Did he really say that?

The kind of humor I like is the thing that makes me laugh for five seconds and think for ten minutes = GEORGE CARLIN...Stained glass, engraved glass, frosted glass–give me plain glass = JOHN FOWLES...Music is the mathematics of the gods = PYTHAGORAS...Nothing is more fluid than language = R.L.SWIHART

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bumblee Reunion

If memories were millimeters,
you are looking at
a kilometer.

From left to right:
Terry Dugan,
Jack McCarthy,
and Ray Peterssen.

They were all 7th graders at St. Luke's Elementary School when they formed
the BUMBLEES with classmate John Cox on Bass.

Paul Gretschel was the drummer. Paul was a St. Luke's 8th grader and got to Bishop Reilly, our academically distinguished parochial high school, one year before the other Bumblees.

I have encircled what
Peterssen and Dugan
looked like fifty years ago.

Raymond never lost any hair.
With quiet dignity, he wore it
like a gilded crown.

Kevin O'Donnell,
the "green-boxed boy,"
would fill in for Gretschel when
Paul would play piano.

My first memory of anyone mentioned above (Ed Sullivan notwithstanding) pre-dates our having attended the same Catholic elementary school. But as a public school 6th-grader, my walk home from PS193 was mostly along 150th Street in Whitestone. I once saw a boy sitting on a porch playing guitar that almost sounded like Chuck Berry music but it was much slower. I was too much in awe to do anything but walk on by. Years later, Jack McCarthy told me the song was Big Bill Broonzy's KEY TO THE HIGHWAY. It became one of the first songs the Bumblees ever played. Unquestionably, Broonzy was one of Muddy Waters' "Godfathers."

Four Chuck Berry songs (Maybelline, Nadine, Johnny Be Good, & Sweet Little Sixteen), three Elvis Presleys (Hound Dog, Love Me Tender, & Don't Be Cruel) were on the 1962 Bumblees playlist. There were also a pair of Muddy Waters' songs: Hoochie Coochie Man and Got My Mojo Working.

But the most interesting song they did was Tell Laura I Love Her. Ray Peterssen sang lead on the hit tune originally sung by Ray Peterson. The spelling is different but I won't say the same for their musical talent. Here are some other songs from  the Bumblees repertoire:
Duke of Earl//The Twist//Surfin' Safari//Runaround Sue//Hit the road Jack//My True Story//Hello Mary Lou//Earth Angel//Spanish Harlem//The Spider & The Fly//Charlie Brown//In The Still of the Night//Cathy's Clown//Fever//Harbor lights//Shout...

And then along came Louie Louie...High School...The British Invasion...

If you link to the Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show,
you will understand why my sister is the inverted centerpiece
of the second image.

Linda Oliverio was the first true love of Jack McCarthy's life.

On February 10, 1964, the idea for the alternate morning prayer was hatched by Gretschel and Dugan but Paul G was one grade ahead of us at Bishop Reilly.

Peterssen was the student who sang the loudest after I commenced with "She Loves You, yeah yeah yeah..." John Cox laughed the loudest when Brother Lester became a flying nun. Jack McCarthy was absent because he was up until 3AM that morning, trying to figure out how to play Beatles' songs on his guitar. To his chagrin, that was a much easier task for Terry and Ray. I was named an "Honorary Bumblee" for initiating the substitute prayer.
But two actual Bumblees are featured in another Beatles' post. For the proper orientation of the "yearbooks" photograph, please link to here.

The Bumblees' reunion was a direct consequence of the St. Luke's Class of '63 reunion organized by the woman who, three years later, arranged for Dugan, Peterssen, & McCarthy to perform at a Long Island bar called the Terrace Inn.

"LC" appeared in previous blog posts and was also referred to as "my fiance" in a post entitled REALITY TV. She had vast experience in organizing both class and family reunions
but the prize invitees of the 38th St. Luke's reunion were...
Dugan, Peterssen & Oliverio!

The date was October 8, 2001.

Despite my pleading, McCarthy was a no-show but one of his sisters had given my number to LC who telephoned me in Burbank on March 25, 2001.

Within a week, we spent at least one dozen hours on the phone playing the "Do you remember?" game and I became a definite maybe for an east coast event scheduled for the following October.

Within a fortnight, I was re-united with the first St. Luke '63 student to move to California: RAYMOND PETERSSEN.

He lived just outside of La Jolla at the time and was very active at the Veteran's Administration Hospital there...He owned a customized van to accomodate his wheel-chair confined wife. Lori and I instantly became Jewish Sis' & Italian Bro.' Because Ray's mother still lived in Whitestone, the Vietnam Vet spent a good portion of the year on Long Island. Suffice it to say that Lori talked both of us into attending the class reunion.

I would have re-connected with Raymond years before if only I had remembered how to spell his last name. We hadn't seen each other since 1969.

Jefferson High School was on a year-round schedule in 2001. Technically speaking, I had neither a summer vacation nor a Christmas break, per se. What I had was May-June, November-December off-track time: awkward to say but easy to live. Well in advance, I arranged to take a few "personal days" in October. In May, I flew into JFK Airport for an eleven-day "blindish date" with LC, who never lived anywhere but Whitestone.

To celebrate my 52nd birthday, she invited a bunch of our St. Luke's classmates to her attic apartment. Kevin O'donell showed off pictures of his beautiful wife and two young children. Pardon the cliche but his alcohol-infested days were a thing of the past and he morphed into a successful insurance salesman. I think he gave me a business card but he wasn't able to attend the upcoming class reunion. It nearly got cancelled because of 9/11. Three days after the Twin Towers collapsed–amidst the frenetic frenzy of nationwide patriotism–someone said "Wait 'til you see what happens now."

Agent Orange ultimately was responsible for the death of Raymond Peterssen but upon his return from Viet Nam in 1971, he was an active war protestor. He accompanied his post-Nam life-long friend, Ron Kovik, to Honduras. Mr. Kovik was the inspiration for the Tom Cruise-in-a wheelchair movie, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.

The Terrace Inn was a hole-in-the-wall bar on Francis Lewis Boulevard (commonly known to locals as "Franny Loo"). The owner's girlfriend, Kathleen Jenner, is pictured above: second from left. She was friends with LC who had more school yearbooks than I could count. My former fiance took the Bumblees' reunion photo and it suffices to say that the "yearbooks" picture was an nth generation photograph. Raymond had grown up less than two city blocks from the Terrace Inn. Terry Dugan, a general contractor in Manhattan, lived in Montauk. Jack McCarthy and his wife owned a house within a mile of the Terrace Inn.
I took one look at the people sitting at the bar and was sure glad I stopped drinking.
Jack said yesterday when I called him about details of the Bumblees' guitar summit.
(Both McCarthy and Peterssen had been sober since the Reagan administration.)
I broke a string playing Oh Carol and Terry told me to stop playing because a Fender Stratocaster...But I kept on singing. I will always want you for my sweetheart. No matter what you do. Ray sang harmony on that one.
Eric Clapton plays the same Stratocaster guitar but has he ever written lyrics like "Through thick and thin, I said I'd always be there. But little did I know I was referring to your waistline and my hair." Those are McCarthy lyrics. Neil Sedaka wrote Oh Carol in 1958.
Kathy Jenner wanted us to do the Shirelles' SOLDIER BOY because she remembered Dugan performing it at our 8th Grade graduation with somebody playing accordion. Instead, we did BABY IT'S YOU, which the Beatles covered.
That was when the owner's girlfriend turned on the TV.
But she kept the volume down low. Before she changed the channel to the basketball game, there was a horse race. Everybody in the bar looked toward the stage but their eyes were directed upward. Terry started playing Wild Horses. Ray sang Tired of "Sticky Fingers," so easy to do. I sang harmony. Ray also played a killer lead guitar. LC was dancing by herself but three guys cut in and then she...
Stop for a minute, Jack.

So this was why I didn't learn about the 2004 Bumblees' reunion until four years later. I was on the opposite coast the night my boyhood buddies got out their best guitars to reunite in a sleazy bar. (Between them, they owned at least a dozen guitars.) I was in the process of retiring from Jefferson High School so I could go back "home" and marry LC.

When Raymond gave me the photograph all he said was "She took the picture and organized the reunion." I was too awestruck by what he had given me to ask for further details. I immediately taped it to my Long Beach refrigerator.

Instead of moving to New York in 2004, I went to Virginia to be close to my sister, the only living member of my immediate family. I returned to California in 2006.
The only time all the barflies really paid attention to the band was when Terry surprised me and Ray by playing the Talking Heads' Life During Wartime This aint no Mudd Club, no CBGB's..
That's enough information for now, Jack. Thanks but I got a plan to catch.

Sometimes a cheap pun is all I need to avert a dark state of mind: A Plan 9 Music plate of goodies is what I will present to you. Here is the Shirelles' Baby It's You and there is the Beatles' Baby It's You.
And for YOU, Ms. Jenner,

I will end this page with the Shirelles' Soldier Boy
but there is no accordion.


Paul Gretschel said...

Nice freakin' photo! where's that Gretschel guy????

Paul Oliverio said...

That Gretschel guy had his photo posted many blogs ago>>>>>


But Paul, yr old friend "Vollers" [et al] would really like an early HS or elementary school photo (St. Mel's YES?)

Paul Gretschel said...

I graduated from St. Luke's just like you guys. Only I was one year ahead. St. Luke's class of '62

Paul Oliverio said...


Your photograph has a page to itself. It was from our kevin o'grady X-COUNTRY ADVENTURE where YOU were definitely our leader...

Big Sur was a phenomenal experience, lysergically enhanced...And then there was Logan City, Cache County, Utah...Where we were jail "guests"