A retrospective on our band in the California Fifties, Sixties and Seventies


For me, music became a dominant force in my life like a thunderbolt in 1957 when I heard a song called Silhouettes by the Rays on the radio. From that point on I wanted nothing more than to sing in harmony with other voices. It was a passion, an obsession.

Despite being driven to sing Silhouettes I was without much natural talent as a singer. Not knowing exactly where to start I recruited Pat and Virgil Baldwin, neighborhood kids who lived up the street who were as limited as I was. But they were at least smart enough to realize that we didn't know where to start singing in harmony. Pat suggested that we ask Hasty Smith, who was in choir with him because it seemed like he could already sing. Well, that was a little discouraging. I had to actually learn how to sing to satisfy this passion that had claimed me? Hastings showed up in my living room with the Baldwin brothers one day after school and after a few minutes suggested that we, and especially me, sign up for choir. The school year had started, and beyond that, students had to audition to even be in choir. That seemed to leave me out on both counts. However, since Hasty was actually a brilliant singer, he was well-connected to Don Martin, a very highly regarded musician and choir instructor who taught choir and music. I can think of no good reason from Mr. Martin to allow me into choir other than recognizing my passion for the harmony and perhaps my enthusiastic participation in the Hallelujah Chorus that the Acapella Choir did every year in the December holidays. I learned rapidly, perhaps since I had so far to travel and by the end of the first semester of my junior year, I was invited into the Madrigal Singers, the elite group of 20 singers who sang at the school events and competed for a state championship. With two classes in high school dedicated to singing and with another in musical theory and membership in my church choir at North Methodist, I was fast becoming a singer!

Shortridge HS, Indianapolis, IN 1958So while Pat and I improved to some degree, Virgil early on decided he'd much rather spend his teenage years doing something other than warbling angst-ridden doo wop songs. He was replaced by Chuck Tunnah, who I met in choir, and who could actually sing, too, so at least while Hasty was with us, we started to sound good enough that people didn't leave the room when we started to sing.

The Aristo-cats, as we styled ourselves at the time grew in parallel to our high school life including a transfer for me to a new school in the fall of 1958 where we realized that we needed to find a falsetto tenor voice. There were a lot of the really cool vocal groups of the time doing the kind of music we were interested in and almost all of them had wonderful falsetto lines and rifts. While one of the guys tried to sing those parts, we hadn’t found the voice that we needed. Our group was centered socially within our school life at Shortridge and North Central High Schools and North Methodist Church where we all sang in the choir, on Indianapolis' north side. On Sunday nights, when we would meet for rehearsal in the church, we'd always look for one of the bathrooms so that we would get full reverb from all the hard surfaces. I'm certain that had anybody caught our bathroom act they would have been highly impressed. A girl in the choir suggested a potential tenor from Broad Ripple High School, a school centered between NCHS and SHS, who was in the Golden Singers. The Golden Singers were an elite group similar to the Madrigal Singers, I'd sung with at Shortridge, and the Counterpoints, my new choir at North Central. But Broad Ripple was a bitter rival in sports with both my schools so it was a sign of our desperation that even though Dave Dunn was a 'river rat', we reluctantly agreed that this Golden Singer would at least get a listen.

I still remember when Dave came in the door, tall and skinny, kind of shy. We sang some songs for an hour or so and then when Dave had left, we compared notes. Hasty and Pat liked Dave’s voice and were all for inviting him in. I was disappointed and said no, his falsetto is too breathy, not crisp and clean enough like Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons or the Del-Vikings. I argued vehemently until the other two pointed out that we didn’t really have anyone else that we liked and if we wanted to keep singing, Dave better be the guy; whether I liked his tone or not and besides, he had the range. I didn’t have an answer to that so the next day, Dave was invited to sing with us. I have been more wrong about things in my life than on this but not often. Within a few short months as Dave’s voice matured and got stronger with use, it became clear that he was the best singer of us all.

Hastings Smith Jr., who left such a mark on my high school life, not only in music but introducing me to my high school sweetheart and first love, who would later become my wife, realized that he had a lot more potential in other fields then music. Which made a lot of sense. He was able to figure out that at 5' 7" and a handsome dog to boot, with a perfect flat top, that he wasn't going to make the all-state Shortridge basketball team, and instead demonstrated his wisdom by becoming captain of the golf team and graduating with a 4.0, all of which, including singing with us made him the most popular guy in school. He went on to Purdue to study nuclear physics and eventually became a famous nuclear scientist working in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Don Martin continued to burnish his career as one of the most respected choir masters in Indiana history until he retired, and to them both I shall be forever grateful.



It’s easy for me to remember the day that music became such a big force in my life. I had just turned 16 in the winter of 1957 in Indianapolis, Indiana. An underage junior at a huge high school, Shortridge, I was an uninterested student obsessed with basketball, science fiction, and games and Jessie Fisher was just giving me a glimpse of the yawning pit of hormones that would drown in for years to come. I was a loner, not connected to the school’s society, sullenly struggling with some inner demon unknown to me or anyone else. In other words, I was probably the average teenager of my time, wearing Levis, white buck shoes, madras pattern shirts and trying desperately to grow a proper flat-top hair cut.


2011 Stark Naked & the Car Thieves
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