However, musician memoirs often are more about polishing the myth than revealing the person. Famous people memoirs sometimes read like checklists of admirability or some such.
No, the stories I like are the down and out guys, the also-rans, the utility infielders. My interest began when I worked at a Hollywood record store, and Kevin DuBrow, the freshly fired lead singer of Quiet Riot, used to come in all the time. His wig always looked a little crooked and his gut hung out of the bottom of his muscle tee.
“What the hell happened to you?” I wanted to ask him. I tried several times to work up the courage to pitch a book project to him, but how do you delicately ask a former star to tell his tale of woe?
So if true tales of having the brass ring yanked from your grasp appeal to me, tales of never quite grabbing it are even more fascinating, which brings us to Larry Dunlap’s Night People.
If you’ve never heard of Dunlap, that’s kind of the point. He was just a regular kid growing up in a regular old house in regular old Indianapolis in the ’50s and early ’60s. Like so many kids in that situation, Dunlap fell in love with rock and roll and put together a vocal group. Keep in mind that we’re talking about the era of harmonies — doo wop groups, the Four Seasons, on and on. They gigged around the middle of the country, and even cut a side that got some airplay and good attention.
Yada yada yada, Dunlap finds himself a young father working at an RCA plant, directionless and unhappy. His group decides they’re moving to San Francisco to take a shot at the big time, leaving Larry in the driveway. After a rather generous vote of confidence from his parents, he packs his bags and joins the boys in the Bay Area, leaving behind the wife, the kids, and the steady job at the plant.
He lands in mid-sixties northern California, gigs at biker bars, discovers weed and tacos, gets screwed over by band mates and business people, but eventually the band work their way up to a gig at a topless club in North Beach. They find themselves rubbing shoulders with mobsters and celebrities, and after a name change to Stark Naked and the Car Thieves on their way to what looks like a pretty promising career.
Las Vegas is next, Los Angeles — women, weed, getting screwed over by more club owners, agents, and managers. It’s standard stuff for a music memoir, but Dunlap’s perspective is unique because he’s not writing from the top of the hill. This isn’t Bono’s rags to riches story. Larry is just a regular guy working in the lower rungs of the music business in the mid to late ’60s, the “top of the bottom,” so to speak.
Interested? Check out Dunlap’s website for more info.