Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the secret history of Chicago music to shed light on worthy artists who have been forgotten with Chicago ties that have never been seen in the first place.
When I choose subjects for The Secret History of Chicago Musical, I always look for compelling stories, but rarely do I find a story that seems cut out for a biopic. Ron Haddock’s short and tragic but absolutely jam-packed life is one such story. He had connections to early rock ‘n’ roll, pulp publishing, and genre films—and like a proper B-movie juvenile delinquent, he once said, “I’m out for a kick in life, whatever I do. I want to do it, running like there’s no tomorrow, I’m living as it is today.”
Haddock was born in Chicago on April 17, 1940, and as a child in Downers Grove, he ate comic books and monster movies and magazines. he had a musical affair when he saw girl can’t help it, a somewhat cynical 1956 musical comedy dealing with the sordid intrigues of the record business – he was charmed by the rock ‘n’ roll trailblazers who appeared in the film, including Little Richard, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran and Jean Vincent was involved.
Vincent’s influence on the rock ‘n’ roll of the day (and on Haddock) cannot be overstated. No other rocker has anticipated such swagger and menacing or inspired more fledgling strictures to sport his sleek hair, leather jacket, and guitar strap—and his immortal rockabilly smash “B-Bop-A”. -Lula” came out just a few months ago in the movie.
As a 16-year-old ninth grader in Brookfield, Haddock started his own band, The Boppers, which was modeled after Vincent’s backup group, the Blue Caps. Eventually known as Ron Haddock and the Boppers, they became one of Chicago’s first proper rock ‘n’ roll groups, when the sound was still rooted in rockabilly (Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, et al.). The Boppers cut two 45s for Cha Cha Records, a small label based in South Holland, Illinois: the 1959 song “99 Chicks”, though largely ignored at the time, is now revered as a classic, That’s a Little Richard-style piano pounding, a guitar solo that uses literally three notes, and immediate, hiccup vocals that sometimes recall a hop-up Buddy Holly. The B-side, “B-Bop-A Jean,” is a tribute to Vincent’s hit, and like “99” it has an uncanny enthusiasm and a primitive, treble ax solo.
The Boppers’ second Cha Cha release, a 1960 single that combined the original “Baby Say Bye Bye” with a Riverby cover of Chuck Berry’s “Maybellin'”, had no real impact, even though the band was rockin’ on WNBQ-TV. Have you seen. ‘ dance show Chicago Band Stand, And american bandstand David J. Hull (who is believed to have received over 150 letters each week from teen fans).
Haddock disbanded the Boppers soon after they married in 1960, but they left behind several unreleased seasons. Cha Cha later released several of them with “Unreleased 1950s Masters” printed on the label, including Gene Vincent’s “Rollin’ Danny” and the uber-rockin’ originals “Knock Out” and “Bop Hop”.
In pursuit of a Hollywood career, Haddock left for California, where he returned to his love for horror films, pulp fiction, and the written word in general. He published his own fanzines (most notably Ago) and wrote for those whose friends also started. In 1961 he became editor of the Graveyard Examiner newsletter for the popular Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine, great superfan Forrest J. Published by Ackerman. In 1962 and ’63, Haddock also wrote and edited for a short-lived magazine called Fantastic Monsters of Movies, Ackerman, created by two friends who met through B-movie special-effects wizard Paul Blasdale and film editor and actor Bob Burns. It covered similar territory in a more developed style, and the staff of the magazine put together a weekly Los Angeles radio show, which Haddock co-hosted.
Also in 1962, under the various names De Plum (often Don Shepard or Vin Saxon), Haddock began writing smutty pulp novels with lurid titles such as meat sellershandjob monkey rape, and scarlet virgin. On his way to becoming a renaissance figure of trash culture, he soon ventured into exploitation films as well. In 1963 he met future cult director Ray Dennis Steckler, while covering the production of Incredibly strange creatures that stopped living and became mixed zombies, and they forged a lasting personal and professional relationship. Haddock’s work in Steckler’s films is perhaps the most famous to date.
Haddock made his film debut playing State Trooper Officer Tracy in the 1964 proto-slasher film the thrill killer. His most beloved role is that of rock star Lonnie Lord, aka Rat Pfink, in Steikler’s 1966 oddity Rat Puffink and Boo Boo, which switches halfway from crime drama to superhero parody. Haddock also wrote the screenplay and contributed lyrics to the score, including the ridiculously catchy and absurd “You’re a Rat Fink” and juiced-up boppers “Running Wild” and “I Stand Alone”. (To help promote the film, Cha Cha assistant Cap released “Rat Fink” and “I Stand Alone” as 45 under the name “Lonely Lord”.)
Haddock was still grinding X-rated books out of them too sex-a-rinos and pagan woman. But after appearing in another quirky Steckler comedy in 1966, a trilogy of shorts collectively titled Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters, Haddock became mentally disturbed and sought professional help. Unfortunately, the drugs he was given made him unsure, even suicidal. His friends in L.A. have never known him to abuse anything stronger than caffeine, but Steckler says Haddock shaved his head and withdrew from space.
In late 1967, Haddock moved back to Chicago to live with his mother. He remained busy, recording about two dozen unfinished acoustic performances that year. In 1968 he moved to New York to live with comics historian and writer Bhob Stewart, and although his detachment and depression had not improved, he took some of the jobs Stewart had found for him. He wrote stories for Jim Warren scary Copied on the back of a 1968 Topps trading card issued with the magazine and sci-fi TV series land of giants.
By 1971 Haddock was back in California and began working with Steckler, who had moved to Las Vegas. He played a psychic and possibly supernatural sword-wielding assassin in the paper-thin, delightfully corny horror flick blood shed (aka Chopper), which he also coauthored. Haddock continued to struggle with his mental health, but in 1974 he became associate editor and writer for the magazine monsters of movies, which went on to have some fantastic issues. He also edited one-shot film magazines for E-Go publications from ’74 to ’77.
Haddock suffered a breakdown after losing a gig in 1977, and on August 14 of the same year was struck and killed by an 18-wheeler while driving down the Route 66 exit ramp—he was visiting Steckler in Las Vegas. Was staying and trying to get hitchhiker back to LA. Haddock was buried two days later, the same day that Elvis Presley died. His grave is in the Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in southwest suburban Justice, Illinois.
Although he did not achieve any widespread fame in life, Haddock is today celebrated by underground weirdos and outside historians. His work with Boppers was compiled for a Swedish LP two years after his death, and in 1996 Norton Records released a more in-depth retrospective titled. 99 chicks (Re-issued on LP in 2005). Norton label head Miriam Lina has championed Haddock as a fringe-culture hero in articles, liner notes, and books—so here’s hoping she’ll one day join forces with Ed Wood Jr., Hasyl Adkins, and Michael J. Weldon. V
The radio version of The Secret History of Chicago Music airs outside the loop With host Mike Stephen on WGN Radio at 720 a.m., Saturdays at 5 a.m. last shows are archived here.
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