At The Hop

      Where were you in ’62?

          In a Back to the Future moment the wife and I recently attended a retro concert: The Doo Wop Project. Five guys wearing skinny ties and black shark skin suits. Incredible harmony and synchronized dance moves are king. They were reliving the glory days of doo wop, mid 50s to early 60s.  The audience was mostly over 60, but the energy level of the crowd and performers harkened back to long lost youth.

          The guys reprise such iconic classics as "Remember Then," "I Wonder Why," "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Itty Bitty Pretty One." They also do early Four Seasons, such as "Sherry" since most of them at one point appeared on Broadway in Jersey Boys. The joint is absolutely hoppin'.

          Spring 1962. The jr. high sock hop at George S. Patton Jr. Jr. High School (not a typo folks).  I spend forty-five minutes combing my hair (I had some back then).  My penny loafers gleam and my madras sports coat, a size too small, hugs my chest. Having just learned how to tie the thing, my maroon tie is a bit askew. Clearasil covers my zits and, hopefully, Old Spice deodorant and cologne will do wonders for how I smell. Dad drops me off at the front door of the gym, and I prepare to brave the uncertainties of the teenage social scene.

          Boys languorously cover one wall; girls with big hair and full skirts huddle in animated groups on the opposite wall. A local band of high school kids are forever tuning their instruments and yelling "test!" and "check, check!"  Finally, the band kicks in with "Let Me In" by the Sensations. They then segue into "Blue Moon" by the Marcels. A few guys have asked girls to dance. Other girls continue to chatter in small groups or dance with each other on the fringes of the gym floor.  I have been keeping an eye out for a female classmate who might put up with my awkward dance moves, but she has not yet arrived.  There is a large punch bowl filled with some watery red substance.  It is an excuse to move away from the wall.  I hold a Dixie cup and a handful of pretzels.  The band finishes up with Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow by the Rivingtons and then goes slow with "You Belong To Me" by the Duprees.

          My classmate finally arrives in a cloud of pink taffeta.  She is a few inches taller than me, not unusual in jr. high. After some stumbling conversation, she agrees to put up with my clammy hands on the dance floor. After a couple of songs, I get her some watery punch and a gooey brownie made by one of the teachers who is a chaperone.  I don't know if I'm in love, but I do know that talking to a girl for more than a couple of minutes is a major victory. And she actually responds to what I am saying! After taking a much needed break, the band moves into new territory with "Sherry" by the Four Seasons and "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka.  I never get to break up with my classmate because her parents later determine that she is too young to date.  This will be a big disappointment for a socially challenged fourteen year old. However, tonight I am just reveling in the moment.

          Fifty-five years later, gray heads bounce to the bewitching beat of The Doo Wop Project as they finish their performance with on point versions of"Gloria" and "Speedo." Five guys whose footwork, hand movements and harmony are always in sync. The sheer pleasure of reviving joyful music that speaks to a much simpler time.

          As we exit into the desert night air, I almost expect to see Dad ready to pick me up in his '57 Bel Air, a warm bed and hopeful future awaiting me.