As utterly confounding as even I still consider this lil’ factoid to be, Yours Truly honestly did spend the majority of the dreaded 1980s touring Canada’s hepper lounges and ski resorts as one-fifth of the one and only (…ah-hemm: but AUTHORIZED, I’ll have you know) Beach Boys “tribute” act known as Endless Summer.
I exhume this particular musical skeleton today, on Pat Boone’s 85th (!) Birthday, as not yet another stab at sullying what’s left of my pop’n’roll credibilities, but by way of readily admitting that besides bringing in tons-o-tax-free-bux during them long-lost boomer years, my Endless Slumbering often afforded the rare opportunity of bringing me right up close with all sorts of rockin’ rollin’ characters-and-a-half.
So it was, after an especially rousing encore of “Barbara Ann” one sunny eve that I came to become involved with the singularly legendary Prewitt Rose – yes, he of “The Rat’s Revenge” infamy – who at this particular point in time, roughly Thanksgiving 1988, was busy hauling his latest pal (John “Judy In Disguise” Fred) all-round the dreaded oldies-but-moldies circuit. Suffice to say, for reasons I’ll never be quite sure of but nevertheless remain eternally grateful for Prewitt instantly felt a certain kamikaze kinship with me and so decided to, one weekend shortly thereafter, haul my make-believe Mike Love (E. Summer’s lead vocalist T.J. Tyler) and I all the way down to Nashville, Tennessee. In order that we may sing on a brand new Pat Boone record he’d decided to produce.
I mean, we had nothing else to do that weekend, now did we?
Okay, let me attempt to set this stage: Prewitt, who for a few harrowing weeks had Pat signed to his Orchid Records label (alongside softcore queen Hyapatia Lee …but that’s another story altogether!) was living a life of comparative ease ’way out on Long Island, New York. One of Prewitt’s neighbors, I seem to recall, was Billy Joel, whom he loved to taunt on a regular basis by blasting Rats out-takes, at full volume through a spare PA speaker, out the back window straight towards the Piano Man’s patio. But I digress. Meanwhile, T.J. and your humble B-Buster were, on the weekend in question, briefly off the endless Beach Boy road and crashing (quite literally) at opposite corners of suburban Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
“Aw hell, I don’t mind,” I remember Prewitt laughing into my phone very late one night as his latest scheme festered. “I’ll just fill the tank, shoot on up to Taranna and grab you guys, then if we’re lucky we’ll be in Music City by sundown!” And damned if he wasn’t dead right.
Now, traveling anywheres inside Prewitt’s rock’n’rollmobile has always been one strange long trip indeed. But this time, somewhere between Ohio and Oblivion, things suddenly took a turn towards the certifiably B-zarre as Prewitt grinned at me through his rearview “Hey Gary, you know that character you have in some of your stories called Tylin Whaler? The country singer? Canada’s answer to Hank Williams Jr.?” I nodded in apprehension. “Well, let’s make this mission real interesting, why don’t we! Howzabout from this minute on, until I drop you guys back over the border on Sunday night, you BECOME Tylin, okay? I mean, you ARE Tylin from now on, okay? Yeah! Awrite Gary?” By now even T.J. was looking for the next off ramp. “Man, that’ll really flip ol’ Boone out! Here… we’re gonna pull over at the next truckstop so’s we can practice. Ready?”
Ahh, the pure Power of Persuasion, Suggestion, and/or Hunger I guess, as sure enough within twenty minutes I had even the hardened denizens of the local grits ‘n’ griddle palace snapping Polaroids and fawning Big Time as I dutifully signed the back of their Gusto cassettes of Tom T. Hall’s greatest hits. “Yes indeed folks,” Col. Rose announced for what was to be the first of a couple dozen times that weekend, “We’ve all just had the pleasure of dining here with Canada’s Number One up-and-coming country music sensation Tylin Whaler! On his way right now to Nashville to cut his very next smash with Mr. White Bucks himself!!”
I must admit that by the time we’d finally checked in to our N-ville motel, and after a quick call been invited over to Pat’s father’s house for a home-cooked breakfast alongside the whole family before we hit the recording studio, even I was beginning to believe I truly was the ill-gotten progeny of the legendary Tylin Whaler Sr., the Hillbilly Shakespeare of the Canadian Maritimes. “Well then, it certainly is an honor to welcome you first to Music City, and now into my original homestead for a rib-sticking country breakfast, Boone-style” smiled the one and only Charles “Pat” Eugene as he ushered us into the classic southern-styled parlor of Archie Boone’s Place. “And I certainly hope you plan on singing us a couple of your hits later too,” Speedy Gonzales back-slapped (as his wizened old pop began eyeing me suspiciously …and so rightfully so).
“Now come on, Pat. Tylin here just came off one heck of a big ol’ tour, coast to coast across Canada, and he really should be restin’ up those golden vocal chords of his you know,” a familiar Rose-colored voice raised from behind. “I mean, shouldn’t we just be thankful I could talk him into giving up part of his first vacation in who-knows-how-very-long to sing on your new record instead?” Pat humbly acquiesced and yep, though dawn had barely broken, Prewitt had already saved the day – for only the first of several times that day it turned out – as I quickly buried my golden chords under the nearest mountain of flapjacks.
I gotta admit though, Father Archie was one real cool cat. So was Pat’s mom. I mean, really, who knows how many ragamuffins, musical and otherwise, Pat had dragged home over the years? But they were both as kind – and as unwaveringly patient – with their boy and his new friends from up north as they possibly could be. Even when Pat couldn’t figure out how in heck to get his brand new home video camera working during coffee (…until Archie reached over and popped the lens cover off it, that is).
Suddenly, by the everywhere-else-in-the-civilized-world-highly-UNmusical hour of ten A.M., we were lounging across a typically funky recording studio lobby on Music Row, U.S.A.: T.J. (who was still searching vainly for an escape hatch), our musical director Carson Whitsett, Tylin Whaler Himself, “making his American recording debut” and – as if things couldn’t get any more star-studded – drummer extra-ordinaire Gene “Suspicious Minds” Chrisman alongside, I honestly kid you not, bassman Donald “Duck” Dunn. Who was already sharing cigar smoke alongside our fearless commandant Prewitt. Damn!
Meanwhile, Pat was gamely holding his more than fair share, regaling all with his three stock E. Presley encounters while Prewitt set up the board and I tried hard to ignore what seemed so terribly, terribly all wrong with this entire picture. But then, from what I could gather, Chrisman and even Dunn really were just so many geniuses-for-hire working this musical assembly line, and for all I know could’ve been heading straight across the street after our allotted three hours to toil upon the brand new Billy Ray (Father of Miley) Cyrus smash. Talk about a town without pity!
“Okay you clowns, get on in here,” Prewitt soon barked over the talk-back. “We’re gonna cut both these two sides with time to spare before lunch. Carson? Pass out those damn… whoops! – darn charts of yours, everyone else get tuned up, and Tylin? We’ll dub you and T.J. on later alright?” No problem, Producer Rose! I was happy just to be sitting here, wasn’t I? A semi-featured player no less in this previously unseen, undreamt-of-even episode of The Twilight Zone: Behind The Music.
“Now Pat? You already know this song, so we should have it in three takes tops. All set then?”
“Um, excuse me Prewitt,” interrupted Pat in as smooth a voice as I’ve ever heard. “I’m not quite sure of the lyrics, you see. I’m sorry.”
Prewitt guffawed, “Oh right. You don’t know the words! Okay then, come on everybody. Take One: ‘Fools’ Hall Of Fame’!”
But before Gene could even launch the count-off, Pat spoke up again …though with ever-so-slightly more urgency this time. “No, I really mean it Prewitt. I need lyrics for this song.”
“Pat, you still do this song in your act, don’t you? What do you mean?”
“My act? Prewitt, I don’t believe I have ever heard this song before in my life!”
For once, our jolly ringmaster seemed at a true loss for words. Curbing his tongue somewhat around his cigar, Prewitt now leaned closer to gently admonish “But Pat, of course you know this song. You’ve RECORDED this song. I’ve HEARD you perform it on stage. It was one of your big hits!”
“Really, Prewitt? Is that so! Well then.”
Even our world-renowned rhythm section now began muttering amongst themselves (off mike), as Prewitt excused himself from the booth to enter the studio proper. He approached Pat, pulling something from his briefcase en route, and before I could even motion, the engineer had turned the over-head on so we could all hear what promised to be this weekend’s zaniest conversation so far.
“What’s this?” Prew asked Pat, removing a worn folder from a sharp new Orchid Records envelope. “It is the lyrics for ‘Fools’ Hall Of Fame.’ In fact, it is the original sheet music for ‘Fools’ Hall Of Fame,’ vintage 1959.” Pat took the item and delicately placed it upon his music stand. “In fact, if you’ll look closely enough Pat, you’ll see your picture on the cover of this sheet music, with the words RECORDED BY PAT BOONE ON DOT RECORDS written right along the very top there.”
Then Pat began to laugh. Long, loud, and heartily. Then we all began to laugh.
Prewitt, however, simply strode meaningfully back into the booth and announced, for the third time and counting, “Fools’ Hall Of Fame, Take One.”
Sure enough, by lunchtime both the A and B sides of Orchid number OR-521 had been laid down, Carson had picked up (and already cashed I bet) his check, Dunn and Chrisman were merrily off on their next assignment, and T.J. and I had even laid our best Canadian Jordanaires across the two empty tracks. Mission duly accomplished, and rough cassette mixes in hand, we dropped Pat back at his Dad’s place and pointed the Prewittmobile due north, Destination: Toronto.
The ride home was so smooth and uneventful, in fact, that the usually prying-at-the-border Immigration officials didn’t even bother awakening me in the back seat. Yes, and as promised, I was back home by Monday morning …and that included a nostalgic stopover in Bowling Green, Kentucky to buy some Everly Brothers albums (They were all out of Tylin Whaler’s).
But what, you may ask, of the Orchid Record in question?
Well, far from considering myself an expert on such matters (having witnessed only a single Boone recording session to date), all I can safely report here and now is that Pat worked hard, and he worked fast – not that you have much choice in the matter in Nashville …especially when recording for Prewitt Rose!
So then, can we safely consider the man the consummate professional?
Well, remember Pat’s been walking through hundreds of such sessions for well over a half-century by now, I should imagine. Still, despite the fact that he swore up and down he didn’t own a solitary cassette player through which to listen to our rough mix after the session’s end (hmmm…), Pat did good – as opposed to exceptional – work, and my mom at least got a real kick a few months later when she spotted the man in question plugging “Fools’ Hall Of Fame,” and duly recounting our adventures in precise detail, on The Pat Sajak Show.
But I guess CBS Television must’ve edited out all the Tylin Whaler references before broadcast, right?
TO BE CONTINUED…