Archive for February, 2008

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Support The Brian Epstein Campaign!

February 28, 2008

 

 

I’m not much of a fan of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame anymore, what with their wacked out bizarre selections of recent years but there is a website run by a group of people actively trying to get a special person finally inducted and this particular person more than proves the point that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is crazed and losing credibility: Brian Epstein. 

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Over the past 40-some years I have read and heard a multitude of people say, “Where would rock & roll be without the Beatles?” True. But where would the Beatles have been without Brian Epstein? As has been the case very single year since the start of the Hall of Fame – his name has never been included on the list of non-performers selected by the Hall’s Nominating Committee to be considered for induction.

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The Campaign To Have Mister Brian Epstein Inducted Into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has an online petition going and if you have any love of rock & roll and/or the Beatles take one minute and stop by and sign it! Go to BrianEpstein.com – the Official Website dedicated to celebrating the life and achievements of Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Go now!

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KISS Meets Paul Lynde

February 24, 2008

 

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Being a fan of KISS and Paul Lynde I was jolted into flashback mode a few months ago when I first heard about the DVD release of the Paul Lynde Halloween Special, a TV special produced in 1976. I saw it in ’76 (although a fan of Paul Lynde, it was KISS that made me find a TV and tune in the night it aired) and had forgotten all about it until this release. It’s the epitome of 1970’s television, so bad it’s good. So embarrassing in places that it’s captivating. (Think Brady Bunch Variety Hour or Donny & Marie.)

 

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It was also KISS’ first-ever prime time TV network appearance.

 

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Among Paul Lynde’s guests that night (and on the DVD) in addition to KISS are Florence Henderson (Carol Brady), Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West), Donny & Marie Osmond, Tim Conway, Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero) & Billie Hayes (Witchiepoo). Members of KISS, particularly Paul Stanley, participated in skits and performed Detroit Rock City and Beth

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This is pure, unadulterated 70’s kitsch in its purest form. If you’re a Paul Lynde fan you’ll love it, if you’re a hardcore KISS Army inductee you just may be embarrassed (KISS appeared that way, maybe it was boredom, in several scenes) but the curiosity level, like slowing down to scope out a car wreck, will tempt you.

 Ken Begg over at JABOOTU The Bad Movie Dimension has a detailed killer (and insightful) review. Check it out!

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Chippewa Lake: A Baby Boomer’s Paradise

February 23, 2008

 

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Back in the 1960s and 1970s when I was growing up there was a spring/summer tradition that brought a gathering of the tribes, if you will, to a place called Chippewa Lake Amusement Park located in Chippewa Lake, Ohio. A well known and impressive amusement park that began life in 1878, by the time the swinging 60’s arrived there was an annual ‘Fan Appreciation Day’ that was at first hosted and sponsored by the famed WIXY 1260 AM radio station and then later hosted by WHLO 640 AM radio and each station brought in some of the biggest names in rock n roll for performances.

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My first visit there was in the mid-1960’s sometime when I was staying with an aunt and uncle for several weeks. One day we went to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park to drop my cousin and her friend off and decided to stay awhile. While I was fairly young I remember having a lot of fun on the rides, eating the good food and checking out the lake and then I heard the music! I know that song! From the spacious ballroom came the thundering and melodic sounds of Tommy James & The Shondells!

 

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 Throughout the 60’s annually top bands would come in to Chippewa Lake when that appreciation day was first known as the Galaxy of Stars Teen Fair. During the 60’s those lucky enough to attend could see, among the top local and regional bands, such national acts as the aforementioned Tommy James and The Shondells, the Outsiders, Music Explosion, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Neil Diamond, Left Banke, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Chylds and many, many others. Cost? Anywhere from 50 cents to a buck and a half would get you in for a full day of music and fun.

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 Somewhere around 1970 I returned with my pals and made it an annual trek during the 70’s. In fact, it often seemed the entire town of Orrville would show up among the thousands of others from the neighboring towns and cities. My first time back there as a teenager was to see Alice Cooper and in the ensuing years bands and performers such as Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Glass Harp and many others made their way to Chippewa Lake Park. 

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One of my fondest memories attending WHLO Fan Appreciation Day came in 1973 when a large caravan of cars left Orrville and headed about 20 minutes north to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park. It was a hot, sunny day, perfect weather, probably a dozen cars and vans from Orrville packed with people parked together and I had a very special young lady with me that day named Lauren, a beautiful, beautiful, classy young lady who made the day special. She was better than I deserved.

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The radio station also had several promotions going and the one I remember each year was when they would drop probably hundreds of ping pong balls with prizes on them, usually a 45 record of which I won several. Each time I attended, with a sweltering mass of thousands of people, was a positive experience. How could a teenager go wrong with beautiful weather, a first class amusement park, terrific food, a friendly staff, some of the best rock n roll music and thousands of pretty girls everywhere you looked?  

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Alas, Chippewa Lake Amusement Park is no longer in existence. After 100 years the park shut down in 1978 and has been idle since then. Unfortunately, the ornate ballroom was victimized on June 13, 2002 when vandals set fire to it. But when it was alive and well, it was booming and thriving and a wonderful place for baby-boomers to create memories. And I have plenty! 

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For more on Chippewa Lake Amusement Park visit: Chippewa Lake There is also an active & passionate Yahoo Group devoted to Chippewa Lake Amusement Park: Chippewa Lake Yahoo Group

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Contact Doc at: DocLehman99@gmail.com

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Wanted: Time Machine

February 19, 2008
 
 
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When I first saw the photo of the newstand above my first thought was, “Man, wish I had a time machine and a $100.00 bill from 1938!” Notice at the bottom towards the right hand side the three copies of ACTION COMICS #1 that featured the debut of Superman. So this photo was taken in the spring of 1938. Actually if I could go back to the spring of 1938 I’d take more than a hundred bucks. I’d take enough to buy Harry Donenfeld dinner and drinks and buy the original art! Have no idea what year the photo below was taken but the same principles apply (hope that kid saved some of them!). Give me a time machine and some cash!
 
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Contact Doc Lehman at: DocLehman@sssnet.com
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I Need A New Wallet

February 18, 2008

        

 

I need a wallet. Again.

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It’s not that I abuse them or have them stuffed full of greenbacks, it’s just that I rarely buy one and only then when the one I have is so ragged, worn, torn and basically falling apart, which is the condition my current wallet is in. Is it in bad shape? The threads are hanging!

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For twenty-five or more years whenever I needed a new wallet, whether I thought so or the wife did, I only had to wait until Father’s Day, my birthday or Christmas and invariably I would get a new one from one of my kids. Basic black, with a section to hold photos and don’t spend over $10.00. Five bucks would be better (those were always my requirements).
 

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But with my kids grown and out of the house and no such holiday in sight it appears I’ll have to find a new one on my own. I need a new one anyway as the plastic photo holder is about worn out and of course filled with grandkids pictures but I got some new ones that need put in. Somewhere I have a stack of old plastic wallet photo holders that go back to before my own kids were in school. That’s where my collection of their school photos are, still wedged into an old wallet photo holder. 

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The pics of the two wallets you see here are the first two wallets I ever owned. My Mom bought the Batman wallet at Buckeye Mart in Wooster, OH circa 1966. The Green Hornet wallet came in 1967 when my Aunt Margie bought it for me at some store in the Summit Mall when I was spending a long weekend with her. 

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 Nothing has changed. I have about the same amount of money now as I did back then!

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With A Name Like Smucker’s The Beatles Have To Be Good!

February 18, 2008

   

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Last night I had my annual viewing of The Beatles’ debut film, A HARD DAY”S NIGHT. For 20 years or so it has become a tradition at my home that at least once every winter I watch A HARD DAY”S NIGHT, my all-time favorite film. I’ve seen it countless times over the years on television and have had it on video since sometime in the 80’s. My wife bought the new deluxe DVD edition when it came out for me. 

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The film was originally released on July 6, 1964 and served as an added rocket booster to Beatlemania, a force that was sweeping the world as this film was released, a film that has been credited with motivating young men (and women) all over the world to grow their hair long and start a band (just ask someone like Paul Stanley of KISS, to name one of hundreds, perhaps thousands).

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When it came out way back in 1964 I can remember seeing it with my older sister, Cheryl, and cousin, Sue, at the Orr Theatre in Orrville, OH. The reason I was there to see it was in all likely hood my parents’ doing. My sister was a teenybopper and I think I may have been utilized during much of the 60’s to ‘spy’ on Cheryl in case she was with a boy at the movies. I can only recall her being with a guy maybe once or twice but I’d never tell! And didn’t! 

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As far as what memories I have of attending A HARD DAY’S NIGHT that summer afternoon was seeing the Beatles on screen, the music but most of my memories that remain are the tremendous amount of teen age girls who were there (it was packed!) and VERY vocal! They were loud! And yes, it was Beatle-screaming. Kinda freaked this young kid out, you know? 

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The magazine you see here was released during 1964 to help promote the movie and I guess act as a souvenir of sorts. I have a very hazy memory of seeing this magazine at my cousin Sue’s home (she bought all the music and teen magazines) and spending time going through all the pages more than once. 

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Jump ahead 12 years and I am helping out a relative who was a painting contractor and one job we had was a Smucker home in Orrville. The home belonged to Mrs. Welker (Helen) Smucker on High Street. It was probably only five or six years since her husband, Welker, one of the sons of the founder of the J.M. Smucker Company, had passed on. Having never met Welker Smucker I nonetheless knew who he was by name and reputation.

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In addition to his corporate work and ownership with his brothers and family in the Smucker’s jam & jelly company, Welker, like the rest of his family, was generous to a fault. The city and schools, among other entities (like Boys Village, the Orrville Boys & Girls Club, etcetera), have had tremendous benevolence bestowed to them by the entire Smucker family for generations now (it continues), and Welker was a leader in civic responsibility, especially when it came to children. His wife, Helen, was also one to show acts of kindness and I had first hand experience in that.

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As we were preparing the basement, if you can call it that, as I was taken aback by the size and luxuriousness of it. It had been completely remodeled and consisted of several rooms, mainly as an activity and social room that their children, then grown, had used to entertain friends. Mrs. Smucker told me they used to hold dances and parties down there. 

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The second day as we were taking a lunch break Mrs. Smucker came downstairs to check on our progress and to prepare some boxes, with items taken from a large cabinet, to be moved upstairs. When she asked me to carry the boxes upstairs I noticed on the top of one box laid a copy of the magazine you see here! I couldn’t believe it! I asked her if she minded if I took a look at it over lunch downstairs and she said that I could have it! She informed that all the items she removed from the cabinet downstairs and boxed up were going to the trash! 

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I thanked her profusely! She couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about but I tried to explain it was a blast from the past for me, something that even in 1976 held nostalgia for me. To her it was just an old magazine and in the way. A couple years later I met her son Larry and related the tale about his mother, who had since passed. He just smiled and said, ‘That sounds like her!’ 

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No, it doesn’t compare to the untold thousands, likely millions, of dollars the Smucker family has given, many times if not most times without seeking, asking or wanting any fanfare or glory. But it’s just a small, random act of kindness that I haven’t forgotten in over 30 years.

 

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Contact Doc Lehman at: DocLehman@sssnet.com

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Contemporary Pictorial Literature (CPL): A Look Back

February 14, 2008

Back in the 1960’s when I was an avid comic book collector I started to receive fanzines. Fanzines are for the most part ‘amateur’ publications devoted to a genre of some sorts and comic book fanzines had a tremendous appeal to me, to the point where in the 70’s, as my interest in collecting waned to the point I no longer purchased comic books, I still ordered fanzines for several years thereafter.

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As an aspiring writer I had hoped to eventually have the opportunity to be published and fanzines were the perfect vehicle to hone ones skills, so to speak. In 1971, in the throes of junior high school my pal and fellow collector Mike ‘Buck’ Humrichouser and I produced two issues of our fanzine, Informative On Comics (more on this at a later time).

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We dutifully rented a post office box, put together an advertisement using my Dad’s typewriter and some horrible sketches I drew (Cyclops is one I remember) and purchased an ad in The Buyer’s Guide For Comics Fandom. I have no idea how many we sold, possibly 25 or 30 maybe out of a print run of 100. We probably mailed out another 30 or more for free (and for reviews) and gave the rest away to our friends. We also made sure our principal and selected teachers received one.) 

 

 

 

My interest for all things in writing, publishing and editing skyrocketed at that point.

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Soon after I began submitting articles to a number of fanzines and wouldn’t you know it, some of them actually published them. Some of the names escape me but I recall being published in ‘zines like The Media and Blast among others and soon had regular articles and a review column for a Canadian tabloid called The Journal that was published by Paul Kowtiuk and his Maple Leaf Publishing.

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Some of my favorite fanzines were ones I never wrote for, like The Collector, Rocket’s Blast Comic Collector, the aforementioned The Buyer’s Guide For Comic Fandom, The Comic Reader, Eclipse, Epoch, Inside Comics, Wonderful World of Comics, Mirkwood Times, Fantastic Fanzine, Etcetera, Comixscene, and a slew of others whose names now escape me.

 

 

 

One of my must-have’s was CPL, produced in Indianapolis titled CPL, short for Contemporary Pictorial Literature. Sometime circa 1972 or early ’73 probably I ordered a comic book sales catalogue from Bob Layton and received the first CPL. Within a couple issues it had evolved into a full-blown fanzine being produced by Layton along with Roger Stern and their ‘Gang’, mainly young then-unknowns like John Byrne, Roger Slifer, Tony Isabella, Don Maitz, Michael Uslan, Larry Brnicky, Duffy Vohland, Steven Grant and others.

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Most, if not all, continued in the field and eventually rose to the forefront of the comics industry.

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I had a couple letters printed in CPL and, I haven’t heard back from Bob on this yet, but I vaguely recall having some material published in CPL, but I may be confusing that with various letters submitted for publication.

 

 

 

 

I have fond memories of CPL and the excitement it generated in fandom.

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I was basically done with comics for the most part around ’76 but checked in from time to time and was thrilled to find out that former CPLers like Bob Layton, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Tony Isabella, Steven Grant and so many others achieved ‘star’ status in the comic book industry with Bob being, to this day, closely associated with Ironman, John Byrne with X-Men and Superman, Roger Stern with Spider-Man and Superman, Tony Isabella created Black Lightning, Michael Uslan goes on to produce the Batman movies, the list goes on.

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The funny thing is I eventually married and had three children I couldn’t get any of my kids to read a comic book or have any interest in superheroes or comics at all as they grew up. No matter what! Buying them comic books was a waste of time, they had zero interest and I couldn’t sell the kids on them.

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Now a couple decades later I presently have four grandsons. The two oldest (7, 4) can quote chapter and verse superheroes, their secret identifies, their archenemies, supporting characters…very impressive! I think the oldest one could be an artist! They have comics, coloring books, action figures, DVDs, etc… We are using comic books to help teach them to read (it worked for me!) I am sure once they are older Brenden (2) and Kaden (6 months) will follow suit.

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It must skip a generation.

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During most of the lifespan of CPL, which incidentally had a very entertaining mix of articles, interviews, columns, art, strips and more, I maintained correspondence with Bob Layton writing back and forth semi-regularly and I recall several telephone calls from Orrville, OH to Indianapolis. Bob, just a couple years older than I, always took the time to write back and offering encouragement and advice.

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Several years later when I was publishing my two music magazines, Boxoffice Rock and Bangagong, and still later in the 80’s when I published an auto racing magazine, Dirt Track Report, to say nothing of the STARS sanctioning body magazine I produced and countless auto racing souvenir programs for various race tracks and sanctioning bodies, I would always recall my fanzine experiences and in particular the motivation he gave me and what I was able to learn ‘back in the day’ from Bob Layton.

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With having extra time recently after ‘retiring’ from motorsports and recuperating from three heart attacks and open heart surgery, call it a mid-life crisis if you will, but I have gotten nostalgic for the old days of fanzines, comic books and rock ‘n roll. To the point I am beginning to search out such items as old CPLs, etc… to replace the ones I once had that are now long gone (an interesting story I will share at a later time). For some reason a copy of CPL 12 survived all these years.

 

 

 

 

Recently while surfing the net I discovered Bob Layton’s website and dropped him an email asking how he was doing and what his memories were from his CPL days. He responded promptly with the following (the full response is on his website):

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“Doc, you can’t imagine how surprised I was to hear from you after all these years! Since you were there, more or less, I’m sure you knew that we were all incredibly enthusiastic about comics in general and about launching our careers as cartoonists individually.”

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“Publishing fanzines in the early 70’s was an exciting time for me. This was before the internet and before the ability for fans to congregate online or at conventions. CPL was my first experience with meeting other people who were interested in comics and comic art. So, as you can imagine, my memories of that time are fond, indeed. I am still amazed, to this day, that there are so many people who remember that small digest fanzine.” 

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“I think we can attribute that to the number of contributors who went on to have notable careers in the comic book industry. Not just myself, but fan folks like John Byrne, Roger Stern, Don Maitz, Bob Hall, Michael Uslan, Tony Isabella, Roger Slifer, Steven Grant and Duffy Vohland all went on to work in the comic industry in one capacity or another.  Add to that, the number of contributors to CPL who were already-established professionals like Gil Kane, Alex Toth, Paul Gulacy, Mike Vosburg, Dan Adkins, P. Craig Russell and Joe Sinnott and I think you have a formula for a milestone in fan-publishing.”

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“So–yes, I look back to those days quite fondly. Not only did we carve a nifty little niche into the infancy of comic fandom, but we also created a few memorable characters like the lovable letter hack Rog-2000 (who went on to his own series at Charlton Comics).  And just to show you that I remember you from your letter writing days, I’m attaching a scan of the actual page from CPL 8.” 

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Below is the CPL letter page from CPL 8 Bob so graciously scanned that had a letter from me somewhat pissed off that someone unfairly (to me) attacked the talent of John Byrne. After discovering all that John Byrne had went on and achieved in the industry (and seeing artwork of his on Time magazine many years ago) after CPL I think its safe to say I called that one right (as did many others).

 

 

 

 

I have nothing but very good and fond memories of that time and how exciting it was in comic book fandom back then. I’m extremely impressed that Bob Layton, John Byrne, Roger Stern and the rest have accomplished so much. Their talent is amazing. They have much to be proud of and my grandsons have tons of exciting reading material and artwork to read and enjoy over the years thanks to all the archive editions of old comic books now being published.

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And I still have lots of good memories of the kindness, time, advice and consideration Bob Layton showed me so many years ago that served me well later on in my career, albeit not in comics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting Links:

 

Bob Layton: www.boblayton.com

John Byrne: www.byrnerobotics.com

Roger Stern: http://p081.ezboard.com/fsterntalkfrm2

Tony Isabella: http://www.worldfamouscomics.com/tony

Steven Grant: http://www.comicbookresources.com/columns/?column=10

 

Note: All images copyright © respective copyright holders.

 

Contact Doc Lehman at: DocLehman@sssnet.com

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1970’s Outdoor Rock Concerts/Festivals: How Did I Survive?

February 14, 2008

1970’s Outdoor Rock Concerts/Festivals: How Did I Survive? – Doc Lehman

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge!

The Rolling Stones’ stage.

Back in the 1970’s if I wasn’t at a race track I was at a rock concert. In fact, my fever for rock ‘n roll was at thermo-nuclear proportions throughout the 70’s and I must have seen over 100 bands during that decade, many of them three, four, five, six and more times each! I recall seeing Aerosmith five times in one year once. And while my regular haunts to see rock concerts was usually the Akron Civic Theatre, Cleveland Public Hall, Allen Theatre, Music Hall, Cleveland Agora, Canton Civic Center and the Richfield Coliseum, I also attended numerous outdoor ‘festivals’ during the 70’s.

My run of huge outdoor rock concerts during the 70’s began in 1972. After the huge success of Montery Pop Festival and Woodstock in the 60’s, and despite the 60’s ending concert at Altamont Speedway with the Rolling Stones, big outdoor concerts or ‘festivals’ became the norm for much of the 70’s and my buddies and I were all for them.
 
1972:

After returning to Ohio in June after a three-month stay in Colorado I was lucky enough to attend several outdoor mega-concerts with my cousin Sue who is about six years older than I. My first outdoor concert was at the Akron Rubber Bowl on July 3 for The Faces and Badfinger and then a few days later on July 11, 1972 featuring the Rolling Stones with Stevie Wonder as support.

The Faces with Rod Stewart totally rocked the joint and Badfinger had a real good recepetion. It was my first ‘mega-concert’ and it hooked me. The icing on the cake came a week later when the Rolling Stones invaded the Akron Rubber Bowl.  By then I knew it was only rock ‘n roll, but I sure as hell liked it!


What was memorable most about this concert were all the details we learned afterwards. There was a riot going on! Apparently, according to the media the day after, police busted a little more than two dozen people for drug offenses and that incited a large portion of the crowd that was aware of what was happening. It was quite a scene and we later found out about the number of arrests and that seven police officers were injured. 42,000 rockers were there and yes, the massive numbers blew this then 14-year-old away!


Luckily my parents didn’t find out about the ‘hippie riot’ and the following month, August 5, 1972 to be exact, my cousin, her friend and my pal Mike H., were headed back to the Rubber Bowl for the Alice Cooper School’s Out show. Supporting acts were Dr. John and the J. Geils Band.   

Dr. John was better than I expected and prior to J. Geils starting their session lead singer Pete Wolfe came out on a Harley-Davidson, parked it center stage, bellowed something now forgotten to the crowd and it was on! I was a J. Geils Band fan from that day onward.

Alice Cooper was great. He had all the original members and the stage act was more than I expected. The hanging, the snake, ripping up huge Alice posters and throwing them into the crowd, throwing handfuls of dollar bills into the crowd and the musical performance just kicked ass all the way. The highlight was during the School’s Out encore when a helicopter flew overhead, started slowly circling the perimeter of the stadium and then strangely these white things started flowing out of the copter and floating down to the crowd.

Akron Rubber Bowl

My pal Mike was lucky enough to catch one and they turned out to be faux ‘lace’ panties with A.C. ’embroidered’ on them.

So cool.

The following week at the Rubber Bowl I was offered tickets but declined. Just couldn’t get into Yes and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. And who the hell was that warm-up act the Eagles?

A couple weeks later it was return trip to the Rubber Bowl for the Jefferson Airplane and damned if I can remember the support acts (it was one of those days, ya know?). What I do remember is partway through the Airplane’s gig something happened, didn’t know what at the time but there was a ruckus happening up front and then onstage. Next thing we knew swarms of police were headed for the front of the stage and this strange ‘smoke’ started filtering through the air.

It was tear gas as we soon found out the hard way. We left.

A couple weeks later Rolling Stone magazine reported the details of what happened (as did the local newspapers but not in as much detail). Long story short, apparently the tour manager got into it with the police and started shouting and calling them ‘pigs’. The cops were antsy because of a supposed bomb threat that was phoned in prior to the concert. It was on then and then the rocks started being heaved towards the cop cars.

Naturally band members went to assist their associate and when it was all over Grace Slick and Paul Kanter were maced and Jack Cassady was not only maced but hauled off to jail literally kicking and screaming.

I’m not sure but I think that was the last rock concert at the Akron Rubber Bowl until the late 80’s or early 90’s when Bob Dylan and Tom Petty played there. (I didn’t go to that one.)

1973:

The following year outdoor concerts were still available just not in Akron. Massillon, OH, home of Paul Brown Stadium, was the next venue to pick up the gauntlet and despite objections from the local police department and the Fraternal Order of Police I got to see the Edgar Winter Group, James Gang and Frampton’s Camel at Paul Brown Stadium just ten miles or so from home on July 21, 1973. Around 12,000 attended and it went off pretty much without a hitch.

But a week later another concert was scheduled for Paul Brown Stadium that I HAD to see! Mott The Hoople, one of my favorite bands of the 70’s (and still today) was coming to headline along with the New York Dolls, Rainbow and Dr. Hook. I think half of my hometown of Orrville, OH turned out for that one. Everything seemed to go along just fine, the music was great, Rainbow was exceptional, the Dolls were insane and Mott The Hoople just, plainly speaking, kick-ass. What a show!

Ian Hunter & Overend Watts of Mott The Hoople

Later we found out that there were an abundance of calls to the police for a variety of complaints and reasons (to wit; drug overdoses, 5 men injured, 1 car theft, 1 grand larceny, 1 attempted grand larceny, 28 calls for trouble) and the City of Massillon banished concerts from Paul Brown Stadium after that.

It was fun while it lasted.
 
1974:

When 1974 rolled around Belkin Productions in Cleveland had scored a deal with Cleveland Municipal Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns and Indians, to stage rock concerts they dubbed ‘World Series of Rock’. The World Series of Rock were held for six years and I went to a majority of them.

The first World Series of Rock was held on June 23, 1974 featuring The Beach Boys with Lynyrd Skynyrd, REO Speedwagon & Joe Walsh. I didn’t have much interest in the Beach Boys but a buddy, Tim, was into them so we went. Skynyrd, REO and Joe Walsh were all good but I don’t remember much about the Beach Boys (it was the 70’s, ya know!).


The second one of 1974 that I attended was held on August 31, 1974 and headlined Crosby, Stills Nash and Young and damn if I can remember who the support acts were (another lost ticket stub!). I barely remember CSN&Y playing but I remember Neil Young being ‘so cool’ on stage.

Had tickets for the ELP headlined World Series of Rock but didn’t make it. The boss wouldn’t let me off work that day!

1975:

On June 1, 1975 my buddy Bill Evans and I headed off for Bowling Green University’s Doyt Perry Stadium in his Volkswagon for the Poe Ditch Music Festival that featured Golden Earring, Johnny Winter, Montrose, Styx, the Outlaws, Richie Havens, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Pure Prairie League.

Montrose in concert at Poe Ditch.Big crowd at Poe Ditch.

A hot day baking under the sun, but we were maybe 20 feet center from the stage on the football field surrounded by friendly and generous concert goers and one young lady in particular who spent most of the day topless. Never was a big Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Pure Prairie League fan, or so I thought, but they put on a good show. The original Styx line-up was on hand and they were mildly OK and Montrose just kicked ass and Richie Havens impressed the hell out of me.

Guitarist Ronnie Montrose performs at the Poe Ditch Music Festival at the Doyt Perry Stadium on June 1, 1975.

An swarm of concert-goers crowd Doyt Perry Stadium for the Poe Ditch Music Festival on June 1, 1975. Of the estimated 33,000-40,000 people in the crowd, only 3,300 were students. Even worse, there was only one law enforcement offiver for every 6,000-7,000 people, as stated by then Wood Country Sheriff Raymond Coller in a BG News Article dated June 3, 1975.

But right as Golden Earring was getting ready to go on stage a thunderstorm hit and everything came to a screeching stop and that, putting it mildly, pissed a good portion of the crowd off. Thinking it was cancelled they launched beer bottles at the stage.We made our way through the crowd, headed for the parking lot and walked right past Johnny Winter who had just arrived. As we approached the car a group of fans set the press box on fire in protest and that was the end of rock concerts there.   NOTE: Awhile back there was an article published in a newspaper in the Bowling Green, OH area about the Poe Ditch Music Festival 35 years later. You can read it HERE.

On June 20, 1975 with nothing to do and no tickets, Flash talked me into heading to Pittsburgh for the Pink Floyd concert at Three Rivers Stadium. It was sold out but we found a deal with a scalper and took the show in. Never a fan, I went for the party and eye candy and actually had a good time. They be crazy in Pittsburgh but friendly as I recall.

 

 

 

 We were right down on the field not too far from the front of the stage, it was h-o-t as hell and the women were looking good (and nearly naked). 33 years later my memories consist of Aerosmith kicking ass with Steven Tyler wearing a skintight black outfit with a black cape! He looked like Batman but it was one of Aerosmith’s better gigs that I have seen. Foghat were awesome, Jim Dandy and Black Oak were insane and I recall Blue Oyster Cult getting a great reception. 

 

 

 

 

 A couple weeks later it was back to Cleveland Stadium for another World Series of Rock on August 23, 1975 that headlined Rod Stewart & the Faces. I had wanted to see the Faces for a long time and finally got my chance and it was worth the wait. Rod Stewart had 80,000 people on their feet all singing and dancing in unison. Stewart & the Faces gave an incredible performance that day in spite of performing in such a huge facility. Support acts were Aerosmith, Uriah Heep, Blue Oyster Cult & Mahogany Rush. All bands were great and I remember the lead guitarist Mick Box playing awesome lead guitar with a broken wrist and a cast on. 

’75 World Series of Rock headlining The Faces & Rod Stewart

Another shot ffrom The Faces headlining World Series of Rock

1976:    Outdoor concerts were minimal for me that year as a full time job hauling milk and a steady girlfriend kept me at bay for the most part (except for LOTS of indoor concerts at the aforementioned venues mentioned at the beginning of this missive). One outdoor concert that was highly enjoyable was the Mosquito Dam Jam near Warren & Cortland, Ohio at Mosquito Lake.   

Banner made for the occasion by Cindy Morelle & her posse of Orrville chicks.

The Mosquito Dam Jam was headlined by Blue Oyster Cult on August 28, 1976 with support acts Bob Seger, Starz, J. Geils Band, and I think Derringer and Styx (another lost ticket stub and fading memory, plus had a r-e-a-l good time that day!). This was another gig that seemed to have everyone from Orrville and Wayne County there as I recall. Another outdoor concert happened near Tiffin, OH (no ticket stub remains and I can’t remember the date). I only have vague memories of this but some enterprising promoters rented a farm with lots of wide-open land and off a bunch of us from Orrville went in Flash’s Lincoln Continental Mark IV (and a caravan of other cars followed). All we had was a flyer to go on and eventually we found the place but played hell getting to it. We had to park the car in a field, then walk through another large field, walk through some woods, cross a creek (no bridge), climb up a hill and at the crest was wide-open spaces and a huge stage.I don’t remember all of the bands but Foghat headlined over Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Mitch Ryder and several other bands. A good time was had by all which accounts for my cloudy memories and lack of specifics.  

1977:  

1977 was a busy year of attending outdoor concerts at Cleveland Stadium. Most of the concerts drew close to 80,000 people. On June 5, 1977 we planned to see Aerosmith headline the World Series of Rock but they cancelled and Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes came on board with Ted Nugent, Nazereth and Todd Rundgren. 

Legendary Murray Saul of WMMS getting the crowd primed to ‘GET DOWN!!!’

1978: A ‘family tragedy’ you can call it kept me away from the July 1, 1978 World Series of Rock with the Rolling Stones setting an attendance record at 83,000. Tickets were a whopping $12.50. Kansas (yawn, according to a friend whom I gave the tickets to) were the support act. 

  1979:
 
My only World Series of Rock for 1979 came on July 28, 1979 with 80,000 jammed in for a bill that consisted of Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Journey, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC. The top three all put on a good show but I recall being extra impressed with Thin Lizzy and AC/DC that day as I didn’t have the chance to see them too often.

 1980:   Even though 1980 wasn’t part of the 70’s I attended my last two outdoor concerts that year. As you can see going through this as the 70’s dwindled down towards the 80’s my outdoor concert attendance began to wane and that was due to marriage and a couple of kids. 

Legend Valley!

A couple weeks later it was back to Cleveland for another World Series of Rock that was held on July 19 and headliner Bob Seger put on one of the best concerts I had ever seen him do. More amazing because of the size of the venue he nonetheless had the place rockin’ along with J. Geils Band, Def Leppard & Eddie Money. 

 ©2008/2012 Doc Lehman/Bangagong! 

NOTE: I would encourage everyone to read the comments left here. Some great, funny & entertaining stories from other folks’ adventures at outdoor rock concerts. 

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My Last Rock Concert Promotion

February 14, 2008

Way back in the early to mid-1970’s local and regional bands were plentiful here in north central and northeast Ohio as were the venues for them to ply their trades. Having known about such successful and famed concert promoters like Bill (Fillmore) Graham and others the thought would come across my mind (and some of my buddies) that it would be a cool way to make money.

***

Hell, the Belkin brothers with their Belkin Productions were getting rich in the Cleveland-Akron area.

***

 

 

 

My first experience in ‘promoting’ a ‘concert’ was very, very basic. In the spring of 1977 as my kid brother and then-girlfriend were about to graduate I thought a celebration would be in order. Enlisting the help of my pal Rick G. we rented out the Sportsman Club that is located several miles outside of town, hired a local band (named ‘Soily’) and proceeded to sell tickets for the graduation ‘party’.

***

 

 

 

It was a hit!

***

 

 

 

 

The people turned out in big numbers and hell, we paid the band more than they ever received and we even had money left over after the rent was paid. Of course we took our profits from that night and sent someone on a beer run and spent the few hundred we made buying beer for everyone but hey, it was fun and it could work.

***

 

 

 

We did a couple more ‘shows’ at the Sportsman Club until one night when the Sheriff’s Department showed up to tell us to turn it down. The one ‘mistake’ we made was having good friend Bug Jones, already fairly liquored up, work the door to take everyone’s $2.00 admission. When the deputies showed up Bug refused admission until they each paid $2.00 and needless to say, it took some real talking and sweating from me to get them to take off the cuffs and let Bug go.

***

 

 

 

 

 

They did.

***

 

 

 

 

 

After that on one or two occasions myself and others would rent a farmer’s field (or just show up unannounced) and bring in a couple bands and party all night for a small fee from everyone. We could always get the best bands from a two or three county area (there were a lot of bands back then) and have our own mini-Woodstock for a weekend.

***

 

 

 

The last concert I was involved in took place at Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, OH. A couple years prior someone rented the track and held a concert and it flopped due to the concert promoters acting like the Gestapo and…gasp…not allowing anyone to bring in beer! People were pissed for a long time over that deal and maybe we should have re-thought the location but myself, my kid brother and a fellow named Doug M., from Wooster, calling our ‘company’ Stone Valley Productions, plowed ahead and hired a ‘big name’ band for the show, Savoy Brown.

***

 

 

 

 

Now Savoy Brown was and is an awesome band.

***

 

 

Fronted by the great Kim Simmonds the British band started in the mid-1960’s as an excellent blues-rock band and over the years various members went on to other things, including three of the four founding members of Foghat (yep, ‘ol Lonesome Dave, God rest his soul, was part of Savoy Brown). I had nearly all of their records and they had name recognition.

***

 

 

 

 

 

The details are too fuzzy to remember but at the time for several months there was some type of legal wrangling going on with Simmonds and either management or his record company and when we were about to start advertising the concert we were informed that we had to use the name Kim Simmons Band instead of Savoy Brown, although we could use the term: Formerly Savoy Brown in the advertising.

***

 

 

 

 

So we went ahead, did all the work, took care of a million logistics and finally had the concert on September 1, 1979 at Wayne County Speedway.

***

 

 

 

 

 

We hauled in two semi-truck trailers for a stage, brought in Rodney Ray as security (he did a fine job!) and had us a concert with a big name star.

***

 

 

 

 

 

We had a pretty decent crowd although we lost a few bucks due to two of our ticket takers stealing us blind (we still remember their names!) but what a weekend! I had never been so exhausted and wore out as the three days of non-stop work and no-sleep kicked my ass.

***

 

 

 

But it was fun!

***

 

 

 

 

 

And Kim Simmonds was one bad ass on that guitar. What a show! He was simply amazing and put on an hour and a half show that rocked the speedway and everyone there. He also had one hell of a crew of roadies and if I didn’t have kids and grandkids I’d write more about them but I don’t want to ‘admit’ anything.

***

 

 

 

Simmonds was amazing. He could rock your ass off and lay down some of the thickest, coolest blues licks you could ever hope to hear. And what he did to that guitar with that bottle of beer….what a show!

***

 

 

 

We brought in two of the better local bands to play support. One was called Broke and they were very professional. I don’t remember any members of Broke other than band leader Craig Walton who was one of the most gifted and talented guitarists to come out of Wayne County.

***

 

 

 

 

The band Damage was a great hard rock band that I spent time with. They had a great following and all of the members knew their stuff.

***

 

 

 

Damage consisted of guitarists Jerry Kirven and Mark Good, drummer Tom ‘Bones’ Morrison, bassist Michael Johnson and singer Rick Thistlethwaite. These guys were always damn good and Simmonds even expressed positive comments on them, especially the talent and potential of bass player Michael Johnson. (Simmonds commented that Johnson in particular could go to the ‘big time’.)

***

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll never forget how exhausting that weekend was when I finally made it home to my apartment. After a shower and a cup of coffee I could barely move. But what a blast!

 

 

 

 

We thought about doing another concert and had even gotten a contract from the book agency that represented some new band called The Cars. Now there was an idea: have a concert with he Cars at the speedway! A natural. But life, wives, babies and everything else took precedence and that show never got passed the preliminary planning stages.

***

 

 

 

 

 

A couple years ago I made contact with Kim Simmonds and it was pretty cool that he remembered that gig at the speedway.

***

 

 

 

 

 

We even had T-Shirts made up and my brother still has one or two left. Unfortunately I never got any photos from that day and one girl who was taking photos, Pam W., I haven’t seen since then. Would be great if she still had those photos and I could find her!

***

 

 

 

(You can find more about Kim Simmonds/Savoy Brown by visiting: http://www.savoybrown.com)

 

Below is a copy of the flyer/poster that we used. (I made up the poster/flyers by using those infernal rub-off lettering you could find in office supply stores. This was made one-letter-at-a-time! Remember, this was before the age of computers!)

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My 80’s Racing Publishing Adventure

February 14, 2008

Back in the early 1980’s I was a bit confounded as to why so many auto racing publications sometimes treated my favorite sport, dirt track racing in general and dirt Late Model racing specifically, like a red-headed step-child. Dirt Late Model racing, as has been shown the past 25 years, is one of the most exciting forms of motorsports and certainly the fastest growing segment of all motorsports nationally.

 

 

So I put my money and time where my mouth was and published my own dirt racing publication devoted solely to dirt Late Model racing beginning in 1981 and ending in 1987. Originally named Ohio Dirt Track Report, it soon morphed into just Dirt Track Report as it covered the sport on a national level. The rag was sold at race tracks across Ohio and the surrounding states as well as via subscriptions.

 

 

ABOVE: Volume 6 Issue No. 5 of Dirt Track Report

I ended the magazine when I got involved in a full time basis with the STARS (Shirt Track Auto Racing Stars) sanctioning body as the Executive Director and on the board as the Vice-President of the corporation and as the promoter of Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, OH and General Manager of Pennsboro Speedway in Pennsboro, WV.

 

The experience was useful as later on I wrote, edited and did lay-outs for a variety of racing-related programs, a STARS magazine and newsletters.

 

 

Here are two sample covers from that long-ago magazine. Today the sport has Dirt Late Model Magazine, as slick, glossy and professional as they come and I am happy to say I have worked with them for a decade or more. But way back in the day, publishing my own rag was a lot of work, time, effort and a lot of fun and it proved to be a remarkable networking device over the years career-wise.

 

 

 

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My 70’s Rock ’n Roll Publishing Adventures

February 14, 2008

I always had a fascination with publishing and during the 1970’s I did several publishing projects throughout the decade after publishing two issues of a comics fanzine (more on that another time) in 1971 & 1972. With my life-long case of rock ‘n roll fever (Chuck Berry and I share the same birthday and the first time Lennon & McCartney ever played together as teenagers was the day I was born) at an all-time high in the 70’s I published numerous issues of two rock ‘n roll publications: Boxoffice Rock magazine (based on the northeast Ohio music scene) and Bangagong Magazine, published and distributed ‘national’ and featuring a more ‘international’ flavor that also went beyond rock ‘n roll.

 

 

ABOVE: The cover of Boxoffice Rock 6

 

While recently going through a couple of containers looking for photos for my recently passed Mother’s services I came across two errant copies of each magazine floating around in a container. Here you will find the covers in addition to an advertisement for the last issue of Bangagong that ran in a couple of various trade publications.

 

1981 was the last year I published Bangagong as my involvement with auto racing became more and more dominant. The issue of Boxoffice Rock you see here was the last issue as well (1980).

 

Bangagong was primarily a mail-order magazine and one of its achievements was a glowing and highly positive review of it in Trouser Press, one of my favorite magazines at the time. The only criticism that critic had of Bangagong was it was “too professional”.

 

 

ABOVE: Issue 7 of Bangagong Magazine.

 

I published, edited, wrote the majority of them and also did the layouts, all before home computers. It was a blast to read through them again and see what was happening musically, especially locally & regionally. Didn’t make any money but enjoyed the hell out of doing them.

 

 

ABOVE: An advertisement for Bangagong Magazine

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Biology & Rock ‘N Roll ‘Literature’

February 14, 2008

Way, way, way back in the early 1970’s when I attended Orrville High School I had a pretty good time (more on ‘good times’ another time soon) and for the most part the academic end of the high school experience came somewhat easy for me considering I never took a book home after my freshman year. I got decent grades, in some classes damn good grades, but there were two subjects that I just couldn’t get into no matter how hard I tried.

 

 

 

One was math, and the other biology. During my sophomore year biology was a required course and the lecture part of the class was taught by John Wiant who was a brilliant and extremely intelligent teacher but I just could not get into it.

 

 

 

After the first couple weeks it became obvious that I’d rather read my rock n roll magazines during class than listen to Mr. Wiant and take notes. A buddy of mine, who sat to the left of me, was Bug Jones and he shared my apathy for the subject.

 

 

 

To the right of me was a girl named Brenda S., a very pretty cheerleader who was pretty hip, too. She got Bug and myself through that course.

 

 

You see, why we laid back and read the newest issues of Circus, Creem, Rolling Stone, Rock Scene, Scene and the rest she was busy taking notes and when quiz time came around would pass her paper over to us to copy. Of course, we’d always miss a couple to get that ‘C’ grade as Brenda always got ‘A’s’.

 

 

 

The lecture class was held in the school auditorium and we sat back far enough that Mr. Wiant never realized, or let on, that while the majority of the class was doing the right thing (once we set a chair on fire, nevermind…..), Bug and I were reading about the latest exploits of Led Zep, Mott The Hoople, T.Rex, Rolling Stones, Montrose, David Bowie and the Spiders, Alice Cooper, Slade and all the rest.

 

 

 

We made it through the whole year reading rock n’ roll magazines and I passed with a ‘C’ on the year….thanks to Brenda S.!

 

 

 

 

I recall a lot of people used to borrow my rock magazines especially in study hall (hello Beth C.!). I tried to use study halls to do whatever homework was required for the following day because when that final bell rang for the day school never entered my mind until the next morning.

 

 

 

 

Throughout the 1970’s, until the end of the decade, I had complete 1970 runs of Circus, Creem and Rolling Stone with stacks and stacks of Hit Parader, Rock Scene, Crawdaddy and any others that came along that featured hard rock. Including stacks from the mid-to-late 1960’s.

 

 

 

 

I also purchased, when I was able and could find them, music newspapers/magazines from England like Melody Maker and New Musical Express, among others. Those two were, and probably still are, the top music rags in Britain and the newsstand store at Rolling Acres Mall in Akron back in the 70’s carried imported magazines including NME and MM, among the occasional other rock publication from the UK which I dutifully would buy.

 

 

 

 

I devoured all of those magazines from both sides of the pond and I think it was a huge influence after high school when I published Bangagong Magazine.

 

 

 

There were places around Orrville to buy the magazines, like Buehler’s grocery store, Bigler’s, and Dick Zarle’s drug store uptown (good ‘ol Dick once told me, I swear to God (!), “Hey, kid, this ain’t no library!”) and it seemed like the magazine rack at the Three Sisters Restaurant always had a good selection and often got them sooner than the other places in town, plus they were always open for breakfast as I headed for school (and sometimes stopped for breakfast, too).

 

 

Wish I still had all of them!

 

And rest in peace Lester Bangs!

 

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SUMMER, RACE CARS & COMIC BOOKS

February 14, 2008

 

NOTE: The following scribblings originally appeared in DIRT LATE MODEL Magazine sometime in 2003. Upon request from an old pal here is an old timer waxing nostalgically:

Way back in the early 1960’s for several years my family lived out in the country. Being away from town limited the activities kids could engage in so my younger brother and I contented ourselves with baseball, football, bike riding, fishing, fighting and whatever else we could find to do. But right around 1965 two things happened that I delved into passionately as a pre-teen: racing and comic books. Already hooked on (rock) music due to the tidal wave of Beatlemania, plus the fact my older teenage sister, Cheryl, kept me hip, racing and comic books became two more passions that have stayed with me for four different decades.

Always an avid reader (my Aunt Margie taught me to read & write before I went to kindergarten), my older brother, before he grew up and married and left home, used to drag home, on occasion, comic books. I instantly fell in love with the four-color adventures of Superman, Batman, Superboy, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and all the rest. I became not only an avid reader of them, but a collector as well. For me, the only comic books worth buying, reading and collecting were superheroes! Oh, the science fiction ones were good, especially the artwork of artists like Gil Kane, Murphy Anderson and others, but nothing compared to Superman, Batman, Captain America, Daredevil, Legion of Superheroes and all the rest. Give me a Jack Kirby drawn comic book anytime!

Then I went to my first dirt race.

In my family, cars were a hot topic of discussion any time my father and uncles got together. And auto racing wasn’t far off. When my uncle, Wellman Lehman, joined up with Pete Jacobs, Myron Werntz and Gary Bossler and built Wayne County Speedway, a mere three miles away down a side road from our home, and I attended the grand opening on June 26, 1965, that was it. I was hooked on racing! I lived for it! As did my younger brother, Stewart.***So, I had two strong interests and passions: racing and comic books, with rock ‘n roll music a close third.

It was around this time I learned how deep racing ran in my family. My Grandfather, W. Bert Lehman, went to his first race in 1914 (!) and was immediately hooked. He eventually became a car owner. Later on, during the 1950’s my Mother’s brother, Cecil Smith was a part time driver and full time car owner during the majority of the 1950’s racing all around central Ohio.

To me, racecar drivers were heroes, too. Sure, I knew about AJ Foyt and I knew about Richard Petty and all the rest, but they were nothing compared to my weekly heroes at Wayne County Speedway like Ken “Jake” Jacobs, Eph Davis, Royal Freed, Joe Thompson, Woody Holland, Dean Alexander, Jim Gentry and so many others. To me, those guys stood 10 feet tall. They were my true, real-life “heroes” as a young kid.

Out there on the track, slinging them open wheel “super” modifieds (ne; Sprints) and full bodied (ne; Late Models) sideways, whew…. That was living. These guys were brave, daring, exciting.

The racing fever caught on so bad with my brother and myself that we dubbed the road we lived on, County Road 142, “Dragway 142″, similar to the real Dragway 42 near West Salem, OH that our older brother, Don Horst, frequented. Not content with that, and desperately wanting to go in circles on the dirt, Stewart and I gathered up a couple neighborhood kids and, armed with shovels and rakes, trudged into the open field next door to our house and began digging up out our own oval dirt track.

We dug, and dug, and dug until we had a circle track. We labored for over a week, daily, for hours, on this until we were done carving out what, looking back, must have been a ½ mile track (it wasn’t!). We found old boards and planks and constructed a flagstand and a one-row bench for grandstands. We found other smaller pieces of wood and made our own wooden trophies (Can’t race without giving the winner a trophy). Thus, Lehman Speedway was open for bike races.

Yep, we had it bad.

We even, by hand, made up our own souvenir programs, had officers for the track (I was the prez… being the oldest boy still at home, of course) and we would make popcorn and Kool Aid for our fans, consisting of other neighborhood kids and an occasional parent, who would come watch us burn our energy up circling our track.

(By the way, my number was 066, the same one that car owner Pete Jacobs used when Dean Mast and Ken Jacobs raced his cars.)

After that first trip to Wayne County Speedway on the very first night of operation, two new race fans, two new race addicts, were born. My brother and myself have been going racing ever since.

As my comic book collection began to grow, I would often come across other forms of comics and dismiss them. If they ain’t superheroes, I don’t wanna know (course, some of those comics I turned down…for free….are worth a mint now). But one day my older brother and new wife, Betty Jean, stopped by and he tossed me a handful of comic books. I was thrilled, but they weren’t superheroes!!!

What they were, were some pretty cool comics for a kid race fan in the mid-1960’s: Auto racing comics! While a devotee to DC Comics and Marvel Comics these comics were produced by Charlton Comics and contained stories and artwork covering all forms of racing. Some titles even had their own “stars”, or “hosts”, like “Clint Curtis” who appeared in HOD RODS AND RACING CARS and TEENAGE HOTRODDERS, “Scot Jackson” in DRAG ‘N WHEELS and DRAG STRIP HOTRODDERS, “Rick Roberts” in GRAND PRIX, and so on.

Hey! These were alright! And they were all about racing!

Some were drag racing oriented, while some featured Midgets, Sprints, Modifieds and other forms of Motorsports. Heck, these are A-OK, even though they don’t have costumed men beating the crap out of the bad guys, sometimes Clint Curtis or Rick Roberts might have to go pugilistic on someone. But the cars, the racing, that was so cool to a kid who loved both racing and comics. The best of both worlds, indeed. I began buying these comics and gave them space in my collection.

 

 

Around 1970 I was a teenager and even began writing for some comics “fanzines”. I also began to do research into old comics and found out that the auto racing comics I purchased for several years were mostly written and drawn by Jack Keller, an artist who lived in Reading, PA and who had been a comic book artist for close to 30 years at that time. He was also an avid race fan as I was to find out (he would HAVE to be!).

 

I wrote him a letter and sent it to the publisher and, amazingly, several weeks later received a very nice response from Mr. Keller! I was thrilled that someone of his stature would write to some goofy teenager. He filled me in on his career and his love of auto racing. Living in Reading, PA, Jack Keller was in a hot bed of racing. He loved the sport and, to my total amazement, began writing and drawing the auto racing themed comic books for Charlton Comics way back in 1955! He continued to write and draw them through 1973, when he retired from the business.

I later found out that Jack Keller, born June 16, 1922, first began drawing comic books in 1941, creating, writing and drawing THE WHISTLER for Dell Comics’ WAR STORIES. Through the 1940’s and 1950’s he worked for a variety of comic book publishers, including the mighty Marvel Comics where he became well known for their western comic, KID COLT, OUTLAW (which I had a stack of)

 

Self-taught, and with a passion for auto racing, Keller signed with Charlton Comics in 1955 and began producing their auto racing comics which were a success. Ten years later both Marvel Comics and Charlton Comics wanted his exclusive services and while Marvel paid so much better (this is the company that introduced Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America, X-Men, etc…), Keller took Charlton’s offer as they allowed him exclusive and creative control and the chance to continue creating the auto racing comics, his first love.

In 1973 Keller retired from producing monthly comic books, around the same time I quit actively collecting comics (when I quit collecting, I had over 5,000 comics from the mid-1940’s through 1973). By then my passion for racing was still great, and growing, but being a teenager in the early 70’s, and with a deep love of music (rock ‘n roll and soul), plus the fact that another “passion” commanded my attention (GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS!), something had to go. So I spent the majority of the 70’s going to races and rock concerts…..with girls! (Except Sunday nights when I worked at Wayne County Speedway)

(Note: I purchased my first car by selling 5 old comic books that were collector items. I would give anything to have those 5 comics back today! I later sold 4 comic books and purchased my second car, as well. I could sell them today and buy a new car and maybe a second one).

 

It was with a sense of sadness that I recently found out that Mr. Keller had passed away this past January 2 (2003) at the age of 80. He was the only person that I knew of that, like me, loved comics and the artwork, and especially loved racing. Since his passing I was able to discover that he was born in Reading, PA, graduated from West Reading High School in 1940, and was laid to rest at Forest Hills, Reiffton, PA. He is survived by two sons, Richard of Mount Penn and Robert, who lives in Portland, CN. A sister, Vivian Riegel, resides in Sinking Spring, PA.

I guess when you hit my age nostalgia has a funny way of gripping you which usually finds yourself recalling the old days with fondness. As a kid in the 60’s, life sure was good, despite Vietnam, race riots, assassinations. We baby boomers had it made. I knew it then and I know it now.

I had racing, comics, The Beatles, the BATMAN TV show, Little League, GREEN HORNET TV show, Model Car kits (had over 80 of them at one time), rock ‘n roll, all those pretty girls at Apple Creek Elementary and John R. Lea Middle School, it was good time to grow up. But as the years wane interests dissipate and one tends to move on.

But the same passion, excitement and anticipation I had for racing close to 40 years ago remains unabated. I love racing, always have, always will. It’s been the one constant in my life.

And I’m the third generation of my family to be caught up in this madness. My grandsons, Hunter, Beau, Brendan & Kaden, if one or all so choose, will be the fifth generation.

The beat goes on….as does the memories.  

 ©2003 – 2008 Doc Lehman/Dirt America

 

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Welcome To The Club

February 14, 2008

Welcome to my time traveling adventures.

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