Stan Gerding

Dear Grandson: On Doing It My Way

In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding takes singing lessons, sings in nearby clubs, and is shocked after meeting a very famous person.

 

Dear Grandson,

My work was getting very boring and I felt I needed another activity. I decided to take up singing.

I knew I had a decent singing voice, so I went to this gentleman named Jerry Jaye (Jerry Aiena) who was a voice coach and asked him if he would give me some lessons to help me improve my voice. This gentleman was a singer back in the ’40s and ’50s who sang with Phil Jaye (Philip Joseph Patelmo), performing as “The Jaye Brothers” and opening for a lot of big stars. I mention this because I knew them as an opening act at the Beverly Hills night club back in Northern Kentucky. The Beverly Hills night club was a top-notch night club that booked big-named stars. (It ended up burning down on May 28th, 1977, killing 165 people.)

I set up a time with Jerry, went for my first appointment, and found out he worked out of a downtown hotel in Philadelphia. I went into this room and he sat behind a baby grand piano and told me to get up on this little stage he had and he asked, “What songs do you know?”

I rattled off a few songs I knew by heart and one of them was “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” a Paul Anka favorite.

Jerry started playing the music and I started singing. I thought for sure he would stop me in the middle of the song and critique me, but instead he let me finish the whole song and then he said, “You don’t need singing lessons, you need help with your stage presence.”

The next few weeks, I would go to his studio and sing a few songs and he would help me with the right way to stand, the right way to breathe, the right way to use my arms and hands; essentially, showing me how to perform, entertain, and act.

One day, he told me, “You’re ready for the stage. You need to go to some small clubs, have music in hand, and ask the band or combo if they’ll let you sing with them.”

I went back to work the next day and the X-ray Technician whose name was Ray Petraca—of course, I don’t have to tell you he was of Italian descent—told me that he would be more than glad to take me to some clubs in Philly and Jersey that he knew had bands or combos.

The first place we went to was a small club in Camden, New Jersey, called the “The Blue Note.” They had a lead guitarist, a bassist, and a keyboard guy. I was introduced by them and I went up and sang “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “Look of Love,” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” I got a standing ovation from the audience! Okay, full disclosure, there was only a handful of people in the audience, but they were standing and, yes, they were clapping too.

Several weeks later, Ray and I went to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to the Latin Casino. It was a week night and there wasn’t any big-name talent there (only on the weekends), but there was a small combo that played three nights a week and Ray set it up for me to sing with them. That was a good night for me. I sang about ten songs and the handful of people there applauded very loudly, so I knew they liked the songs. The head guy of the combo invited me back the following week and I went again and had another very good night.

After that, we went to a big ballroom venue with the Harry Kravitz orchestra. It was the Ivy Stone Ballroom on a Wednesday night and this place was packed with people aged 45 and up. They came to dance. Ray introduced me to the band leader, Harry Kravitz, and I handed him my music. He told me he would get me up on stage after their first set.

When the time came, Harry introduced me to the audience as “an up and coming new talent in the local area.”

 

When the time came, Harry introduced me to the audience as “an up and coming new talent in the local area.”

 

I chose several slow songs. I sang two of the songs and the crowd danced to them and gave me a round of applause. Kravitz then introduced my next song, “My Way.” The music started, I began singing, and then I noticed that no one was dancing. Instead, they were focused on me. When I finished the song, the applause was deafening! I knew I did a good job, I took my bows, and walked off the stage. What a night!

The next week, Ray and I went to a downtown Philly night club called Palumbo’s. Harry Kravitz happened to be there with a smaller band. He was delighted to see me, and I was delighted to see him.

He asked me, “What do you want to sing tonight?”

I told him, “‘More,’ ‘L-O-V-E,’ and ‘My Way’ again.”

He was happy that I wanted to do “My Way” again. The reception I got the week before was awesome and I’m sure he thought it would go over big at Palumbo’s.

They played a few songs and then Kravitz introduced me. I went up on stage and started singing the songs. There was applause after each song, but when I finished “My Way,” I got a standing ovation from the crowd and I felt wonderful. I took my bows, walked off the stage, and headed towards the bar where Ray was waiting for me.

A gentleman came up to me and said, “There’s someone who wants to meet you. I’ll introduce you.”

We started walking towards a table in the back where several individuals sat, including Mr. Palumbo himself. And then, when I got to the table, another man turned around to shake my hand and it was Frank Sinatra! He said, “Great job on my song, but not as good as ole blue eyes.”

I about died! Not only did I shake this major star’s hand, but I had just sung his song.

I also shook Mr. Palumbo’s hand and then headed back to the bar to be with Ray. I was starstruck and shaking like a leaf.

I sang at a few more places, but never really landed anything permanent.

My time at the duty station was soon up. I talked to the detailer and asked if I could be sent to basic lab school in Portsmouth, Virginia, and he obliged me. He also told me that once I successfully completed basic lab school, he would also send me to Boone Clinic at Little Creek, Virginia. Little Creek was the next town over from Norfolk and it was known for their docking of Amphibious Assault ships and a Seal Team.

 

 

I took a trip down to the area with the family and, on the way down, we were getting a little hungry. We pulled into this old-fashioned diner where you could order from your car. Your dad was in the back seat looking straight ahead at the menu.

I turned and looked at him and said, “What do you want?” Even though I knew he was too young to read the menu.

He said, “I’ll have a beer, I think.”

I started laughing so hard. He looked at me and started laughing too.

Once we scouted the area, we were back to Philly to finish up that tour. Then on to Portsmouth Naval Hospital School Command.

More later, Grandson.

Love,
Grandpa

 

Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.

 

Stan Gerding

Stan Gerding is a retired veteran after 23 years in the Navy that included a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Corpsman, 1968-1969. He has since been the administrator of various healthcare organizations, a high school science teacher, an author, a singer, and is the father of Greg Gerding and grandfather to Jack.

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