Most radio guys (I’m talking pre-1990) have lots of “Brush With Near Greatness” stories. I know I do. Some famous or almost-famous celebrity or performer they interviewed back-stage or who came by the station. Shoot, it’s a big part of why most of us got into radio. My new pal Gaylon Watson recalled interviewing Rocky Marciano.
Just learned that Narvel Felts will be performing at the Missouri State Fair on August 19 (part of the Country Gold Tour). According to Wikipedia, Narvel is 70, so it’s good to know he’s still performing.
Here’s a couple of photos from his younger days, taken in the studios of KBOA in Kennett, MO (circa 1950). L-R: JW Grubbs (Bass Guitar), Leon Barnett (Lead Guitar), Narvel Felts (Guitar & Vocals), Bob Taylor? (Drums), and Jerry Tuttle (Saxophone & Steel Guitar).
Wikipedia: “Narvel attended Bernie High School, Felts was discovered during a talent show at the school. He had been encouraged to participate in the show by some of his classmates, and it just so happened that a talent agent was attending the performance at the time.
Felts recorded his first single “Kiss-a Me Baby” at the age of 16, and his career skyrocketed with the help of Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash. Narvel Felts enjoyed modest pop success in 1960 with a remake of the Drifters “Honey Love” which earned a low position on the Billboard Hot 100. He went on to release such songs as “Lonely Teardrops” and “Pink And Black Days”, but it wasn’t until the 1970s when he began enjoying success on a national level as a country singer.
His first major hit came in 1973, with a cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away”. Felts’ version — No. 8 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart in September 1973 — was mid-tempo country compared to Gray’s blues version. The follow-up single, “All in the Name of Love,” just missed hitting the top 10 in December 1973.”
I’d been working at the radio station about a year when Drift Away got Narvel some notoriety and he came by the station to plug the record. It’s was a big deal for Kennett, Missouri. Narvel had beautiful hair.
Regular readers know that Barb and I are from the same small town in southern Missouri as Sheryl Crow. A small Brush with Near Greatness. On a recent road trip I came up with five questions I'd ask Ms. Crow, if I had the opportunity. In the off chance her publicist or agent (or daddy) finds their way to this post…
What group or artist do you have on your iPod that would be most surprising to your fans?
Do you have a favorite book you've read more than twice?
If you could pass along just one life lesson or bit of wisdom to young Wyatt, what would it be?
What do you miss most (if anything) about being a civilian? (Sorry, but answer cannot be: "Running in to QuikTrip for a quart of milk, wearing Roy Rogers pajama bottoms & torn sweat shirt.")
Do you have any skill or trick that would win a bar bet?
“This is a bit of a strange request. My name is James Finlay and I’m in a band called ‘Fists’ who’re based in Nottingham, England. We make ramshackle-y, lo-fi pop music and are about to release our debut 7” single on a small independent record label (also based in Nottingham) called Hello Thor (not much on their web page at the moment unfortunately)
The reason I’m mailing you is because everybody in our band has become obsessed with your Flickr photo set for the Basement Diaries blog and we wanted to find out if you would be willing to grant us permission to use one of your photos for the cover of our single? We’re releasing the single as a download on iTunes and as a strictly limited edition vinyl pressing of 500 copies. Naturally we would credit you for the photo on the record, we would obviously send you over some copies too and we could also offer some money as well but are pretty limited financially as we’re a small DIY operation who is paying for almost everything ourselves from our day jobs.
The photo we’d love to use if possible is the one of the gorilla in boxing gloves taken at a Halloween Party in (1980). We love the grainy 35mm quality, the colour palette and the sense of fun and mystery. The song we’re releasing is called ‘Cockatoo’ (I’d be very happy to send you an MP3 of this so you can have a listen and decide if you think it’s appropriate). Thematically it’s about fantasies of freedom and escape as seen through the eyes of a caged bird (the ‘Cockatoo’ of the title). Obviously this doesn’t really have any obvious relationship with the photo particularly but I don’t think that matters too much. If you are happy to let us use it we’d obviously send you over the design before we got the covers made up for approval.
If you’re not interested then no worries and thanks so much for your time and also for sharing the photos in the first place. If there’s anything else you’d like to know first then please give me a shout.”
This is what I love most about the web. The man behind the gorilla mask is Barb’s brother, Lew. Don’t recall who is sitting the chair. And I’m pretty sure the beer is a Stag (shudder).
Long before the glitz and glamor that is “professional wrestling” today, Memphis, Tennessee, was something of a mecca for the… let’s not call it a sport… for the business. Some of the big names of the day would also appear in small town venues, including the VFW in Kennett, Missouri. From here, I’ll let Michael Spooner share his Brush With Near Greatness:
“For those who may not know, Sputnik Monroe was a celebrated Memphis wrestler in the late 1950’s and 60’s. He, along with many other wrestlers, came to Kennett to fight. I recall, at least in Kennett, no one seemed to like Sputnik since he had this ‘bad guy’ reputation. And for a couple of seasons we, too, did our share of booing Sputnik. Until the day, one Saturday afternoon, when he came to our home as a guest for dinner. This wasn’t a complete surprise since we were warned of his visit. Nevertheless, my sisters and I were shaking in our boots, while at the same time, immensely excited that an ‘almost movie star’ was coming to our house.
Well how did this happen, you ask? First of all, Sputnik and my mother never dated. My mother, however, did date a wonderful guy named Skip Pepper from Memphis for a few years in the late 50’s. At the time Skip owned a Dollar Store in Kennett, located on the north west corner of the town square. Skip knew Sputnik as a friend (we didn’t know this until we learned of his coming to dinner). It was Skip who arranged the visit.”
It’s a shame Michael’s mom never dated Sputnik. A guy could do a lot worse than “My Mom Dated Sputnik Monroe” for the title of an autobiography.
From Sputnik’s Wikipedia entry: On May 4, 2007, HBO announced they would make a movie based on Monroe’s life. On September 6, 2007 Julien Nitzberg confirmed the first draft of the Sputnik movie had been completed. A Los Angeles-based rock band is named after him. More on Sputnik Monroe. And I found this tribute to Sputnik following his death.
If you were with me here at the Coffee Zone, I could demonstrate the Man’s signature “Sputnik Strut.”
My friend Jeff couldn’t make it to the Obama fund raiser but got caught up in my Child of the Sixties meme and decided to Photoshop himself an "Obama and Me" pic. Which made me realize I didn’t have to be satisfied with my somewhat startled expression. The caption almost writes itself.
If I had it to do over, I think I would have added a touch of "street" to my ensemble.
And if I’m going to doctor the photo, why not turn back the clock a few years?
Remember that kid that sat behind you grade school that was always drawing? Ever wonder what happened to him? Well, if he (or she) was as talented as Michael Spooner, he did okay.
Michael (we knew him as Mike back then) and I were classmates 45 years ago in Kennett, MO. Michael and I ran in different crowds but Kennett was a small place and everybody knew everybody.
In a previous post I mentioned that Michael stumbled across smays.com a few days ago and pinged me. He included some old snapshots and his resume, to let me know what he’s been up to.
He got into animation as a Layout Artist with Ralph Bakshi’s feature production of Tolkien’s, Lord of the Rings. He spent some years at Disney where he worked on –just to name a few– Goof Troop, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Emperor’s New Groove, Treasure Planet and Lilo and Stitch. He also assisted on early development design of Dreamworks’ Shrek. And he Co-Art Directed Warner Brothers first full-length animated feature, Quest for Camelot. If you have kids or an appreciation for animation, check out his bio. He was also kind enough to share a dozen or so examples of his work.
I called Michael up this morning and asked him to share some of his adventures and we wound up talking for an hour. I’ve cut the interview into three segments about about 20 minutes each.
Today, Michael owns Spoonerville Animation Design, an independent visual development studio, providing both traditional and CGI design concepts and lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with his writer-wife Beverly, and son Philip.
Michael is a visiting artist and lecturer, presenting in universities, art schools and animation studios throughout the United States.
A Google search led Mike Spooner (he goes by Michael these day) to this blog. I grew up with Mike, er, Michael, in Kennett, Missouri. He moved to Flint, Michigan, in 1964, did “some” college before getting drafted in 1969. Not a good year to get drafted. Following service he attended art college in Los Angeles and stayed for 28 years. From Michael’s bio:
“Michael Spooner has worked in the animation industry for twenty-five years with such notable studios as Walt Disney, Warner Brothers and DreamWorks. Michael’s professional career in art began in 1976, when he was invited to join the faculty at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, after graduating with distinction. He taught for twelve years, simultaneously working as a freelance illustrator for clients that included the Public Broadcasting System, Zondervan Publishing House, Masda Motors, the National Football League, NBC Television, Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.”
This sounds like a Brush with Near Greatness to me and I’ve asked Michael for an interview. Stay tuned.
He got lost for a couple of hours in our Flickr photostream and shares some photos from his stash. A couple of his CubScout pack; one of the KHS swim team; and one of the KHS junior high track team.
The swim team photo brought back fond memories of Diane West (far left). We dated a few times. She was 16 –and could drive– and I was still 15. She lived at the municipal swimming pool and exuded the intoxicating fragrance of chlorine.
It’s nice to hear from Mike and see a few long, lost photos from my youth.
I really enjoyed the movie Million Dollar Baby… right up until I realized it was not going have a happy ending. I spent the last 15 or 20 minutes of the film in the lobby, watching some brats play air hockey. I didn’t watch the ending of Old Yeller either.
I bring it up because I just discovered a connection between Maggie Fitzgerald (the Hillary Swank character) and Juli Crockett, the lead singer of the Evangenitals who dropped us a comment last week.
“Boxing trainer Jerry Boyd had never met Juli Crockett when he wrote the stories on which the film Million Dollar Baby is based. But when he did–at a bout in San Diego–he was convinced she was Maggie Fitzgerald, the tough and driven fighter of his fiction (played by Hilary Swank in the movie) come to life. Like Fitzgerald, Crockett came from the South, grew up without a father (but found one in the ring), and had a brief but stunning pro career (3-0, with 2 knockouts) cut short by injuries (though not nearly as severe as Fitzgerald’s). Other parallels: ambition, boxing style, that smile. Crockett, now 29 and a grad student, saw Million Dollar Baby for the first time last week.” [Interview in USNews]
Turns out Ms. Crockett is much more than a humble singer/songwriter. Her Wikipedia page has the dope.
Today’s assignment… name three other female singers who can punch your lights out. Leave your answers on my desk as you leave.
It never ceases to amaze me how many of the people I mention here find my humble little notes and get in touch. I could mention a few but it would be the worst kind of name dropping. Okay, I’ll mention one.
“I’ll tell you what… I’m going to add Fuck ’em All to the Evangenitals website, and I’ll put the lyrics up there just for you. :-) Give me a few days, and as you wish, so it shall be. Thanks for finding us, for listening, and for hearing.”
Love, Rev Juli Crockett (lead singer/songwriter) – The Evangenitals
Like the lady in the DirecTV commercial (the redhead with the big ass) says, “How cool is that?”