There is a well known saying … the things legends are made of. This holds true for so many things in life, but in music it describes the Coasters. Now in their sixth decade of making music and touring, I don’t think anyone could argue that.
Sadly, all the original members are deceased, but under the guidance of Veta Gardner, the wife of the original founding member and lead singer, the current members are still going strong, playing shows every weekend this year across the country.
We are lucky enough to have them make a stop at Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in Salamanca, NY on Wednesday, November 16 at 2pm for a Coasters Christmas.
With 8 Gold Records to their name, the original group hit the music scene with their first song in 1956. Known for their “funny” lyric songs in such hits as “Charlie Brown”, “Love Potion #9” & “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart”, the Coasters became known as “The Clown Princes of Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Having being the very first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they have earned their spot in music history.
This time around, my article is very unique. I spoke with Veta, the wife of the late Carl Gardner. She couldn’t have been nicer … and to listen to her talk about not only the group, but about her husband was certainly a different take on what I normally do, but it was also many other things. It was informative … it was a new perspective … it was important in the way of preserving music history from six decades ago. Mostly, it was heartwarming and joyful to hear a wife remember and talk about her late husband and the life they shared.
Veta shared a couple of funny stories that unfortunately are not printable but allowed her wonderful laughter to come through. We did talk about the current group of very talented guys that make up the Coasters today, one which was actually hired by her husband when he had to leave the group, and we talked Christmas, since this is a Christmas show.
Mrs. Gardner and the current Coasters are carrying on the musical legend that started 60 years ago.
For ticket information visit www.senecacasinos.com
and click on Seneca Allegany. For more information on the Coasters visit www.theoriginalcoasters.com.
A CONVERSATION WITH VETA GARDNER
HULICK: When did Carl and you get married?
GARDNER: It was 1987. We spent 24 hours a day together, every day … on the road … wherever.
HULICK: How did you meet?
GARDNER: I am originally from Jamaica. I came here in 1962. The only groups I knew in that era were the Drifters and the Platters. When I met him he told me he was a member of the Coasters and I said, “What’s that?” He said, well that’s what you asked me … what I do. I am the founding member and lead singer of the Coasters.
HULICK: (laughs) Did you know who he was then?
GARDNER: No. He said to me … you have never heard of the Coasters? I said no I haven’t, what is one of their songs? He said “Yakety Yak” and I shouted … Oh my God! That’s you! I remembered dancing to that song in Jamaica when it came out!
HULICK: WOW! What a great story!
GARDNER: It was quite a surprise, because I thought he was just trying to impress me.
HULICK: Where did you meet?
GARDNER: We both lived in condos in the same building in Mount Vernon. He lived on the second floor and I was on the sixth floor. I had just got divorced about three years prior to that and I was introduced to him to learn how to drive. (laughs) We just became good friends and it escalated to lovers and then to wife. We were very, very good friends together … I was doing his bookings and I was still working as a secretary in midtown Manhattan at the time.
HULICK: Is that how you started managing the group? I know you still manage the group of all new performers.
GARDNER: Yes. He asked me when I met him after I moved here from Jamaica. It was a new adventure for me when he asked me to manage him … I never saw him do much work, so that’s why I didn’t know he really did anything like that because he was always in the building walking back and forth. (laughs)
HULICK: Carl has since passed away.
GARDNER: Yes. He had a stroke before Alzheimers set in. His speech was very hard to understand, so I used to have to be there by him to help him out … and he was losing his hearing.
HULICK: How long did he perform?
GARDNER: He played right up to 2005. He passed away in June of 2011, and I miss him very much.
HULICK: Who has been with the current Coasters the longest?
GARDNER: His name is Joe Lance Williams. My husband brought him into the group to replace one of the guys that left 15 years ago. He came into the group in 2001. The other members are Primo Candelaria (2008), Eddie Whitfield (2009), Dennis Anderson (2011). Currently though, Eddie is not with the group because he got sick and Robert Fowler has taken his place. You will love these guys you will be seeing at the Christmas show. Everywhere they go the reviews are great. It will be a fun show.
HULICK: Usually when I interview someone who is coming to do a Christmas show, I ask them a couple Christmas questions. Would you mind answering a couple?
GARDNER: Not at all. Carl loved Christmas … he just loved it.
HULICK: What would you say was your husband’s favorite Christmas song?
GARDNER: You know he always liked Elvis Presley, so most likely it would be one of his songs. As far as singing one he would sing Silent Night in church every year, so that was his favorite to sing.
HULICK: Was there any favorite holiday food you two had to have at Christmas?
GARDNER: The one thing I used to make is leg of lamb. He just loved that! He always made me cook it for Christmas.
HULICK: What about a family tradition?
GARDNER: Well, when he was alive it was always at our house. We have a large family with my three sons from a previous marriage, grandchildren, my brother and sister … so we would all get together and I liked to go to Christmas service. Carl loved it so much, that was his joy to have all the grandchildren there. He also loved shopping at BJ’s!
HULICK: (laughs) Really?
GARDNER: (laughs) Everybody in BJ’s knows my husband. (laughs) I went in there one time without him and they are asking me, “Where’s Carl?” He was so loved by people. Someone asked me once what is something about Carl that people didn’t know. He was very, very funny. He would make you laugh the moment he walked in.