Poodle Skirts and Sun Records

By Lacy Mitchell  - missclawdy02@yahoo.com - posted Aug. 5, 2003

         Devotion for a different time and place grew even stronger for me Thursday night when Sonny Burgess and the Pacers performed at the 60th annual White River Carnival in Batesville, Arkansas. It is here I gained my first taste of true rockabilly legend and an even greater appreciation for a time that I missed but will always love.
         Burgess and his Pacers graced the stage at 6:30pm and I wanted to be thereóI felt a need to be there. Though I know not much of their history, I love what they resemble, did, and continue to do. Before my eyes were a group of musicians that were there when that sound caught the world's ear and since, has ceased to let go.

These were the legends.
         The south is famous for its hot weather and humidity, and Arkansas is no exception. Despite the ninety-four degree weather, not counting the heat index and humidity, I was going to dress for this occasionóto express a love I have for the time, to show support with a fashion statement, and because I find my true self in those bobby socks and saddle shoes.
         I arrived just on time and stood behind the rest of the audience who had chairs. Burgess opened up with an instrumental to pay homage to Mr. Sam Phillips who sadly passed away Wednesday evening. Before their third song, they said, "we are going to sing this one for the girl in the poodle skirt in the back," and they rocked "Wooly Bully." But it surely didn't take the third song for me to gain a feeling or feel the urge to move. This music grabs you and it sure didn't let go of me. Still standing in the back I could feel the rhythm coming off the instruments and into me, and nothing has ever affected me the way music - good music, can.
         I seem to lose all inhibition. For some reason I don't think about anything but what I am feeling. I forget that others are around me and that I'm not alone. All I hear is the music and my body responds. I can't stop it and I don't want to. So as Burgess gave it his allóI danced. And, I hope in some small way he can see how much I appreciate what he is doing. During the middle of their set, what I did then was shocking even to me because I didn't think about it. If I had, my shyness would have overcome me. I found myself asking a woman to hold my purse and then in daze I walked up from the back to the front and off to the side where a space had been left for dancing. No one was up dancing and I've never been the type to initiate anything. I'm a follower not a leader. I blame it on the music. There is no other explanation but that. The music made me do what I was about to do.
         Here I danced to my heart's content as Jim Aldridge sang a medley of 50's hits. I could have easily danced in the back, but when Aldridge asked for dancers up there, I complied. No one else was. As I danced off to the side, he pointed to me to come closer and dance in front of their stage. I hate the idea of taking away from the entertainer and I guess he could sense this and said "you have no idea how much this helps the band." With that I let loose. I don't know how long the medley was, but Jailhouse Rock, American Bandstand, Sweet Little Sixteen, Whole Lotta' Shakin Going On, and Peggy Sue, etc - all were there. For what seemed like fifteen minutes, I shook, shimmied, and bee-bopped like I never had before. There was no inhibition. Out of shape, breathing hard with a felt poodle skirt clinging to me, I smiled and had a ball, dancing to every beat and sound, mouthing the words and losing myself in such a freedom! I danced like I do behind my bedroom walls. Sonny and the Pacers closed with their hit Red Headed Woman and I was sad to see it end. I am so proud to have been able to see such legends in my mind because they were there when it all took over. As younger kids passed me to go into the carnival, I wanted to say, "Stop and look, they broke ground for the people you call stars today."
         After this wonderful experience, I received many compliments and a man approached me and said, "I stood there wondering how you can just get up there and do that without thinking about it." Funny thing is that, I don't know myself. I'm shy person, I am not outgoing, and I keep to myself. But when it comes to things as such, I become a different person. I don't have many chances to partake in things to allow me that expression, but I love it when I can. And in no way does this mean I try to go to events all dressed up in hopes of doing what I did. I dress up out of respect and joy. I missed my day and by dressing in my 50's attire for an occasion as such, I feel at home and imagine for a little while that I'm back in 1955.
         It saddens me to realize how it seems to all be slipping away. Now with Sam Phillips' passing, I want to hold onto everything from the past that I love so. A century is disappearing and at times I feel I am still learning about all the things I have grown a fondness for. I would love to meet those influential souls to say thank you. To tell them how much I appreciate and respect what they have done. I want them to know - they need to know. Though I hardly know much about him, it felt right for me to let Sonny know how much the era and music means to me. We may never see each other again, but I hope he realizes that he, along with the rest of those who help build it, have influenced me, a small town girl who loves the past. I'll continue writing - I'll keep wearing that poodle skirt - I'll keep dancingówhatever it takes, just to show how thankful I am to have found this incredible experience.

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