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Chapter 3 Let’s All Get Dixie Fried Sexuality, Masculinity, Race, and Rockabilly Bobby Caruso, Susie Singleton, and Me The cool,alienated outsider was part of the zeitgeist in the United States in the 1950s.The white hipster borrowed his cool style from black masculinity, and Jack Kerouac drew on his own experiences as a hipster in the late forties to chronicle what came to be called the Beat Generation. His fictional characters in On the Road, Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, were based on himself and his close friend Neal Cassady. He wrote On the Road in 1951, but it wasn’t published until 1957, too late to influence the early development of the outsider image; however,movies were depicting cool,alienated young men in the mid-fifties. The Wild One with Marlon Brando as a rebel motorcycle-gang leader came out in 1954 and was followed in 1955 by James Dean as the protagonist in Rebel without a Cause. For me and other adolescents in the fifties, cool models of masculinity were found in movies and music more than in written fiction. I saw movies about rebels and cool guys when they came out but didn’t read books like On the Road until I was in college in the early sixties. Rockabilly provided the musical equivalents of young rebels in Elvis Presley, who was the first; Jerry Lee Lewis,who broke all the rules; and GeneVincent,who was,as The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia succinctly puts it,“darker, tougher, greasier than Elvis.”Sure,Elvis was a mama’s boy and not as rebellious as we imagined at first,but the first impression was of someone who rejected our parents’and teachers’ beliefs and values and did it in a way that attracted teenage girls. James Dean’s portrayal of the rebel without a cause was a special favorite of rockabilly performers and fans.We teenage boys began to imitate his style Let’s All Get Dixie Fried 47 and looks from the movie. I was probably typical when I started wearing a whiteT-shirt with a red nylon jacket right after I saw James Dean’s character wearing that outfit, and I daydreamed about wearing a black leather jacket and riding a motorcycle after seeing Marlon Brando in The Wild One.I wore the nylon jacket for a long time but lost my enthusiasm for motorcycles when in the fifth grade I met an older boy who walked with a pronounced limp from a motorcycle accident. In 1954, when I was thirteen and in the eighth grade at Istrouma Junior High in Baton Rouge, my best friend, Bobby Caruso, was the cool cat. He was a year older and wore his Levi’s low with a tucked-in, tight white T-shirt, his greasy hair swept up in a pompadour with a“ducktail” in back (also known as a“DA”or“duck’s ass”),with a cigarette dangling from his lips. He was smart but indifferent to school, and the girls loved him. His father worked for the same construction company as my father so we got to see each other fairly often outside school. I started to emulate him as model of teenage masculinity in dress and hairstyle, but the cigarettes were what got me in trouble. Bobby was teaching me how to inhale instead of just“nigger lipping”the cigarette: in Baton Rouge in 1954,casual racism was part of the fabric of white social behavior. I stole a pack of Camels from my father, and he found them in my desk and asked me where I got them.“From Bobby Caruso”(he was one of those people you always referred to by both names). My father caught me in the lie because he always bought his cigarettes on trips back to Beaumont, where they were cheaper, and his Camels had a Texas sales-tax stamp. I got a whippin’ for lying, not for smoking, but the lesson stayed with me. I never smoked cigarettes again. Except for wearing my Levi’s low and using Wildroot Cream Oil on my slicked-back pompadour, the Camels episode was about the extent of my adolescent rebellious behavior, but I continued to romanticize the cool teenage rebel and was ready for Elvis and the other hillbilly hipsters when they came along. I left Baton Rouge and Bobby Caruso behind in the middle of the eighth grade when we moved for another job in Baytown,Texas,toward the end of...


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