD Lang.
Don't Worry I Didn't Become a Rock Star, But I was not the Shy Guy anymore And I Did Get to Kiss Kathy!
Still frustrated with my "shyness", my Father thought a YOUNG Stage Manager would be a perfect choice.
But he did not know my thousands of hours with my guitar had cured me of my Shyness. Over the next 10 years, I would lead in scores of Sing Alongs, Hay Rides and late night parties, opening for local Texas concerts, and singing with my Cherokee friend, David Little.
My Dad didn't know it, (or maybe he did) but I was not the Shy Guy anymore.
At the time I didn't know how challenging it would be. My father made me the Stage Manager. At the age of 17, and still in high school, I was in charge of all the light cues, all the sound cues, all the actor placements calls, all the scene changes, and all the curtain calls. It was nerve racking and full of pressure, but the great thing was that Kathy was enchanted with me. Or, I thought she was. And Kathy was going to be kissing me, I hoped.
Elvis was already an Icon - But I was a "theater kid" who didn't think much of the life. Elvis was already passe. It was the early 60's and he was over. (Keep in mind, he had not yet gone to Las Vegas). You have to understand history, not by looking down the train, as it comes to you, but AT the train as the cars cross your path. Its hard to get this, but "Bye Bye Birdie" was a musical that immortalized Elvis's memory. Still,it was a big hit as theatre.
Stage Manager of a Broadway Style Musical
So there I am, my father is directing this hit musical from New York and Kathy Kilgore, a local girl who was a gifted singer, played "Kim". Kathy was beautiful, but Kathy as "KIM" was absolutely MYTHIC. She was the girl, in the play who was chosen to meet and dance with Conrad Birdie (The "Elvis"), a cool guy from Longview, TX.
Neil Diamond and "Cherry Cherry" -
To me and many people, Neil was a star kind of like Elvis, but young. Neil was a dynamic writer and singer. Neil was powerful and in the middle of the "Bye Bye Birdie" identity, he was super young at the time. Now, you think of him as ancient, then he was dramatically young. And still, he was competing with all of the above artists. Somehow Neil was an Elvis and Birdie combo. Its hard to explain. When "Cherry Cherry" came out, he was that combination. it was a melding of those three identities.
And Kathy Kissed Me -
Keep in mind, Kathy was playing the star role. I was the Stage Manager. The guy playing Birdie was older and good looking. And guess what, I was kissing Kathy and Kathy was kissing me. Kathy was not kissing Birdie after rehearsals, she was kissing me. The guy playing Birdie, in a way, was just like Elvis himself --- passe, over, done, kaput. That's what my grandiose teen pride was saying.
As Neil sang, "Cherry, Cherry", (a type of Elvis), he made us think of Elvis. The musical was LOADED with Elvis images, and yet, Birdie was DONE, and the musical that Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore starred in in New York, was a "look back", but only a "look back" of a few years.
At this strange moment in time, I was kissing Kathy, BECAUSE I was NOT Birdie. But we were all going NUTS over "Bye Bye Birdie". And Neil Diamond was somehow the one who brought it all together -- in my mind. And I did not know I was going through ALL of this until decades later!
When Birdie sang the above song, (See the Callout) I was looking into Kathy's eyes. I was the Stage Manager, so when she was on stage, stage left; she was looking at me, while pretending to look in Birdie's eyes.
Oh, my "Gaawwd", it still takes my breath away!
Here's to the Shy Guy who learned Guitar, Stage Managed an Elvis Tribute, kissed Kathy and went to college as a sweet, pleasant, singing Guitar Maniac, headed for the Ministry.
(Cherry, Cherry) "She's Got the way to move me, Baby!"
Neil Diamond, a Maker of Unique Hits
Neil Diamond’s music attracted a diverse audience. At times he was pure rock and roll’ while at times he could deliver an adult contemporary ballad that would cross over into other territory. From “Cherry, Cherry,” to “Love on the Rocks,” Neil Diamond songs knew no musical boundaries. In the end, Neil Diamond’s legacy defines a great singer, songwriter and performer with a unique voice and sound that compares to no one else.