Segarini: Growing Up in Stockton – The Fat City Chronicles 1

During its early years, Stockton was known by several names, including “Tuleburg”, “Fat City,” and “Mudville”. Captain Weber decided on “Stockton” in honor of Commodore Robert Field Stockton. Stockton was the first community in California to have a name not of Spanish or Native American origin.

I didn’t have anything written for today’s column, so I pulled this one out of my old archives and updated it a bit and added more pictures for your dining and dancing pleasure. Thanks to the overwhelming response to last month’s column, (available at this link: Stockton California), I thought you might enjoy another trip down memory lane, this one, a short tale about an early step forward in my journey into a life of music. My sincere thanks to all of you who responded to me with your own stories and memories. Keep ’em coming.

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When I was 13, I was one of those kids who wanted to make records. Sing, play, and tour with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. Ride the bus with the other 14 acts on the bill, going on stage every night to do my two hits, wedged in somewhere  between Donna Loren, and Dee Clark or Jackie Wilson. The funny thing is that we all thought we could do it. All the top rock and roll artists at the time were just local acts that had spread across the nation one radio station at a time until we saw them on Bandstand, or Lloyd Thaxton, or, if they were HUGE, Ed Sullivan. Those shows were the goals, back in those days, not the means to an end. Television was where you saw the stars, not people that wanted to be stars.

When I was 15, I entered a talent contest to appear at the Stockton Police Widows and Orphans fundraiser at the Stockton Civic Auditorium. A massive 2500 seater that looked like a library from the outside, a gigantic, (to me, anyway), concrete shrine to pillars, a pair of stone California bears big enough for three or four of us to climb up and sit on, and an impressive interior, built in the late ‘30’s or ‘40’s. It was a beautiful structure that still stands today, and the venue in which I saw my first rock and roll show a year earlier.

Rebel With A Cause

My cousin Phid, having been booted out of every school in the Bay Area, and after serving 2 years in the Navy, had come to live with us because his parents wouldn’t allow him to come home.

Phid was a ‘Juvenile Delinquent’.

He had a pompadour, a couple of tattoos, dressed like James Dean, and drove a cherry, dropped and souped up Merc. At 13, I suddenly had an 18 year old ‘brother’, and, as it turned out, a mentor in the ways of all things Teenage. The look, the rituals, the lifestyle, and most importantly, the music. It was Cool School, and my life was changed forever.

I went from Glenn Miller, Dean Martin, and the Four Freshmen, to Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Doo-Wop, and most importantly, Buddy Holly. Good God, I even LOOKED like Buddy Holly.

Besides having access to Phid’s sock drawer, (which contained his Playboy, Adam, and Swank, collections, I was also privy to the parties he and my cousin Diane would throw. They were basically right out of an American-International Rock and Roll movie. Wild dancing, crazy music, free-flowing beer, and sloe gin.

There were chicken races for pink slips, switchblade knives, car clubs, and Lucky Strikes. For me, it was Hogwarts with a better curriculum.

Phid took me to see the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars show at the Stockton Civic as a present for my birthday. The tickets cost just US$2.00. 14 acts, a couple of songs each, and I had seen them all on TV and listened to all their records, thanks to Phid’s sterling collection of 45’s. I HAD to do that. I HAD to play the rock and roll. I HAD to play the Stockton Civic.

Now it’s 2 years later, and I have the opportunity to achieve that goal.

I had started writing when Phid moved in with us. At 13, in my 8th grade Social Studies class, I had penned my first three chord masterpiece.

“I’m just lightin’ up a cigarette

My folks ain’t never ever caught me yet

They’re lookin’ for me

I know they are

Uh Uh Honey

Get in my car

‘Cause I’m a Juvenile

Oh oh oh

Makes my heart go wild

Well, I love rock and roll

So let’s go”

…and so forth.

I’m surprised I can still remember it. I can’t even remember the lyrics to a song I wrote last week.

If you must sing, go with the horse…

So 2 years later, at 15, I must have been a little better, because I passed the audition and made the final cut. I was going to be in the talent contest portion of the Police Widows and Orphans fundraiser, sharing the stage with 12 other hopefuls, and some actual stars. Dee Clark, (Raindrops),  The Dovells, (Bristol Stomp), featuring lead singer Len Barry, (1,2,3) who went on to destroy his career by bad mouthing the Stones and others on the Johnny Carson Show, and Johnny Crawford, a young actor from the very popular ‘Rifleman’ TV show, who eventually had a big hit record on the radio…something about ‘Cindy’s Birthday’. Dee, Johnny, and Me

I gave it my all and managed to come in third, after an Asian kid named Chance that sang opera, and an honest to goodness rock and roll band called The Jades, who won the contest with an inspired version of  Link Wray’s, “Rumble”.

I forget what I sang, but The Jades didn’t. A year later, they asked me to become their lead singer, and for 2 years, I got to cut my rock and roll teeth on Elvis, Ricky, Fats, Chuck, and Richard. I was the youngest guy in the band, the only single guy in the band, and the only one that didn’t work during the day as a pipe fitter, a plumber, or a meat packer. That year, with me in the band, (2nd from the left in the picture below), we played the Birth of a Star Benefit not as contestants, but as one of the headliners…waaaaay down on the bill…but headliners.

The leader of The Jades, guy by the name of Risty Val, (no, that’s not a typo), was a transplanted cowboy from Oklahoma and the elder of the group at 26. He gave me a great piece of advice:

“Music’s just like ridin’ a horse, boy. Go with the rhythm, go with the feelin’. Let the horse lead and stay on him. He knows where he’s goin’…all you gotta do is go with him”.

He fired me two years later.

The reason?

I grew my hair long…but I’m still on the horse. Thanks Risty, it is still great advice.

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This is a link to a video I put together a couple of years ago in tribute to growing up in Stockton. You’ve seen some of the pictures, but there are others you probably haven’t. I will continue to search more out, and if you have any from the ‘good old days’, send me a jpg, and I’ll include them in the next Fat City Chronicle. Thanks. Growing Up in Stockton

And as long as we’re doing this….

What was your favorite Radio station from your youth and why. Whether it was coming out of a transistor radio under the covers at night, your dad’s console radio when the folks were out to dinner, or in the car when it was the only way your parents could shut you up. The station with the hits, the Boss Jocks, the laid back fm pioneers, or the provider of the music that changed your life. What was that station, and why did you love it?

Just email your thoughts to the email address below or post a comment further down.

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

7 Responses to “Segarini: Growing Up in Stockton – The Fat City Chronicles 1”

  1. Bob,
    My musical roots began with Rosemary Clooney and her hit “This Ol’ House”. In MY world, that (along with many of the uptempo songs recorded by Perry Como) is where rock and roll took seed.

    My parents had a 78 rpm copy which I would play over and over and over again, ultimately destroying it from overuse. Unlike any of the other dirge or slumber music of the times, it was the first song that ever rocked my socks and of which I knew all the lyrics, dancing and singing along with it for literally hours on end. I found a prisitne copy, complete with original sleeve, a few years back and it is now framed and mounted on the wall in my studio.

    Stockton Civic Auditorium… not only was that where I first saw The New Animals (“When I Was Young”), The People (“I Love You”), and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (“Suppose They Gave A War And Nobody Came”), but ’twas also the fertilizer on my own personal R&R dreams and ambitions. My first performance in a band before a live audience was there at a “Battle-of-the-bands” weekend. Each night was capped with a nationally headlining band. My group (Black Rose) performed on Saturday afternoon with Fever Tree (“San Francisco Girls [Return Of The Native]”) closing the night. We found out Sunday evening that our band was supposed to have won the BOTB competition, but the promoter ran off with the proceeds so a winner was drawn from a hat and some other band got the kudos, if not any prizes.

    I love the Beatle jacket you wear in the one photo. Are you wearing the boots to match? LOL (Actually, in the only photo I have of the afternoon my band performed at the Civic, I am seen backstage in a red “Sgt. Pepper’s” style Nehru jacket. Trendy for our times, weren’t we?)

    Question : being a guitar tech, my curiosity begs to know what brand axe that is you are wielding in your first photo. Can’t quite make out the name on the headstock.

    Finally, in answer to your question, my two favorite stations were KSTN AM radio (For playing, IMHO, the coolest music locally at the time) and KFRC FM radio from the bay area (for playing all the music dubbed too extreme for local airplay). As I understand it, they still play the same music which now makes them a “classic rock” station. 🙂

  2. Gary Lewis Smalley Says:

    Those were great years Bob! I was honored to be your school mate and friend in those Stockton Jr. High School days! We had great fun and greater dreams of a future full of discovery. Watching your career in Rock and Roll develop was a source of magic in my youth (as a witness of your success). Thanks for recounting the history that you made…. The memories are truly magical Bob!
    Remembering the driving by KJOY radio DJ window seems like yesterday… “Howdy Honkers!!!”
    Gary Lewis Smalley

    • Gary Smalley beat me to it..”Howdy Honkers” K Joy…and also KSTN…just like the movie “American Graffiti”…we also had “Wolfman Jack” while we were crusin’ the Miracle Mile…which we all know was WAY better than Modesto’s…also cut our teeth at the Stockton Ballroom and the Blue Notes…I only was able to see every other show cuz I always broke curfew and would be therefor “grounded” for the next weekend

  3. Dan Happoldt Says:

    Bob, Have enjoyed both your blogs on Stockton and have sent it to several of my old classmates from St. Mary’s HS. We were 1st class to graduate in 1957. You mentioned some of the old radio stations , KSTN and KJOY- Mine was KRAK I won a “DJ” contest in ’57 and got 2 month’s of airtime plus a lot of great gifts. My intro/close was ” In the Still of the Night”. I got REAL popular with all the gals at school wanting me playing dedications. The girlfriend
    wasn’t too happy but I was in my glory !
    We ran the show from downtown then moved to their transmitter outside of town. Talk about “deja vu” !! Just like American Gaffitti.
    The local DJ’s would always have a beer or shot or two to share while we were on
    I also got “lucky” to tune in The Wolfman from So.Calif and there was another DJ out of SF called “The Bruce” -” I am the Bruce – OH yeah, Oh Yeah Oh heck Yeah ” Ring a bell ?

    I also worked for either your dad or uncle at the Harding Way store for a year. There was my buddy Howard (with a wicked Elvis cut,) in the meat dept. and on weekends he would wrap up a BBQ chicken and I would “bag” a short dog and a cold 6pak and drop them down to a trash bin in the back of the store

    Then we would pick up some gals and hit the Stockton Drive- in.
    I had an old Nash Rambler 2dr and Howard figured out a way to pull out the back seat and we could fold down the 2 front seat flat !
    The gals would sit facing the back so we could lean back on them while driving. Sweet Times !
    Then some of my rich buddies from school found out about it and next thing I know we end up “trading cars ” at a lot of the dances and parties. Man, I got to drive some sweet rides these guys had and of course , I HAD to cruise the “Miracle” and thru the Miracle Mile Drive In !!
    Kinda like Dreyfus and his old car in AG.
    Really enjoy what you’re doing . Just keep doin’ it

    Dan Happoldt

  4. Harry Angus Says:

    Hi,
    I’m writing The Encyclopedia Of Jerry Garcia Music Venues. I’m interested in using the Stockton Civic Auditorium photo. I’d need it at least 1mb or larger. Please email me at slipnut01@gmail.com.

    Thank you
    Harry Angus

  5. You say “Phid took me to see the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars show at the Stockton Civic as a present for my birthday.” Since it was on or near your birthday you’re bound to have a real good idea of when that was. I’m hoping it was the summer of 1965.
    As a dee jay at KSTN (1965-1968) I emceed the ’65 Caravan at the Civic, and though I’m not certain I think it was either June or early July. Might you know? If it helps, here are some of the acts on that tour: Peter and Gordon; Drifters; Paul Petersen; Jackie DeShanon; Ronnie Dove; Mel Carter; and Brian Hyland.
    I worked at stations up and down the S.J. Valley in the ’60s, from Merced (KYOS) to Yuba City (KOBO), including gigs in Stockton (KSTN), Modesto (KFYV), and ultimately KXOA (Sacramento).

    • Jerry, just came back to this blog again and saw you were a DJ in early sixties. I won a hi school contest on KRAK in ’57 for a 2 month run. Loved it ! as every girl at St. Mary’s HS wanted to give me dedications . What an ego trip ! So similar to “American Graffiti”…. A month in the downtown studio w/ the big glass window , then outside of town , where the local guys would offer a beer or a shot. Only thing missing was the ” Wolfman”

      Did you know Ray Golden at KSTN ?? By the way there were 2 brothers named Osborne who lived down my block on Middlefield Ave. I left in ’59 for So. Calif Nice to hear of your DJ journey !

      Dan Happoldt

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