Remembering Freddie Cannon: a Blast from My Past
(BTW: And old friend of mine who writes for the San Francisco Examiner has done an article on the kid pursuant to an interview she did of me around the time of Doc Watson’s death. She included a link to a performance I did that I didn’t know about until now. If you’re interested: http://www.examiner.com/article/al-ross-talks-about-his-life-as-guitarist-for-doc-watson
Heard a Freddie Cannon retrospective on the radio (remember those? Little electronic wave conveyers that worked only one way, didn’t have monitors but did have lots of atmospheric interference?) the other day, and, of course, it took me back to his heyday in the 1950’s. Freddie had a least three number one national hits on the charts that I can remember offhand, Way Down Yonder in New Orleans, Tallahassee Lassie and Palisades Park, and was a big deal to anyone who sat in high school parking lots getting a last smoke in before school started).
But I can’t imagine one in fifty people you’d stop on the street to ask if they ever heard of him answering in the affirmative. Can we say transience of fame?
I played in the band with Freddie during one of his comeback attempts, probably 1969, doomed, as is usually the case with comeback attempts, to sputter and fizzle like Roman candle on the Fourth of July you think has just a little more magnesium (or whatever) in it.
I remember three things about that gig:
It was hot enough in Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California to be setting records all over the place, including the one Freddie and I were playing in: the San Fernando Valley, and, specifically, Topanga Canyon, at the Corral [that’s right, the same roadhouse that launched my band, Evergreen Blueshoes (q.v. this blog) as well as Canned Heat and many other famous and coulda-beens of the era]. It was 115 in the Corral, which had no air conditioning, low ceilings and little cross ventilation. I shorted out my amp with my own sweat during one of the sets. You can’t make this stuff up, as the man said.
(Sidebar: Los Angeles just yesterday recorded a new record high for itself and its environs, 125°, and I have a feeling that might not have been in the Valley, which is usually several degrees hotter than the City)
The second thing, and related to the first, I remember about the gig was that I drove to in a brand new maroon Triumph TR6 sports car, with the top down, my Gibson ES335TDCi n the passenger’s seat and my Fender Super Reverb strapped to the back with the kind of we you use to transport furniture or glass. We didn’t say chick-bait then (and I don’t think we say it now) but I thought I might be headed for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (which we didn’t have then, either). Heading due west on the Ventura Freeway, ponytail flying in the wind, joint in the ashtray, Yellowjackets in my guitar case)−I’d scaled the heights, no doubt about it.
(Sidebar: two weeks later I found myself in the Ventura County jail for driving on the wrong side of the highway – for half a mile−thence to a detox, the first of many. So much for having the world by the hippie hair).
And finally: Freddie forced me to perform this unspeakable, politically reprehensible thing on stage for which I have no one to blame but myself, and have never been able to satisfactorily atone: a harelip version of the R&B hit, (I’m Gonna Put it in the) Want Ads (“Wanted! Young man single and free…” ). He pulled the “request” on me onstage, got the audience chanting “Do it! Do it!” and stood there at the mike, waiting for me to step up and sing the song. I thought about walking, right there, but I also was under the impression I was a pro, so I stayed and ensured decades of bad karma for doing so.
Anyway, Freddie Cannon tried to come back several more times, with no better luck than with this attempt here. Maybe bad karma is contagious.
APR/apr: Written, unread and unedited. (I’m trying to be more spontaneous).