It was a very interesting night in Linden to say the least. Fans from as
far as Rahway came to see their home grown heroes set the night on fire once again at the infamous Linwood Inn.
Old friends from the present, past, and...beyond were in attendance as well, giving everyone much more than
they had hoped for. But before we take a look at that memorable evening, let us reminisce a bit and go back to where
it all began.
The humble beginnings of a legend...
It was the late 50's and boys all across the oil refining town of Linden,
New Jersey were forming what were then known as "skiffle bands". Calling themselves "The Esso Guys"
(named for the Esso refinery) the boys are seen here playing their very first gig at the Union County School for the Deaf.
They originally had named the band "The Beards", but had to change it after Sam's beard and
most of his lower body hair had been singed off in a fire while working at the refinery. Sam recalls in a Rolling
Stone interview years later, "We really couldn't play back then, not a note. But we had a couple old guitars and
these cool looking western ties.So we decided to form a group after hearing some places around town would actually feed you
rather than give you money for playing their dances. The stuffed cabbages at the UCSD were great! We really made out like
bandits whenever we played there. It worked out well. We ate like pigs! But unfortunately it was the only place we could play
at since everyone there was, well...ya know. But hey, at least we got to hang out with Red Skelton!
From left to right: Don on drums, Lennie-guitar, Stubby on tea chest bass,
Sam-guitar, Al (then on guitar) In the foreground master of ceremonies Mr. Red Skelton.
The boys hadn't received any real notoriety until late 1962 when they
hitched a ride on an oil tanker and found themselves in Liverpool England and in the middle of a musical revolution. They
managed to learn a few guitar chords on the trip over from the ships cook Rolo who they say used to play in a mariachi band
in Tijuana during the great depression. Stubby recounts their trip when he appeared on The Dick Cavette Show in March,1973.
"We didn't know the boat was going to England. Al said he heard it was headed down to Atlantic City. We figured we'd
sneak onboard and hang out on the boardwalk for the weekend and catch a bus back Sunday night. After 4 days at sea
we got a little suspicious. Rolo was the one who found us and smoothed things over with the captain. The problem was we had
to agree to work in the galley for Rolo the rest of the trip. All we did was clean blue fish the sailors caught for three
days straight. By the time we got to Liverpool we stunk REAL bad! Man, I mean our clothes too! Lucky for us the captain threw
us a few bucks anyway for working so hard and the first thing we did was buy some tight fitting leather suits some other
band from over there had sold to a pawn shop. Man were those "trousers" tight! But it was all we could afford. Now
we needed to make some quick cash to get back home. Again, Rolo to the rescue. He had some connections in town and booked
a few gigs for us. We never expected to win The Mersey Beat poll. But, I think we all agree it was the tight trousers that
did it for us."
(Not pictured...Don who's trousers had ripped
and was taking the picture)
Success finally came after the boys moved to Hollywood in 1965 and auditioned
at CBS studios for a TV show, landing the part of a struggling rock band living in Burbank, Califonia. Each week millions
tuned in on Monday night to watch their zany antics and hi jinx as well as hear their latest hits such as "You
Must Be Joking" and "Love Me, Feed Me". Lennie later admits, "We still weren't playing our
own instruments very well at the time so we didn't get paid very much. Actually, we just got to keep all our cool
"Mod" clothes and slept in a trailer on the studio lot. The CBS commissary was pretty good though and we got free
food vouchers everyday too. The meatloaf was pretty good as I recall. We did learn a thing or two after a while and were allowed
to play and record our own stuff by the third season. Prior to that, I had gotten in to an argument one day with the musical
director Don Kirschner, basically calling him a "no-talent-putz"and making fun of his suit. He walked off the set
and left the show. So after that it was sink or swim. There was no fourth season..." Al had arrived in
Hollywood two years earlier and established an acting career appearing in several shows including "77 Sunset
Strip" and "Gunsmoke". He had also cut his own solo album featuring his #1 hit "Surf's
Up! (But I Don't Swim)" Columbia Records 1963. He joined the show for the second season taking over the
Al, (top left) playing the part of Rookie on "77 Sunset Strip",
and to the right with James Arness as Marshall Dillon's sidekick Buster on the hit TV show "Gunsmoke".
The sixties were finally coming to an end. With 4 gold and
3 platinum albums under their belts, 13 number one singles, three movies, and a long running hit TV show that is still in
syndication to this day, the boys find themselves in the studio listening to what would be their last single, "Beans
and Franks Again". (all except Al that is who was napping at the time.) It was also the only single released from
their final album "Throw Out the Lifeline". Over a year in the making it would be considered by fans and
critics alike to be their masterpiece.
back over the years it must have seemed like a dream. In fact it all was. But, there's really nothing wrong with dreaming
John Lennon probably said
"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."
Now... on to the show!
Dedicated in loving memory of Dan Blocker
"The Gentle Giant"