Gary Richardson 7/1968
Lee Caraway 1979
Virginia Bocock 7/2000
Dick Bocock 6/2001
Bert Jersild 8/2005
Bill Stallings - 11/2006
Robert L. (Bob) Fisher, Jr. 6/17
As mentioned earlier, TSM had a great fan base, the enthusiasm of which was in no small way responsible for the group’s success. Here are some of those important early supporters (with their identities protected). If you’re not yet in a nursing home with someone wiping the drool from your chin, you might recognize yourself or someone you know. If I missed you (I can still wipe my own chin, but little else), I’m sorry. Jog my memory with a note.
Susan J. (and her dad)
Don "Beetle" E.
Donn I. (and his dad)
No one of the original TSM (in its original six member configuration) ever recaptured the magic or excitement of those early times together. The reality of untimely death and the responsibilities of adulthood siphoned off that wonderful glow, leaving only the warm memories, and even the memories have become indistinct with the passing of time... so many names, places, and events forgotten or only dimly recalled.
At the height of TSM’s popularity, there was an explosion of local bands and venues, which diluted the fan base and reduced the income to be made from sponsoring dances at teen clubs, the high school gym, or the local National Guard Armory, making them uneconomical. Later, the demeanor of the fans began to change until today dance venues are noted more for the murders than the music. Recorded music became big business, and that, in turn, peaked. Bill Deal and The Rhondels, another favorite Hampton Roads band went from seven or eight members at its zenith to three pieces plus an elaborate midi (electronic) system in the years before his untimely death. There may well never be another opportunity for a group to enjoy the experience which TSM enjoyed. Like rotary dial phones, party lines, slide rules, drive-in movies, and drive-in restaurants with curb service they’re just memories of those old enough to remember.
There’s a great loss (and risk) in putting down these recollections at such a late date, because I don’t have Dick and Bill here to test my memory of events. Over the years I’ve read various blurbs or heard people purporting to know TSM’s story, and I wanted to set the record straight... at least as I remember its early days. Perhaps also the children and grandchildren of those who played a part or those who remember will find some amusement here. For those of you who, like me, are startled by the fact that all of a sudden we’re counted among the elderly (I was the oldest member of the group. I bought the alcohol.), my fondest hope is that, in reading these pages you’ll recall the time when we were all young and all that adventurous era of our youth entailed. We lived the early days of rock and roll, wondered if we’d survive the Cuban Missile Crisis, watched JFK’s funeral, watched Neil Armstrong put the first footprint on the moon, were on the cusp of the sexual revolution and the hippie generation, witnessed the computer revolution and then, like all before us, were suddenly old and wondering how and when that happened. Being alive is a bewildering experience. Being alive during the past sixty+ years has been a fantastic experience.
P.S. There's lots more on Facebook.
The Swinging Machine
We played a gig at the Nansemond Hotel in Ocean View which was sponsored by some frat guys from ODU. A big fight broke out, and a dozen or more policemen were called to the scene. The ballroom had elegant old floor to ceiling windows, and people were throwing chairs through them.
We played a dance gig at a girls’ school in Delaware. The school administration was surly toward us and the whole concept from the beginning. About half way through the gig, a chaperone found a couple "misbehaving" in a car in the parking lot, and they called the rest of the dance off.
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The summer of 1964? one of the Virginia Beach nightclubs brought over a group from the Canary Islands, aptly called The Canaries. Teddy Bautista was their vocalist and Tato was the drummer. As I recall, they were the only members of the group who spoke understandable English. They had a house on 18th Street(?) and TSM hung out at the Beach with them much of the summer during their extended engagement.
The Ambassadors’ Club and Portsmouth Catholic High School
TSM had a really strong fan base in Portsmouth. Gary and Lee were recent graduates of Churchland High School, and we played for a student assembly there, gathering a great deal of support. The band probably returned to The Ambassadors’ Club and Portsmouth Catholic more often than any other venue. The management and fans were great at both places. Four band members ended up marrying girls from Portsmouth. Jerry Meyers, a Portsmouth policeman who provided the only security for The Ambassadors’ Club for years, had the best disposition for handling unruly kids that we ever saw.
Princess Anne High School Stadium - Dave Clark Five
TSM was on the bill at Princess Anne High School Stadium when The Dave Clark Five headlined a show there. Other artists included The Strangeloves and Tommy Roe. During the afternoon, while we were rehearsing on stage, Tommy Roe pulled up alone in a big convertible, with his guitar in the back seat. He was there to do a solo act, but, after hearing us he asked us to back him up during the show, which we did. I remember we did Sheila and Everybody. We had never been big Tommy Roe fans. We considered his tunes to be "bubble gum music", I. e. music teenyboppers listened to.
That evening the weather was drizzling rain. A trailer had been pulled up at the back of the stage and that was the dressing room for the DC5. When the show was over, we were standing at the rear of the trailer as the door opened and the DC5 slipped quietly into a waiting limousine and pulled away unnoticed by fans who were filing out of the stadium in quite orderly fashion. Lee decided that "quietly" was not a proper send-off and began yelling "There they go!, "They’re in that car!", "The Dave Clark Five!" The car was immediately surrounded as hundreds of screaming fans rushed the limo. A canine cop, who had been watching the quiet exodus of fans, was jerked off his feet and drug across the wet grass on his back as his dog lurched toward the sudden rush of people. Lee was pleased by the chaos he had inspired.
Bill's father, Herbert "Shorty" Stallings and his uncle, Elmer, owned a pool hall in South Norfolk appropriately called Triangle Billiards (the two story building was triangular in shape). There was an apartment on the second floor that was vacant, so Shorty let us use it as a place to practice; however, being on the second floor meant carrying Bill's organ (a Hammond B2) up and down the stairs for every gig. It was at the apartment that we first met Gary and Lee. After a brief "get acquainted" practice session, all agreed that they would be the new members of TSM.
800 E. Sparrow Road
Dick’s father, a very successful South Norfolk physician, died at the age of forty-seven (several years before Dick became involved in rock and roll). Dick, his mother (Virginia), and his younger brother lived in an old mansion on the Elizabeth River in Virginia Beach. The house sat on three plus acres at the end of a small lane. It was very secluded, private, and removed. There was a large, in-ground pool with a pool house. There was a pier with, initially, a seventy-five foot yacht (a matching fifty foot yacht was under construction on a railway that Dr. Bocock had constructed near the pier). Mrs. Bocock drove a black, straight-shift, 1959 Ford that was equipped with a Police Interceptor engine. Virginia wasn’t the "little old lady from Pasadena", but she took driving lessons from the same instructor.
Virginia was a very tolerant woman who seemed to enjoy near-chaos. I say this because she let TSM practice at her home. In fact, many of us almost lived there from time to time. And the parties... they were unbelievable. Most band members and many close friends and fans would head for Dick’s house after a gig, and we’d party until daybreak. The long driveway and front yard would be covered with cars, many of the owners unknown to us. I can remember only one rough incident: a guy and a couple of friends came up the driveway making threatening remarks because he thought his former girlfriend was at a party.
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Soon after leaving TSM, Esdras Lubin switched to acoustic bass and began a long career with jazz pianist Joe Jones, guitarist Ken Hatfield and others. He lives in Connecticut and still works with various artists and groups in New York City. He has a web site: www.esdras.com and is on Facebook.
Steve Curling and I (we were best friends in high school) kept in touch for a number of years, but then lost touch. Through this web site, we have luckily re-established contact. Steve is retired from a successful real estate business in the Charlotte, NC area.
Lee was a great lead guitarist: versatile, fast, accurate. A couple of us rode to Washington, D.C. one day, where Lee bought the first Rickenbacker twelve string guitar seen in Tidewater. The Rickenbacker took its place beside Lee’s Fender Jaguar and Fender Dual Showman Amp, all paid for by his parents, who, along with his siblings, were great supporters of Lee and big fans of TSM. His only local equal on guitar was probably Mike Kerwin of The Rondells. After Gary’s death and a scary motorcycle accident, Lee underwent a religious epiphany and became a lay minister. He would occasionally show up at Dick’s house and proselytize. I heard him once when he preached under a tent. He said rock and roll was a sin. I didn’t mind that; I’d heard it before. He went on to itemize a whole bunch of sins that he said he and other band members had participated in. To my knowledge, the worst of those transgressions didn’t happen, and I minded that. I never saw him again. A few short years later Lee was, tragically, dead.
Bob Fisher joined a TSM competitor, Bill Deal and The Rondells and recorded and toured with them for more than ten years. If you listen carefully, you can hear Bob’s voice on the Rondells hits and other recordings. His horn arrangements were an important part of the TSM’s sound. The last time I saw him, he was living in Danville, Virginia.
Dick stayed with TSM, and, with Bob Weaver and new members, it eventually evolved into The Machine. The group played lots of local bars and clubs until it eventually disbanded, most members forming a new group: Full Sail. Dick was a great drummer. He had an un-erring internal clock, keeping the correct tempo from start to finish. Dick called me one day to tell of a house for sale on a river in Chesapeake, five houses from his. Thinking it would be appropriate for Dick and I to grow old together as neighbors, my fiance and I bought that property and moved in, but within thirty days he died. He was a dear friend; like a brother. We remained close all his life, and I miss him terribly.
Bill Stallings went on to study music at the University of Kansas and St. Louis Institute of Music. Afterwards, he was a masters student at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and toured on the lounge circuit with a group called Pieces of Dreams. After that he never played professionally again; however, some of us were lucky enough to be with him when the mood struck, and he would play the piano for hours: rock, classical, jazz, improvisational. His many years of practice made his play seem effortless. He was a truly gifted musician and another dear friend who was like a brother. We remained close all his life, and I miss him terribly.
Evan was inspired musically by friends of his parents (Odell and Irene Toler), who let him listen to 78rpm records on their wind-up Victrola for hours on end when he had to stand in a chair to operate it. Robert Wells, for many years the band director in South Norfolk and (later) Chesapeake, was also a role model. Evan was having such a good time with TSM that he forgot to continue classes at ODU, lost his student deferment, was drafted, and served two years in the U.S. Army. He never played professionally again. Except for the loss of so many dear friends, he continues to have an exceptionally exciting and interesting life. It was probably inevitable that his son, Evan, would become a professional musician (El Kabong, Who’s Your Daddy).
TSM was very successful financially. Eventually we became jaded enough to hire a couple of guys to move and set up our equipment. At that point, we just had to show up, play, and leave. At first we rented a trailer, but later the band bought a panel truck which they painted with psychedelic designs and colors. The equipment handlers were paid a pittance. They mostly did the job because they were devoted fans who liked to hang out with the band. The most dependable and long-serving of the equipment guys were Bert Jersild and Bob Everett, both of Portsmouth. Inspired by Bob, his friend and occasional helper Randy became a roadie for Merle Haggard for years and now handles road operations for Brooks and Dunn.
A Norfolk photographer, Ed Parker, took professional photos of the band and became a dear friend.
End of a Dream
Gary died tragically in 1968, and TSMs dreams of success died with him. The group never found an adequate replacement because Gary was a special talent. His voice had great range and, when he wanted, depth. His boyish good looks, smile, and stage presence kept the girls enthralled. Although he became something of a prima donna in his later years with the band, his vocal ability and crowd pleasing delivery allowed him to get away with it. Had he lived, the group may well have become Gary and the Swinging Machine or something similar, giving him top billing. His funeral was the largest I’ve ever attended, and more than one heart-broken girl threw herself on his casket or tossed a memento into his grave. Like the band and fans, his parents were heartbroken. He was an only child.
"Performances at Virginia Beach’s "Dome"
TSM was the opening act for The Byrds when they appeared at the Dome. Somehow we ended up using the same dressing room that they used. Roger McGuinn and David Crosby sat in chairs and stared at the floor, barely saying a word. McGuinn was already sporting the exotic spectacles shtick that Elton John would later make more popular. They were both a real drag, and it was a forgettable experience.
TSM was the opening act for Sir Douglas Quintet when they appeared at the Dome. She’s About A Mover had already topped out on the charts. They were nice guys. Especially Augie, their keyboard player. He played a Farfisa Organ, which he used to create that strange, almost synthesized sound.
TSM was the opening act for The Beach Boys when they appeared at the Dome. Dennis Wilson was their drummer at that time. Brian Wilson had just had a major health breakdown and an unknown session guitarist was filling in for him on bass and vocals: Glen Campbell. Our dressing room was on the right side of the stage, and The Beach Boys were on the left. A metal security door guarded by a uniformed policeman led from the dressing room to the parking lot, and a hoard of female teenyboppers were beating on the door and screaming for their heartthrob, Dennis Wilson. They began passing pieces of paper under the door, begging for his autograph. Never ones to disappoint fans, we dutifully signed "Dennis Wilson" on the scraps of paper and passed them back under the door to the happy screams of thirteen and fourteen year old girls. When we had to go on stage, the policeman took over the autograph chore. I’ve often wondered how many women have shown off "Dennis Wilson’s" autograph in a scrapbook over the years, not knowing they were scribbled by a rent-a-cop.
There were two shows with The Beach Boys that day, and between sets Bill wowed Dennis Wilson with his keyboard ability as they talked about music. Dennis wanted to learn keyboards. There was nothing new about Bill wowing listeners. When we would play a gig sponsored by some sort of women’s league, there would often be scowls aimed at us (by this time we had adopted the long hair look) from the mothers of the little dears. As soon as Bill’s electric piano was ready, he would being a "sound test" by playing Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor. The attitude of the mothers did an immediate about-face as they gathered round Bill to watch, listen, marvel and adore him.
When we met Frank Guida, he was working out of a three room store front near "five points" in Norfolk. He had a nice reel to reel tape recorder and a few microphones and that was about it. Bare concrete block walls, no mixing board, no sound baffles, nothing else, but we were excited because he had recorded several tunes that had made the charts. To our great disappointment, TSM’s relationship with Frank was difficult and unsuccessful. Frank’s early success in the record business was based on his "live-sound" technique of recording The Church Street Five and Gary Bonds. Unfortunately for us, Frank wanted TSM to sound like that, which was impossible. The instrumentation, arrangements, and talents of TSM was more suited to a Phil Spector, "wall of sound" treatment. The recording sessions were often contentious, and the group lost confidence in Frank early on. Getting our one and only record finished became a dreaded chore, which we were barely able to complete. Both tunes on TSM’s record were recorded in October and early November of 1968. The final recording was made late in the day on November 4, 1968, and the next day, Evan, who had been drafted, left for a stint in the military.
Although we had signed a three record deal with SPQR, we were so disappointed with our first record, we never returned to Frank’s studio. If TSM had had a choice in the matter, the record would never have been released; we were that disappointed.
At the time we signed with SPQR, Bill was still under eighteen years of age, so his parents had to sign the contract for him. The contract had a clause giving SPQR the exclusive right to our recordings; however, Bill’s mother, thinking that he would have a career of classical music recordings, had a clause inserted into his contract stipulating that SPQR would not be involved in any of his classical music endeavors.
The Casino - Ras Wescott’s East Coast Lounge
Our first gig at the Casino at Nags Head, NC was for multiple nights, so the band rented a cottage where we could all stay together. About midday, after we dropped our gear at the cottage, several of us went to the Casino to check it our from the backstage perspective. There were several bedrooms with old wooden bunk beds backstage, and we were surprised to find Bill Deal and his group sleeping there after performing the previous night. While TSM was a completely democratic organization, Bill Deal owned the Rondels and he was the boss. TSM split all gig money equally after paying expenses, while Bill paid his people what he wanted. Apparently, instead of paying for hotel rooms or a cottage, he had elected to put the band up in the free bunk area.
The stage at The Casino took up almost the entire west end of the building. It was elevated to the extent that several steps were needed to go from the dance floor level up to the stage. At the middle, rear of the stage there was an elevated platform where the drummers usually set up their kits. Directly to the rear of that platform was a set of steps which led down to the backstage area. Dick had had a special stool made which matched his drum set. It was a cylinder with a padded seat on one end (top) and three stubby legs on the other (bottom). A trap door on the bottom allowed him to store drumsticks and other small items in the stool for easy transport. However, the three stubby legs didn’t provide the most stable of seating platforms. One evening I noticed the tempo of a number was slowing and speeding, slowing and speeding. I turned to look at Dick, and it was obvious from his swaying that he had consumed too much beer. As I watched him wobble on the tiny, unstable seat, he finally leaned too far to the rear and tumbled seat and all off the riser, down the stairs, and into the dressing area. Ras noticed the commotion and was not amused. In fact, he was irate, and it was all we could do to convince him that Dick shouldn’t be put in jail. Bob Weaver (who was to become a future member of TSM) sat in for Dick for the rest of the evening.