Squared Circle Pit

Squared Circle Pit

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jimmy Hart & The First Family's Shoulda Been Power Pop Smash

In the post about Sputnik Monroe and Memphis, I told you about the early recording career of Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart. Welllll, Hart kept things a-rockin' every so often outside the ring starting with this 1982 power pop rocker, "We Hate School" - done up in the vein of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and a predecessor to W.A.S.P.'s "School Daze".

Koko B. Ware (who friended me on Myspace 'round 2006) jams on the telecaster. OK, Iranian Assassin's not really playing but the dude sure can keep kayfabe behind the kit. This song appeared on not one but TWO documents of T.T.R.A.W.C. (Thee TRUE Rock and Wrestling Connection, to you humanoid!) starting with 1984's Japanese only release by the great Texan, Terry Funk & his friends from the Far East. "We Hate School" showed up again on 1985's long out of print, Outrageous Conduct album by of course Jimmy Hart. Outrageous Conduct was put out by the illiterative very literal label Rockin' Rasslin' Records. "Eat Your Heart Out Rick Springfield", indeed!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blondie meets Andre

Not only did she front one of the greatest new wave bands of all-time but she also met the 8th wonder of the world. I only wish they did a song or at least a video together. Image via: legendary manager  Jim Cornette.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sputnik Monroe - Unheralded civil rights activist AND early rock n' wrestling connection

The Memphis territory had been not only the background of early Rock N' Roll but also an area that's considered a classic by many wrestling fans. The otherwise loony moonie paper, Washington Times  has a great article (quoted below) on the legendary Sputnik Monroe who not only was connected to early rock 'n rollers and country stars but more importantly he also helped desegregate the city of Memphis. Defintely, an additional chapter to the Civil Rights movement that they SHOULD be teaching in kids.

"This was the time of Elvis Presley and Sam Phillips and Sun Records, and Monroe fit right in. He became close friends with Phillips, the wild genius who brought Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins to fame. Monroe even trained Phillips' 12-year-old son, Jerry, to be part of his act as a "midget" wrestler. 

Monroe became a Beale Street fixture, particularly in the black clubs, and he gained a huge following in the black community. But black fans were limited to a handful of seats in the highest balcony of Ellis Auditorium. Monroe constantly battled the local promoters, who feared retribution if they did not limit the number of blacks attending such a public event along with white fans. But Monroe threatened to leave the promoter if he didn't allow more black fans in.

' There used to be a couple of thousand blacks outside wanting in,' Monroe said. 'So I would tell management I'd be cutting out if they don't let my black friends in. I had the power because I'm selling out the place, the first guy that ever did, and they sure wanted the revenue.' 

'There were so many black fans that the promoter had little choice but to integrate the seating -- something that wasn't done at any other public events in Memphis.'

Monroe said he became so popular that city officials feared his influence and tried to get him to leave town. 'I used to get arrested for vagrancy for hanging out on Beale Street,' he said. 'I got a black lawyer and went to court. I told them this was the United States of America, and I could go wherever I ... pleased. They fined me $25, but after about a half-dozen arrests, they gave up.' 

Later in his career, he had a black tag-team partner, Norvell Austin, and they had an act that started after they defeated an opponent, who usually was white. Monroe would dump a can of black paint on the guy and yell into the ring microphone, 'Black is beautiful.' Austin would yell, 'White is beautiful,' and then the two of them would yell, 'Black and white together is beautiful."

The Smokebox also has some real gems culled from the fantastic book, It Came From Memphis by Robert Gordon:

"Sputnik's one-man campaign had ripple effects all across Memphis, not only in the black community, but also amongst young white kids. Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Sam Phillips had already opened the valve, releasing emotions in young white people that caused grave concern for the enforcers of the status quo. And here was this upstart wrestler, not just playing with young kids minds, but messing with the gas that fueled how things ran in Memphis, namely racism. Another fan of that era, Jim Black says 'I went through my whole twelve years at school having never been able to share an experience with a black, and I was starting to resent this, because I was also listening to radio and Dewey Phillips, and hearing all these great black records and realizing that these were some talented artists, this was another culture. Where, at first, we'd gone to the matches hoping to see Sputnik get beat, we started to realize that he was pretty fucking cool. He had his audience, and he never played down to 'em, never talked down to 'em. He became a role model.'


 Sputnik says this of his influence on young whites, 'There was a group of wealthy white kids that dug me beause I was a rebel. I'm saying what they wanted to say, only they were just too young or inexperienced or afraid to say it. You have a black maid raising your kids and she's talking about me all of the time, so I may not be in the front living room, but I'm going in the back door of your goddamn house, feeding your kids on Monday morning and sending 'em to school. And meeting the bus when they come home. Pretty powerful thing.'

Sputnik's influence went way beyond the wrestling ring. He interfered righteously with the city fathers' plans for business- as-usual. In one instance, the black leadership in Memphis was involved in a protest against the segregation of an automobile exhibition. Sputnik called up the sponsors and told them that he was planning to open his own car lot in the black community. That night, the change of admission policy was broadcast on the evening news.

 He even went as far as announcing himself as a candidate for sheriff. 'People thought prostitution and incest would flourish, 'motherfucker' would become a household word,' he said. 'I could have run for mayor, and made it. I could have blackmailed the city. I could have done anything I wanted. I was general of a little black army.' Johnny Black recalls, 'If you would have had some kind of election about who was the best-known face in Memphis at that time - Sputnik, Elvis or the mayor - Sputnik would have been real close to Elvis."


Additionally, one of the best known wrestling managers, Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart got his start in the Memphis territory. Prior to getting into wrestling, Hart was the vocalist for the "beat band", The Gentrys. The Gentrys had a hit single in 1965 with the song "Keep on Dancing". (This was later a hit for the Bay City Rollers in 1971). At the peak of their career, the Gentrys, "Keep on Dancing" got to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965 and sold a million copies of the single. They went on to play on TV shows such as Shindig!, Hullabaloo, and Where the Action Is. Plus, they toured with Sonny & Cher and the Beach Boys.  In the early 70's Hart got back in contact with his high school classmate Jerry "The King" Lawler to work in the squared circle.