By Joe Rector
I received a friend request the other day. I recognized the name but wasn’t sure if the request came from the person or was a way for some hacker to enter my account. So, I wrote to the person and asked him a question. He was unable to give me the answer but gave enough on other topics to convince me the request was okay. Contact with Tom Seamens was welcome after such a long time.
In 1966 I began high school. Everyone knows how difficult fitting in can be. I wasn’t sure where I belonged. Unfortunately, I picked up the smoking habit that year, so I was a “smoking pit” guy. I knew most of the popular folks through church or cub scouts, so I might have been able to wedge myself into that group. Back then, Ball Camp was looked upon as a poor, working-class neighborhood with plenty of farms. So, I was also a member of that bunch as well. I played trumpet in the band, so I was a band geek, but I also played football, which made me part of the jocks, although anyone who knows me can verify my lack of athletic talent.
No wonder high school is such a torturous time of life. Figuring out who I was and where I fit in consumed my time. Little did I know that all of that stuff didn’t matter in the larger scheme of things. Yet, because of some older teens who befriended me, I fell into comfortable and entertaining groups.
The name of the band escapes me, but in it were Susie Turner, Danny Shinpaul, Danny Britton, Steve Landon and Tommy Seamens. They practiced in Susie’s garage, and during one session I walked to her house, which was in the subdivision behind ours. I don’t recall how I “wormed” my way into their practices, but before long, I was a full-fledged “groupie.”
The band played at sock hops around the area, and I managed to find transportation to most of the events. The playlist of the group was wide enough to keep everyone happy. “Stand By Me” was the last song of each sock hop, and a good mix of fast and slow songs gave couples plenty of chances to knock around and cuddle on the dance floor.
I knew my favorite song was coming at some point in the evening. Anticipation wore on me, and I swore that the band held it back to mess with me. As soon as the opening chords were played, a smile crossed my face. Tommy Seamens was the best crooner in Knoxville as his smooth voice glided over the lyrics. The song was a 1963 release by The Showmen. The title was “39-21-40 Shape.”
I loved that band and can still hear them playing clearly. That was 57 years ago. I searched for the song without knowing who had performed it. About two years ago, I found it and now play it when I work out or write. Reconnecting with Tom was a bonus. He continued his singing career for several years and performed in local clubs and other venues. He has since changed his performances to Christian music. At 74, he’s still active in appearing at churches and other Christian events.
As we messaged each other, I asked if he had known Peggy Hawkins and her son, Steve. Tom indicated he had worked with her at one point in his career. I told him that Peggy’s maiden name was “Rector” and that she was my half-sister and Steve was my nephew.
I spend little time on Facebook other than scrolling through to see what friends and family have to say. I’m thrilled that Tom Seamens used it as a means of renewing our friendship. He brought back good memories from a time long ago. I thought of things we did, the girlfriends that I dated, and the groups that I chose to join. Best of all, I can still see through the fog of time Tom singing that song about a woman with a shape that seems impossible. I loved being a groupie with that band from right here in Ball Camp.