My Teenage Tiger Beat Fiasco
TIGER BEAT. REMEMBER THIS, GUYS?
TIGER BEAT AND OTHER TEEN MAGAZINES . . .
. . .FROM 1967 THROUGH 1969 you could say with complete confidence that my teenage life was, at most, stormy. Unsure. Awkward. Lonesome. Didn't fit the trend or fit into the "teen scene" of that day and time in my hometown. Frankly, I was miserable. Most of the time. Didn't eat. Sleep. Or find any interests in daily life. My mind, like all teenage guys' minds, was on one thing: GIRLS. LOTS OF PRETTY GIRLS. And rock music. Real rock music. The kind of rock music that your parents and uncle "Toby," a retired Army major and aunt "Jess," his homemaker wife, couldn't tolerate.
. . . I TRIED IT ALL charm. Grace. Wit. Manners. Nothing worked. Girls either laughed at me. Or turned their noses up and walked away with the football jocks of my high school. I was desperate. At my wit's end (which wasn't far). I needed some help from above. Not from God, and I don't want to sound sacrilegious, but in my teens, I didn't know God that well. I sought help from "the" source for all of teenage help in time of trouble: TIGER BEAT magazine. Now at this point you can either own-up to reading this magazine when you were a teen or pretend that you were above such things as teen magazines. Either way, I won't know what you said. All I know is that my eighty-five cents I spent from mowing yards, was the worst investment I had ever made in my 16 years of living.
. . . YOU SEE, MY FRIENDS I was getting "old" and when I would see the guys in my high school, (Hamilton High School, Hamilton, Alabama), go out with whomever they pleased and with no trouble to speak of, I got very worried that I would die lonely. Depressed. And penniless. Such were the thoughts of "this" teenage guy in 1969. I shed tears in secret. I rehearsed for thousands of hours just how I would get a hot chick for a date. Fate didn't deal me a "playboy card," like he did some of my pals. I just had to suffer in silence. And fantasize about cheerleaders, majorettes and that one older, hot chick that smoked Winston's and worked as a waitress at one of our teen hang-out's, Jackson's Airport Drive-In. This was the real name of our favorite joint. (NOTE: in my days, 'joint' was NOT marijuana, but a place to hang out and talk with your friends. Just want that to be understood).
I felt my teen life slipping away like melting orange sherbet in a July afternoon at the traveling carnival that blows into town. Rips people off of their money with rigged games. And leaves before daylight the next morning.
Yes, I was ready to "call it quits." "Throw in the towel." And devote my life to being a monk at some way-off monastery. No shame in that. Monks serve a grand purpose in life. God loves monks. This is a fact carved in granite.
. . . UNTIL THE DAY IN OUR LOCAL FOODWAY SUPERMARKET I met Tiger Beat on their huge magazine stand. I flipped through the pages and scanned articles such as: "Mick Jagger's Secret Love of Coffee," and "Ringo Is Lonely! You Can Help Him," and with their photos too. Then it hit me. Not the manager. Or my mom. But fate itself. "This is it," I cried. Well, actually yelled and jumped in the air. "My worries are over," I said digging-out my eighty-five (lawn mowing) cents that mom had begged me to save for a "rainy day," but since it wasn't in the month of April (with April showers), but June, she soon realized by the loneliness in my eyes that I needed a diversion from teen life. So she allowed me to spend, well, "blow" my money on my first issue of Tiger Beat. I felt like a new teenage guy. I walked with a spring my my sneakers. This was not an old saying. Some of my buddies and I put small springs that we found in our local land fill, in our sneakers and we DID walk a little faster. And with "that" cocky teenage swagger. You simply can't be a land fill for finding the treasures of your heart.
. . . I SOON CALLED A MEETING OF MY NEIGHBORHOOD GANG not like the term "gang" today, but a band of friendly, fun-loving teenage guys who had ideas to conquer the world. By starting with our hometown. "piece of cake," I started the meeting off and holding up a photo in Tiger Beat of Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and The Raiders, a super-band who gained fame on ABC's "Where The Action Is," and hit 45 records named, "Louie, Louie." (NOTE: 45 vinyl records were prototypes of LP (long-playing albums). You could play one 45 record at a time on your stereo. I am not going to waste my time explaining what a stereo is). "Do you see this guy? He is famous," I said to my best buddies, James, Glenn and Gay Childers, who lived less than a block from my home. I knew if I could sell Gary, the enterprising Childers brother, I would have them all in my hand. And I did. And now I had to sell them my plan for getting girls, fame, and the recognition that we all had craved. And yes, deserved.
. . . I EXPLAINED, IN DETAIL, MY TIGER BEAT PLAN "all we have to do, guys is make ourselves up to be local stars in our own rock band and I've already got the name, "The Lightning Dogs," a name that said "rebellion," "chaos," "parental disapprovement." The Childers brothers loved it. Now James, the wiser of the Childers brothers asked one tough question, "do we really have to learn the guitar and stuff?" I bent over laughing. "James, my good friend, no. We do NOT have to go through with that work." "All we do is fix ourselves up with rock and roll clothing--shaggy shirts, boots, and wear shades and we got it licked," I added to an amazed James Childers, who like his brothers and me, had plenty of lonely weekends doing without any pretty girl companionship. We were a mess, to be honest with you.
Glenn, the younger Childers brother asked, "Kenny, you sure this will work?" I didn't laugh, but "acted" sincere as to not break his heart. Glenn was sensitive. He loved animals. "Glenn, I tell ya' buddy. When Tiger Beat gets a load of us, "The Lightning Dogs," girls will be flocking around us like hungry chickens at feeding time." I said to a smiling Glenn Childers. Guess you are wondering about the middle brother, Gary Childers. By now his mind was racing with wardrobe ideas, poses for us to use in our publicity photos. I could always count on Gary for support in many, well, all, of my teenage schemes.
. . . IT WENT ACCORDING TO PLAN we got the shaggy clothes, boots and even some aviator shades and since we all had pretty-much the long hair of the day, we had a "walk in the park" shooting our publicity photos in the Childers brothers house for it was bigger than mine. And an added bonus, their dad, Neal, a highly-religious man, and their mom, Betty Jean, who did anything Neal said, was gone for the day--leaving me and their boys alone in their big, fancy-furnished home. The Home Alone movie series had nothing on us. We talked a mutual buddy, Allen Coons, somewhat of a know-it-all, but an ego that could be bent, into shooting our pictures with my Kodak Instamatic that I had bought the previous Christmas at a store in Hamilton, Riggan's Jewelry. Talk about cool. Our band, "The Lightning Dogs," were cook with a capital "C."
. . . THE NEXT PART OF OUR PLAN was to mail Tiger Beat our publicity photos, the best of the 10-shot roll, and a story, that I had already written, to their "Send us Your Submissions" address. I will not forget how our hearts beat extra fast as we inspected, one last time, our photos and cover story before it hit the U.S. Mail. First the photos were of us posed under one of their Oak trees in the front yard. I was leaning on one side and James, since he was the tallest, leaning on the other side of the tree, but looking angry and rebellious at the camera. Gary and Glenn were sitting on the ground with a cigarette in their mouth. This was the "icing on the cake" to prove that we were for real. "The Lightning Dogs," a don't-take-crap-from-anyone rock band that has stormed Hamilton and surrounding towns with their original rocker songs (that I took credit for writing) such as: "Mama, Don't Call Uncle Sam," and "Girl, I Told Ya' I Was Gone Last Night," songs that spelled "trouble," something the hot chicks in our day dug. Get that slang? Dug. As in dig. We watched later that day as the rural mail carrier picked up our big yellow shipping envelope and drove away. We all were silent for a few minutes. Then Gary looked at us and said, "Just a matter of time, guys. We best be taking a good look around at our home and neighborhood for this is the start of something big." Gary, I will credit him for his ability to "dream all of us" into his world. What a politician he would have made.
. . . DAYS, WEEKS, THEN TWO MONTHS PASSED we were, by now, pretty impatient. Then the "Blame Game," set in. "You didn't tell how much trouble we gave the law, Kenny!" Glenn barked. "Yeah, Kenny, you didn't tell them about our dark past and criminal records," James said. "Hold it! This ain't all Kenny's fault. It's our fault. All of us. "The Lightning Dogs," and we stick together, or not at all," Gary said stepping-in to defuse a would-be ruckus about to start. Glenn and James somehow understood what Gary meant and settled down. Told you he would have made a great politician. For the rest of that day, we all just hung out and hung around the Childers brothers house--shooting hoops, telling lies about girls, and sharing our male dreams. That, my dear hot chicks who are reading this story, are what teen guys (and men in general) do when they are together.
. . . THEN IN ABOUT A WEEK the phone rang in our kitchen. Mama handed the receiver to me. "I think it's Gary," she said. "Get your sorry butt up here . . .NOW," he exclaimed. I didn't need to know why. I told my folks that I would be back soon and tore out to running to the Childers brothers house. James and Glenn met me in the front yard and directed me to where Gary was waiting in their barn below their property behind the house. Mr. Childers, their dad, kept a cow for milk purposes. And their barn was an ideal "secret meeting place," for "The Lightning Dogs," an up and coming hard-rock band of 1969. Look out, Rolling Stones, here we come!
"Well, don't just sit there like a dunce, open it," Glenn said. James and I nodded in anxious anticipation.
"Look! A letter to you, Kenny," Gary said. "Read it to us," he continued. I had took the job of being the one who was in charge of communication between Tiger Beat and "The Lightning Dogs," a job that none of the Childers brothers wanted. "Too much responsibility," Glenn mumbled when asked months back if he wanted the job.
"Okay, here goes, guys," I said to the amazement of James, Gary and Glenn Childers who had initially laughed at me for having such a wild idea as that of actually getting ourselves look like we were a rock band with fitting wardrobe and getting publicity photos taken. Was I about to have the last laugh. Make my pals eat a huge helping of "crow." I was on pins and needles awaiting the climax of two months of sweated waiting. A yearning for fame that could only be fair for us, the soon-to-be-famous, "Lightning Dogs."
We at Tiger Beat would like to thank you for your recent article and publicity photo of your rock band, the "Lightning Dogs," and we will afford your band the proper space and photo in our magazine . . .
I stopped there to share what I was feeling with my buddies, "Hear that, guys? They bought us! "The Lightning Dogs," We've finally done it!" And continued with the important letter from Tiger Beat.
All we need from you, is a clearance form from your attorney, notarized and signed, and signatures from each member of your band along with . . .
A DEMO TAPE of your latest recordings, and I think that we can help you with the proper coverage . . .
I didn't bother reading the rest of the letter. I just felt it drop out of my hands and hit the ground. What we all felt at that moment was like a "group stroke," if that be possible. No words. No one moving. Just sitting still looking at the ground. Just the sounds of us breathing and an occasional bird chirping in the trees was all we heard.
I don't really know just how long we sat there allowing our minds to process the life-changing event of watching our fame, fortune, and all the hot chicks, vanish into the hot summer sunshine.
I may never know.
I think it was Gary, who was first to break the silence. "Aww, well, probably a lot of red tape and crooked lawyers involved with this. I've read about how people like "us" get took for a ride everyday by sharp people who run magazines," he stated. Very convincing, I might add.
"Yeah, you're right, Gary," Glenn said still walking with his head down. "Probaby for the best. We never know how these things will end," James, the more-sensible of our gang said in a voice that sounded much like Abe Lincoln. James was as tall as Abe.
None of us spoke for the next hour. We just shot baskets and thought.
"All they want is a demo tape?" I said out loud. James, Gary and Glenn stopped shooting baskets.
"Say . . .can any of you sing?"