A nostalgic reminiscence from the Clinton years:
Social historians, the addlepated media, and other leftists have delighted in categorizing those of us who are “post-war baby boomers,” as self-indulged, morally challenged, half-wits who follow the remnant of the Grateful Dead around in Volkswagen vans. They see us as long hairs gone to paunch and balding pate, as advocates of a benighted utilitarianism, or as vapid mouth droolers, listening attentively to the slack-jawed Ms. Katie reciting the CBS Nightly “News.”
There are those among the clerisy that knowingly declare that we all hoped to grow up to be “achievers” in much the same manner as the misanthropic Clintons. But, I’m here to tell you that it’s not true. No, sir, not true at all! In fact, neither Bubba nor Hillary would have gained admittance to our little group for obvious and observable reasons: they are incredibly gauche, poignantly vulgar, and worst of all…they lack rhythm!
We were the first wave of “boomers” that thought “dope” was a glue manufactured by Testors and used to assemble models of airplanes, combat vehicles, and cars; who considered smoking tacky, thus, auguring the rise of the Tobacco Nazis and their efforts at behavior modification through state-sponsored terror; and who came before the time when a hubristic government defined teenage pregnancy as a redistributionist’s career goal.
It was a blessed time-“back in the day”-families were strong, the Church was properly orthodox and actually promoted the concept of “right and wrong!” Dad worked, usually in the “mill” since there was no EPA, NAFTA, or GATT bleeding off America’s manufacturing base, Mom stayed home, and in those halcyon days the music was so fine!
We were the leading edge of the “boomers,” a small, quiet, coterie musically yoked to that crowd of duck-tailed hoodlums born during the war. And, we were the proud bourgeois adherents, not to some inane, apostate, “acid rock,” but rather to the old Rhythm and Blues and Doo-Wop of the late 50’s and early 60’s.
The music is so magical it conjures up images; four or five young men standing around a burning barrel in some neighborhood-that’s before there were “hoods”-keeping exquisite, finger popping time, while singing a sweet, pure, and intense four part harmony!
It was during those days, forty years ago, that a journeyman Rhythm and Blues artist named Les Cooper wrote a very special song. Mr. Cooper wrote and recorded many songs, some better than others, but this song was his finest effort. Les Cooper titled his masterpiece: Wiggle Wobble. Simply said, it was the greatest “fast” song ever recorded…well, at least I think so.
If memory serves, Wiggle Wobble hit the charts in the winter of 1962, climbed slowly to number ninety-nine, where it peaked. But, at Lake Marwin, or simply the “Lake,” a jumping teen nightspot ensconced on a hillside southwest of East Liverpool, Ohio where adolescents from three states congregated on Friday and Saturday nights like wildebeests at a watering hole, the Wiggle Wobble was happily received.
Our disc jockey, Stan Scott, a gentleman destined to be a servant of the Lord, but at that time the Dick Clark of the upper Ohio Valley, played the song constantly at the request of his teenage audience.
There, at the “Lake,” we learned not only the courting rituals required in an advanced, technological society, but we learned the “moves” as well. We listened attentively as Les Cooper and his fellow entertainers: Smokey, Maxine Brown, Theora Kilgore, Bob and Earl, the Contours, the Stereos, Bertha Tillman, and the Tams belted out their hits! There was magic in the air!
But something happened, the months went by, 1963 gave way to 1964; Jack Kennedy was ambushed on a Dallas street, the Beatles intruded themselves, McNamara’s dirty little war heated up! And, in the end, we lost the magic; rhythm faded into a nihilistic affectation; soul became passé.
A few years ago, in a confessedly nostalgic moment, the memory of that delightful song came flooding back. I was able to track down a copy in Canada of all places! I had to buy an entire CD just to get Wiggle Wobble but I do not complain.
Maybe Wiggle Wobble will make a comeback; some of the old songs do that you know. Hey, maybe Rush Limbaugh will use it for “bumper” music, you never know! As for Les Cooper, I’ve recently discovered that he’s alive and well and living in Harlem where he continues to sing in his church’s choir. Sadly, I doubt he’ll be anointed and installed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though he should be. You won’t hear Wiggle Wobble played on any of the “oldies” radio stations very often-it wasn’t a “big” hit.
But, for those of us who grew up in the early 60’s and spent our weekends at the “Lake,” Les Cooper’s Wiggle Wobble was simply the baddest sound around! And, though we didn’t know it then, Wiggle Wobble sounded the knell of America’s final era of innocence.