John Eby: Music mattered when dinosaurs roamed the earth

Published 11:51 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I’d rather read The Plain Dealer, which is like a Rolling Stone that comes every day, than Time magazine’s dispiriting list of The World’s 100 Most Influential People.

ebyThe Dealer, that’s what Little Al calls it.

He’s the guy my wife met at a bakery when she brought me the April 25 issue as a souvenir.

He wrote for the Cleveland paper for 43 years.

One thing I like about it is that with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in town — repository of Music that Mattered — you’re likely to find Tom King’s obituary, not to mention an update on former northeastern Ohio resident Gary Lewis.

King, 68, died April 23 in a Wickliffe nursing home suffering from multiple health problems.

He had been there since injuring himself in a fall last August.

King and his brother-in-law, Chet Kelley, co-wrote one of the great all-time singles, “Time Won’t Let Me,” released in 1966 by his group the Outsiders.

It was on Capitol, the same label as The Beatles and The Beach Boys, with those mesmerizing orange-and-yellow labels spinning at 45 rpms on my turntable.

It climbed the national charts and sold more than a million records.

King was a guitarist, composer and arranger.

I read that he attended Shaw High School in East Cleveland, where, at 15, he formed the Starfires, followed by the Outsiders.

The group included Al Austin on guitar, Met Madsen on bass and Rick Biagola on drums.

The Outsiders had a sound all their own, blending Motown horns with the British rock style and, according to his son, Kevin, strings that influenced two other fusion bands big in my upbringing, Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago (which led to Chase and Maynard Ferguson).

Lewis, 65, son of comedian Jerry, 85, of Las Vegas (his mom, Patti, lives in California), is best known for the Playboys’ hit, “This Diamond Ring,” but my favorite was always “Just My Style.”

He recorded eight gold singles and sold 45 million records, including “Everybody Loves a Clown” and “Count Me In.”

To refresh your memory, visit his Web site,

Sometime in the 1980s he was supposed to play at Lakes Bowl and I waited in vain one afternoon, but he never appeared.

I don’t remember if he played and I just missed him, but I felt more than compensated when I later met Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas by chance in Dowagiac.

Lewis, who sings and plays guitar, lives in Rochester, N.Y., with his wife, Donna, and still tours behind a group that’s been together since 2004.

“The touring has never stopped,” he told The Dealer.

“We’re going to tour until we need iron lungs.”

The vet and his band have been performing gratis at hospitals, “bringing some smiles to their faces. I saw how troops were treated when we were in Vietnam.”

Lewis might be playing in 2012 in Cleveland, where he moved in 1980 with his previous wife, Patty. He also lived in Lakewood and Aurora.

Lewis could cover Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” because he still gets mail from folks who write, “I hope you realize the happiness you brought me.”

All our musical legends on Mount Rockmore brought us happiness, from The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the Dave Clark Five, the Outsiders, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Byrds and Herman’s Hermits.

And speaking of happiness, Sixth Generation, the reunited Niles garage band I profiled in Horizons that used to play regularly at Skyliner, will be performing at the Elks Oct. 8.

Now, Time for the depressing news. As in the Time 100, which is a slammin’ satire of those of us dinosaurs who remember music mattering, that you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard a song, like playing miniature golf at Five-Mile Corner during “Yellow Submarine.”

Wanna guess how many influential musical artists there are?

Four — Sting, 59; Bruno Mars, 25; Justin Bieber, 17; and Tunisian rapper “El General,” 21, the “poet laureate of the pan-Arabic revolution.”

Patti Smith’s there, but for her book. Rain, 28, was a South Korean pop star, but is now an actor. He captured the top spot in the reader poll for the third year over even President Obama and Lady Gaga who, like Steve Jobs of Apple, didn’t make the cut. Go figure. Chris Colfer, “Glee’s” Kurt, is there for his “pitch-perfect portrayal of a gay teen” more than being a show choir titan.

I hope the next time I hear “Time Won’t Let Me,” I can still thrill to the Outsiders and not be reminded of a snooty magazine that thinks music doesn’t matter.