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"The Duals"

 

Two Boys, One Dream

 

 

      
                                                                                           

Even their names sounds like a song. "Henry and Johnny" is that cool? Yes, Henry Bellinger and Johnny Lageman, two young boys from Los Angeles had a dream of one day performing their music on stage.

In 1961, Henry and Johnny came to H.B. Barnum in Hollywood, California. Mr. Barnum was too busy with other artists and musical projects to do anything for Henry and Johnny; nor did he have the faith that the project would be successful. But he introduced them to an up and coming company called STAR REVUE, owned by Ron Barrett. H.B. and Ron had been friends since childhood and had performed together in the 1950’s - 60’s in West Coast singing groups like "The Dootones," "The Medallions," "The Circats" and "The Robins," just to name a few.

Ron was looking for something to believe in, and put together. He met with the boys and liked the fresh, new, clean simple sound that he heard.

Ron worked with the boys for a week or two and they came up with a nice groove. Ron set up studio time. H.B. was hired by STAR REVUE to put down the melody onto the lead sheets and to help with the other musicians that would be used on the session. Ron was in the sound booth and two tracks were laid down entitled Stick Shift and Cruising. Ron, right away had ideas about making this "A" side "Stick Shift" even better. He asked H.B. for help putting the idea together and H.B. said, "This is your session. You can do it. I have to go."

Ron recalls: "After the session, the engineer and I were in the studio mixing tracks, playback after playback, again and again. We had a great song about a car, but no car! "Stick Shift" needed something to set it off…but what?"

In the mid 1950’s while recording for L.A. based Dootone records, Ron remembered singing with the vocal group "The Medallions," thinking about Vernon Green who sang lead on "Buick 59." The way he started that song sounding like a car came to my mind and how the audience went wild when he did it. Vernon used his voice and the microphone to make car sounds like the motor racing, the tires screeching and the audience loved it! That’s when the light came on in Ron’s head. A car! That’s what I need. A car! Ron asked the engineer if he had a sound library. He said, "Yes here’s the catalog."

Ron listened to car sound after car sound. Porsche, Ford. Then he heard this HOT SOUND! He wasn’t sure what kind of car it was, but that was it! That was the sound! So he put this car sound in the beginning and then brought the music up. He felt it sounded great but needed a finish. The engineer said, "What about a crash ending?" Ron replied, "No. We don’t need a crash." "I’ve got it!" Ron said., "What about getting stopped by the cops?" "That’s it! That’s what we need!" Now we’ve got a hit record!" Ron searched and found the perfect police chase sound effects. He put the sound effects together, edited the works and had the records pressed on his Star Revue label.

 


 

                          Copy of original Star Revue release of Stick Shift 1961.                                        Courtesy of Ron Barrett.

 

Ron and STAR REVUE needed help in promoting this new product that he had just completed. His first promotion of The Duals and Stick Shift was at Wallack’s Music City in Hollywood, the largest record store chain in the Los Angeles area in the early 60’s.

He made an agreement with the owner to give them 200 copies of STICK SHIFT. For everyone who purchased the 45, The Duals would autograph it for them and pose for photos. Hollywood High School and all the major high schools in the area were targeted with flyers for this event. It was a big success. But he needed to get this song on the radio.

Hot Rods and street racing was hot! It was the summer of 1961 and this song needed airplay. How do you go about getting a record on the radio? Ron was introduced to a nice guy by the name of Sonny Bono a few years prior and recalled that’s what he did. Ron called him up and they had lunch. They hit it off instantly. Not only did Sonny love STICK SHIFT, he said that he would be very happy to help Ron promote the record.

For three weeks or more, Ron and Sonny worked every radio station from Bakersfield, California to San Diego, California. With the help of Sonny the song received immediate airplay. The record was off and selling. It wasn’t long thereafter that Sue Records came calling. They were very interested and wanted STAR REVUE's first artist – The Duals and Stick Shift to go national on their label. Part 1 of Two Boy’s dreams came true.

Ron Barrett has been quoted saying, "I will be forever grateful to Sonny Bono for all of his unconditional support, kindness and friendship."

Music Historians from this Hot Rod/Surf Music era all agree that the screeching tires throughout the song and the memorable police car chase pullover at the end made this song a hit and this is what is remembered by almost everyone who listened to the radio that the time. Ron Barrett should have been added as co-writer on the single Stick Shift for what is clearly a contribution that made the song a hit and part of Hot Rod music history that will never be forgotten.

To this day, street racing, hot rods and police pursuits continue to be a big part of America’s fascination and entertainment.

 

The Duals
Top - Johnny Lageman
Bottom - Henry Bellinger

 

Two Boys, One Dream - Part2

The timing in recording " Stick Shift" was brilliant! It could not have been released at a better time. At that time the street scene, the teenage action was all about cars and wheels. Then roaring down the highway was " Stick Shift"!

Ron Barrett, the owner of Star Revue, really had faith in " Stick Shift". He and his good friend Sonny Bono went up and down the coast of Southern California to every radio station they could find to promote this album. In addition to that Star Revue, through its Southern distributors, sent this record to some of the hottest stations in the south.

This record really turned the corner on two wheels. It had received good promise from many stations to be played at the top of their play lists. This attracted the attention of Sue Records of New York City. A deal was struck for the amount of 10% for Star Revue and 8% for Henry and Johnny! No money was paid up front and Sue Records was to be the national distributor of the Duals and there " Stick Shift". Not a great deal, but a good deal for that day and time. The master recordings were turned over to Sue Records which at that time was owned by Henry "Juggy" Murray.

Sue Record was hot behind this record and sales really took off! Sales in America and abroad grew tremendously. This was a hit! What made this record so special was the genius of Ron Barrett mixing car sound effects to this instrumental. "Motors racing" "screeching wheels" and a police chase at the end!  With driving cars, racing, and burning rubber the teenagers went wild!!! What made this record so special was that the teenagers driving these late model 50’s and 60’s cars and they loved to hear the sound of burning rubber. The international sales proved outstanding! How can you tell when you’ve had a hit? Ask yourself this question… After decades is there still an appeal for your record? " Stick Shift" is a legitimate collectable item to this day.

This is when this musical dream stared to resemble more of a nightmare! Three months into Sue Records contract with Star Revue the first check was cut. There was a lot of excitement in our Hollywood office when this envelope was delivered by the postman. The letter was opened, and there was a beautiful site, a check for $10,000! Needless to say we where ecstatic! Even more exciting was the fact that this check only covered the very first sales of the record with much more to come!

A call came from Sue records and they wanted the Duals to perform on the Dick Clark show and the Apollo Theater in New York. In amongst all the excitement of receiving the check and the invite to perform, a mistake was made. No one went to cash the $10,000 check! Was Star Revue in favor of these invites? No. Maybe the Dick Clark show but definitely not the Apollo Theater. The debate took precedence and the $10,000 check fell in between the cracks.

Much to Star Revues disapproval the Duals went to Philadelphia and New York to perform. The check was not found. When it was found Star Revue attempted to cash it. But the bank said that a new check needed to be issued. Sue Records was called and said they would not reissue a check and that they will add the $10,000 to the next check they will be sending in 3 to 6 months. To make a long story short, there has never been a next check.

The years have passed and now Star Revue is going back into the studio to record the Duals 2000. Of course being the type of company Star Revue is they want the original Duals to be a large part of it. So Johnny Lageman was contacted and gave his expressed permission to make him apart of any future ventures of The Duals and also represent him in collecting monies due for his work. What about Henry? Henry has since deceased. What about his mother and father? They too are deceased. How about surviving brothers or sisters? There must be one! The search is on…

Many months later, a surviving brother, Donald Bellinger was found. How elated Star Revue was to find him! Star Revue expected Donald Bellinger to be as excited as they were. To our amazement Donald comes to Star Revue with his legal council stating, “Who are you people? What do you want with my client? How much dose he have coming? How do I know I am going to get what’s entitled to me? You should immediately turn over all paperwork to me!” and so on.

Star Revue thought they had reassembled the team once again. They have been promised by EMI back royalties from their successful " Stick Shift" hit. Could they be missing the important member of the team? Is Donald Bellinger going to listen to a person who could benefit from litigation at his expense or to Star Revue whom his brother trusted and his mother respected and get more of the residuals he is entitled to!

========================================

Star Revue is delighted to announce that the team is assembled - lawyers are in place - we have acted in accordance with all requirements that EMI has stipulated, the next move is up to EMI. They have already gotten what they haven’t paid for, so now there is the promise, to pay or not to pay - there really is no question!
                                                                                                                                                                       “Happily we will expect to get credit as well as back pay where $$$$ are due. Ahhh, hope springs eternal.  As a philosopher once said, “Finally the big fish is going to assist the little fish, instead of eating it alive.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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