THE ALAN CLARK STORY


 

 

Alan Clark was born February 9th, 1943 in Topeka, Kansas. He is the youngest of thirteen children born to Frank and Lena Lungstrum. He attended Sumner Elementary School in Topeka and at the age of seven, Alan, along with his family, moved to Southern California in the early 1950's. The family eventually ended up in San Bernardino, which is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Alan grew up listening to all kinds of music. As a child, he would be running around the house playing, as his older teen-age brothers, Gale and Jerry would be playing all of their new 45 singles. They liked everything from Big Band, Country and Western to the current rage, Rock and Roll. It was this rock and roll music that would end up being Alan's favorite for the rest of his life.

Clark attended many different schools in San Bernardino. The family didn't stay in one place too long. At thirteen, he spent three years at Sturges Junior High School. He graduated and attended Pacific High School until he quit half way through the eleventh grade.

One of Alan's first musical influences was of course, Elvis Presley. He wanted to be just like the king of rock and roll. He would go to parties and lip-sync to "Jailhouse Rock" and other rock songs at the time as they were being played on the old record players.

Soon he discovered Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps and eventually his idol to be--Eddie Cochran. Alan was hooked on the rock-a-billy beat and he couldn't shake it.

As a teenager, he liked most of the songs that were being played over the radio. His mom bought him his very first 45 single, "At The Hop" by Danny and the Juniors. He also became a big fan of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and the killer, Jerry Lee Lewis.

In 1957, Alan bought his very first single by Eddie Cochran, "Sittin' In The Balcony" at Lier's Record Shop in San Bernardino. He would soon see his idol on the big screen at the West Coast Theater in the motion picture, "The Girl Can't Help It." He was knocked out by Eddie's performance of "Twenty Flight Rock." That was it. That was what he wanted to do. He wanted to be a rock and roll singer.

All through 1957 and 1958, Alan kept up with all of the new rock and roll singles being played on the radio. Of course, every weekday he would tune into American Bandstand to see some of his favorite artists lip-syncing their hit records on national TV.

Alan had a brother who was a disc jockey for many years. He went by the name, Frank Allen and worked at many radio stations including KECK in Odessa, Texas as the chief announcer for the "Make Believe Ballroom" and stations WOW, KOWH and KOIL out of Omaha, Nebraska and others. He was known as Frank "Coffeehead" Allen. In the 1950's he met many of the artists of the day including Buddy Holly.

In July of 1959, Alan had a chance to see Eddie Cochran in person, but it was not meant to be. At the time, he was on a summer vacation visiting his brothers and sisters in Topeka, Kansas. Cochran was appearing at the Jayhawk Theater where his new movie, "Go Johnny Go" was playing. Clark was walking past the theater when he noticed the poster advertising that Eddie would be there in person the very next day. But, for some reason, he didn't make it to the show to see and maybe get to meet his idol, Eddie Cochran. He regrets it to this day.

After quitting high school, Alan went to work for Acme Color Print, where they printed the Sunday comics for many different newspapers. He worked there for a few years, but it was not taking him where he wanted to go. It was music that Alan wanted to do. One night, he took his guitar and amp with him to work. He was working the night shift. On a break, Alan took his guitar into the shower room. The room was big and had a great echo in it. He started singing some of his favorite songs. In walked the night foreman. At first, Alan was worried at what he might say. The foreman looked at him and said, "Why are you working here when you could be out playing music?" He told Alan that he thought he was real good and could make it. A short time later, Alan did quit.

For some strange reason, he ended up playing drums. The very first gig was at a junior high school assembly. He was terrified. Alan wasn't the greatest drummer and he was first to admit it.

Alan joined up with fellow schoolmate, Steve Moore, who played the piano and idolized Jerry Lee Lewis.

In June of 1961, Alan, along with Steve and his sister Linda, drove to the Hollywood Bowl to see a Alan Freed package show. Jerry Lee was performing on the show along with Brenda Lee, the Fleetwoods and many others. Before the show, Alan and Steve did get to meet the killer and shake hands and get a picture taken with him. They were shaking in their boots. Here they were face to face with one of their idols. It was Jerry Lee that stole the show. He performed his newest Sun single that night, "It Won't Happen With Me." After seeing this show, it made Alan want to be a singer all the more.

On August 22nd, 1962, Alan, along with Steve, had their very first recording session. It took place at Locy Sound Studios in Arlington, California. With Steve on piano and Alan on drums, they recorded six tracks that day including "Rocky Road Blues" and "Skinny Jim."

Two other sessions followed with Alan playing drums on September 12th, 1962 and in June of 1963.

On November 30th, 1963, Alan did this session as a guitarist. Along with Steve Moore and Tom Whitehill on drums, they recorded a few tracks including two original Clark songs, "Hollywood City" and "Bye Bye Loneliness."

The very first night club in which Alan played was called Buzzie's in Upland, California. He appeared there with childhood friend and bassman, Pat Woertink and Terry McGreal on drums. They were an instant hit with the dancing crowd and appeared there for quite some time. Music had changed, but they kept playing the rock and roll and rock-a-billy tunes of the fifties.

Shortly after, Alan appeared at a club in Pomona, California called the Red Flame. Different recording artists would drop by from time to time including Sanford Clark, who had the million seller, "The Fool" in 1956. Frank Zappa would come in and listen to the group, along with Henry Vestine, lead guitar player of Canned Heat. Another visitor was Pete Fullerton of the group, We Five. All of these artists were either into modern blues or folk music, but they really enjoyed listening to Alan's band playing the tunes from the 1950's.

In January of 1964, three more original songs were recorded at Locy Studio, "I'm A Lovin' Man," "I'm Blue" and "Summertime Is Here," in which Alan wrote with Eddie Cochran's style in mind.

On February 1st, 1964, Alan again made his way to Locy Studios. This time, he recorded with still another group known as Alan Clark and the Del-sonics. Six tracks were recorded that day including two Clark originals, "What's Goin' On" and "Come On," Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" and three surf tracks, "Church Key," "Ramrod" and "Wipeout." Even in the surf music era, Alan was still recording songs from the 1950's.

In the summer of 1964, an album was released on the Lungstrum label. It was sold locally at dances and parties, which Alan played very frequently.

On November 3rd, 1964, Alan, along with Eddie Ayon on lead guitar, Bob Rose on bass and Dan Borchman on drums, recorded four tracks at Locy. Two of the tracks became Alan's very first single on the Clark label, "Long Tall Sally" and "Teresa," by Alan Clark and the Libertys. Of course, the Libertys name came from Cochran's record label, Liberty.

In late 1964, Alan, along with his group the Jade Stones, performed at a battle of the bands contest for the first time at the Palms Teen Club in Ontario, California. At the time, they were a five-piece group. All of the best bands in the area participated in the event. They didn't come in first, but they were very well received.

On January 9th, 1965, Clark went into the studio with the Jade Stones. The lineup of this group consisted of child- hood friend, Pat Woertink on bass, Mike Butler on guitar and Terry McGreal on drums. This group appeared at the Shamrock Roller Rink in San Gabriel outside of Los Angeles with the Standells. They were popular at the time, but the Jade Stones proved to be the more popular of the two with the dancing crowd. This group also won first place in another battle of the bands contest in Ontario, California. They played this gig as a trio, competing against groups who had six or seven members. There were nearly twenty bands. Most of them played what was popular at the time, but the Jade Stones played the rock and roll of the 1950's and came out on top.

With a new name, Alan Clark and the Counts, the group entered the studio on May 13th, 1965. They recorded sixteen tracks that day with Lenny Angelo on guitar, Raleigh White on organ and Terry McGreal on drums. Later that year, Alan and the Counts appeared at the grand opening of the Ontario Music store. They played on the same stage with the Phil Baugh Trio, the Esquires, the Classics and surf legend, Johnny Fortune.

In mid 1965, Alan Clark and the Counts appeared on a local TV show on channel 18 out of San Bernardino. Clark remembers going into the TV studio and seeing a mostly all black audience and being kind of nervous about it. He wasn't sure if the crowd would like his kind of music. He remembers opening up with Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie." That broke the ice and the crowd accepted them. They performed two other tunes including a slow number called "Lonely Nights" and an original Clark song, "Hollywood City." Family and friends watched their television sets that day and many of them thought Alan looked like a young Johnny Cash because he was dressed all in black. That was the style he liked and still does today.

On September 15th, 1965, Alan recorded at Locy Sound Studios for the last time. Another original tune was recorded that day, "Don't You Run Around," which was co-written with Pat Woertink.

In November of 1965, Alan's newest group, the Go-rillas, performed at the Hob Nob nightclub in Azusa, California. They played there for almost six months to capacity crowds. The group recorded an album on the B-F-D label entitled "The Fabulous Go-rillas"-WLS 1105. The LP was mainly sold in the nightclub. This album is one of the rarest of all the records Alan recorded over the years.

In December of 1965, Clark, along with Pat Woertink, Gary Dobkins on drums and Jay Anderson on guitar, recorded a session at Pacific Challenger Studios in Hacienda Heights, California.

Alan appeared with many different groups through the years. In 1967, he worked with the Hollywood Vines. They did a tour of the Midwest. He joined a group called the Rondells who later changed their name to Alan Clark and Co. This was a very popular group in the southern California music scene. They also did a tour of the mid-west and a six-week gig in Alaska.

In the latter part of 1968, Alan, along with friend Pat Woertink, joined up with John Dalbeck and Pete Stevens and became the Rock Shop. This was one of the most popular groups in the area at the time. They auditioned at a nightclub in West Covina called Mr. Lee's Swingin' Affair. They got the gig in September and the club became very popular in the local area. They played for packed houses every night they performed. They also worked some off nights at the Pier 7 club in Van Nuys and the Play Girl club in Garden Grove.

Around the first of the year, in 1969, Mr. Lee's closed down because of a fire. The group traveled to Santa Cruz and appeared at the Surf Bowl Lounge in February of that year. They eventually returned to Mr. Lee's which had been remodeled in May. The group recorded their one and only album together at Record Masters in Hollywood, the Rock Shop on the Lee-Mo label. The LP featured all original songs. It was released in a very limited number and mostly sold in the club. Today, this LP is considered a collector's item and is valued at over two hundred dollars. It has since been released on CD and LP on the Bacchus Archives label.

On May 14th, the Rock Shop backed up the Shirelles. They shared the stage with the Drifters on May 28th and backed up the Rivingtons on June 23rd. On June 25th, the group had the pleasure backing up Big Joe Turner. When he came backstage at Mr. Lee's, he told the band to just stay in the key of E. The guys assured him that they did indeed know his songs. It was a great night of rock and blues.

In late 1969, the Rock Shop decided to call it quits. Clark had been offered a job with another popular group called the Insex. This group stayed together for five years. They appeared at nearly every top nightclub in the area. In this group was guitar legend, Johnny Diamond, whose real name was Wayne Charvel. Wayne, along with Pat Woertink, went on to create the Charvel Guitar Company.

In 1973, an EP was released on the Clark label entitled Alan Clark-"Hits of the Fifties." It consisted of four songs including "Skinny Jim," "I Ain't Givin' Up Nothin'," "High School Confidential" and an original song by Alan called "Bye Bye Loneliness." It came with a picture sleeve featuring Alan with his seventies longer hair look and mustache. Here it was in the 1970's and Alan was still into the 1950's music.

A recording session took place on January 18th, 1974 at the Sound Sync Studios in Riverside, California. Alan shared the session with Steve Moore. Clark cut two tracks that day including "Just A Little Bit" and "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby." A single was issued on the Clark label, later that year.

In 1974, Alan published his first book on Buddy Holly. Others followed including books on Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis. Eventually, he would do a series of books called "Rock and Roll Legends."

In 1975, a single was issued on the Clark label-CLA-003 entitled "Rock and Roll" backed with "What A Heck of a Mess." The record was a subsidiary of Pyramid Records, Ltd. This single, like all of the rest, didn't make it to the charts.

Alan worked with other groups through the 1970's including Wildfire and Squeeze Play. In some of the groups he was forced to play some of the current hits, but, he also managed to include songs by Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and other 1950's classics.

In 1981, Alan had the pleasure to meet Glen Glenn who lived only a few miles away from him. He discovered that Glen used the same bass player on his records that Eddie Cochran did, the great Connie "Guybo' Smith. He also discovered that Glen had met Elvis many times and worked with numerous legends over the years including Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Ritchie Valens, to name just a few. Since then, they have become very good friends and work together on many shows.

In the early 1980's, an LP was released on the Leap Frog label-LFR-1002 entitled "She Just Tears Me Up." The album featured Glen Glenn, Connie "Guybo' Smith, Dave Wendels, Steve Moore, Danny Lopez, Bob Denton, Bobby Cochran, Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. Another LP followed on the Leap Frog Label entitled Alan Clark and his Rock-A-Billy Band. The album included five original Clark songs. Appearing on the album were Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana, Glen Glenn, Eddie Cochran's bass player, Connie 'Guybo' Smith and sax player Mike Henderson from the Kelly Four, Steve Moore, Billy Webb, Dave Wendels, Bob Moore and Paul Ryan. It was recorded at the Garage Studio in West Covina and engineered by Pat Woertink, who owned the studio. A single was also released on the Leap Frog label-1001 called "Twenty Flight Rock" and "My Way."

In 1985, Alan had the great honor to meet another one of his idols, the great Roy Orbison. He was appearing at the The Hop in Lakewood, California. After the show, Roy was being rushed out the back door into a waiting limousine. By chance, Alan reached Roy just as he was almost ready to leave. Roy signed a photo for him. The real treat for Alan was getting his picture taken with the big O. Alan had seen Orbison way back in 1965 in San Bernardino at the Municipal Auditorium. He also remembers Bobby Goldsboro playing guitar with Orbison's band. Clark did not get to meet Roy at this time. Twenty years later he got the chance.

One of Alan's favorite people in the music world had to be Carl Perkins. He met Carl on September 5, 1986 at the Lubbock Music Festival. Also on the bill were Bo Diddley, Ace Cannon, Bobby Vee, Del Shannon, Buddy Knox, Sonny Curtis and Buddy Holly's Crickets. It took place at the Lubbock Civic Center Exhibition Hall. Before the show, Alan met Carl and had him sign a copy of his "Blue Suede Shoes" sheet music. Clark brought along two copies of it and told Carl, "If you sign this one for me, I will give you this one," as Alan pulled it from behind his back. This brought a big smile to Carl's face and he proceeded to grab Alan and give him a big hug. Carl told him he once had a copy of it, but it disappeared somewhere down the line. He really was happy to get another copy of it. Clark never forgot this. According to Alan, "Carl Perkins was a very sweet, humble man." He saw Carl many times after this meeting. One thing Alan remembers most is that Carl was always glad to see him and he always remembered him by name.

On November 25th, 1986, Alan, along with the group City Limits, appeared with Terry Stafford on the national TV show, "Solid Gold." The group consisted of Alan on bass, Johnny Fortune on guitar, Steve Moore on piano and Danny Lopez on drums. There were also two female back-up singers. Stafford lip-synced to his hit, "Suspicion," while the group pretended to be playing behind him. Alan remembers being excited about being on the show. When the show aired, all you could see of course was Stafford and the two female singers. The band was in the background in the shadows. You could hardly tell who they were. They were all kind of disappointed about it. But, that's show business.

In early 1993, Alan joined the Eddie Cochran Band with original Kelly Four members, Dave Shriver and Gene Riggio. After a few rehearsals, which also included Dave Kadison and Phil Bolt, they performed in Las Vegas. In June and July they appeared at the Thunderbird Theater in Branson, Missouri to great crowds. The gig lasted six weeks until they found out they were being ripped off by their manager. The theater wanted the group to stay, but the guys were all fed up with the situation. The local newspaper was going to run stories about the group to build up the business. One of the top radio stations in Springfield was all set to have a grand opening and feature radio spots advertising the group. But, the group had had enough and went their separate ways.

One of Alan's musical highlights occurred on August 13th, 1996. He got to appear live on stage with Gene Vincent's Blue Caps and Buddy Knox. The show took place at the Derby in Hollywood. This was the first stop on a small tour of California to promote the new CD-"Turning The World Blue- Tribute to Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps." This CD featured Alan with the Kelly Four on "Say Mama." According to Clark, "The Blue Caps put on one of the greatest live shows he had ever seen. They just tore the place up. They didn't hold anything back. They were wild." The Caps called Alan to the stage and backed him up on "Rocky Road Blues" and "Twenty Flight Rock." Clark was in Rock & Roll Heaven. Here he was on stage playing with the fabulous Blue Caps. He had been a fan since the 1950's and now, here he was on stage with them. For Alan, it was hard to believe it was really happening. Buddy Knox was backed by the Sun Demons, a great group from Southern California. They had Buddy's songs down perfect. Before the tour started, they had rehearsals in Fullerton. Knox was late getting there, so Alan stood in for him so the band could run over his songs. That was also a big treat for Clark, because he knew all of Buddy's songs. Knox also put on a great show that night, as did Jerry Lee Merritt. Jerry played lead guitar with Vincent back in the late fifties. He also wrote "She She Little Sheila" which was featured on Vincent's "Crazy Times" album. Alan had the entire show taped that night.

On August 18th, the same show appeared at the Foothill Club in Long Beach. Again, Alan had the pleasure to work with the Blue Caps. Buddy Knox was feeling a little under the weather, so he didn't make this show. Clark has worked with the Blue Caps on several different occasions. Alan has said, "Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps had to be one of the wildest acts to come out of the rock and roll era. They were unbelievable."

In May of 1998, a CD was released on Clark Archive Records entitled "Alan Clark-Memories of Eddie Cochran-featuring the Kelly Four." It contains 24 tracks including nine studio cuts with the Kelly Four and four live tracks recorded at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa on October 3rd, 1992. There are also nine original Clark songs. The Kelly Four of course, were Eddie Cochran's original back-up band from mid 1958 until late 1959. The CD includes original members Dave Shriver on bass, Gene Riggio on drums, Mike Henderson on sax and Jimmy Stivers on piano. Also appearing is Eddie Cochran's original acoustic bass player, Connie "Guybo' Smith and also Bobby Cochran, Darrel Higham, Ray Campi, Billy Webb, Johnny Fortune and others.

In April of 2000, another CD was released on Clark Archive Records-"Alan Clark-Rockin' Thru the Years." This release featured 32 cuts including eleven original Clark songs. It starts with "Skinny Jim" from 1962 and ends up with "Endless Sleep" in 1988 featuring Jody Reynolds on rhythm guitar. The CD also features Scotty Moore and D.J Fontana on "Shake, Rattle and Roll." Connie 'Guybo' Smith plays acoustic stand-up bass on a original Clark song, "Juke Box Mama" and the Sanford Clark tune, "The Fool."

In late January of 2002, Alan appeared on the Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party tour. He played five different venues and ended up at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake on January 30th. He had the pleasure to perform on the same bill as Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, George Tomsco of the Fireballs, Peggy Sue Gerron, Ritchie's cousin Ernie Valens, Gary and Ramona Tollett, David Bigham of the Roses, Larry Welborn and the Classics and the Shackshakers. Alan really enjoyed himself working with all of these legends that either knew or worked with the great Buddy Holly.

On Saturday, August 31st, 2002, Alan appeared at the Fair Park Coliseum in Lubbock, Texas. The show was called Legends of West Texas Rock & Roll. It was filmed for a DVD documentary by Shawn Nagy, who also is the leader of the Shackshakers band. Earlier in the week, Nagy interviewed the artists in Lubbock and Clovis, New Mexico. The show was a great success. On the bill were the Fireballs, Tommy Allsup, Carl Bunch, Sonny West, the Picks, Hope Griffith, Jack Neal, the Tolletts, Terry Noland, the Roses, Peggy Sue Gerron, Charlie Phillips, Echo McGuire, Alan and the Shackshakers. As Alan was leaving Lubbock the next day, he decided to check the local newspaper to see if any one had reviewed the show. To his surprise, as he opened up the paper, was this large picture of him from the show the night before. It was kind of funny to him. Why would they put his photo in the paper when they had all of these other legends that had known or worked with Buddy Holly.

Alan has worked with Steve Moore on and off for well over 30 some years. As of this writing, they are still working together at the Rockin' Robin nightclub in Redlands, California. They have performed there for over eight years with bassman Tony Penn and drummer Frank Pipitone.

Alan Clark has recorded and worked with many of the legends including Bobby Day, Thurston Harris, Mary Wells, Al Wilson, Glen Glenn, Big Joe Turner, Buddy Knox, Gene Vincent's Blue Caps, the Eddie Cochran Band, Don and Dewey, Rosie of the Originals, the Fireballs, Jewel Akens, Sue Thompson, Sandy Nelson and the list goes on. Alan is currently working on his new CD. It includes duets with Tommy Sands, Glen Glenn, Donnie Brooks, Ronnie Height, Frankie Ford, Chan Romero, Ron Holden, Jody Reynolds and Hank Ballard. He is also finishing up a book on Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. He has also opened for rock-a-billy legend, Glen Glenn, on many different occasions. They appeared together in Green Bay for the biggest rock and roll show ever. They appear every year in Las Vegas at the Gold Coast for Bob Timmers and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

As this story was being completed, the sad news came of the passing of Hank Ballard. Alan and Hank became friends back in the 1980's. They would go out to local area nightclubs together and have a great time. Alan went to many of Hank's live shows. They also recorded a duet together, as we mentioned earlier. According to Clark, "Hank was one of the nicest and talented performers from the Rock and Roll era."