"Hair! I had hair! Whoa!"
So shrieked Dick Dodd at the Fountain Valley Hop last Wednesday, watching a recently unearthed videotape of himself singing "Dirty Water" as a member of the Standells some 24 years ago.
The 44-year-old singer/drummer's hairline hasn't especially taken a hike in the intervening years. But the ultra-Beatles length and style of his Standells' hair bespoke another era, one when hair was a contentious matter.
"I remember getting kicked out of hotels because we had long hair," Dodd recalled. "The manager would see us and just say: 'You're not staying here.' People would go, 'Is it a boy or a girl? Ah, it's a boy. Gee, you can't tell nowadays, can you, Martha?' We got chased around a couple of times down south and shot at by Marines in North Carolina on a tour with Paul Revere and the Raiders. They were mad because their girlfriends had gone to our show. They blew up the pool at the hotel!
"I'd go out of my way back then to be extra-polite so people would go: 'Just because he has long hair he's not so bad.' It's hard to believe now that for a time you were seen as good or bad by the length of your hair."
Those hairy times constitute only one aspect of the entertainment experience Dodd has logged. As American culture went through its changes in the '60s, Dodd was in situations which practically epitomized them.
In the innocent, squeaky-clean '50s, Dodd was one of the original Disney Mousketeers. When the California surfing culture swamped the nation in the early '60s, he was in two of the earliest and most influential surf bands, the Belairs and Eddie and the Showmen. When the friction between the emerging youth counterculture and "the establishment" erupted in riots on Sunset Strip in 1967, Dodd's Standells provided a soundtrack for it (and for a swell American International exploitation flick) with their "Riot on the Sunset Strip." And, come the '70s, Dodd, like so many other entertainers, had to adjust to a less kinetic life.
For the last six years he has led the Dodd Squad, a high-spirited oldies band that appears at the Hop every Wednesday this month. The seven-piece outfit includes Barry Rillera, guitarist with the Righteous Brothers since their first successes; bassist Jose Silva, another Righteous Brothers vet; singer Royce Jones, who has toured with Steely Dan, Ambrosia and the Doobie Brothers; trombonist Lorry Cole, trumpeter Brooks Greer and percussionist Richard Torres.
The gig might seem something of a demotion for someone who used to appear weekly on TV and who once shared a tour with the Stones. But Dodd gives every evidence of having a great time, on stage and off.
"It makes me so happy, just being able to do something like this and having friends," he said. "Just people going, 'Hey Dick, how are ya?' I love that kind of stuff. And once I'm on stage with these people I work with, it just comes from my heart. To be doing that and getting paid to do it, when a lot of people out there can't find a job doing anything, much less what they love to do, it's just a great kick for me."
Dodd, who grew up in Redondo Beach, was 6 when he decided to be an entertainer. Little League lost out "because all the cute girls were in tap-dancing class." When he was 9, a Disney talent scout spotted him at a recital and told him to audition the next day for the Mousketeers. "I was curious. I had no idea what a Mousketeer was, because there weren't any yet."
He wound up auditioning several times, as Disney went through hundreds of children before settling on the final lineup. "It was the best training I ever could have had as a kid," Dodd said, "listening to directors, lighting men, choreographers. You had to learn fast. You didn't horse around. Even though you were a kid you had to hit your marks and know your parts."
It was during his three years on the Mickey Mouse Club that Dodd became interested in drumming and bought a snare drum from Annette Funicello for $20 ("I still don't know what she was doing with a snare drum"). He was taught to play by the father of the show's Cubby O'Brien. Though Dodd did some film work, including a dancing role in "Bye Bye Birdie," his main interest became music. In the early '60s he joined the Belairs, whose "Mr. Moto" is regarded by many as the first surf record release.
When one of the guitarists, Eddie Bertrand (also an active Orange County musician today), left to form the louder, more raucous Eddie and the Showmen, Dodd went with him. Soon they were a staple at Buena Park's Retail Clerks Union Hall and other Southland teen-ager spots, playing their own music and backing up touring stars.