Davy Jones and ‘Daydream Believer’

I loved “The Monkees,” which I watched as a boy in reruns in the early to mid 1970s. Robert Lloyd of the LA Times has a thoughtful piece on Davy Jones’ passing that to my mind hits all the right notes on the show’s appeal (“the self-aware naturalism of its leads”) and the false arguments about the made-for-TV band’s authenticity.

Reader Bob Terry reminded me that one of Jones’ signature vocals, “Daydream Believer,” was written by Pomona native John Stewart. I wrote a column in 2007 about the song’s 40th anniversary that included an interview with Stewart, who died unexpectedly three months later.

That column appears in full below. And here’s a YouTube video of the song with a nice selection of familiar vignettes from the show.
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Remembering Hunter Hancock

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After his Aug. 22 death, obituaries for songwriter Jerry Lieber (“Poison Ivy,” “Hound Dog,” “Stand By Me,” “On Broadway,” dozens more) noted that his fascination with rhythm and blues music began when he heard L.A. disc jockey Hunter Hancock.

Hancock, described as the West Coast’s Alan Freed for his influence at bringing black music to white teens, lived in L.A., but he closed out his life at Claremont Manor, where he died in 2004.

A revered music figure, he was revered at Claremont Manor too, where his photographs still adorn the walls and where his irrepressible good spirits enlivened the halls.
Hancock appeared in ads for the retirement home in which he declared cheerfully, “It would take three diesel train engines to pull me out of here.”

Almost sounds like a rhythm and blues song.

I met Hancock in late 2002 at Claremont Manor and published this feature story about him in the Daily Bulletin on Jan. 16, 2003. The full text is below.

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Sammy Hagar, the early years

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What you might call before-and-after photos of rock singer Sammy Hagar, above, were set to run with Sunday’s column but didn’t (the vagaries of the newspaper biz being what they are). But then another photo surfaced, courtesy of reader Sheree Vath.

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“I read your article on Sammy Hagar’s book and his Fontana years. He apparently spent some time at Alta Loma High School too. Attached is his senior picture which appears in the 1966 Sisunga (yearbook),” Vath writes.

That picture appears at right.

“We’ve had some debates about this subject in our Alta Cucawanda Facebook group,” Vath continues. “Some of the people who grew up in Etiwanda say they remember him. Others say it isn’t true because they researched online and couldn’t find any information about it. I believe he spent some time at Alta Loma High School even if he was just there on picture day. Please take a look at the picture. It sure looks like him even if the hairdo is very different. We have the book to prove it!”

Looks like Sammy Hagar to me, Sheree. His memoir, “Red,” doesn’t name any of the schools he went to, although he talks about wanting to get out of Fontana after high school and he’s known to be a Fontana High alumnus.

Hagar writes that his mom married again when he was growing up and that her new husband was a man from Cucamonga who was a chef at “Chafee” College. (They met at a polka dance.) So it makes sense that Hagar would attend Alta Loma High, even if only briefly.

At lunch Monday at Nancy’s Cafe in Rancho Cucamonga I ran into a regular, Darlene Scalf, who saw me reading Hagar’s memoir and said: “I went to high school with that guy.” In Fontana, she confirmed. She added: “A friend of mine dated him. She had to break it off. Her parents said, ‘He’ll never amount to anything.’ “

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‘GTO’

You know the 1964 song “GTO” by Ronny and the Daytonas? The one with the lyric about how Ronny is going to buy a Pontiac GTO, “take it out to Pomona and let ‘em know that I’m the coolest thing around”?

I was walking along Canal Street in New Orleans one evening of my visit, passing by Harrah’s Casino, which was on the other side of the street, as its sound system blasted “GTO.”

My ears perked up and I paused on the sidewalk a moment, waiting for the Pomona line. Once it came, I resumed walking, a smile on my face, feeling a little closer to home.

You can watch a video here with the complete song plus photos of vintage GTOs.

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