Forever Plaid – Steve McGraw’s 1990
When most of us think of the 1950’s, we think of Rock ‘n’ Roll, greasers, hot rods, Elvis, Annette, Fabian, D.A. haircuts and teenage rebellion. But there was a “flipside” to this era – the side of harmony, innocence and the sincerity of dreams. It is the side that’s been lost in the shuffle of progress. It was a time when most parents and kids listened and danced to the same music; when families partook of the ritual of gathering in front of the TV to watch their favorite variety shows, like the Ed Sullivan Show or the Perry Como Show. It was a time when every family worked hard to fulfill the American dream. It was a period when Four-Part Guy Groups harmonized their way across the airwaves, jukeboxes, and hi-fis of the country. Throughout the land they would stand at a quartet of microphones, crooning a multitude of chaperoned prom-goers into dreamy romance. They wore dinner jackets and bow ties (or, perhaps, cardigans and white bucks). Each move was drilled to precision. Each vocal arrangement soared to stratospheric heights of harmony. This sound crested right before Rock ‘n’ Roll stole the heartbeat of music across the globe. During this time, guys across the country banded together to sing in the basement for fun. If things worked out they might be hired to sing at weddings, conventions, proms and country club socials. Inspired by the success of the recording stars, they made plans to zoom into careers of fame and fortune. But the musical taste of the USA was changing, and would not stop to listen to their dreams. This is the story of such a group – Forever Plaid. Once upon a time, there were four guys (Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie) who loved to sing. They all met in high school, when they joined the Audio Visual Club (1956). Discovering that they shared an affection for music and entertaining, they got together and dreamed of becoming like their idols – The Four Aces, The Four Lads, The Four Freshmen, The Hi-Los and The Crew Cuts. They rehearsed in the basement of Smudge’s family’s plumbing supply company. It was here they became Forever Plaid – a name that connotes the continuation of traditional values, of family, home and harmony. Although Rock ‘n’ Roll was racing down the fast lane like a candy-apple “Vette,” they believed in their music. As their sound developed, they sang at family gatherings, fund raisers and eventually graduated to supermarket openings and proms. They had little time for romance or leisure for they supported their fantasy by holding down “day” jobs – Frankie was in dental supplies, Jinx was into auto parts, Smudge was in bathroom fixtures, Sparky was in better dresses. They devoted themselves to their singing at nights and on weekends. Then, finally, they landed their first big gig at the Airport Hilton Cocktail Bar – The Fusel-Lounge (February 9, 1964). En route to pick up their custom-made Plaid Tuxedoes, they were slammed broadside by a school bus filled with eager Catholic teens. The teens were on their way to witness the Beatles make their US television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show and, miraculously, escaped uninjured. The members of Forever Plaid were killed instantly. It is at the moment when their careers and lives ended, that the story of Forever Plaid begins. Through the power of Harmony and the expanding Holes in the Ozone Layer in conjunction with the positions of the Planets and all that Astro-Technical stuff, they are allowed to come back to perform the show they never got to do in life (and record the album they always dreamed of making). And, having completed their Mission of Harmony, our men in plaid must return to the cosmos. Although they may be gone, through this recording their dreams live on forever. . . .
Sparky: Jason Graae Jinx: Stan Chandler Smudge: David Engel Frankie: Guy Stroman