Yes, Harriet, there is life after Rock and Roll!

Johnny Stark and Sheri Livingston

Featured on Butterfly Records new CD

"What Would We Do Without Music"

I believe I’ve mentioned previously that my interest in the musical world began with my parents who were professional entertainers in Las Vegas in the 40’s. Mom (Juanita Gray) sang with the big bands and my father (Rex Jarrett) sang country and western music. Because of their widely differing musical interests, my appreciation of all kinds of music started at a very young age. My mother loved the big band sound, operettas and Broadway musicals and when I was in Junior high school, mother gave me a Child’s Treasury of Classical Music and an album containing Gilbert and Sullivan comic operettas. Before long, however, in the early 1950’s, like most teenagers in that time period, my interest was being channeled to something new called “rock and roll”.

Between 1953 and 1958, my mother became involved in writing lyrics for rock and roll music. She teamed up with pianist by the name of Pete Olson and in 1957 wrote the lyrics to a song entitled “Driving Me Out of My Mind”. In her efforts to market that song (and many others), she connected with Carl Burns, the President of an independent record label in Los Angeles by the name of Crystalette Records. Carl liked the song and promised to record it.

A rising young rock-n-roll star being promoted by Carl Burns by the name of Johnny Stark (John G. Sticco) subsequently appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and immediately rocked the joint with a song entitled “Rockin’Billy”. Disc Jockeys across America turned on and tuned in and immediately took note of the screaming and swooning young ladies in the American Bandstand audience.

The next day, they began clamoring for the Crystalette label to rush demos to their stations so that they could play for their audiences what appeared to be another hit for another aspiring rock and roll heartthrob! Johnny’s record was a huge success for radio stations all across the country, but unfortunately, a planning snag screwed up production of the record and Crystalette just couldn’t deliver enough records to meet the fan’s demands fast enough!

Yes, the record was a huge hit and on the flip side was my mother’s song “Driving Me Out of My Mind”. It could and should have sold thousands of more platters, but the production delay was very costly!

Unfortunately, due in large part to the failure of the record manufacturer to get their distribution geared up for the huge demand, my mother’s rocket fizzled out and her foray into rock and roll lyrical composition history with “Driving Me Out of My Mind”, just never happened!

A year later, Carl Burns discovered and promoted a 13 year old singer you may remember by the name of Dodie Stevens (Geraldine Ann Pasquale), whose 1959 recording of “Tan Shoes and Pink Shoe Laces” shot her to the top of the charts and made her a huge success as both a recording star and movie star. This time, Carl Burn’s small independent record company was better prepared to handle the demand and the young lady’s rocketing sales, and Crystallete Records, could and did put her on the path to her first Gold Record.

Johnny Stark is still performing with his wife Sheri Livingston in numerous venues all across America. In the past couple of years they have had a show in Branson, Missouri and in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sheri and Johnny actually traveled the same musical road, independently, covering much of the same territory, experiencing similar events in their lives for many years, before they finally met and married. Sheri and her twin sister, Syd, were known to 50’s rock and roll devotes as “Cyd and Cheri”, recording numerous numbers on Lute Records.

I spoke with both Johnny and Sheri today (Sunday) at their home in Pennsylvania. I’m trying to get them to come back to San Francisco or San Jose to perform locally so that I can send you to see this terrific performing couple. Their musical style today is quite different from their rock and roll days, but Johnny and Sheri are still bringing standing ovations for their romantic and bluesy sound. You can go to their website at to hear some of the tracks their newest CD, “What Would We Do Without Music”. Sounds great to me!
By the way, you can even listen to my mother’s song, “Driving Me Out of My Mind”, on Johnny’s web site and even order it today on the Butterfly record label, now that it has been re-released in CD form. Even though I ought to be prejudice and push my mother’s work, I have to admit that this song really isn’t that a great a song (it’s too short ) and I think after you hear it on the website, you will agree that it is just an interesting footnote in musical history!
And Yes, Harriet, there IS life after rock and roll!

Now back to Gilbert and Sullivan and its connection to this theatrical review - - -.

The legendary Lamplighters Musical Theatre, long recognized as one of the premier Gilbert and Sullivan companies in the world, has been delighting audiences throughout the Bay Area since the company’s founding in 1952. They have branched out in producing other musical theatre classics such as “The Merry Widow”,” Die Fledermaus”, “The Secret Garden” and many others, including “My Fair Lady”, which they presented this past week at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

Don’t dismay because the Walnut Creek production was only available in Walnut Creek this past weekend and has now closed, because they are moving “My Fair Lady” on to other venues, and the other venues are not far away and are coming up soon.

As is typical, “My Fair Lady” always draws a lot of mature audience members, as this is one type of music that is certainly dear to our hearts. This production was quite excellent for the most part, but with some sound problems that detracted from the show, sound problems that have existed for years in the huge Hofmann Theatre in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, in Walnut Creek. The sound problems really become pronounced when the theatre company prefers to employ only the natural voices of their superb singing talents. As long as I can remember, the human voice just disappears without artificial enhancement in that theater.

If the singing group works without microphones, a lot of the less than powerful voices simply fade away into the upper atmosphere, especially if you have a loud orchestra sitting between the audience and the stage. If your hearing is not quite as good as it used to be, you had better sit closer to the stage when you enjoy a production such as this, or, unfortunately, a lot of words you will miss!

Need I describe what the story is about? Is there anyone in my reading audience who has not heard of George Bernard Shaw’s classic play, “Pygmalion”, or Lerner and Loewe’s brilliantly adapted musical of same, entitled, “My Fair Lady”?

Well, all right, if I must - - - A professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins, takes up the challenge of a friend, Colonel Hugh Pickering, to turn a cabbage leaf of a London street person, Eliza Doolittle, into a lady of refinement and beauty and grace! He succeeds - - - the end!
The show itself is truly superb with some brilliant talents, superb dancers and gorgeous voices filling the company’s ranks. Unique to this production was the inclusion of one of the great clown actors ever to grace a stage, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, that of Geoff Hoyle, who takes on the charismatic and comedic glove of Alfred P. Doolittle, Eliza’s unpretentious, better than nothing, Cockney father. Geoff’s professional theatrical credits include the original Zazu in the Broadway cast of “The Lion King”, and he has performed with the premier Canadian masters of circus comedy and theatrical extravaganza, Cirque Du Soliel. Karen and I try to see everything that he is in, because he always makes any part that he accepts as his “sole and separate property”. You can be sure, if it is according to “Hoyle”, it will be the epitome of clowning perfection.

Tom Reardon delivers a superb Professor Henry Higgins and Sharon Rietkerk brings a unique diversity and beauty to the cleverly crafted character of Eliza Doolittle. Ms Rietkerk covers the complete theatrical gambit from screeching, caterwauling caustic flower girl, ultimately morphing into the consummate consort fit for a king, and she does so in pluperfect fashion.

Bruce Hoard is delightfully timid, honest and compassionate in his characterization of Colonel Hugh Pickering, a master interpreter and intellectual crafter of the Sanskrit language. Nick Volkert plays well and sings in rare and beautiful voice, as the love struck Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who falls in love with Liza’s "Small Talk” as well as many of her many notable feminine attributes, all of which include an ample supply of God’s great feminine gifts!

The remainder of the very talented cast does very well for the most part, but as I mentioned previously, if the company is not going to mike the cast members, some of the very talented performers need to learn to project better.

“ My Fair Lady” is a delightfully wild and outrageous, superbly entertaining musical, a treasure that should be prescribed by your family doctor regularly and repeatedly to cure whatever ails you, even if there is absolutely nothing that ails you - - what-so-ever!
This show appeared in Walnut Creek this past weekend, only. The company is moving on to the lovely Napa Valley Opera House in Napa this week, and this is the concert version, which is only sung, not fully staged. If interested, you may call (707) 226-7372 or visit their web site at . Tickets for this production range between $38 and $43. There are three shows here, Friday and Saturday, August 7th and 8th, at 8 p.m., with a Sunday performance at 2 pm, on August 9th.
The following week, the production moves to one of my favorite San Francisco theatrical venues for this type of production, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in the Novellus Theatre. Productions continue there for two weekends, (August 14th through the 23rd) Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on both Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.. Tickets for this theatre range between $14 and $47 per seat. To order reservations you may call (415) 978-2787 or visit their web site at In addition, the sound in this theatre is VERY GOOD!
The final production venue of this series will be the “Bankhead Theatre” in Livermore, with productions on Saturday, August 29th at 2 p.m., and 8 p.m., and again on Sunday, August 30th, at a 2 p.m. matinee. Tickets in the venue range between $16.50 and $43. To order reservations you may call (925) 3737-6800 or visit their web site at .
This a great show. Call the respective theatre for directions and reservations and by all means, go man, go!