My Rock ’n’ Roll Moment

By Phil Perkins | March 6th, 2023

Memories of youthful aspirations

My rock ’n’ roll moment, Phil Perkins

Boomer reader Phil Perkins shares a youthful tale of musical dreams – and a fleeting success. It was his rock ’n’ roll moment.

Most young men of my generation fantasized about leading the life of a Beatle. Even those of us who had learned to play an instrument knew that the probability of making it to the degree the Fab Four did was out of reach. But I did have one moment.

Many years ago in a land far, far away (well, Ohio) I played drums in a band called The Cobras. Now if you’re from my generation you might think that name implies a band who played hot rod music, perhaps mixed in with a surf tune or two. Nope. We played what they at the time called “British invasion” music. In our case we offered up a mixed bag of songs from diverse groups such as Herman’s Hermits and the Rolling Stones. Once we had a small repertoire of songs, we decided to enter a local battle of the bands. “Battles” were a common form of entertainment and competition at that point. You seldom won anything but bragging rights but that was okay with us.

Here’s your visual. The night of the event we appeared in matching yellow Henley shirts and white Levi’s. All of us sported short, Beatle-style haircuts, limited only by how much our parents would allow us to get by with. Looking around it seemed like all of the other bands had long hair, bellbottom pants, and flowered shirts. We figured we were toast.

When it was our turn we launched into a song called “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” It was light fare compared with the other bands. I did my best to imitate a British accent and we apparently managed to look sufficiently cute. Our second song was “Satisfaction” by the Stones. Not having a fuzz guitar, we accomplished the rough sound using an oboe with a split reed. You can’t make this stuff up.

We nervously awaited the results, realizing we didn’t stand much of a chance compared to the well-equipped and much hipper band next to us. After all, they had done a very credible version of “Shapes of Things to Come” by the Yardbirds. If that band had offered records for sale I would have bought one that very evening.

Finally, they announced the winners. Third place … not us. Second place. Again not us and we began to pack our equipment. We weren’t prepared for what came next. The loud male voice on the public address system shocked everyone by announcing that a band called The Cobras were the new champs. You could see the band beside us roll their eyes, and I can’t say I blame them. But the crowd erupted in cheers.

A master of ceremonies came up to shake our hands and tell us we had earned at least an audition with an obscure record company. (BTW, it never happened … go figure). Once the formalities were concluded, we packed all of our equipment into the oboe player’s station wagon (remember those?) and tried to drive out of the stadium. Looking out of the window from the backseat of that car I noticed legions of girls, screaming their heads off running beside us. Some were even dangerously holding onto the handles of the doors. Visions of “A Hard Day’s Night” dominated my thoughts as I drank in that rare moment. We finally left the stadium and waved goodbye to the gaggle of girls.

Now I assure you this is a true story. My wife was in the audience and saw it all unfold. Just to be clear, she wasn’t one of those doting girls. She wasn’t even my girlfriend at the time. But the band had enjoyed our rock ’n’ roll moment and, as you might imagine, it never happened again. One of The Cobras passed long ago. One is a noted surgeon and one a community leader. Me, I’m still playing music on occasion but our latest audience was a very nice senior couple.

Again, you can’t make this stuff up.

Note: The battle of the bands described in this story was held in Spartan Stadium, a football venue in Portsmouth, Ohio. It was originally the home of the Portsmouth Spartans, who later became the Detroit Lions. It was also the location of various Dick Clark Caravan shows featuring such acts as Peter and Gordon, Mitch Ryder, and Jackie DeShannon. I didn’t make this up either.

Caption of feature image: The Cobras, 1965, left to right, Mike Wallace (RIP), Tony Asch, Tim Bailey, Phil Perkins

Read more youthful memories, rock ’n’ roll moments, and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.

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