One other Covid Saturday night time. Even when there was one thing enjoyable to do, I in all probability wouldn’t enterprise out amongst ’em. I’ll crank up the Wayback Machine as a substitute and dial up early Nineteen Sixties.
Wilmer and the Dukes will play at Membership 86, at 9 p.m. sharp. They are going to do 40-minute units with 20-minute breaks — musicians’ union guidelines. The eating room has been reset; you wouldn’t know a big wedding ceremony reception was right here only a few hours earlier.
My mother, Marian, is setting ashtrays on the tables. She would be the cocktail waitress tonight. The supper membership days are gone. Just one hour to go, and the band isn’t right here. No worries. Devices and tools are being unloaded from two vans by a tall, skinny man — that might be Shadow — and one other man who could possibly be a Sumo wrestler. That’s Mumpsie.
Ralph Gillotte’s Hammond B-3 organ is about to go. So is Ron Alberts’ drum set. Brother Monte’s bass and amplifier and Doug Brown’s guitar and tools will probably be in place. The Dukes don’t do handbook labor.
Showtime. The band takes the stage with out Wilmer. Monte Alberts sings a pair — possibly “Wooley Bully” and “I Wanna Do It.” Then Wilmer Alexander Jr. comes out, wailing on a tenor sax like Junior Walker and the All-Stars, solely higher. His vocals, whether or not hard-driving R&B or sluggish and sultry, cease you in your tracks. His stage presence is matched with a robust, deep voice.
Could I supply a sociology remark? The group is 18- to 30-year-olds who got here to bop and benefit from the music. They didn’t wait till midnight to indicate up. They drink intelligently. The membership didn’t serve photographs or draft beer; actually, solely 4 sorts of bottled beer can be found. Guys drink highballs, like scotch and soda or 7-and-7s. Ladies drink cocktails. On the service bar within the kitchen I watch grasshoppers, Singapore slings, pink women, and Collinses being made. Bartenders knew methods to combine drinks, and patrons appreciated a well-made beverage. There was no meals service, however does anybody keep in mind the stacked, shaved-ham sandwiches? Include a pickle slice.
There was not often an issue with unruly individuals. Ebo Alberts, Shadow and Mumpsie had been there to take care of it if there was. In later years, when race riots had been within the information, the Dukes had Burke Safety with two giant German shepherds on the nook of Avenue E and Humbert Road. Inflicting an issue was not a good suggestion.
The group by no means tires of “Midnight Hour,” “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” “I’m Free,” “For Your Love,” and their regional hit, “Give Me One Extra Probability.” Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult needs for “yet one more night time with Wilmer and the Dukes.” He isn’t alone. When you heard them solely as soon as — at Bristol, the Dolphin, Arrowhead Lanes, the Vacation Bar, or anyplace else within the nation — you recognize what I imply.
I treasure rising up with the Dukes and the nice occasions with the Legott household.
A lifelong space resident, Chuck Agonito is an everyday Occasions columnist who writes usually about leisure and sports activities.