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Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob
A Biography about a Popular Brooklyn Music Band in the 50s
By Al Contrera Posted in Non-fiction 6 min read
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Chapter 13

We heard the crowd noise building from our dressing rooms, and it was non-stop screaming. At this point, “Hushabye” was approaching the top 20 spot in Cashbox magazine but was in the top three in Illinois, and number one on two of the Peoria radio and TV stations. “Hushabye” was being played on just about every radio station in the area. Posters promoting the show were in all the store windows on Main Street. Of course, five good-looking Italians from New York just fed the fire. Hal came to get us in the dressing room with two bodyguards. Freddy Cannon looked over at us, and we all bust out laughing at this bizarre scene. We walked with the two burly guards through the concrete corridor, and as we reached the entrance to the arena, we heard Barbara Evans just ending her hit song. The crowd was roaring. We stepped onto the arena floor waiting for our turn. We could see that the stage, which now had a massive audience around it, was a few hundred yards away. It must have been about 85 degrees in the room. The spotlights highlighted a low hanging cloud of smoke over the stage. There was a double line of bodyguards forming a corridor by holding hands for us to walk through. It was now getting a little scary. Barbara was running towards us with a bodyguard on each arm, but her feet were not touching the floor, and she had a scared look on her face. Her hair was a little messed up and she was covered in sweat. It reminded me of when the gladiators were preparing to go into the arena not knowing what to expect and watching a wounded warrior come back. We asked her how it was, and she was about to answer when Hal yelled “Go!” and we started sprinting in between the line of guards with the guards yelling, “Don’t stop!”

The double line of guards had a hard time holding back the crowd. Arms were reaching through the guards, trying to grab us. It was a gauntlet. We reached the stairs as the local DJ was announcing us. It was hard to hear what he was saying with the screaming kids all around us. Bobby was near the top of the stairs, George behind him, and Phil on the next step down, all holding onto the handrail and looking in disbelief at the size and intensity of the crowd. I was still on the floor with Albee in front of me with one foot on the first step, holding onto the handrail.

There were kids all around us yelling and screaming our names and trying to touch us. The guards were pushing them back. They were just young kids, teenagers. We all talked about it later and wondered how the hell did they know our names? All of a sudden, I saw a hand shoot out towards Albee’s head, grabbing his hair. His head went back, and he tried to turn and see what was going on. We both realized that we had seconds before we had to be up on the stage.

I looked at the closest guard, who was busy trying to contain some kids, and yelled, “Get that hand!” He saw the same thing I did and was trying to help me as I grabbed the arm while Albee reached back with both hands, trying to open the hand and release the grip. I saw the face that belonged to the hand and it was a young girl. Just then her other hand appeared, and it was holding a small scissors. Both the guard and I realized she was trying to cut his hair. Albee was having a hard time breaking her hand free, which was surprising because he was so strong. The other guys started to move to the stage. They had no idea of the drama taking place. The guard grabbed her hair and pushed her head back and she released her grip while screaming out Albee’s name. I followed Albee up onto the stage, glancing back with a nod of thanks to the guard. He gave me a thumbs up and mouthed the words, “Good Luck.” Albee leaned over and yelled in my ear, “What the f–k just happened?” I shrugged and yelled back into his ear, “I’ll tell you later.” Phil and George sensed something happened and looked over questioningly. It was amazing how we had developed a way of talking without words, as if we could read each other’s minds. My look back was enough to resolve the question, and we all knew we would discuss it later. I think this developed from the thousands of hours we spent singing while studying each other’s faces for a sign of where to go next or which part of the song should go higher or lower.

We walked to the middle of the stage, looking over and acknowledging Johnny and the Hurricanes, who were behind us, vamping our opening song. They all had the biggest grins, mostly from the bottle of gin they consumed in the dressing room, as we approached the mikes and started our opening song; “Church Bells May Ring.” I did not think it was possible, but the uproar when we started singing was louder than when we were announced. At the end of our set, “Hushabye” received a thunderous ovation and we left the stage aware there was a minefield to go through before we reached the dressing rooms. This time we ran as fast as we could. Frankie Ford looked as calm as ever as he started for the stage. I explained to everyone what had happened with the “scissor girl” and we laughed about it. Freddy Cannon suggested we wear hats to do the finale and we all had a good laugh and stared at each other, realizing, “Oh my God, we have to do that again for the finale.”

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