Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Danny Whitten (left) Ralph Molina (top) Billy Talbot (bottom)
Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Bruce (Baby John) Hines and I were seated at a table in the "Carolina Pines" coffee shop one afternoon, in 1964. Tony Alamo approached us with copies of Billboard and Cashbox in hand. He dropped the papers in front of us saying, "take a look." Not knowing what he was referring to we began looking through both publications when we stumbled on black and white quarter page ads in both mags which stated, " The World's Next Phenomenon Bobby Jameson".
These words were above a black silhouette of me. The ads were identical in both publications and purposely did not show my face. All of us got pretty excited seeing this and were at a loss for words. Since we had pretty much decided Tony was just a lot of hot air we were forced at that moment to admit we had been wrong about him. We asked him how he had done it and frankly why, since none of us had a clue that this was coming.
Tony glared at us and then looked directly at me and said, "I told you I was going to make you a star." He owned me right then and there. I was his to to with as he saw fit, and he knew it. Tony was a master at getting to your weakest point and using it to endear himself to you. Once accomplished, he could pretty much get you to do anything he wanted, and this is how Tony set me up to follow his every command.
At that point he became the most important human being on earth to me, because he was actively making my dreams come true right in front of my very eyes. I wanted to be a star and he was making it happen. He was God, or at least he had me believing it. The following week, 2 more ads ran in Billboard and Cashbox, except this time they were half page black and white ads. The words on them stated, "Bobby Jameson The Star Of The Century" and again they topped a black silhouette of me not showing my face.
The noose around my neck tightened, as once again, I was mesmerized by my own addiction to seeing my name in print. Tony, ever the one to take full advantage of his own work, reminded me constantly that he and he alone would get me where I wanted to go and I didn't question that for an instant. It was the most powerful addiction that I have ever encountered, from then until now. No drug, and I have used smack, pills, cocaine and booze, has ever had any more control over me than that did, at that point in my life.
* * *
A couple of years earlier in 1962 I was enrolled as a junior at Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale California. The only persons I knew in Glendale, other than my family, was a girl I'd met and her brother who lived across the street from us. I was a fish out of water and knew it. The lingering southwestern cowboy environment I'd come from hung on like an ill fitting jacket. It was obvious to people as soon as I started talking. This became my training ground for reinventing myself lock, stock, and barrel. I learned to talk different, walk different, and look different than I had when I'd first arrived. I wanted to fit in and I was ashamed that I didn't. The last thing I wanted was for anyone to associate me with any redneck background so I dressed like a surfer.
You may be interested to know that the first record I ever made was called "Let's Surf" on Jolum Records in 1963. In my days at Hoover High the biggest thing going was surf music. like Dick Dale And The Deltones. Shortly thereafter it was The Beach Boys, Jan And Dean, and some Chubby Checker. Two years later I would be the opening act for all three of these artists. But in the meantime I had a lot of crap to go through.
Like every other teenager I thought I knew everything right then and there. I was just 17 years old and barely starting my life, but in my mind I had already been through the ringer. Family mental illness, failed marriages, and harsh surroundings had done their damage. Coupled with forced down your throat religion, multiple schools, towns, and fathers and I was kind of confused to say the least. Once again in my own mind music was the only thing that offered any hope to me of ever making my life any better than it had been in the past. It had been and still was the only thing I believed that I could do well.
I started drifting over to Hollywood in 1962. Whenever I got the chance I would go. I'd ride the bus over there from Glendale or if I got lucky hitch a ride with someone. It didn't matter how I got there just as long as I got there. The place in my mind, was the ultimate turn on. It was where all the magic happened. People who actually got paid to do stuff I'd do for free. I couldn't imagine how people like that lived so I wanted to find out. I just wanted to get the chance to meet someone like that and talk to them about how they got there and what it was like to live there. Everything I did and thought was geared to ending up in that town. I belonged there I thought, and nothing was going to keep me from being there.
Looking back on it now, I can see how the power of ones thinking can actually make things happen whether in the long run they're any good for you or not. To this day, I'm not sure I had any other choices, but the ones I made in the matter. It was more than a desire with me it was my obsession. Maybe if my life had of been better and our family wasn't so screwed up things could have gone in a different direction for me. But the way it was was the way it was, and I was just using the only thing I had at the time to solve my problem. I believed that I had the power and ability to end up where I saw myself in my own mind. I had a picture so clear in my head that nothing else could penetrate. No threat of any kind could or did sway me from my path once it got started.
I had seen where I was going back in Arizona and knew then what my path was to be. Time passed and here I was, standing on Hollywood Blvd. in total awe of my surroundings. I can also see looking back now how naive I was about the town, which I now know through my own experience, can be a snake pit. I guess when you're trying to blot out bad memories from earlier times anything looks better to you than the past, so it can fool you into thinking it's OK and safe. There was nothing safe about what I was doing at the time and I always had the feeling that if my mother knew where I was she'd be angry and try to stop me. I was 17 and roaming around the streets alone. I was a sucker for a complement and my judgement about people was piss poor. You could have sold me a bill of goods about anything.
Back in Glendale I'd go to school and pretend I was like everybody else, but inside I knew I was different. I think most of the kids knew I was different too. Even though I'd become pretty popular it was all a show to hide where I'd come from. I still had that feeling of being damaged goods from the past and it drove me to over compensate in everything I did. It was like if I could just keep moving no one would ever see who I really was. The guy with the mentally ill brother and the mother who couldn't stay married which in my mind meant I was screwed up too. I was always on. Like a performance every single minute of my life. Dancing and weaving trying to keep you off guard so you wouldn't get a good look at me. It was exhausting and sooner or later I'd crash and become deeply depressed and combative.
It was those episodes that separated me from others more than anything else. Whereas something that might have been a joke when I was in a good mood was now seen by me as a reason to go to war with someone. In that mood I was not afraid of anything and because of it I nurtured that part of myself for that very reason. I didn't like being afraid and when I was I was humiliated inside and wanted to escape. So that feeling of not being afraid, that came from depression and anger, was in my mind, a friend I could depend on.
go to part 4