Rock and Roll during a Time of Innocence
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This book is an historic account of the birth of rock and roll and its early development during a time of innocence in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 1940 (the year this author was born) through 1968 when rock and roll began to lose its innocence and what led up to it. And although 1954 is considered by many historians to be the genre’s official year of birth, my life experiences from 1940 up to the emergence of rock and roll are presented to show what it was like growing up in an environment of simplicity before the electronic age; how my neighborhood buddies and I counterbalanced it by creating our own history as a means of entertainment; and how our innocent lifestyle helped contribute to the city’s birth and early evolution of a style of music that the teens instantly called their own.
But it wasn’t always a picnic. Severe corporal punishment was in and our parents and school teachers wasted no time in dishing it out when we got out of line. And because New Mexico is a tricultural state; that is, Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo, socially accepted discrimination was an accepted practice that also included Albuquerque’s small population of African Americans.
I was called a number of names during my Valley High School days in the 1950s, beginning with Dickie (which I hated), Richard (which I employ in this book to avoid confusion as it’s written in third person), Dick, Stewart, Ritch, Ritchie, Ricardo, cabron or pinche (which were yelled at me by my Pachuco compadres when pissed), and el Chuco Blanco, ese (guy), blonde, guero (whitie), and carnal (which were used by my Pachuco compadres when pleased).
When rock and roll was born, the teens welcomed it with open arms, but then began losing respect for the adults because they ridiculed it, sometimes on television, calling it jungle music with sexually suggestive words. And even though the anti-establishment movement was in full bloom by the early 1970s, the adults’ immediate dislike of rock and roll was, in fact, the first hint of the movement’s birth as well.
I loved classical music and progressive jazz at an early age, but was instantly spellbound when rock and roll made the scene in Albuquerque (A.K.A. the Duke City) in 1954. I was fourteen and blown away with Chuck Berry’s pioneering guitar-riff contributions and the emerging doo-wop artists such as Fats Domino and Little Richard, followed a few years later by white artists, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Ritchie Valens. However, it was Raton, New Mexico’s Fireballs of “Bulldog” guitar-instrumental fame and the Venture’s 1960 worldwide instrumental hit, “Walk Don’t Run” that encouraged me to pick up the electric guitar and write as well as perform instrumentals. But it couldn’t be any brand of guitar. It had to be a Fender, specifically the Jazzmaster because of its unique sound. To me, no other guitar could match its beautiful melodic tone.
My early innocent life experiences also included pledging the Kappa Sigma fraternity at the University of New Mexico in 1958 and enduring a semester of bitch-court paddling, a week of extreme hazing, and maintaining at least a ‘C’ average while sweatin’ the military draft in order to become a permanent active. Tuition costs for a full load of classes were very low by today’s monetary standards, and Federal student loans didn’t exist, and my parents couldn’t afford to pay my tuition. So I took care of my approximate $89 tuition fee as a full-time student by working for the US Forest Service in Idaho during the summer months alongside other college students from all parts of the United States, protecting the forests against mostly lightning-caused wildfires, some of which were life-threatening.
But, my life changed in 1961, when I founded the first, full-time rock-and-roll instrumental band, the Knights (later, King Richard and the Knights when vocals were added, and because nearly all the major cities in the US had a band called the Knights). In 1964, I wrote and released an instrumental titled “Precision” that hit locally and it, along with the Beatles’ arrival to America in 1964, contributed to an explosion of Albuquerque garage bands and record labels. Many of the Duke City musicians in these bands became important local pioneers of rock and roll during the genre’s early stages of development and are spotlighted in detail with descriptive text as well as rare promotional flyers and photographs of the time.
In the mid-‘60s, I lessoned my interest in promoting the Knights and shifted my focus on other New Mexico bands both in the rock genre and those that specialized in rhythm and blues by means of The Lance Newsletter, Albuquerque’s only monthly publication that reported on music the teens liked at the time. During its publication, I formed Lance Records, which, to date, has become the largest rock-and-roll record label in New Mexico as well as one of the most collectable of indie record labels in the world.
Thankfully, the writings of my childhood booklet and mid-‘60s publications of the Lance Newsletter issues made it possible to write this book, because they are the only known historic printings of the history of my early upbringing in Albuquerque’s Northwest Valley and my full-time involvement in the Duke City’s early rock-and-roll music period, which likely mirrors the innocent lifestyles of the aspiring rock-and-roll artists and musicians during the genre’s early development throughout America.
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A Time of Innocence
A Time of Innocence