Cedar Falls, Iowa (photo by Camilla)
On April 3, 2006 we hit the road for Cedar Falls, Iowa. On the trek northward we played dodgeball with tornadic storm systems that were wrecking havoc throughout the country.
Lunch by the River (photo by Camilla)
The Oyster Theater, the concert venue for that evening, is located on Main Street in Cedar Falls. We arrived the day of the show just in time for a river-view lunch at the Broom Factory restaurant. After lunch I meandered down Main Street, stopping at the antique stores and finding myself impressed with the charm of the small Iowa town.
The next day we headed west, keeping an eye on the weather. We had already crossed the Donner Pass in California during a snowstorm and didn’t relish repeating that experience, so we decided at the split between Interstates 76 and 80 that we would take a southern route to San Francisco.
Since the weather took us on I-70 past the Aspen, Colorado exit, we decided to detour there and see if The Limelite Inn, the club where The Limeliters began their career was still standing.
On July 13, 1960, Jim McGuinn celebrated his 18th birthday at the Ash Grove folk club in Los Angeles in the dressing room he shared with his bosses, The Limeliters. The waitresses bought him a cupcake with a candle and sang him an off key version of “Happy Birthday.”
After the birthday celebration, he took the stage with the Limeliters and finished recording “TONIGHT IN PERSON,” a live album and the first for the Limeliters on RCA.
A week later The Limeliters were the opening act for Eartha Kitt at the Hollywood Bowl. Jim had to use his paycheck to rent a tuxedo to wear for the prestigious concert. The night of the concert, as he nervously stood on the wings of the stage tuning his guitar, he felt a slap on his bottom and a sultry voice saying, “Go get ‘em kid!” That swat and that voice were encouragements from Miss Eartha Kitt. Jim was thrilled with his initiation into the world of show business. He still remembers thinking, “This is what I want to do forever!”
While Jim McGuinn was making his entrance into the professional world of music, Jim Dickson was busy recording at World Pacific Studios.
The middle child of James and Ruth Ferne Mullinix Dickson, Jim Dickson was born in 1931 in Los Angeles, California. The Dicksons were an unusal and adventurous family. James designed cars, diesel engines for the Navy and sailboats. Ruth Dickson was an executive for the financial firm Witter & CO , which was later renamed Dean Witter . Her position with the firm was an anomaly for a woman in 1925.
Young Jim Dickson quit school and with his parents permission joined the Army in 1946. The army made him a member of the Military Police and sent him to Japan. From there he traveled from adventure to adventure, exploring New York City then back to his native California. The direction of his life changed when he and his sailing partner, Peter Grant, met the comedian, Lord Buckley.
Lord Buckley had a reputation as a charmer and convinced Peter to finance and produce a recording of Buckley’s comedic act. When Peter realized how easily he was manipulated, he sailed away to Acapulco and left Dickson to produce the album.
Dickson opened the telephone book’s Yellow Pages to “recording,” and found a studio called CP McGregor. The yellow page advertisement said they had 25 years experience, which was mostly in religious transcriptions for radio broadcast. At the studio he met, George Jones, a gentleman who later became head of the custom department at Capitol Records. George spent several hours explaining the record business to Jim. Dickson remembers Mr. Jones as “the honest man” he met in the record biz.
Armed with advice, a studio and Lord Buckley, Dickson began his career as a record producer and a recording label owner. Lord Buckley suggested he call the label “VAYA,” after the then popular saying, “Vaya Con Dios.” The Lord Buckly experience not only set him on the pathway of his life long career, it opened the door to the Hollywood bohemian artist scene where he fell in love with and married the beautiful folk singer turned actress Diane Varsi.
Our timing for stopping in Aspen was perfect. There was still snow on the mountains, the restaurants were still open, the hotel room rates were lowered and the streets were empty. It was a good thing that we stopped by the old Limelite Inn because we found out from a gentleman who had been coming to the Inn since 1959 that it is slated for demolition. A new hotel will be built in its place.
Aspen in April (photos by Camilla)