Rockin' Bands, WVOK, Rock Music and our "Bangs Movement" in 1966 an Essay
In a Much Simpler Time and Life
much like mine, I had the sheer enjoyment of learning about, enjoying, and growing up with the Rock Bands who (some) started in the Magic City, Birmingham, Ala., also referred to Steel City by those hard-driving truckers in the "CB Radio Wave." Both Magic City and Steel City--very fitting for then. And now.
I've mentioned (many times) my favorite teen Rock station from 1966 throughout 1968: WVOK, The Mighty 690, on the Bessemer super highway--pushing 50,000 watts of pure rock and roll for teens in Alabama, Mississippi, and some of northern Florida--places where teens resorted to taking coat hangers and twisting them to attach to their transistor radios to enjoy WVOKs style of music. Some of the more-inventive teens used a strand of the wire in the screen covering the windows to their bedrooms--then securing the end to the back of their radios running on electricity thus making the entire window screen a huge antenna. I can testify truthfully. I witnessed this genius-type of electrical engineering from my best friend, Kenneth "Wild Man" Stone, a guy loaded with initiative and a lover of Rock tunage.
Notice the bangs on these guys. . .
I've Now Said All That I Wanted to say
about that magical time in my life that scared me when I turned 13 and as the years came by, I was growing more and more into a Rock Music-Loving teenager in rural northwest Alabama, Hamilton to be exact. In my Teen Rock Years, if you did not tune to WVOK, you were considered a square. Please tell me that you remember this slur to teens who were not inside the "In Crowd?" I was a little of both. I tried to be cool and "in" while at school and failed, but when I was at home inside any room of my home that my dad rented (and my parents not home) I was one "Cool Dude." So cool that no pretty girl in my class would dare call me. That, my friends, is cool.
Then, in what I thought to be a move of Province, I was listening to my radio station (you know which one) and the DJ, Dan Brennan or maybe, Johnny Davis, was yakking about a show that WVOK was sponsoring that very summer entitled: "The WVOK Shower of Stars." And these guys weren't wrong. This radio station ran 13 (or more) 30 second spots (I timed them) per hour to promote this show for two reasons: To make back the money that the station invested in this "monster-of-a-show" and to draw the teenagers from Jefferson County near Birmingham and all surrounding towns to attend this gigantic Rock and Roll Concert to again, make back even more money that WVOK had invested and I'm thinking, to the brim of their checking account.
But lo and behold, the powers that be, claimed to see a herd of green pigs flying over Birmingham flying a huge banner that read: "Coming Soon! The Rockin' Rebellions and The Swinging Medallions!" The rest is early 1960s Rock history.
The Rockin' Rebellions were a Birmingham-based rock band made famous in the late 1960s when they shared the Municipal Auditorium stage with many of the decade's biggest artists at WVOK's Shower of Stars concerts. Sam, The Sham, and The Pharaohs, Herman's Hermits, The Who to name a few.
The Rockin' Rebellions took a tasty bite of success on May 6, 1967 when the band recorded a cover of Frank Zappa's "Anyway the Wind Blows" at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. On May 20 the group won the grand prize (three VOX Super Beatle amplifiers) at the WVOK Battle of the Bands at Municipal Auditorium. They went on to win first place in the Southeastern Battle of the Bands in Atlanta on June 17. Magic was filling the air with every teenager in the land who knew how to get money from their dads to buy the records and attend the concerts promoted by these two bands--The Rockin' Rebellions from Birmingham and The Swinging Medallions from Greenville, S.C., whose memorable hit, "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love) made this band and even now in 2017, the band's name has had new members taking a few of the original members' names and coming back--to keep the Swinging Medallions a perpetually-living and performing Rock band.
But with saying all of this history that I watched from "my" section: The Outside Looking In, the one thing that impressed me so much in the young Rock fan living in me was not their matching silk performing wardrobe, the high-powered energy from those iconic VOX amps, and the screaming of the thousands of young girls who went on to be CEOs, lawyers, writers and a lot of them being in the famous sororities of Alabama, Auburn, and even in Georgia. (Girl Power is not a new thing). The number one thing that caused me to turn to Rock Music as a teenage outlet for relaxing and getting with the cool people was these Rock bands mostly wore their hair with bangs. You don't believe me? Take look at the pictures on this hub.
Again with the bangs . . .
In every photo you can see their cheesy smiles (who were told to look that way) and posing like a modern-day stalker of impressionable 17-year-old girls who didn't have a sensible pathway of life. These guys' hair were all styled to have their hair be combed down into their eyes. Now I ask you as a 63-year-old adult: Was this fad the most stupid thing you ever seen? You ain't heard nothing yet.
It was as if every teenage boy, 13 or 14, just had to have their hair combed straight down into their eyes. Gone were those slick, hair-oiled styles made famous by Bill Haley and The Comets, their hair parted, and Bill even wore a curl in his forehead, and "we," the teenage guys of 1966 decided then and there to join the "Bangs Movement" along with these guys (in Rock bands) that I have already told you about. But as hard as we all tried to make our bangs look like theirs, there was one difference that separated us from them: These guys were handsome studs with fame and spending money in their pants.
We went as far as to sneak our combs to school with us and hit the boys' restroom to re-comb our hair for our parents hated for us to have our hair combed down in bangs. My dad viewed me when I was experimenting on my "Bangs Look," and he let out a stormy remark, "whatta you trying to do? Look like them (EXPLETIVE) Beatles?" I was so scared when he barked that at me, I hurriedly poured out a hefty handful of Vitalis hair lotion and re-applied to my hair to re-comb it just so my scared butt would not be beaten before school. Please don't think hard of my dad. He worked hard and was good to my mom. He didn't use curse words unless he was really provoked.
I wish now that the hand-held, battery-powered video cameras had been around in 1967 so someone could have filmed us running like a Water Buffalo stampede in those National Geographic documentaries and in the next few minutes, we all would run to our designated home rooms--all wearing our hair in bangs. I know that those pretty girls that we all liked must have had a good laugh when they saw us and whispering, "look at those idiots!" But my friend, Barbara, (her real name), was more mentally and physically-developed than the rest of the girls said that she looked up from her locker and said, "heyyy, I think they are kinda cute." Wished that someone had told me.
We did everything we were supposed to do. We all would get in a pack of three, sometimes five, depending on whom of us was in school or not. We will walk slowly with our heads held upward giving our hair that "All Bangs" look--and we didn't jump like scared rabbits when we viewed a sharp-looking girl, we just nodded at her and kept walking. I have to admit it. It felt great when we walked by in perfect step and when we nodded at a pretty girl and walked off--I peeked at her as we were waking down the hall and her mouth was wide-open. Stunned at how cool we, our group, "The Bangs Movement," were in front of students in school.
When we were breaking in our bangs look, it was tough at first, but when those around us had laughed at us and said vulgar things about our bangs, I was ready for some pretty girl who felt sympathetic for me and made her move to be my girlfriend. Nope. Not in any light year. So I kept my comb and kept my hair combed in bangs. Until the scary day that I knew something was wrong. One day while I was sitting my Science class, in walked Harold Sanderson, (his real name), a friend of mine who helped to pioneer the Bangs Movement, but now he was wearing his long, black hair parted on the right side. Parted?! Oh, how my heart broke to see one of our main players cave just when we were beginning to be included with the Cool Group in our class. No more being called Class Fools. No more sending us fake love letters. All that kid stuff. We were well on the way with our bangs look to be someone. Maybe one of us would form our own Rock band.
Notice the Rockin' Rebellions (with bangs) on this newspaper ad . . .
And then "that" day when I confronted Harold about why he chose to comb his hair, he simply said, "got tired of it," and I had to accept it for he knew how to handle his fists, so I made a wise decision to keep him as a friend and not banged up with bruises made by his swift knuckles.
Then after Harold, there was my best friend, "Oz," who did wear bangs with me and a few other guys, but he went back to his "Natural Look" he said. Natural?! It was par--ted! Not in his eyes. And there it was. The end of our "Bangs Movement." We failed like a one legged pole vault athlete. The other guys, "Oz," and Harold were getting looks from the pretty girls who were used to making fun of us. And then there was only one teen boy with bangs: Me. I was so lonely and left out of my friends' circle. I thought about trying to convince my parents to let me quit school due to a mysterious hurting that suddenly appeared in my abdomen. Yeah, and my dad was Marcus Welby or even Stephen Douglas with his three sons.
All in all, we called our "Bangs Movement" our Confident Experiment. It lacked three days making an entire week. We did give it our best. And just to let you know that we almost wore out our plastic combs keeping our hair combed down in our eyes so much. No wonder girls were laughing and pointing at us.
But one of our buddies "did" create something a lot cooler when our "Bangs Movement" was history. Randy Pearce, was the younger brother of George Pearce who formed The Sounds of Time, our school's first Rock Band. Lloyd Wiginton, Jerry Roby and Denny Vick rounded out this real, true-to-life Rock band. If you visit with me in Hamilton, I will introduce you to George and even Randy if he is not at work on an oil pipeline in Texas where is a "Mobile Inspector," where he makes a great bunch of scratch driving his air-conditioned company truck with his FM radio blaring. Yeah. He works like a dog.
Randy hit upon a hairstyle that we all swore that he stole from The Beatles: The Mop Top. I won't explain for most Beatle fans know what I mean. The only thing that Randy did different to us, was let his thick hair grow longer, and comb it all around his head making not only his eyes, but ears being hidden by his hair. And were they ever famous and every girl loved and adored them.
Just goes to show you that (although to this day, he still denies that his band got their hairstyles from The Beatles) none of us who were left in our "Bangs Movement" were ever invited to join their band.
Swingin Medallions at Myrtle Beach
© 2017 Kenneth Avery