Sunday, February 19, 2017

Singapore Boy Makes Good In USA: Henri Gann (1)

         Tony Bennett I Left My Heart In S.F.  Video by Denise D'Amico

A Letter from Los Angeles, California:

Henri Gann is back with his life adventure in the United States where he lives today. He punctuates his story by providing readers about the music and songs he loves, the DJ's he listens to and the cars he drives. The ultimate was to be able to witness live the guitar groups of the 60's when they visited his campus.

Last year at around Chinese New Year, I wrote about my band The Trekkers. Now, I would like to write about what came after The Trekkers: my journey to the United States.

When I left Singapore in 1964, I left behind a growing surf guitar scene and my band The Trekkers.*  Leaving home for America was exciting. It overwhelmed all rational thinking especially for an eighteen year old. 
While I loved playing music with my guitar group, I had assumed that I could follow the same routine in Singapore. It did not take long for me to realize that I would have to focus on my studies in Los Angeles and find ways to support my stay in America. Still, music played a meaningful role in my life and I soon found the music scene intimate connection with the LA's car culture. 

I set sailed on the American President Lines SS Wilson. It was a 21-day journey from Hong Kong to San Francisco. With no news from home and without the convenience of today's internet, the long journey on the ship turned my excitement into anxious days. 

I will always remember that homesick feeling whenever I hear the song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" which was played by the ship's three piece jazz band on that long journey.
Arriving in San Francisco I was amazed by the sight of the fog slowly lifting off the Golden Gate Bridge as the ship sailed  through San Francisco Bay. I gave myself a few days in the city before contacting the International Student Services. I was introduced first to a family that lived in Mountain View and than to another who gave me a ride to Hermosa Beach in Southern California. 

Approaching LA, I was mesmerized by the many fast cars on the freeways. And at the beach home of my host family, I played my guitar with kids in the neighborhood. A week later, I moved inland to a suburban city, Glendale, California. Another host family took me in for a few months so that I could get adjusted to college life. I did odd jobs for $1.25 per hour to pay for my college expenses. 

For the first few months, I hitched rides to school as public transportation was scarce in Los Angeles. One of my first rides was with a fellow student who drove a GTO. He was blasting his car radio with the music of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Sonny and Cher, and Jan and Dean. I had discovered the pleasure of listening to car radio while driving. 
It did not take me long to save up money from my part time job to buy an old car. I bought a Plymouth Fury '57 for $350. It had all the new modern features such as an automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes which made learning to drive the car easy. 

I explored the various radio stations: Boss Radio KHJ (93.0) KFWB (98.0) and KRLA (111.0)  and listened to the deejays each with a unique name like Boss Jock Sam Riddle, Bob Morgan and his Good Morgan, Angeles, Humble Harve and the Real Don Steele. Most interesting of the Deejays were Wolfman Jack and his nightly "wolf howl" and Casey Kasem with his famous sign-off line "keeping your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."
                         The Association 'Windy' Video by Ross Peeler

Soon after the Beatles came to LA in 1964, many British bands followed. These groups were promoted aggressively on television: by Dick Clarke in his American Bandstand and in Shindig and Hullabaloo. All the shows were recorded in a live audience setting.

Occasionally an artist would perform on campus to promote their records.
I saw groups like the Surfaris playing Wipeout and the Association singing Windy and Never My Love. It was a new experience for me to be able to watch these groups that I had just heard on the radio.

Article/Images: Copyrights Reserved (Henri Gann).

Join me down memory lane for a nostalgic Spotify listening tour in my cars of the 60s: The Plymouth Fury' 57 ( 1965 - 1966 )

A special thanks to my daughter Carolyn for her help with editing my story.

*You can read more about The Trekkers adventure here:

Henri Gann in Singapore with the Lion Dance Gang


henri gann said...

Congratulation, Dad !
Carolyn Gan

henri gann said...

Can't wait until the next part !


henri gann said...

Loved reading this Henry, keep it coming, want to read more.
Love Wendy

henri gann said...

Thank you for sharing Henry, a very sweet story.