Hometown Rock and Roll
I have always enjoyed listing to music throughout my life, and I’ll have to say I enjoy almost all types of music. I will admit I don’t care for the style of music called, rap. It is a type of music I find no connection to, in my world.
For me, music has always been part of my life. I remember going to work at the Dairy Queen before school and turning on the old Philco radio to keep me company. I listened to music and Swap and Shop on WETZ as I did my job. I guess listening to a hometown radio station had a lot to do with my love of music, not to mention finding a few good deals on Swap and Shop. The music that came out of that old radio has in many ways never stopped, at least in my memories.
I’ll bet you didn’t know in high school I was part of a rock and roll band named the Military Comb. I’ll tell you about the name a little later. In fact, I was the lead singer of the group. I could strum a few cords on a guitar, but could not keep up with the rest of the guys. So, I traded my guitar for a Shure microphone and did my best to remember the words to the songs. I find it hard to believe, even after all the passing years, that my singing was any good. I still give credit to the band for their great playing that covered many of the flaws with my singing, although I did sound better than today’s rap. Well, at least that’s how I remember my singing. Never the less, we played several dances in the area, most were out the shortline in Pine Grove. We even once played a dance at Davis and Elkins College. Now, we were walkin’ in tall cotton playing a college town with mature college girls of 19-20 years old. Ah yes, those were the good old days of rock and roll.
Back in the 60s, the New Martinsville area was a center for several musical groups, and they were all pretty good. I asked Pete Day who played bass in one of those bands, The Gayblades, if he could remember some of the other groups from back in our day. It didn’t take him long to come up with several names – Benedict Arnold and The Traitors, Washington Lees, Pale Breeze, Golden Tones, Talisman, Night Walkers and the group I sang with, the Military Comb. If you wonder where we got our name, I think it was from an early Beatle’s song. I tried looking through the lyrics to see from which of their songs we got the name. I never found it, but I do remember why we used the name. We had hopes of making enough money to buy outfits like Paul Revere and the Raiders, hence the name Military Comb. Well, it made more sense back then, I think.
Almost every Friday and Saturday night, teen dances were held in town, especially during the summer months. Some were held at the Memorial Building or the old gym at the high school. There were even dances held at Bruce Park and the Family Center in Steelton.
I also remember WETZ radio station, the main source of music on the radio. Carman Harman, a DJ who began working at the station in 1971, recalled for me some of the names of those who were the voices on the radio in the 60s. Do you remember, Ty Work, “Happy Hoyer,” Jerry Burrows, George Eubanks, Dave Miles and Harry Bright? Then in the 70s, along with Carman, there was Bob Peirce, Ken Spencer and Stan Sabroski.
If you are my age, can you remember calling in a request to one of those DJs? And if you were lucky, they would put you on the air live to make that request for just that special girl. Of course, after you made the request, everyone in town knew who you were sweet on. And if you were real lucky you may have answered a musical question correctly and won a record from the radio station. Life was good and the music was even better.
These days, many radio stations have gone computerized with pre-recorded programing. The problem with that is you lose some of the contact with local events. Back in the old days as I went to work, the radio kept me up to date on local events and the occasional winter weather. If a storm or an emergency occurred, you could turn on WETZ and hear firsthand what was happening. These days there still is some local programing, but it is limited to a few hours each week. A lot of people subscribe to a satellite service and have no chance at all of hearing about a snowstorm in the Ohio Valley or a good deal on Swap and Shop.
A recent survey estimates that 95 percent of us listen to radio at some point in our day. And some in the radio business believe those of us that listen, enjoy a live voice on the radio. Here in our community, you can hear a familiar DJ’s voice each week. On Sunday evenings from 7-11 p.m., on 93.1 FM, Carmen Harman spins up the oldies for his listeners. He is also on in the mornings through the week from 7-9 a.m. on 99.5 FM. For me, hearing a voice in the same time zone is a good thing.
For the most part, those DJss of yesteryear, and the members of those old rock and roll groups, have long ago moved on in their lives. I would imagine sometimes they think back to those times when music was part of our town – a time when kids could go out on a Saturday night to dance and have a good time. I remember very few problems back in those days at those teen dances. We just wanted to hear the music of the Nightwalkers or the Golden Tones as we danced with our favorite girl. I sometimes wish video had been around in the late 60s to capture those moments of New Martinsville’s rock and roll days. I even bet there were some adults back then that thought our music sounded as bad as Rap does to me today. They survived the rock and roll revolution and I guess I’ll survive the Rap generation.
One of the songs the Military Comb played, and I knew all the words too, was Devil with a Blue Dress On. I guess I remember that particular song after all these years because my Mary wore the prettiest blue dress and a devilish smile for me when I sang those words. That was 48 years ago, and she still smiles at me… Through