MALOY RECALLS ROCKABILLY DAYS
Records included “Honey Baby”, “Draggin’ All Night”
Holding a Gibson acoustic guitar in his lap, Vince Maloy recalled the rhythm of a rockabilly song he recorded 30 years ago, "Draggin' All Night."
There was two hot rods in a soda bar, Arguin' 'bout who had the fastest car
One fellow said his car didn't lag, well, the other guy said, "How bad you on the drag?"
Maloy was 25 when he wrote that song, one of many he recorded for London Records and smaller companies in the late 1950s. He was performing "Hubba Hubba Ding Ding" and "Crazy About You" on a live television show in Washington D.C. when he shared "Draggin' All Night" with a record distributor from a subsidiary of London, the label that later went on to record the Rolling Stones.
"He said, "I'd like to try to handle this"," Maloy said of his meeting with the man at the television studio. "When you mention a major label - my eyes flew open. It took me years to get this contract."
Maloy never scored any hits as big as those by the Rolling Stones or the stars he met during his musical career, but fond memories came back to him recently when a reporter asked him about an old newspaper clipping on one of his trips to a New York recording studio.
"Before, you look for all the publicity you can get," he said with a laugh at his home in Mechanicsville (Maryland). "Now, I'm not looking at it that way."
Maloy's mother gave him a Roy Rogers guitar when he was 6, and he remembers someone showing him the chords two years later. He soon was winning prizes in local talent contests, but cut back his guitar playing when he entered high school. He went to work at his father's excavating business after graduation, and remembers hearing an employee picking out the blues in two fingered style.
"There was a black fellow who worked for my father...who would play like that," he said. "That set me afire."
Sitting at home one day in 1956, Maloy saw a singer on "The Milt Grant TV Record Hop."
"I said, 'If that guy's done it, maybe I can do it, too'," he said. "Let me try that."
Working with other local musicians, Maloy got a small record company in New York City to print his rockabilly song "Honey Baby" and he went to see Grant.
"I just got out a record and went up there to tell him about it and he put me on the show," Maloy said. "I was the first guy I ever knew of who had a record out in Southern Maryland.
In a forerunner to MTV, performers lip-synched, or pantomimed, their songs on the live record hop program wherever WTTG crews set up their cameras. Maloy recalled a show from a swimming pool at Glen Echo Park near Washington.
"I was in the pool swimming and singing the song," he said. "A girl came up behind me and dunked me at the end of the song."
The television show also drew bigger stars like Fats Domino and Fabian, but Maloy downplayed his association with them.
"You meet those people. That's all you do," he said. "You're not pals."
Old blues songs gave Maloy themes and other ideas for his rockabilly tunes, and he reworked verses from his older songs into later releases. He compared the ground rules he faces in getting his songs on the radio to the sexually explicit lyrics that now fill the airwaves.
"Back in those days, they were sensitive about what you said," he recalled. "I wrote a song, 'Havin' a Ball 'n All.' Thy related havin' a ball to going to bed with a girl. They said they wouldn't play it because it had vulgar overtones."
Drug abuse problems associated with rock 'n roll musicians never occurred with Maloy and the people he worked with, he said.
"You hardly ever heard of them," he said. "I've never seen anybody fool with them or even talk about them. It was sort of remote."
The local musicians playing on various records with Maloy included James "Dirty" Daulton of California on bass and guitar, Kenny Wathen of Breton Bay on lead guitar, Teddy Wathen of Leonardtown on bass, Tommy Ryce of Mechanicsville on electric piano and Ralph Butler of Leonardtown on saxophone. Maloy later played lead guitar, and his brother, Rom, played some shows and now works as a sergeant with the St. Mary's County Sheriff's Department.
Maloy's career in music took him from small clubs in Southern Maryland to stage performances in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas. It was hard work, and he had to play harder and faster than the established entertainers.
"If you don't have a big name, you've really got to put out," he said. "When you're a big name, you can walk out and put your hands in your pockets."
Despite the fun he had making records and entertaining crowds, Maloy eventually decided he could not find true success as a musician.
"Unless you make the big, big bucks, it's sort of a hit-or-miss type of business," he said. "I never had nothing that got into the charts. I always said I had another 'local disturbance'."
Maloy left the business in about 1970 and joined the North Beach Police Department. He eventually served as the town's police chief before going to work as a special security agent with the Navy.
"I was at the age where I wanted to try law enforcement work," he said, recalling his thoughts at the time. "If I don't, I'm going to be too old to do it."
Maloy might be out of the music business, but he still gets calls form radio-show producers and small record companies about his work. His last record, "I've Been Around Your Door Before" from 1968, is still on the jukebox at the Drift Inn crab house in Oraville (Maryland).
"It's always played every weekend," according to Josephine Copsey who co-owns the restaurant with her husband. "If somebody else doesn't play it, I do. It's a good record."
Maloy's songs also live on at Slenderella and Slenderfella, the family's body-toning business in White Plains, where one of his daughters, Deneen, works as a manager.
"I love the music he plays," she said, "but I do listed to Heavy Metal, too."
Like any professional, Maloy never said never to the comeback trail. He likes some of the "walking bass" country music he hears on the radio.
"The vibes hit me," he said. "You get addicted to this business. I might still do it if the notion hits me."
(originally printed in the 12-2-88 edition of The Enterprise) © John Wharton
Since the publication of John Wharton’s article, Vince and his wife Shirley began competitive dancing. The crowning achievement in their dancing career occurred January 23, 1994 when they won the Gold Division of the West Coast Swing Dance World Championship in Nashville Tennessee. Along with their victory, the brought the house down.
"It was a big event," Vince said. "There were more than 3000 people in attendance, and after the competition, the Master of Ceremonies recalled us to the crowd as the couple who had everyone standing and cheering during our dance."
To be eligible for the Gold Division, dance couples must have a combined age of 115 years. Vince and Shirley qualified for the Gold at the World Championships. But during their first competition, they won a first place trophy in the Silver Division, where they successfully competed against younger dancers (combined ages of 100 years).
"I don't know exactly what it is about us that gets people so excited," Vince said, "Maybe folks are kind of shocked to see people our age doing the West Coast Swing with the same sort of vigor as young people. It is a sexy dance and similar to the jitterbug in style."
One of the highlights of their dancing was an appearance on TNN's Club Dance TV show, where a spotlight feature was broadcast on Vince and Shirley.
In 1997, Vince retired from a successful law enforcement career with the Federal Government.
The interest in Vince's rockabilly career all those years ago has increased. His records have been mentioned in Continental Restyling magazine, and in 1996, the Sugar King Boys released a smokin' version of "Hubba Hubba Ding Ding" on their TIP TOP EP on Wormtone Records.
In late 1999, Vince found several reel-to-reel studio tapes of unreleased recordings and alternate takes of released material. These tapes were listened to and reveal some real gems.
Vince and his wife Shirley operated a successful antique business in Leonardtown Maryland after his retirement. Vince continued the business after Shirley’s passing in 2000.
In 2001, Vince went back into the studio for the first time in just over 30 years. Vince sat in with members of the East Coast's best traditional rockabilly band, The FleaBops. He worked up a new version of "In Deed I Do" with the music of an unreleased song Vince did in 1959, "Be My Chick”. The results were very impressive. This event was covered in a local newspaper. During a later jam session, Kenny Wathen (of the Rhythm Rascals) and Vince played together for the first time in close to 40 years.
After a long fight with leukemia, Vince passed away on August 14, 2002.