High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pimp My Dell! ------------------------ Her Date With the Wrecking Ball Postponed...Lady D Gets a Much Needed Extreme Makeover!

It's no secret. The Shady Dell has seen her better days. She was getting bags under her windows. The good news is that the Dell is now in the process of getting a long overdue facelift!

In these exclusive photos provided by the Deroche family, current owners of the Dell, you will see the renovation work that began a little over a week ago. These pictures should come as a welcome sight to Dell rats. We can be cautiously optimistic that this round of home improvements is a step in the right direction...toward preserving the Dell...and a step away from its destruction.

For the better part of two years the Dell has been up for sale and possibly on the chopping block...its fate hanging in the balance while the Deroches weighed their options. One briefly contemplated scenario was to transform the Dell house into a pair of apartments. Another idea was to sell the Dell a.s.a.p. to a person or persons willing to take on a genuine fixer-upper and do the restoration work. Of course, there was always the option Dell rats dreaded: to sell to a real estate developer who would demolish the Dell, pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

The very thought of losing our cherished alma mater...our sacred institute of high and yearning...this place that I affectionately call the Shady Dell School of Hard Knocks sent chills down the spine of every true Dell rat.

"Raze hell...not the Dell!"

came the the battle cry from hardcore Dell rats on Facebook and all across the U-S-of A!

It remains to be seen what will happen to the Dell in the long run. For now, we can all be grateful that things seem to be moving in the right direction. According to Toni Deroche, the decison makers are taking it one step at a time. This initial phase of the Dell makeover concentrates solely on the outside. There are three main projects currently underway with a fourth slated to begin in the near future.

1. Dell house roof repair/replacement
2. tree removal
3. grading
4. Dell house exterior painting (work to begin soon)

Toni shared details about the work being done: “The original parking lot and driveway are being removed. The old parking lot will be turned into a grassy spot with a few of the orginal beautiful trees.”

Toni points out that significant changes are also taking place on the opposite side of the house. "A new driveway coming off Starcross is now being graded to the right of the barn," Toni said.

Over the decades the Dell became overgrown with trees. Many of them are being cleared now to open things up and let some light in.

The most urgently needed improvement is the replacement of the Dell house roof, according to Toni. "The Dell needed a new roof very badly," she said. "The ceiling in the front bedroom was caving in!"

What about the barn? Recent scenarios had the barn being torn down. For now it appears the legendary Dell dance hall will remain standing.

What about the graffiti on the barn's interior walls?

What's going to happen to those unique cherub-theme murals that have mystified and delighted Dell rats for 50 years? Please don’t tell me...

“The graffiti won’t get painted over," asserts Toni. “Not if I have anything to say about it! Maybe the wooden walls but not the ones that have the drawings of people dancing and cherubs playing instruments. I was thinking of making frames around parts to showcase it.” That's great thinking, Toni! You’re a Dell rat through and through!

In my humble opinion, the graffiti is one of the Dell’s major strengths, not a flaw or weakess. Think about it. An ordinary looking piece of furniture becomes more interesting and more aesthetically pleasing when given a distressed, antique finish.

The same applies to the Dell walls. Those old walls have decades of Dell history written all over them.

The graffiti covered walls are a Dell diary of sorts...

a record of who was there and what they were thinking and feeling. It would be a terrible shame to erase all of that history in a matter of minutes with a coat of paint.

Once that decision is made and the deed is done...
there’s no unringing the bell – no do overs.

Dell rats coast to coast salute the Deroche family for their wisdom in giving this and all other aspects of Dell preservation careful consideration!

2008 photo
One original piece of the Dell that has necessarily been demolished is the old fireplace that once stood at the end of the concrete slab that served as the outdoor dance floor.

2008 photo
It was here that generations of Dell rats congregated late at night and huddled together for warmth, talking, singing, laughing, loving and whiling away the hours sometimes till the break of dawn while John Ettline, a man with the patience of Job, a man who remembered what other grownups forgot - what it's like to be young - read his newspaper in the snack bar.

Today all that remains at the spot where the old hearth once stood are shards of brick, dirt and tree roots. Toni Deroche insists that the decision was made to dismantle the fireplace because it had become an eyesore. “The fireplace was falling down and decrepit," she said. “It was in need of drastic repair and we thought the money was better spent on other aspects of the renovation.”

That brings up an another important question. Will old timer Dell rats still be able to recognize the Shady Dell after all of the work has been completed? Or will the Dell look completely different inside and out? “The outside should look pretty much the same," assured Toni, “only better with paint and repairs. The inside will definitely be changed and updated to accommodate a family’s needs.”

If we must choose between a Dell that survives as a mix of the old and the new or a Dell that gets leveled by a bulldozer and ceases to exist in any form whatsoever...then we’ll pick curtain number one, Monty.

Have a Shady day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dance Ted Dance. Ride Sally Ride.

Remember Ted and Sally?
Remember Boots the dog and Tuffy the cat?

Good for you! Now forget 'em.
I would like to remember a cool cat named Felix.


This cool cat is Felix Cavaliere, guiding force of the Young Rascals. Felix liked to sing about another cat named Mickey and a man named Eddie doin' the monkey. If you can kindly tolerate the embedded advertisement, I invite you to watch and enjoy this blistering performance by one of the preeminent blue-eyed soul acts of the 60s!

Who were the Young Rascals? Felix Cavaliere (below on the left) shared songwriting and lead vocal responsibilities with Eddie Brigati (on the right).

Cavaliere and Brigati along with guitarist/harmonica player Gene Cornish (rear) honed their chops with Joey Dee & the Starliters, the house band at Manhattan's famed Peppermint Lounge. After departing the Starliters touring group, the trio picked up Jersey boy drummer Dino Danelli (seated) and formed a group called the Rascals. Promoter/manager Sid Bernstein, who discovered the Rascals and worked to get them a recording contract, changed their name to the Young Rascals to avoid getting slapped with a lawsuit by another act, the Harmonica Rascals.

Eddie Brigati is credited with coming up with the foursome's attention grabbing wardrobe gimmick which consisted of Edwardian knickers, round collar shirts, short ties, and caps reminiscent of the getup worn by the Little Rascals from the Our Gang comedy shorts.

The Young Rascals continued to look like fugitives from a Hal Roach set until 1967 when they again dropped the word Young from their name, changed direction, and began to explore more sophisticated musical styles like psychedelia, jazz, gospel and Latin-influenced material.

Let's rewind to early 1966 so that I can tell you how the Young Rascals turned the Shady Dell into their own private clubhouse. (Petey the pit bull was allowed in...but no gurlz!)

At the end of 1965 the lads started releasing a string of excellent white R&B singles and in March of 1966 the quartet's popularity skyrocketed with the release of a monster doublesider.

Around the same time that the Righteous Brothers turned up the heat in the Shady Dell barn with their blue-eyed soul classic “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” the Rascals added to the March Madness hoopla with one of the greatest twofers ever played at the Dell, “Good Lovin’”...the Rascals megahit cover of an Olympics song, and “Mustang Sally”...the Rascals’ rendition of the Sir Mack Rice R&B recording from the previous year.

Here's a case where the Dell gentry ignored what Billboard, Cash Box, and the radio stations were doing. They liked "Lovin'" but they loved the killer bee “Mustang Sally.”

“Mustang Sally” clicked with rat packers in a big way and eventually surpassed "Good Lovin'" in popularity by a 2-to-1 ratio. For that reason I ranked “Mustang Sally” nearly 30 positions higher on my list of The 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell!

I am sorry to report that the original studio versions of "Mustang Sally" and several other Rascals hits have recently been removed from YouTube in its crackdown against copyright violations.

Several months after the Rascals released their rendition of “Mustang Sally,” Wilson Pickett came along with his own cover and it became one of his biggest chart hits.

Yet it was the Rascals' version with its tough, street wise vibe and dirty white boy sensibilities that was the overwhelming favorite at the Dell.

“Good Lovin’” and “Mustang Sally” both played heavily through the spring of 1966, that incredible season when so many of the greatest Shady Dell classics reigned.

In addition to "Good Lovin'" and "Mustang Sally," there are two other Rascals songs on my the list of 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell. “I've Been Lonely Too Long,” at #133, played during February and March of 1967.

In the summer of 1967, “Groovin'” became the second Rascals single to hit #1 on the Billboard chart. "Groovin'" was the third 45rpm side by the Rascals to crack the Shady Dell Top 100, winding up at #86. The song's relaxed tempo made it perfect for dancing the shuffle. Dell rats spent the spring and Summer of Love "Groovin'" to the Young Rascals.

Flip "Groovin'" over and you'll discover another fabulous Young Rascals killer bee!

"Sueno," Spanish for dream, an exquisite slice of psychedelia, was the perfect complement to the trippy "Groovin'" and both songs were apropos reflections of the prevailing winds of change in 1967 America.

I don't remember them as Dell songs, but there are several other excellent Rascals sides that I never get tired of hearing. "You Better Run" became a top 20 chart hit in June of 1966.

On the flip side of "You Better Run" is the killer bee "Love is a Beautiful Thing."

"Come On Up" is another sensational Rascals single that just missed the top 40 in September/October of 1966.

Finally, here's a clip that really puts the young back in Young Rascals.

From a December 27th, 1965 Hullaballoo broadcast here are the Young Rascals performing the song that became their first to reach the Billboard chart, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" with Eddie on lead vocals.

Their Buster Brown uniforms might have been lame but the Young Rascals were anything but tame.

The Rascals oozed street cred. They wrote much of their own material and they stayed relevant by updating their look and sound to adapt to the changing times. Other blue-eyed soul acts, including our own Magnificent Men, were not nearly as successful in making the transition.

There's a bounty of musical treasure to be found as you delve into the Rascals' catalog - original compositions as well as covers that are as good or better than the originals. The Rascals had the Midas touch. Nearly everything the band performed benefitted from their white soul treatment and sumptuous vocal styling. Other highly recommended Rascals recordings include a great cover of the Beau Brummels hit "Just a Little," a fine rendition of Lenny Welsh's "Since I Fell for You," "More (the theme from Mondo Cane)," "What is the Reason," "Nineteen Fifty Six," "A Girl Like You," "How Can I Be Sure," "It's Wonderful," "A Beautiful Morning," "People Got to Be Free"...the list goes on and on.

Thanks, guys!

Have a Shady day!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dell Rat Feedback

Greg Gulden said...

Thanks for getting it right. During the 60's the Dell was all about the music. Reading your Blog takes me back to the best days of my life. I loved John and Helen as much as you could love two people. You did the right thing on your last vist to the Dell. I went one evening just before the Dell closed. It was one of the most heart breaking times of my life. What all I saw that night I will not tell. I went there to see John but all I found was the shell of the man I loved so much. I must stop for now, I can't see for the tears.

April 23, 2010 7:02 AM

Shady Del Knight said...

Greg, thank you so very much for sharing this! Every generation believes that their "stuff" was the best and yet somehow...well you know what I'm saying. I feel very lucky to have been a part of the Dell scene during its golden era of the mid 60s and I wouldn't trade places with anybody. Thanks for your comment here, Greg, and for keeping the Dell alive through your heartfelt remarks on Facebook!

April 23, 2010 8:02 AM

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cruisin' with the Weird Beard........ the Saviour of Dallas Radio..... and BMR...One of the Good Guys!

It's time to salute two more fabulous Cruisin' albums, those simulated radio shows featuring boss jocks of the 50s and 60s, cool oldies, and authentic jingles, commercials, and sound effects from the era.

As always I picked my favorite songs from each album, added a song or two of my own from the same year, and tacked up some vintage soda pop print ads to help get you in the mood.

If I was going for a cheap laugh I would call part one of this post Dellie Does Dallas; but I'm not so I won't. In part two I'll make a U-turn and drive us back east to the Big Apple. Let's cruise!

Russ "Weird Beard" Knight - KLIF, Dallas

"You'll Lose a Good Thing" - Barbara Lynn (July 1962)

It is my pleasure to present in today's edition of Cruisin' two of the greatest R&B songbirds of the 60s. I begin with Barbara Lynn - the singer, songwriter, and guitarist who hit paydirt with her first single "You'll Lose a Good Thing." The song entered the Billboard pop chart at the start of summer 1962 and enjoyed an impressive 13 week run finishing in the top 10. Over on the R&B singles chart the record did even better, climbing all the way to #1 and lasting 15 weeks. I offer you two video clips of "You'll Lose a Good Thing" beginning with the original studio recording.

Now, please enjoy this superb live Barbara Lynn performance.

"Popeye the Hitchhiker" - Chubby Checker (October 1962)

Chubby Checker is one of the most easily dismissed and underrated stars of rock 'n roll. You would think he was a one hit wonder.

Although Chubby (Ernest Evans) wasn't the first to release "The Twist," (that honor belongs to Hank Ballard), it was Chubby's version that became the global sensation, hitting #1 on the chart in 1960 and again in 1961.

Chubby Checker's "Twist" record is credited as the song that changed pop culture by getting Mrs. Robinson and her generation out on the floor dancing to teenage music for the first time.

The story certainly doesn't end there. I love just about everything in Chubby Checker's extensive catalog.

Chubby cranked out one hit record after another...

and while some of his releases were derivative variations of the twist and other dance fads...

others were refreshingly different up tempo folk songs.

When measuring an artist's greatness I always look for killer bees. If you count Chubby Checker's "Jingle Bell Rock"/"Jingle Bells Imitations" single recorded with Bobby Rydell...

Chubby had a total of 10 singles with both the A side and the B side making the Billboard chart. In a few cases, the B side out performed the A side.

Bottom line: Chubby Checker consistently produced high quality recordings!

Chubby's "Limbo Rock" went to #2 on Billboard and #1 on Cash Box at Christmas time 1962. Chubby's latest dance craze spent an astounding 23 weeks on the chart in all - more than any of his other records including "The Twist."

As far as I was concerned the groovier song was the killer bee "Popeye the Hitchhiker," a bizarre dance record that broke into the top 10 around Halloween.

Chubby Checker's "Popeye the Hitchhiker" became the inspiration for Cool Ghoul John Zacherle's spooky answer song "Popeye (the Gravedigger)."

TV ghost host Zacherle also recorded creepy covers of songs by other Cameo/Parkway recording artists including the Dovells, the Orlons, Bobby Rydell and Dee Dee Sharp. Here's Zach's version of Dee Dee's "Gravy" flavored with a dash of cyanide.

B. Mitchell Reed - WMCA, New York

"Mama Didn't Lie" - Jan Bradley (February 1963)

R&B thrush Jan Bradley might have been a one hit wonder, but her waxing of a Curtis Mayfield song became a northern soul classic and my favorite song on the Cruisin' 1963 album. Released on Chicago's legendary Chess label at the start of that year, "Mama Didn't Lie" became a top 10 hit on the black chart and finished #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Listen now to Chitown soul at its best!

The First Family, Vol. 1 - Vaughn Meader
(November 1962 through November 1963)

The assasination of President John F. Kennedy is the first thing I think of when the year 1963 is mentioned.

Comedian and satirist Lenny Bruce was performing at a New York nightclub on the day of the assassination. As the story goes, Bruce tested his audience's capacity to laugh in the face of tragedy by remaining silent for a few moments before quipping "Vaughn Meader is screwed."

Comic impressionist Vaughn Meader's career took off like a rocket with the release of a comedy album based on the Kennedys.

The First Family featured Meader as the voice of JFK.

The album was released in the fall of 1962 and by Christmas it was a smash hit. By November 22nd, 1963, 7.5 million copies had been sold. When the unthinkable happened that day in Dallas it put an abrupt end to Vaughn Meader's career because the comic actor became irrevocably linked with the fallen president and one of the darkest days in American history.

...thee rubber mine!

Be here for the next installment of Cruisin'...coming soon!

Have a Shady day!