Two Books Worth Checking Out

The Risk of Being Ridiculous by Guy Maynard got me interested in blogging about the 1960s. Maynard grew up in Urbana, Illinois, a year ahead of me, and was one of the leading figures in the garage-band movement that started around 1966. His book takes place in 1969 and really captures the intensity of the times. I gave it a rave review in High Times and it inspired me to dig up my own archives from the 1960s, especially a short story I wrote called “The Steam Tunnels.” I was surprised at how well my story had held up over the years. I’d forgotten most of the trauma I went through in the mid-’60s. People called it a “Generation Gap” but it was really a “Generation War.”

Well, there’s another novelist from my home town who wrote extensively about Carpenter and Cole, who (along with Guy and George Faber) had led the garage-rock movement in Central Illinois. Mandy Moores was actually one of my sister’s best friends in high school, and she ended up briefly married to Carp, and lived with him down in New Orleans when he and Cole were both deep-sea diving off oil platforms around the world. It was incredibly dangerous work, although the pay was pretty good.

Mandy’s book, Dream Palace, came out many years ago, but I just got around to reading it recently. Mandy’s brother, Brian, was the original drummer for my band, the Soul Assassins, as well as one of the drummers for a later incarnation of The Finchley Boys, the greatest garage band to emerge from Central Illinois. I’ve lost touch with both Brian and Mandy, so maybe this blog will bring them back into my orbits.

You can pick up a copy of Dream Palace for around a buck on Amazon. I kinda wish I could have helped Mandy edit this project, because she’s clearly a very talented writer. This first novel could have been something spectacular, on a similar level as Maynard’s book, but it has some flaws. For one, Mandy was a little too close to the subject when she wrote this, and had a lot of issues she was working out. Carp had a well-known anger-management problem, and we all knew you didn’t push his buttons unless you were looking for serious trouble. But Carp could also be a heroic figure, and this side of him is mostly missing. I also would have loved to have gotten more details on his garage band origins in Urbana, as well as more details on the dangers of deep-sea diving. For example, When Doug Blair got beat-up for making fun of the football coach (Smitty),  it was Carp who went after Frank Sowers to take revenge. Reading the book, I couldn’t believe how tough Mandy was, pushing Carp’s buttons big-time, forcing confrontations with him, and basically not taking any shit at all. Unfortunately, their marriage was doomed because they were headed in completely different directions. Mandy had a fairy-tale view on life when in high school. I remember her many paintings that evoked this magical dream life. The book does a good job of capturing this side of her personality, but her fairy tale turned bad when Carp started getting violent.

Bugsy’s not in the book far as I could tell, although he was also part of that New Orleans crew, working as a deep sea diver. Carp always had some major schemes going on. Mandy goes into great detail on his 50-foot sailboat that he overhauled and eventually took to Jamaica for a load of pot. Unfortunately, this trip coincided with an anti-smuggling campaign supervised by then-Vice President George Bush. On their way back to the Florida Keys with a boatload of ganja, Carp and Bugsy were unexpectedly intercepted by a fleet of warships that had been deployed to root out drug smugglers. With the Coast Guard bearing down on him, Carp went into action-mode, and tried to dump all the bales before they were intercepted. Unfortunately, he wasn’t fast enough and the Coast Guard was able to pull a bunch of the bales out of the water.

In a most amazing coincidence, the head prosecutor in Florida handling their case was none other than Ralph Hersey, who’d been a columnist for my underground paper, The Tin Whistle. I tried to recruit all the best writers in my high school and Ralph had been suggested by one of the English teachers. Ralph was a good counterpoint to Charlie Gerron. They were both black, but Charlie was angry and confrontational, while Ralph was the model of common sense and morality. We also had a great poet in our class, Jim Guthrie, and I remember going to Jim’s house and trying to recruit him. Jim took one look at the first issue of The Tin Whistle, however, and decided it wasn’t for him. His work was considerably more mature than what most of us were doing at the time and Jim would go on to win many poetry awards in the 1970s.

9 Replies to “Two Books Worth Checking Out”

  1. It’s nteresting to reminisce the Rock scene in C-U from the mid-sixties on, and I really appreciate what you’ve been doing, Steve. I’m Bob Carpenter’s first cousin, by the way, and I agree about Carp’s having an “heroic side.” I started singing professionally in 1965 when I was 15 years old with a rock band called the Intruders. Like you, I graduated from Urbana High (1967) and the University of Illinois (1971) – all the while supporting myself as a singer in several rock bands.

    Champaign-Urbana was a vital part of the rock’n’roll scene in the midwest during this time mostly because of Blythm Ltd., the talent agency founded by Bob Nutt (who was the first manager of the Finchley Boys). Bob and Irving Azoff, who was Blythm’s top agent, more than any others, were the driving force behind the explosion of talent coming from the area – Dan Fogelberg, REO Speedwagon, Michael McDonald, to name a few. Irving moved to California, and went on to become the most powerful force in the pop music world……………

    I also managed The Finchley Boys in the 70’s, and have worked with George Faber on a number of projects up to the present time. George is a terrific singer/songwriter, based in Minneapolis.

    I’d like to talk with you one of these days, Steve.

    Geoff Poor

    1. Thanks for stopping by Geoff. Of course I remember your store better than I remember you personally. I don’t know if you’ve checked out any of the previous posts, but I’ve blogged a lot about the Finchleys and also mentioned Bob Nutt and the history of Blythm. I’d love to interview you next time I’m in C-U (provided you still live there). I see George whenever I pass through Minneapolis.

  2. HI Steve, this is from Mandy Moores- thanks for writing about DP–very nice of you. Isn’t this very close to Jody’s birthday? I’ve lost touch with her. Are you still on the upper west side? I am still at the same place.
    I sure enjoy all of your writing about long ago.

    1. Great to hear from you, of course I’m at the same apt., nobody moves in NYC, unless they get rich, of course. You had to remind me that I missed calling Jo yesterday? Thanks for the guilt trip. Where is your brother these days?

    2. Mandy I hope you get this.. This is Libby Kemp-Sandberg your cousin. I have been looking for you and Brian and Liz and your mom. My cell IS #619-517-3262

  3. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    God Almighty have I got some more surprises for you! We gotta talk some!

  4. Brice Creighton, The Rapids/Terry Cook and the Majestics, The Soul Emotion, Joe Merriwether and the REEL BLUES! The Drifters, ( thanks to Azoff) says:

    Bob Carpenter and I went to his place for a lunch break. we were taking a summer-school history class and the class voted to do an extra afternoon class so we would not have to come to school an extra day to make up for July 4th. Bob’s mom had some homegrown which we dried a little in the oven and smoked. I had never been loaded in my life, and it was really good creeper. Damned if we don’t go back to school and we have to take turns reading out-loud from our desk seats. we can slide together in groups, but Carpenter in the back right, and I am in the very front left corner of the seating chart. It is up to me to start the whole thing off. But I just KNOW Bob is telling everyone else behind me that I am fucked up. Well I started laughing…., and no matter what- I could NOT stop. In no time at all, the whole fucking class is just roaring. The teacher, (what was the name?) was certain the whole class was laughing AT HER. And she did not know the joke, right? And man she was pissed! Well hell, neither did anybody else in the whole damn class, except for Carp, and me. God, I was in need of oxygen from that one.
    What ‘s funny is: Does anyone remember when a bunch of us got busted by that gay cop from Champaign, Parono, or something like that, for pot???? Made the famous Chicago Daily News’ headlines, 13 SEIZED IN DOWNSTATE NARCOTICS RING!!! Goddamned lying bastards. I had never been high yet in my life when that railroad bust went down. sittin here with my 215b in hand. I would poke it up Parono’s sloppy ass if I didn’t think he would like it.

  5. very interesting. we have moores ‘book.

    by coincidence i always thought my boss at dog-n-suds was named bob nutt. not related. died in viet-nam mar. 5, 66,but listed as richard. i could be mistaken but still think he was called “bob” or,possibly got the 2 confused over the years…he was from champaign.

    it always bothered me that (aside from opposing the war since when it was a secret one due to steve simon talking against it every day and putting up posters about vietnam,which most people hadn’t heard of yet) that richard died after less than 4 weeks training.he went in jan 29 and was killed mar. 5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.