MY DREAM WAS TO BE A ROCK
AND ROLL GROUP
Music Intro,    C, Am, F, G7

I was crusing down fifth street, scoped out this babe so da gone sweet--I had to stop-stop to
check her out--In a skirt so short to tight, she was simply dynamite--I had to stop-stop to check
her out

She was poetry in motion, She was out right pure devotion, She lit the flames to my emotion, I
had to stop to check her out

Music Interlude – C, Am, F, G7

With every step she displayed pride, My mind was racing with delight--I had to stop-stop to
check her out--Had to get her in my ride, so I pulled up by her side--I had to stop-stop to check
her out

She was poetry in motion, She was out right pure devotion, She lit the flames to my emotion, I
had to stop to check her out

In the summer of 1958 sitting at the dining table my primo and closest friend Joey wrote our
first song inspired by an experience as we road our bikes down Santé Fe drive on the west side
of Denver.  As we completed the last line, Joey playing his guitar and singing lead while I sang
backup I thought this would be the big step into becoming a rock and roll singer, we were on
our way to the big time, or so we imagined.

Hay Larry I heard Joey calling in between the beep-beep of the horn on a bicycle.  I ran out of
the kitchen where I had just finished doing the breakfast dishes and around the house to the
front yard and there he was as cool as ever.  This time however he was holding up a Schwinn
bicycle that had ever thing you could imagine on it. It was light blue with chrome rims and
fenders with a headlight mounted on the fender and a streamlined tank with the built in horn,
super cool handlebars and to top it off a luggage carrier.  

Before I could ask if I take it for a ride, Joey handed to me and said try it out.  I quickly push it
down the walk leading to the street and hopped on as we hit the street, which at that time were
still gravel roads.  Up and down the street I peddled feeling so cool as the kids from the Poplar
Street neighborhood stopped to look at the bike.  

In a bit Joey called me back, he was now standing next to my mom and as I road up the walk I
could only say to mom, this is so cool.  Mom, however was quizzing her nephew when and
where he had gotten the bike.  Joey responded that the bike really was not his but belong to a
friend from school and had been loaned to him.  Mom of course knew better, figuring out he was
lying and had probably borrowed it without the owner’s permission.

Avoiding the need to answer which Joey was great at, he asked.  Auntie can Larry go bike
riding with me for a while before I take the bike back?  Mom gave her okay and I went around
the back to get my bike.

There on the back porch was my vintage Hiawatha bicycle that dad had bought a number of
years back and kept in the crawl space of the house until I was 11 or 12 before he allowed me to
ride it.  A very basic bike with these super wide handle bars which reminded me of a Texas
longhorn because of their width.  I could actually ride two individuals on the handle bars
because they were so wide, the bike in general look a bit odd and did not compare in any
manner with the Schwinn my primo was riding.

Joey and I jumped on the bikes and headed for the nearest paved road which was 64th Avenue,
few streets in Derby were paved with the exception of the major roads and none of these had
sidewalks.  Once on 64th Joey suggested we ride to the west side, meaning west Denver where
he and my Aunt Flora lived.  Joey’s dad, my Uncle Sam was killed in an industrial accident a
couple years back so now it was just Joey and my aunt.  

I don’t think I can go to the west side I quickly informed Joey.  Oh come on it’s not that far we
will be back before you know it was his reply, I know a short cut.  Down Vasquez we peddled
until we got to 46th Avenue to York all the time now riding on sidewalks which was the first
time I remembered riding a bike on sidewalks.  I followed Joey on this what was by now
becoming my greatest adventure yet still thinking of what would happen if my mom and dad
would find out about this.  In an hour or so we were now on Santa Fe Street, Joey zig zaging
down the street and me right behind him, where were we now going?

She was poetry in motion, She was out right pure devotion, She lit the flames to my emotion, I
had to stop to check her out…

Just as we crossed 8th Avenue and Santa Fe coming out of the Five and Ten Cent store that was
located on the corner this girl stepped out of the store and headed down Santé Fe.  The first
thing that came out my primo’s mouth was a very loud, “Horle primo, check her out”.  
I froze, fearing she had heard his words, I couldn’t make a sound as we started to follow her
after dismounting and now walking our bikes.  Joey continued, ‘Man, she is hot, we have to
check her out’.  By now we were not more than fifteen or twenty feet behind her, I knew she had
to heard what Joey was saying.

Yes, the girl looks very good.  She had to be in high school at least, probably West High.  She
was wearing a dark skirt and a white blouse, both very tight.  I wanted to stop following her but
instead continued pushing my bike and walking along side of Joey.  I was terrified, the truth be
known at this stage of my life as I approached my thirteenth birthday I was so shy and fearful of
girls I did my best to avoid them.  

Not Joey, he was so cool around them he would see a girl and in a few minutes he was giving
them his line, the fact was he had made a couple of stops on our ride to talk to girls along our
route.  Joey would talk, laugh and do his thing I just stood there in total silence.  My hope now
was that Joey would give up on this girl and we continue going to where ever we were going.
Check her out, he again said in a loud tone while punching me on the arm and then it
happened.  The girl stopped and turned around took a couple of steps towards us, and in a mean
tone simply said.  Look you little punks, bug off before I slap the heck out of you both.  Joey
tried to talk but she cut him short as she continued speaking.  You little punks better get back on
your bike and go home to your mommies, then made a gesture with her hand and walked off not
looking back.

The next thing I remember Joey saying, Man, she just flipped us off, she is too cool.  To
demonstrate how ignorant, I was I ask Joey, what’s flipping off?  Joey laughed and said she
gave us the bird.  I still didn’t know what he was talking about.

We flipped our bikes around, jumped on them and headed in the opposite direction as Joey
started singing the words, “gotta check her out she’s so hot” to the tune of Blue Moon, he would
add other word and repeat “gotta check her out”.  I joined in with some bop, sho bops, ooo we
and in a bit we were at my aunt’s house on Klamath.

Joey, was a natural musician and singer.  He was maybe six or seven when he picked up a
harmonica and in no time he was playing songs on it and singing when he wasn’t playing.  His
favorite was mostly Rockabilly and Hank Williams was his favorite singer.  I remember we
would go out on Halloween night for trick or treat, knock on a door and yell, trick or treat.
When someone would ask for a trick, Joey would break out with Jambalaya and a crawfish pie,
me oh my oh or Hay Good Looking, what cha got cooking, while I would add the boom boom
boom of what I figured was bass.  It would not be long before our brown paper bags would be
loaded with treats.  

Once we stood outside of the Rocky Built Hamburger place trying to get change as Joey sang
and played and I did backup on songs like, standing on the corner watching all the girls go by,
Put another nickel in the nickel odium, Blue swade shoes and others.  The owner of the place
chased us off and we ended with less than ten cents for our efforts, but Joey was cool.  Joey got
ahold of a guitar and in no time he was play song after song all in the key of C, F or G, in those
days that all you needed, his voice made up for what at that time was his short coming in the
ability to play the guitar, but I thought he was good as Elvis.

We walked into his house, the back door was unlocked and now the reality of my aunt seeing me
with Joey was going to get me in a lot of trouble at home.  Joey, I’m going to get in trouble
when auntie sees me, I better get out of here.  Oh, don’t worry mom’s in Pueblo and won’t be
back until tonight or maybe even tomorrow.  He then picked up his guitar and started with,
“Check her out, she’s so hot’ in the key of C but it was not coming out right.

I picked up a pencil and an Indian Chief table that was sitting on the table and started to write
down some words, but I could not make them match the chords that Joey was playing, then
suddenly Joey played a chord that was really different.  

Neither Joey or myself knew music, but Joey could play and the new chord made it easy to put
word to the song he had been singing.  The event an hour or so earlier with the girl on Sante Fe
street gave us the story he wanted to sing about and I was able to put the word together in such
a way as to make it sound like a song.  In a while we were both singing our first song which we
simply called Check Her Out.

Music Intro,    C, Am, F, G7

I was crusing down fifth street, scoped out this babe so da gone sweet
I had to stop-stop to check her out
In a skirt so short to tight, she was simply dynamite
I had to stop-stop to check her out
Slammed my car into reverse, the cat behind me started to curse
But, I had to stop to check her out
She was poetry in motion, She was out right pure devotion, She lit the flames to my emotion, I
had to stop to check her out
Music Interlude – C, Am, F, G7
With every step she displayed pride, My mind was racing with delight
I had to stop-stop to check her out
Had to get her in my ride, so I pulled up by her side
I had to stop-stop to check her out
She was poetry in motion, She was out right pure devotion, She lit the flames to my emotion, I
had to stop to check her out
Music Interlude – C, Am, F, G7
Called out to her, hey baby doll, She looked at me as I recall
I had to stop-stop to check her out
Then she told me to drop dead, my skin went flush my face turned red
Well, I had to stop to check her out
I had to satisfy my doubt, Would such a chick check me out, But I ended up striking out, (Made
no difference that I struck out)
Still I got to check her out, Yea I got to check her out

But wait, this was not the end of this story.  Time has slipped away from us during the
excitement of the events of the day.  First my unauthorized journey from Derby to the west side
on our bikes.  The encounter with what I can only recall as that of the Westy girl, Joey’s attempt
to perhaps hit on her and then her not to pleasant reaction.  The encounter that would result in
two thirteen age boys, well let’s say two thirteen age boy, one thirteen going on eighteen and the
other thirteen going on ten or maybe eleven, that resulted in our first song, Check Her Out. But
now we had a real problem, I had to get back home before my dad got home from work.

In our home there existed the expectation that a soon as dad got home from work, supper would
be ready and the family would sit at the table to eat what mom had prepared.  Any change from
this routine would amount to dealing with dad perhaps going from an okay mood, to a bad
mood or worse from a bad mood to him getting really upset.  

We jumped on our bike and began pedaling like crazy, first we rode up Colfax until we hit York
street, passed East High School and headed down York to 46th Avenue, jumped on Vasquez to
64th Avenue and 65th and Poplar which was home.  My bike was old and heavy and it took
everything I had to keep up with Joey on his Schwinn but somehow I managed, probable
motivated by the thought I did not want to face the wrath of my dad if I did anything to hold up
his dinner.  

I don’t know how we did it by we got there before my dad got home from work.  Mom, met us as
we were walking our bikes up the walk and started to quiz us on our where about all day.  Joey
responded in his cool manner, Oh auntie we just road everywhere, we even thought of going all
the way to Vegas, but that was too far.  Mom look at me for the truth and I replied we went to
Welby to ride on the hills, I lied.  I knew that going to Welby was out of my boundaries but I
would be in less trouble then say we went to the west side.

Mom, got upset and then let us know she was going to pass this on to my dad, right after we had
dinner.  However, I was now starting to think about Saturday evening and having to go to
confession, this incident would mean a lot more Hail Marys and Our Fathers and scowls from
our Parish Priest who already had me tagged as a delinquent child.  

Dad came home a bit surprised to see his nephew there, who incidentally was going to start his
trip back home but mom wouldn’t let him.  I myself was glad of this because now both of us
would share the wrath of my dad after we finished dinner.  Dad main concern at first was if my
aunt knew where Joey was and he was informed Dad’s sister was in Pueblo and was not due
back till later that evening or may the next day.  This I think annoyed dad more than his nephew
running around all over the place on his own.

Dinner came and went and as we were clearing up the table mom ratted us off and the lecture
began from my dad, but to my surprise it was not as bad as I had imagined.  I would end up
having my bike locked up for a week or so and dad had Joey put his bike in the trunk of the car
and he would take him home although having to drive to the west side on a work night annoyed
dad somewhat.  

Joey and I never again road our bikes to the west side again.  Joey and I never wrote another
song together again.  Our paths would continue to cross over and over again and at times when
we were in our twenties, thirties and maybe later in our forties we would once again unite and
play our tunes, but never Check Her Out.  Shortly after that day in the early summer of 1958 my
primo would begin his journey into a life time of going in and out of prison.  Joey got busted for
stealing the beautiful Schwinn bicycle that had ever thing you could imagine on it. The light
blue bike with chrome rims and fenders a headlight mounted on the front fender and a
streamlined tank with the built in horn, super cool handlebars and to top it off a luggage
carrier.  

When we did get together not to my surprise my primo has mastered another instrument, a
saxophone, the piano, his singing was amazing.  Every once and a while we would go to the
east side where another primo lived and during an overnight stay Joey and I would venture into
the Black churches just to listen to the singing.  Sitting in the back of these churches we would
listen to the soulful sound of pure gospel music.  Once the music stopped we would leave the
service and head back to my Aunt Helens apartment, Joey singing the songs word for word of
what we had just heard and me doing the backups of, Yea Load, of a hum of Sweet Jesus.
Joey and I were born four months apart, he in March and myself in June.  From my first
memory of him which was at what I believe was his seventh or eighth birthday party he stood
out as the prince of all the cousins on my dad’s side of the family.  He lived in a big house in
the west side, it always seems he had everything me and my primes desired or at least
everything I desired.  He was outgoing not the least bit shy, while I hid in the background not
wishing to seen.  He looked like my auntie but was dark skinned like my Uncle Sam and had this
jet black wavy hair.  In his teenage years he was a Paul Anka, a Chris Montez, a Richie Valens.  
A kid with all the musical talent you could imagine but a sad and hidden dark side.
Joey showed up from time to time riding a bike at our home in Derby, the two time that most
impacted me was when he came by with his guitar strapped over his shoulder and he taught me
a few chords and a couple of rock and roll riffs.  I would forever be hook on trying to learn how
to play a guitar and several months later I bought a fifteen-dollar guitar in a pawn shop on
Larimer Street.  The second time he showed up would leave me in tears and a sorrow that yet
lingers in my heart.

I remember this day almost as if were just yesterday.  Joey showed up at our house but instead
of pulling up and calling out my name, he got off again the bike he was riding and walked into
the house wanting to talk to my mom.  His eyes were red from what I could see came from
crying and he asked my mom, “Auntie is it true that I was adopted”.  Mom, stood there in shock
at his question and asked why he was asking that question.  Joey simply replied that his mom,
my auntie had told him earlier she had adopted him as a baby.

I would find out later that what had happened to bring this to light was that another cousin had
overheard his parents speak about the adoption of Joey and the cousin had passed this on to
Joey.  Joey than confronted my aunt with this information and at the age of fifteen she told her
son that this was in fact true.  Joey immediately came on his bike to our home to hear from my
mom and dad if this was the truth.

In tears mom shared the truth as she knew it with Joey as he broke down again and cried and
cried and all I could do is join him in this outflow of tears.  Joey and I were like brothers and
what made this situation so close to me was in my eyes at that time, Joey was and had always
been the older brother to myself and not just the four month difference our age, but the four or
five-year difference in our degree of maturity.  Joey, thirteen going on eighteen and myself
thirteen going on eleven if that much. The world had now change for Joey and me and now for
the first time in my life I saw he was just a kid like myself.

At this time come another difficult in this another chapter of Just Larry where I depart from the
left side of my brain to the right side, the side that seeks to grasp at the truth and what can be
said by some the ugly side.  In order to understand the events of my primo’s life and the
circumstances to how this gifted singer and musician took the past of an individual who would
have spent the greatest part of his life after turning eighteen in prison we need to understand his
foundation as a child.

In the hour that I pen this narrative I put together hours of conversations I absorbed listening to
my parents, uncles and aunts and older cousins and merged their words with the thinking of the
generations that proceeded that of Joey’s, and my own.  In many regards it was very little
different that of most of Americans born in the early years of the twentieth century.  The talk in
low whispers around the table when my parents and either my aunt and uncles especially my
Uncle Paul and Aunt Bertha was Joey was Aunt Flora’s natural birth son.  Many a young girl
would get pregnant some in their early teen which in the deeply Catholic Imbedded Spanish
home received this with great embarrassment.  If the girl did not get married immediately after
finding out she was with child she would be sent to live with the family member living the
furthest from her home until the baby was born.  The baby would then get raised by a family
member, many times by the mother of the girl, her child would be raised as either her little
brother or sister.  

The story in the case of my Primo was his mother and father married after his birth and it was
told to all that they had adopted this child, a beautiful baby boy who just happen to look like the
mother and had as his characteristic of his father which included his dark skin and wavy hair.  
It was whispered that Joey was raised by both his birth mother and father at least until his dad
was killed in a tragic industrial accident.  However, the story of his birth remained a well kept
secret until another cousin shared the secret that Joey was adopted and then when Joey took the
story to his mom she could not face the embarrassment that she had gotten pregnant and he was
born out of wedlock so she chose to say the son she raised was adopted.

The dynamics of this situation was that this was not unique to this one family.  How many
Spanish married couples lived with the guilt of their first child born either before they were
married or perhaps with the guilt that their little brother or sister, cousin was their child.  How
many coupes lived with and attempted to hid the shame that their first born even when they
would later wed.  I ache for my Primo, aunt and myself for I also knew of the dark secret that
existed in my own home.

A young couple from two small compos, villages, in New Mexico would come to meet in of all
places Portland, Oregon.  He was an Army Air Corp corporal and the young lady was one of the
many girls and women working in the shipyard on the west coast who would come to be known
as Rosie the Riveter.  The couple in this case would be my parents Jose and Rosa, she was a
real Rosie the Riveter.  What would become a life time commitment to both began with the girl
getting pregnant, the couple getting married and having a beautiful baby girl.  Sadly, she would
bear the stigma of being pregnant when she went back to New Mexico to give birth to their child.
If life cannot be cruel enough to this young mother by being stigmatize with her situation which
alienated the family of her husband, she was also from a family whose foundation was within
the Native American community.  Both of these factors would create much pain for this girl as
she was now seen by her Spanish American in-laws.  However, the greatest pain she bears for
the greater part of her life was her beautiful baby girl, her first born would die a year and a half
later of leukemia leaving her heart broken mother believing this was her punishment for
conceiving this child before being wed to the man who would spent their lives together until she
passed away.

I often wonder if this was not another factor that Joey and I were close.  Yes, we were born a
few months apart, our early years were spent six block apart on the west side of Denver.  Our
mothers lived with the stigma of living in a society where bearing a child before being wed was
seen as extremely unacceptable.  One mother lost her child as an infant the other lost her young
husband to a tragic industrial accident and both perhaps feeling as if their tragic circumstances
were a sort of punishment for what they saw as past sins.  

In an old shoe box filled with scraps of paper I would find a folded sheet of tablet paper with the
printed words to a song written so many years ago.  It was ever so easy to flash back to that day
now so many years behind me and hear my Primo singing the words to the song.  I would revive
the song, change a few of the lyrics, keeping the tempo and rhythm exactly like the moment Joey
would discover what I now know is an Am chord and bring back the moment of excitement we
wrote our first song, while feeling the sorrow of what might have been the season, Check Her
Out, never made the rock and roll charts and we, I never saw my dream of becoming a Rock and
Roll singer a reality, was this my punishment for my past sins.  I guess we will never know.
Cover - Brown Eyed Girl
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