Friday, April 13, 2012

DANCING TO LIVE BANDS IN THE 1960s.

By the late 1960's, a new venue for dancing to live bands, came in the form of..... neighborhood Beer Halls. 


America's first real discotheque, The Whisky A Go Go, on the Sunset Strip, declined in the late 60's, followed by the Cheetah and the Kaleidoscope.  Soon there was no place to go but the Shrine Auditorium, if you wanted to dance to live bands.  However, If you wanted a more intimate setting, local Beer Bars. were the answer.


An article featured in Eye Magazine, about the LA Scene in the late 1960s talked about one of the most popular neighborhood beer halls in town.  "Mom's" was a bar in Westwood Village, two blocks from UCLA, that was comprised of 5 rooms of an old warehouse. The floor was sawdust covered, and the decor was.... Halcyon, Frat-House-Renaissance ..... toilet bowls, wash basins, traffic signs, Beatles posters, wagon wheels and old hairdryers. Over the doorway hung a full length portrait of Mom, a red hot cartoon travesty of Little Annie.

Al Hall on the right, with his brother Gary.

Most every weekend you could find me at Mom's dancing, while my boyfriend Al Hall, and his band, the Graven Image, played to a rip-roaring mob, gyrating to deafening electric guitars and over-the-top drumming. Even though the Graven Image was a very talented and popular band in 1968 and '69, it was difficult for them to fit the "long-hair" band image at that time because Al and Gary were in the Marine Corps Air Wing Reserve..... and their hair and sideburns had be trimmed each month before their drill weekend to comply with Marine Corps regulations.



Here's Al and Gary Hall with Graven Image lead singer, Joan Coogan, who was TV & film star Jackie Coogan's daughter and who was also half sister to actor, Don Stroud.) Jackie and Don would often come hear the band play and so did Jan and Dean and a few other name bands.


It's been 40 years since I've seen Al Hall, but we talked on the phone recently and he told me the whole short hair story. Here is a letter the band's management company, Century Artists' Ltd, wrote to Al and Gary's commanding officer.




Al also wrote a letter to his Congressman, Charles H. Wilson in 1968, explaining their plight: "We want to serve our Country, but we also want to look professional in our chosen occupation."

An excerpt from the Congressman's reply letter read....

"Your only recourse is staying in the reserves and complying with their grooming regulations, or file a formal application for a hardship discharge. Should you decide to make such application I will do everything possiblein your behalf."

The Graven Image once had an opportunity to be the opening band at a concert featuring "Spirit,"....
 (I Got a Line On You Babe,) but the promoters decided against them, evidently because of their short hair. Over the next year this, plus their 2-week absence each summer for active duty, caused friction and growing discontent with the other band members who did not have to serve in the Military. The constant turmoil caused the breakup of the Graven Image near the end of 1969.


Had Al and Gary been able to grow their hair, they might have looked like this.... and Graven Image might have gone on to be a serious Rock group. However, love of Country came before career.



Al Hall, drummer Gary Green, and Gary Hall in the

1970's, when they were the U.S. Males.
Al contacted former band mates and soon had the U.S. Males back together again. A while later Al and former drummer John Acquarelli purchased their own bar in Playa Del Rey, called The Gallery, and it became a very popular bar/dance hall in the early 1970's.




The U.S. Males 20 year Anniversary Reunion in 1985.  In this picture, Gary Hall, Al Hall, Gary Green, Neil Gunny and John Acquarelli, (the original drummer) singing, "Blue Moon," acapella. 


The party was invitation only, and once everyone arrived, there were over 500 in attendance. The bar manager told the band afterwards, "We have never poured as many drinks for ANY event in the entire ten years I have been here, and they were the nicest, most well behaved group of people I have ever seen."




During those fun years between 1967 and 1971, you could find me sitting on the stage, watching my boyfriend, Rock Out... I danced most every dance, and was called, Little Surfer Girl, Little Queenie and The Dancing Queen. Al and I split up when my parents moved to Newport Beach. We both married and had no contact until now.

Here is an earlier post about Al and Sharrie.

Read more about my life in the 1960's.... and after the sale of the Maybelline Company, in my book, The Maybelline Story and the Spirited Family Dynasty Behind It.

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