A Neighbors column last fall pleased Gene Prim, Barnesville, Minn., because it featured two of his favorite recording artists: country singer Waylon Jennings and Fargo’s Bobby Vee.
“I watched Bobby and Waylon perform live many times,” Gene writes.
“I grew up in the same era as Bobby and attended many of his early performances around this region and also his concerts in his later years. I was not a close friend but was at least a nodding acquaintance of him. He was a class act throughout his career.
“Waylon, on the other hand, was an extremely talented musician and vocalist who changed music as he turned Nashville and the recording industry upside down and did things his way. He also fought a lot of personal demons and freely admitted that he was addicted to drugs for 21 years of his singing career.
“I never saw a bad Waylon Jennings concert, but I did see a couple where he obviously was under the influence of something. He was totally out of control and out of his mind, but still put on a good show.”
Gene also sends some clarifications to the previous column.
“Bobby Vee did not ‘hastily’ form a band out of fellow Fargo High schoolers,” Gene says. “Instead, he had already ‘invaded’ his older brother Bill’s nameless garage band where he played some guitar and provided vocals. The group offered themselves up as a fill-in band for the three rockers, Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson and Richie Valens, who were killed earlier after a performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, and while on their way to a concert in Moorhead. ‘The Shadows’ name was made up on the spot.
“While the announcement that the three had been killed in a plane crash was most certainly made the evening of the concert at the Moorhead Armory, it was ‘old’ news by that time,” Gene says. “The plane crash into the Iowa cornfield had occurred around midnight, Feb. 3, 1959, (not Feb. 9, as was erroneously reported in the previous column), some 17 hours earlier, and was found at sunup, a dozen hours before the Moorhead concert. The crash was well-publicized the day of the crash on radio, television and afternoon publications of daily newspapers, well before the concert.”
The person sending in information for the earlier column said Jennings was “an unknown sideman” playing guitar for the Gene Vincent band that also was appearing that night at the Armory.
“Vincent was not playing on the bill that evening,” Gene says. “To the best of my knowledge, Jennings never played guitar for Vincent. For the ‘Winter Dance Party’ tour, Buddy Holly put together another version of his ‘Crickets’ band to play on the road. Jennings was recruited by Holly and was the bass player in the band. Playing lead and acoustic guitar was Tommy Alsup. Carl Bunch was the regular drummer but was recovering from frostbite in a Minnesota hospital the night of the Moorhead performance.”
Gene also identifies the players in the band that is shown again here.
“Using my 60-plus-year-old memory for a reference point,” he says, “you have Bobby Vee (whose real last name was Veline), front and center. On the left is Bobby Korum, drummer. On the right is Bobby Vee’s brother Bill Veline. In the back, directly behind Bob… well, it’s a tougher call for me, as it’s either Bill Stillman or Dick Dunkirk, with Dunkirk being the best bet.
“Both Dick and Ward Dunkirk played with the band.
“Dick still does a ‘Shadows” tribute show from time to time, and Bobby’s son and nephew do the same with a band called the ‘Killer Vees’.
“The photo is likely of a 1959 or 1960 vintage, as by 1961 Bobby was long gone, living, recording and even acting in movies in California.”
“Even with all these updates,” Gene concludes,”it was a pleasure to see this information reviewed again. It brought back a lot of old memories for me and I am sure it did the same for a lot of the other folks in our duck-tailed, Hula-Hoop, poodle skirt, ‘old geezer’ generation.”
One last thing, neighbors:
An unsigned letter to Neighbors mailed in Fargo asks, “Whatever happened to the man who sold popcorn next to the Fargo Theatre, which then was a vacant lot where Sandy’s Donuts now is? This was in the ‘60s.”
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.