Oldtime(rs) rock ‘n’ roll

Jimmy Torres, front and Richard Stephens practice with the rest of the String-A-Longs at the Clovis Civic Center. CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle

By Tonya Fennell: CNJ staff writer

After 42 years apart, the String-A-Longs have reunited to perform at the Clovis Music Festival.

The group will perform tonight during the opening night festivities. Performances by Tommy Roe and The LA Party Dolls will follow. The festival continues through Saturday night.

The String-A-Longs began recording in 1958 and were managed by Norman Petty in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. They had several hits including “Wheels,” “Mina Bird” and “Twist Watch.”

The band is comprised of four guitar players and a drummer.

The group’s Keith McCormick wrote the song “Sugar Shack,” which Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs made famous. Band members said the ironic thing about the song is that they gave it to Gilmer because they didn’t like it.

The group split after less than a decade together, according to band members.

“We split because our record company went bankrupt,” rhythm guitarist Richard Stephens said.

Dressed casually in T-shirts and jeans, the five-member group arrived Wednesday at the Clovis Civic Center to practice the songs they haven’t played in ages. Although they are now considered senior citizens, the gray-haired men came alive as they played the Spanish-flavored guitar rips of “Wheels.”

Drummer Don Allen, 69, said he is proud to be the oldest member of the group.

“We are so excited to see each other,” bass player Aubrey DeCordova said.

As they jammed, DeCordova closed his eyes and tapped his foot.

According to Stephens, the String-A-Longs is one of the only remaining 1950s rock ‘n’ roll bands in which all the original members are alive and well.

“Maybe we’ll make the Guinness Book of World Records,” he said.

The group plans to play a half-hour set of its old music as well as some new songs.

“We’re going to desperately try to play them well,” Stephens joked.

DeCordova fondly recalls recording sessions at the Norman Petty Studios.

The guitarist and singer said Petty was a perfectionist who would sometimes make them stay all night to achieve a good recording.

“We have to play good (at the Clovis Music Festival), DeCordova said, “or Norman Petty will turn over in his grave.”