A Friend of Unfair Park wondered Saturday afternoon: Is the "unknown teen" named Robert Patterson heard singing "Tell Me How" and "Dear Debbie" on this purchased-this-morning Future Records single none other than the Bobby Patterson? Why, yes, yes it is; just listen to that voice. Said Bobby when I asked him about it last night: "The label was owned by a guy who was a student at SMU." Bobby can't recall the name. "But his dad had plenty of money. He used to come hear me sing at The Beachcomber."
"Tell Me How"/"Dear Debbie" was actually Patterson's second single on Future; before that handclappin'-pop-n-smooth-soul combo platter was the country two-fer of "Walkin' The Floor Over You"/"Beautiful Brown Eyes." Says the Soul 73 mainstay, "I was ahead of my time, as usual." They were recorded at a studio on Commerce, across from the old KLIF HQ. Bobby says he didn't have his own copy till someone sent him the old singles, which date back to '63, when he was still in his teens and attending Arlington State College.
Later would come the immortal Abnak and Jetstar and Paula singles, collected on two essential compilations (the early-years Soul Is My Music and Soul of a Man) and covered by the likes of the Fabulous Thunderbirds ("How Do You Spell Love?") and Golden Smog ("She Don't Have to See You (To See Through You)"). But this Future single, which has never made it to CD, is the oldest blast from Bobby's past I've heard, and I hadn't heard it till Saturday night.
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I wonder, though, if the buyer knew the historic back story behind the disc. Because, as it turns out, Bobby actually mentioned Future Records when, in the spring of 1964, he was interviewed by Burt Griffin, one of two Warren Commission attorneys tasked with investigating Jack Ruby. Bobby knew Ruby, initially through Jack's sister, Eva Grant, for whom Bobby had performed on occasion. As Bobby told Griffin, Ruby got him to play The Vegas Club. Because, you see, Ruby was a big, big fan ...
Let's go to an excerpt from Bobby's lengthy interview with Griffin, conducted on April; 14, 1964, at the old United States Post Office and Courthouse on Bryan and Ervay:
Mr. GRIFFIN. How many times did you actually talk with Jack Ruby?
Mr. PATTERSON. I couldn't pinpoint it to a certain number of times, but I can approximate.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Can you give us your best estimate?
Mr. PATTERSON. You mean on the phone and in person?
Mr. GRIFFIN. Yes.
Mr. PATTERSON. About 15 times.
Mr. GRIFFIN. How many of these times would have been in person?
Mr. PATTERSON. Not 10 times.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Were all the times that you met him in person at the Vegas Club?
Mr. PATTERSON. No.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Where have you seen him besides at the Vegas Club?
Mr. PATTERSON. He came to my house one night to talk to my mother about me playing for him, and him taking over as my manager and promoting a record for me.
Mr. GRIFFIN. When was that?
Mr. PATTERSON. Some time in the first of November, something like that.
Mr. GRIFFIN. What kind of record was he interested in promoting?
Mr. PATTERSON. Just a rock n roll record that he wanted to promote for me.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Had you already cut the record?
Mr. PATTERSON. I already record for another company and he said he had some connections with a better record company that he could, you know, he wanted me to record some new records.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Who do you record for?
Mr. PATTERSON. Future.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Where is that office located?
Mr. PATTERSON. Arkansas.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Arkansas?
Mr. PATTERSON. Yes.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Do you have to go up to Arkansas to cut the record?
Mr. PATTERSON. No, we cut here.
Mr. GRIFFIN. How many records have you cut for Future?
Mr. PATTERSON. Two.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Now, did you talk with Jack about promoting a particular song?
Mr. PATTERSON. Not a particular song.
Mr. GRIFFIN. But about promoting you?
Mr. PATTERSON. Yes.
Mr. GRIFFIN. What did Jack say to you and what did you say to him?
Mr. PATTERSON. He said he had connections with Reprise.
Mr. GRIFFIN. R-e-p-r-i-s-e?
Mr. PATTERSON. Yes. It is pronounced Reprise, with which Frank Sinatra has something to do with, and never did say what Frank Sinatra had to do with it, but he said he knew some people in this line that he would have no trouble getting a record promoted and distributed nationally.
Mr. GRIFFIN. What was your response?
Mr. PATTERSON. Well, I told him if he could get this done, fine, I would consider recording for him.
Mr. GRIFFIN. Did he make an effort to have that recording done?
Mr. PATTERSON. No. He was trying to get me to play in the Vegas.
Mr. GRIFFIN. In the Vegas or the Carousel?
Mr. PATTERSON. In the Vegas. And I never did think too much about the recording, you know.
And then it got a little ... strange, with Griffin asking Bobby about a drive he took with Ruby and a visit to Ruby's apartment only a few weeks before John Kennedy's assassination. Turns out, Bobby'd been interviewed by the FBI before -- less than a month after the assassination. Finally, my first book. Anyway. Historic for any number of reasons, the single went for $34.44. I'd have gone to $35 myself.