BY C.L. HARMON
Between the shaking and twisting of Elvis and Chubby Checker and the flower power hippie counter culture of the late 60’s, there was a new sound that launched from the Ed Sullivan Show and into the musical pages of history. It was a springboard into a new sound that would make young people across the country want to pick up an instrument and make some noise.
Five of those young people were teens from Mannford. Although, these young men would not make it to the Sullivan stage as the Beatles did in 1964 or great music venues worldwide, they would leave a local mark on the surrounding communities that they hope many will still remember. Those lads, now in their late sixties, were just 16 year-old “the school bus kids” as Larry Shaeffer called them because of their lack of money, cars and girls, were just wanting to have some fun and impress girls, never even wanting fame.
“That musical revolution that started with the Beatles changed us and it changed the world. All of the sudden it became good to have a rock n roll band”, would replace Mike Porter on drums after he left for the Army. What started out as an idea in the MHS cafeteria became a passion.
“I must admit that for the first few months, we sounded awful, but all of the sudden, we didn’t sound so awful anymore.” Schaeffer said. For the next five years, however, these young men found a niche with the music lovers of the mid to late 60’s in the surrounding areas of Mannford.
They called themselves The Undertakers and buried themselves in the psychedelic sound of their generation. By 1966, the band was booked almost every weekend at various high schools, college dances, parties and “beer joints”. Schaffer explained that everyone wanted a band that could play a four hour set. They could…and they did.
By 1967, these school bus kids had nice cars, new clothes, a few dollars in their pockets and some “pretty nice looking girlfriends, Shaeffer said. That local rock n roll momentum would gain popularity as a rolling stone until the Vietnam war took hold and the reality of the changing world was upon them.
“The Vietnam war was the death to a lot of bands. It was the death nail.” Schaeffer said that its what the band members looked forward to every week and they loved just playing the music. But sadly it ended after the war took its toll with the draft and several members joining the service. By 1970, it was no more than a memory and a few pieces of memorabilia. The members moved on with their lives and careers and time passed. Schaeffer, was the only one who stayed in the music business, but not as a musician, but as a promoter. He would own and operate Little Wing concert promotions in Tulsa for many years and owned Cain’s Ball Room for 25 years. He is preparing to celebrate his 45th year in the business and is currently a national music promoter.
A tragedy in 1984 in Mannford would, however, bring the members back together for a show in 1985. A tornado had devastated the town and the members decided to assemble for a benefit show. The members went back to their lives, but in 2013 a unique discovery by Schaeffer’s sons would bring renewed interest in an old hobby. The boys found an audio recording from the only time the band was recorded. The place was The Joker in Cleveland and this would prompt the members to throw in a little cash, have the recording remastered and put out a vinyl album.
Another recent tragedy in the family of one of its former members, Jimmy Cunningham, would unearth a new interest in helping others. Cunningham’s son suffers with a brain tumor and the members thought that a good way to help with the medical expenses was to do another show armed with their new album. Schaeffer explained that all of the proceeds go to the family. He is hoping that those who still remember the good old psychedelic sound of the 60’s and the Undertakers will come out to the Sand Springs Elks Lodge on Prue Road on the night of November 14 and hear some homegrown tunes from the past and help out a family in need in the present.
The Undertakers Are Back! Can you Dig It?
BY C.L. HARMON