My old pal and Brooklyn Heights native Binky Phillips writes about playing with his band The Planets at the old (and mobbed up…allegedly) Coventry Club in Sunnyside, Queens. While telling that story of rocking out in my old stomping grounds, Binky remembers seeing a show at the St. George Hotel:
Huffington Post: In late 1963, about 10 weeks before the Beatles hit Ed Sullivan and changed absolutely everything, I went to my very first live-performance Rock show in the main ballroom of the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn Heights, literally around the corner from where I lived. Francis Coppola used the cocktail lounge in that hotel for the scene where Luca Brasi gets strangled in “The Godfather.” My hand hurts just thinking about it. Anyway, it was ridiculous show. Doo-wop groups like Vito & The Salutations (“Unchained Melody”) and the Devotions (“Rip Van Winkle”) lip-sync-ed to their 45s, with the record-player right onstage in plain sight, the needle jumping around if any of the acts had dance-steps that were the slightest bit aggressive. The one live band was an all-girl group called the Satin Dolls. Instrumental Surf music was the rage, and more than anything in the world, I wanted to be a drummer. “Wipeout” was all that mattered in life. So, as the Satin Dolls played covers of current hits and oldies, I stared at the drummer with all the intensity I could muster. She was good and good looking too. Blond pixie haircut behind a pale pink champagne sparkle kit. She looked a bit like Stella Stevens. But, as the show progressed, I found myself distracted by the electric guitar the singer was playing. The more I looked at that guitar, the more intrigued I became. By their fourth song, I was no longer paying any attention to the drummer. I was simply transfixed by the sunburst Fender Stratocaster 4 feet from my face.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what ‘the gearshift’ did. After the show, I tried to screw up the courage to ask the singer what that was for, but she seemed so tough, I chickened out. It would be at least another year before I discovered what a whammy bar did.