Monday, July 22, 2013

The Original Amateur Hour—American Idol of the 60's





--> Maybe it was our age, thirteen at the time—perhaps it was the transformation that had taken place in our young impressionable psyches that Sunday night in February as we sat glued to our television sets—totally enraptured by a new group from Liverpool that Ed Sullivan had on his show—or just an overwhelming delusion; but for whatever reason, my young friends and I (along with thousands of other baby boomers at that time) had dreams of stardom.
Let’s face it, we were dreamers!

One hot summer day my friend Leslie sat reading one of her hundreds of comic books and came across an ad in the back for a Record Making Machine. The pages in the back of comic books in the 60's were filled with amazing products. (—that is, until they actually arrived in your mail box) But this ad was so convincing and just what we needed for our group at the brink of stardom!
(..well that may be a bit of an exaggeration. The truth is, we had made one public appearance— we sang at our graduation from elementary school to Jr.High.)
Our group was made up of four girls; Leslie and I and two friends from school, Ingrid and Judy. Ingrid and I played piano and we all sang.


We decided to send for the “machine.” When we emptied our pockets and put our money together we came up short; so we did just what we always did when we were short of cash—loaded up a wagon with empty soda bottles and headed up the street to the small mom and pop store on the corner.
The store sold a little bit of everything; fresh fruit and vegetables, cold cuts, canned goods and of course—soda. We walked home with just enough change to make up the difference.
We were set—only weeks away from being able to record our songs! We mailed in the money with the order form—now all we had to do was wait….and wait.

We had never seen a UPS truck—overnight delivery was something you might see on the Jetsons—fiction. We relied totally on the US Mail and if the ad said 4-6 weeks for delivery, it meant just that. That gave us a lot of time to imagine just how wonderful this product was going to be!

If this isn't the ad, it was one very much like it...looks amazing doesn't it?
Thanks Erik!

“A name! We need a name for our group to put on the record label!”
So we did what we always did when we needed information—opened the encyclopedia!

(Original artwork-all rights reserved)

This was equivalent in the 60’s to an Image search today.





Encyclopedia G—gems.
There were two full pages of beautiful colored gems, listed alphabetically. We looked over both pages.
"There's already a famous group named the Saphires and the Rubies—we’ll have to pick another gem. Hey—The Peridots!” (excuse me while I laugh out loud…)
A record making machine—perfect! We could just envision the label—The Peridots!

After watching The Original Amateur Hour one Saturday before our package arrived, Leslie and I came to the realization that our group could win the competition—at least we could get on the show.
“If that man could get on the show for playing his comb—and a girl for ringing cow bells—we could win for sure!”
Most contestants left the show just as they came, as amateurs; but stars were discovered. Ventriloquist Paul Winchell and pop singers Teresa Brewer, Gladys Knight, and Pat Boone were all discovered on the Ted Mack show.


I sat down at my dad’s typewriter and typed a letter to Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour requesting an audition and within two weeks—to my utter shock— received a response. We were given a date to appear in the studio at New York’s Radio City.
We had three weeks to prepare.

“Cool! We’re going to audition for Ted Mack’s! We’ve got to start practicing—every day after school!" And we did—working on the same two songs every rehearsal.
The first song was the one we sang at our graduation called “Turn Around.” It was a song originally used in a Kodak commercial in the 60's and we fell in love with it.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Where are you going, my baby my own?
Turn around and your two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you're a young girl
going out of the door.

Where are you going, my little one, little one?
Little dirnd'ls and petticoats,
Where have you gone?
Turn around and you're tiny
Turn around and you're grown
Turn around and you're a young wife
with babes of your own.
The second song we practiced was an original written by me. It was called Togetherness and I will spare you the words—but it was a song about falling in love...of course.

Two weeks before the date of the audition we realized—“We need matching outfits!
All the groups on the show wear matching outfits!"
We decided on collarless navy blue shirts with white trim—a surfer style in the 60’s. With our white pleated skirts and white tennis shoes—we must have looked like... the surfing cheerleaders!

And one final detail—“We need a ride to New York City!”

That’s where my dad came in. He was great—if this was something we wanted to do and felt we could compete, he would be happy to get us there.
(Oh...another minor detail...my dad had never heard us sing)

-->
We headed for New York City on a Friday. New York was about a forty minute ride from where we lived in Upper Montclair, New Jersey.

Four thirteen year old girls in a VW with my dad—on their way to a rehearsal for a television show.
God bless him!

We arrived with just enough time to go to the ladies room and get ready. We opened the door in time to catch the tail end of a practice by a group of young girls auditioning before us. They were dancing and singing dressed in these flashy sequined, amazing matching outfits.
There was nothing amateur about them—they were fantastic!
And here we were dressed like— the surfing cheerleaders.

-->
We decided to save our best song for last hoping we’d sing two songs—B-A-D decision.
The judges called us in. Ingrid played piano and Leslie, Judy and I sang Turn Around.
We were just preparing to sing our best song when…
OK girlsthank you for coming
If we decide to have you on the show you will receive a letter within a week or so!
….NEXT!

Well.. the letter never did arrive , but we did get a package in the mail the following week. It wasn’t a big package. Certainly not big enough to contain a machine!
But it was—our Record Making Machine. It consisted of a small attachment that hooked onto the arm of a record player. There were some blanks that looked like records and a small megaphone. After trying it once—following the two lines of instructions, realizing we'd been had— we dumped it in the garbage; concluding that we wouldn’t be needing a Record Making Machine after all.
We couldn’t even pass for amateurs!

A few days later....
"Hey, take a look at this neat little typewriter! We could send for it and type our stories on it and...."
(.....Our other dream was to become authors)

And as all Baby boomer know—sometimes dreams really do come true!


*As I think back now about this silly, embarrassing memory I realize again that ours was a gentler, kinder world. The "contestant humiliation element," was non existent as it is on the newer talent search shows.

....Can you just imagine what Simon would have thought of the Peridots?!We didn't make it to Ted Mack's but at least I got an A- on the story!

~Mamie






3 comments:

  1. Mary, what a great story! Do you have any pictures of you girls? Where do you fond the pictures?

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  2. Thanks Sharon....but there are no pictures! I'm amazed because my father always took pictures!
    Someone found the record making machine ad and sent it to me. : )

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Mamie! Great piece... how would you like to publish this on my site with appropriate links/credit, etc.? Not sure how you're working out your business... but if it's possible... would love to run it. Thanks. Bob email: rdl114@aol.com

    ReplyDelete

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