View Issues‎ > ‎2018 Issues‎ > ‎1812 December 2018‎ > ‎

181231 December 31, 2018

Treading into the Past
Tommy Towery
LHS '64
    Last week the church’s track was closed on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) so my weekly walk there while Sue was at Bible study had to be altered. I was lucky that the senior center was only a block away so I elected to take advantage of their fitness room in lieu of the track. I utilized the treadmill and put on my Bluetooth earbuds as I set my speed at three miles an hour and began my workout. Others there were going faster, but since I was not accustomed to using a treadmill I elected the lower speed for my mile and a half jaunt. Again, as I exercised, I let the music of the past steer me in the direction of my memories. I stayed with 1961 as my choice of songs and as expected, a couple of them mined some interesting memories from my past. Here are two of them.

Dedicated to the One I Love

    Dedicated to the One I Love (1961) - The Shirelles

    A version recorded by American girl group the Shirelles reached number 83 in 1959. This version was re-released in 1961 and reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 2 on Billboard's Hot R&B Sides.

    Did you ever call a radio station and have a song dedicated to someone?

    My first experience with song dedications came when I lived on East Clinton Street around 1955 or 1956. I do not know the name of the station or the disc jockey, but I still remember calling in one day for a song dedication. This was back in the stone ages when we did not have instant access to any song we wanted to hear by calling it up on the internet, but relied on radio stations to play it whenever the play list called for it to be played. I decided there were two real reasons I suppose for the concept of calling in to get a song played. One reason was to hear a song you really wanted to hear and the other was to send the underlying message of the lyrics of the song through the airways to reach a special person. This could be done for one of two emotions, those being love or hurt. Sometimes we wanted someone to listen to the words of the song to hear how much we loved them. Other times we wanted to convey the message of how much we were hurt by the person to which the song was dedicated.

In the East Clinton episode, I seem to remember Mike Thompson was over my house and we called the DJ and requested him to play “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and we had it dedicated to Mike, Tommy, and Howdy Doody. Yep, “Howdy Doody.” Recalling the incident, there was a Howdy Doody string puppet sitting by the telephone when we made the call, and being silly as we were, we added him to the dedication list. We then glued our ears to the radio and before long the dedication was read over the air and the song was played.

Later in life, when I was attending Lee, my friend Bob Walker and I drove over to the WAAY radio station late one night and walked up to the door and knocked on it. Shortly thereafter the current DJ who was spinning records answered the knock himself and like the scene in “American Graffiti” we talked to him in person and had him dedicate a song for us. We drove off into the night and once again, as earlier in my life, the DJ honored our request. I suppose such a thing was not uncommon in small towns. One of the last dedications I heard about back in the era was made by Bob, who had moved to Mississippi to attend college and called back to WAAY one night to make a dedication to send a message to a girl he left behind. The song was “A Different Drum” and the message he wanted to convey was “Oh, don't get me wrong. It's not that I knock it, it's just that I'm not in the market for a girl who wants to love only me.” I never knew if she got the message or not, but I know they never got together. The final lines of the song went “So goodbye I'll be leaving. I see no sense in this crying and grieving. We'll both live a lot longer if you live without me.”

In Memphis we still have an “Oldie Goldie” radio station which still has a live DJ and still takes song requests and dedications. Of course it is targeted to Baby Boomers who grew up with radio stations which thrived on that type of interaction. A little know fact to some of you is that during my college days I was a disc jockey for our university's radio station. We had a limited audience because our signals were hard wired to the dormitories and not broadcast over the airways, but we treated it like it was. I remember one day I felt like I became a human juke box because one guy kept calling in one song after another requesting the next song he wanted to hear, and did so for the four-hour shift I worked. 

So, who can give me a song dedication story? I’d love to hear from you.

His Latest Flame

His Latest Flame (1961) – Elvis Presley -

    The most famous and successful recording by Presley was released in August 1961. The relatively intense tune, featuring a Bo Diddley beat, performed well on both pop and easy listening stations, reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart.

    For the most part, this song should be just another one of hits constantly being churned out by Elvis during this period of our lives, but it holds a special place in my past for me.

So what memory does this song invoke to me personally? And before you ask, no, I did not have a girlfriend named Marie. To answer it let’s go back to 1960 and my transfer to Lee Junior High in the 9th grade after spending the 7th and 8th grade at Huntsville Junior High. In the 8th grade I volunteered to be the class reporter for the Huntsville Junior High paper (the name of which I cannot recall}. I don’t think I had a thing published the whole year, but for each issue I would submit something about our class or a current topic. When I started in Mrs. Parks’ class at Lee, I elected to try to continue my journalistic quest to be published in the newly launched school paper. 

    One attempted story I did was coming up with a feature story using song lyrics as the source of proposed newspaper headlines in an attempt to make the reader guess the song. I cannot remember any of the other songs I used, but “His Latest Flame” is the one song I do remember. The headline I wrote was something like “Arsonist Sets Fire to USS Marie.” That was in 1961 and now, some 57 years later I still remember trying to explain my reasoning for the proposed headline. It was especially hard since the reference to Marie was buried in the lyrics and not part of the song title. Sometimes though this song was listed as “"(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame” which makes the logic more explainable.

I doubt if this song had much of an impact on any of you, and had it not been my connection with the original Lee’s Traveller, it would not have jogged my memory either.  But, the "journalism" connection of trying to write a story which interested people must have made some impression on me and kindled a fire that still burns inside me. Again, the topic of the song followed the “lost love” path which many of the songs of our times heralded.

        Memphis, TN -  First of all, thank you to all of you who responded to my Christmas email and thanking me for the continued support of this newsletter.

    This is the final issue of Lee's Traveller for the year of our Lord 2018. I received an interesting email this past week which I would like to share with you. It was from John Roberts, LHS '65 and stated:

Hey Tommy. 

    At our family Christmas gathering today, I told the group about our passion and dedication to our high school class and your weekly Lee’s Traveller newsletter, which I enjoy.  The question was asked how long you have been writing the Traveler. When did you start it and how was it distributed in the early days. 

    Here is the reply I sent John:

    Before I give you an answer, I want to give a little background information. When I was attending Lee High School I had a great-Uncle who was the editor of a weekly newspaper up in the remote New York area. He used to send my grandmother a copy of each week's paper and I found them fascinating. At the time I was the editor of the school's Lee's Traveller and I said then someday I would love to edit a weekly newspaper. It was a great influence on my decision to earn a degree in journalism. Even though I got the degree, I also earned my commission in the USAF and bypassed the journalism world for the military. But my love for writing and desire to publish a weekly paper did not leave me. That was long before the internet and I had no idea someday I would be able to do so as a hobby and have the ability to distribute it among my friends.

    As to your question, here is the best answer I can give you.

    The official launch of the site was March 31, 2000, with the initial idea of having a place to post notices about upcoming reunion activities and to keep everyone informed about the progress being made on reunion plans. The concept of a weekly newspaper was not part of the original plans. 

    Reunion update information and a few photos were added in a random and arbitrary order over the next few months. The method used to update the site was to remove the older stuff and replace it with new stuff on the same page. Most of these items were just notices about the upcoming reunion and not really stories. The manner I used did not back up the old pages or content, and as a result, most of those items were lost. A few of the stories were saved however, but not all of the content of the site. I still have a way to recall any issue done since June 10, 2001, so if you are interested in a back issue then please contact me.

    At the reunion in August, 2000, I made a public announcement of the availability of the website and the site’s address was posted in the directory. Apparently very few classmates either heard the announcement or read the directory, because some of those that attended that reunion still have not visited the site. The updates continued past the reunion at random times, but were not of a frequency that people knew when to visit and read the new stuff.

    Finally on June 10, 2001, the first issue of a "weekly" website newspaper was posted. It included mainly stories written by me and e-mail responses to those stories and ideas from many classmates. The weekly idea continued, again only with limited usage by many.

    On July 23, 2001, the web page first used the name Lee’s Traveller. I had not used that name before because I thought that the Lee High School newspaper was still using that name and I did not want to conflict with them. When I found that Lee had changed the name of the paper, I adopted the Lee’s Traveller name for the site. Lee’s Traveller was the name given to our first high school paper by Woody Beck. Mrs. Parks was the sponsor of that paper and felt that the name (which came from the name of Robert E. Lee’s horse) was a fitting name for a school paper.

    Since that first weekly issue on June 10, 2001, I have missed only one week in putting out a weekly edition. That was the week following September 11, 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist event, and I ended up having to drive to Iowa instead of flying so I was unable to meet the deadline. I have not missed publishing another weekly issue since that date. 

    So, officially, I have missed only one week of giving you news and memories of our high school days and our evolving lives in the last 17+ years. That means I have produced approximately 921 weekly issues without missing a week.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Last Week's Song

Collins Wynn

LHS '64


    As always, I enjoyed reading about your music memories in recent issues.  But I have to say you hit a home run with the last issue when you recalled the auditorium program from late '63 or early '64 featuring the solo young man with the guitar singing Raindrops recorded by Dee Clark.  Most will remember it as a song of teenage angst having to do with a breakup of sweethearts.  Sitting there in that auditorium that day listening was particularly difficult since Judy Adair and I, after several years as boyfriend/girlfriend, had recently broken up and I had not yet come to grips with the situation.

    As a macho guy there was no way I could show any emotion lest my guys see me as sentimental and weak.  It was difficult averting my gaze; my eyes were wet through the whole performance.  I am reminded of a line from Jim McBride during a PBS interview of a few years ago when he explained how he was a poet at a young age and enjoyed his creative writing classes, but he could never let on to the boys on the playground because it would not have gone over well.  Same here, my knuckleheads would just not have understood--------- but I am sure they do now.

    And God bless Johnny Harbin and the memory of Judy Adair Harbin.  I am sure their children are marvelous.

    Thanks for the memories now that the sting is buried deep and mostly gone.

Subject:   Dee Clark

Eddie Burton 

LHS '66

    Tommy, in 1969 I was performing at a club in Atlanta called The Big Dipper when a young black man approached me at my table on a break and told me his name was Dee Clark and he was looking for an accompanist to work the road and lead house bands through his show. I told him I was there another week but I was interested and I gave him mr number. I worked through 1970 with him. We played mostly in the south breaking the house attendance record at the Crazy Horse in Birmingham. He told me great stories about a black entertainer working the south in the 50’s and 60’s and the prejudice he encountered in restaurants and truck stops. He also told me about the music legends he toured with and he introduced me to Jackie Wilson and Chuck Berry. Dee was a wonderful singer and entertainer and an avid par 3 golfer. I saw him At a club in Nashville about 1975 and got to visit and remember some of the times we had on the road. He had health problems and died at 52.

Subject:    Great Newsletter
Spencer Thompson 
LHS '64

    Another great newsletter, "T". I loved the songs

Subject:    Great Newsletter
Dianne H McClure
LHS '64

    These songs and stories are taking me back to the "good old days" well mostly good ,I am enjoying the reminders and memories these songs bring. So for my part keep the good work up. The song "Will you still love me tomorrow?" Comes to mind when I think of all the skating we did at Carters.

Subject:    Song Memories
Barb Biggs Knott
LHS '66

    Hi Tommy,

    I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas.
    Thank you Tommy for another great issue of the Traveller. Your music references the past two issues have definitely taken me back to the early 60’s and memories of Carter’s as well as Bradley’s Cafeteria. Each of the songs you mentioned in the 12/24 issue brought direct memories back to me.

     Wishing you all the best in the coming year!




Join the Mailing List to Receive Notification When New Issue is Available 


 Email Me