When we talk to family members about our family’s history, we typically ask questions about the facts – who were our ancestors, how are we connected to them, when were they born or married, when did they pass away, where did they live, etc. This is without doubt important information but there is more that can be asked that can really add colour and texture to our family member’s life stories. What about life’s embarrassing moments?
I was reminded of this recently when I watched a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) special called “Magic Moments: The Best of 50’s Pop.” Filmed at Trump’s Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, this special was produced for use as a fundraising vehicle for the public broadcaster and involved a large number of artists from the 1950’s performing their greatest hits. One of the acts was the Canadian vocal quartet, The Crew Cuts performing their hit “Sh-Boom.”
The members of The Crew Cuts – Rudi Maugeri, Pat Barrett, along with brothers John and Ray Perkins – had all attended St. Michael’s Choir School, a Catholic elementary and high school located in downtown Toronto that provided a music focus as a core element of its curriculum. The Four Lads who had 50’s hits like “Standing on the Corner” had also attended the same school. Following high school, The Crew Cuts performed in a string of small night clubs searching for their big break. While they performed a number of original songs, including some they wrote themselves, they excelled in ‘covering’ or performing hits already made popular by other artists. In 1954 they recorded “Sh-Boom,” which had originally been as a rhythm and blues song recorded by The Chords. “Sh-Boom” by The Crew Cuts hit number one in the charts and other hits would follow.
Now to the embarrassing moment. John and Ray Perkins had grown up and still lived on Pickering Street in Toronto when their number one hit brought them fame. As such, they had been life-long friends of my father who by 1954 was married and living in his own house on Pickering Street. Unfortunately for my father, his youngest sibling, sister Carol was only 12 years old and very much a ‘Crew Cuts’ fan and so he was ‘made’ by his mother to take Carol, by the hand, to the front door of his friends’ home to ask them for an autograph! A moment still not forgotten!
I had the pleasure of spending time with Pat Barrett, another of the group’s members, many years ago. When I recounted this story for him, he had a good chuckle imagining the grief his fellow Crew Cuts would have imposed on my father. Pat Barrett at the end of our meeting gave me his autograph – a momento that I still have.