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Chapter 4 Take Me Higher Dancing, Drinking, and Doing Drugs You can’t write about rock’n’roll,blues,R&B,and country music without talking about dancing. The most visceral appeal of rock ’n’ roll in the fifties was its connection with dancing; whether we were doing the bop in junior high or imagining we were jitterbugging with a cute girl on American Bandstand, dancing was at the core of our response. The roots of rock ’n’ roll—R&B, country, blues, and swing—insisted that people dance; and drinking always loosened people up for dancing—at juke joints, honkytonks , and rock ’n’ roll bars, places that were basic to the development of American vernacular music.And if you broaden the history to include Polish polka clubs in Milwaukee,Tex-Mex dance halls in San Antonio, Cajun and zydeco clubs in Lafayette, and blues bars in Chicago, dancing is still the great connector. I wasn’t a great dancer,but there was no doubt that I was having fun and my partners were too. Judy Brown and I were known by the other kids as crazy for dancing, out on the floor for nearly every fast song. I knew her in my last two years at Blakelock High School in Canada. She had a crush on me,Ithink,andIlovedherinmyownway.Wewereinthatawkwardteenage state of good friends with an underlying attraction that was never acted on. She wasn’t as shy as I was, but we were both shy enough that the romance was always just beneath the surface. I also had a little flirtation going on with a dark-haired French Canadian girl named Shirley Patrick who finally asked me out on a date, where I experienced my first nonresistant French kiss. Despite Shirley’s charms, Judy retains a special place in my heart. She enthusiastically learned the dance step I had brought with me from Texas, a modified dirty bop similar to Elvis’s moves on stage. Take Me Higher 67 Judy asked me to dance first, and she immediately started to pick up the moves of the Texas bop. Judy and I danced to Chuck Berry,“School Days”; the Cleftones,“Little Girl of Mine”; Ray Charles,“Yes Indeed”; Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers,“Why Do Fools Fall in Love”; and other records from my collection of 45s. I became the unofficial DJ at school sock hops. I brought a wooden box made especially for carrying 45s to the dance, put one on the turntable, jumped off the stage in the combination auditorium/ gym, danced with Judy, and jumped back on stage to change the record. Judy asked me to go to the prom with her. This was my first prom, having missed all the ones in high school in Texas. Dancing became a regular enjoyable activity at Blakelock High School, especially significant for me because at the previous high schools and junior highs I attended, I had never worked up the courage to ask a girl to dance. I learned to dance by myself while listening to records at home starting in 1954, when we lived in Baytown, Texas, and I was in the eighth grade. In that same year I first heard Ray Charles,JohnnyAce,the Penguins,and Bill Haley and the Comets on the radio.Dancing and R&B music were one,and it was a natural transition to rock ’n’ roll. In 1954 teenagers in Texas were dancing something that looked like jitterbugging from the forties,swinging your partner by the hand but with dirty-bop hip movements added—suggestive enough to have the dance banned at Horace Mann Junior High School. By 1956 in Beaumont, the same dance was accepted at South Park High School, where kids danced in the gym during lunch break to songs like Chuck Berry’s“Brown-Eyed Handsome Man,”and that style of dancing continued elsewhere throughout the fifties. A new style of dancing came in the sixties: standing apart and shaking your booty instead of holding hands and swinging around. Still, somehow, I incorporated the dirty bop into the new style. By the late sixties and early seventies, we were doing what my friends called “hippie dancing,” which meant communal.We might start dancing as couples but eventually we were holding hands or embracing in a group hug,linked together and moving all around the room to Derek and the Dominos’“Layla”in a cloud of marijuana smoke.Variations on jitterbugging and shake-your-booty dancing continued throughout the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and my generation...


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