Went to see Big Jay McNeely tonight with Bill and Glenn in Glenn’s new 1952 Mercury. Really in style, what say. It was crazy to make an understatement, it was getting so rough the cops threatened to raid the place. We had fun though.
Went to The Stomp tonight, went with Jay and his cousin. Boy I was never so mad. They wouldn’t take me home, they wanted to take me up to the mountains….and I was starting to get scared.
So I told them I was going to jump out of the car, and you know what? They slowed down the car trying to tease me, and man before you could say “GO MAN GO” I was out…KER-PLUNK! They just drove off, so I ran to a gas station and called a taxi. It cost me all of two whole bucks! AAK! My hard-earned money. So I had the driver take me to the club called “The Ship” to see if Bill was there. I found him, then had him take me home.
Sunday August 24, 1952
Bill and Don took me to the beach today. Got a nice tan.
Monday August 25, 1952
Bill took me to a drive-in tonight and we saw “Smoky Canyon” and “She’s Working Her Way Through College.” They were pretty good.
Bill picked me up from work today, he came down tonight with Don.
Wednesday August 27, 1952
Bill picked me up again from work today. Mr. Miller the man I work under went out and talked to him, and I introduced them. Bill had to leave early tonight, end of his leave.
Friday August 29, 1952
Me and my little sister June went to the show tonight and saw “Francis Goes to West Point” and “Untamed Frontier.”
I heard Billie Jean came down at 8:30pm when me and June were gone and then my guy friend Billy Gene came down at 9:00pm. It’s too bad they both missed each other. Ha!
Saturday August 30, 1952
Went on a double date to a drive-in movie with Bill and Glenn and Mary Alice. Saw “Son of Paleface.” Rubbed against Bill tonight.
Went on triple date to the beach with Billie Jean & Donny, Mary Alice & Glenn, and Me and Lover Bill today. Had fun. We all went over to Bill’s afterwards and had a little party. Boy I really got rubbed against today and tonight. Am very sore, and I feel kind of impure. Bill wanted to make me. Got in at 2:00am.
Big “Jay” and The Jail Raid
First it started out cruising in style in the all-new-for-1952 Mercury, then almost getting swooped up in a raid and thrown in jail while at the Big “Jay” show. Don’t know who Big Jay McNeely was? Oh boy you’re about to find out…and I guarantee you’re gonna love him!
Big Jay McNeely, at 90+ years old, is currently the last living survivor of a group of African American rhythm & blues musicians called the “Honkers”. These musicians took the art of the jazzy Saxophone to a whole new level, one that nobody had ever heard before…
For music and young folk, the year 1952 was the convergence of the fresh new sounds of rock & roll, the rise of the doo-wop artist and twangy Rock-a-Billy style music (birthed from Country Western Swing). Rhythm & Blues was at the core of all of these musical styles, which was still wildly popular. Big Jay became one of the biggest blues stars of the 1950’s who perfected a flamboyant, out of this world stage show featuring the “honking” sounds of his rocking Saxophone that literally mesmerized large hordes of young people. “Honkers” like Big Jay overblew their saxophones and often hit the same note repeatedly, which combined with on-stage antics like crawling on floors and walking on tables, created a steamy and uninhibited environment for teenagers.
Let’s face it, being African American in 1952 and having explosive shows that drew massive mixed-race audiences didn’t go over too well with the local authorities. Vilma accurately portrays the performance in her diary “Things were getting so rough, the cops were threatening to raid the place”. Let’s also have Big Jay share with us in his own words below:
“I’d do my own shows,” McNeely said. “Book them myself, just like Art Laboe and Johnny Otis did, and it was OK for them because those guys weren’t black. I’d bring in Bobby Day, The Hollywood Flames, all these groups and we’d just pack the places. People would see these huge crowds and think all the kids were on drugs, they said, ‘Oh those white kids were all dancing like Watusis!’ And I got barred from playing here, I couldn’t work anywhere in Los Angeles.”
By this time, it’s pretty clear that our young Vilma was no fool when it came to figuring out a man’s ulterior motives. Yup, she always seemed to have her Spidey senses in high gear.
The Scene: Saturday night at El Monte’s Legion Stadium.
The Show: Cliffie Stone’s Hometown Jamboree, better known as “The Oakie Stomp” or “The Stomp” to the locals. The Stomp was the king of destinations for all things Country Western Swing and the emerging companion musical style called “Rock-a-Billy” we just mentioned. In 1952, El Monte’s Legion Stadium was the place to be on a Saturday night and was a host to a multitude of the biggest name musical stars of the day. You can read more about the legendary stadium in my former blog post “here”.
But not so fast boys! That ‘vulnerable” girl was Vilma. This game was not gonna be played on her watch. Her good virtue was at stake, and it was NOT going to be taken by the likes of these two losers. Little do you know that Vilma is the master chess player and you are still playing checkers. Check mate you dirty little punks, yes-sir-eee Vilma is already 10 steps ahead of you.
“OK Vilma! Yeah we’re gonna slow down the car” as they mocked her…hahaha! Big laughs alright…but then as the car door suddenly flew open in mid-roll…out those blond curls flounced and flew…her body hitting the asphalt, well they didn’t know what hit them! They only knew one thing: the coward’s way of fleeing the scene.
And what did Vilma hate the most? Getting her clothes mussed up? Playing the victim and crying like a blubbering baby? No, No, NOOOO…. It was having to pay TWO WHOLE BUCKS for a Taxi!!
And speaking of doing things on her own terms… allowing a man rub up against her? Well, after all she was still a young woman exploring her own sexuality, but with some boundaries in place. Oh, poor Bill you tried so hard, but to no avail. Plus, it didn’t hurt that turning up like her best friend Billie Jean was a constant deterrent. Devil on one shoulder…Angel on another…that’s our Vilma!