By Steve “Drippy” Wardrip
Trace the steps of Daytona’s Drippy, the man who changed the face of popular beat writing, beat poetry and other forms of trick and troll.
From the humid and sweltering tobacco fields of the Kentucky hills to the illuminated streets of party central, Daytona Beach, Florida; through his birthplace, schools, churches and homes, the coffee houses, concert arenas and damp, dark, dank basements of throw-together bands in the early R&B days to the hot and steamy garages of the twenty-teens of two thousand A.D., through the frantic beat of the mid 1980’s, and the spiritual thrust as of late in these times of writing. I am an objective writer, static and explosive. I write the poems that make the whole world cringe. I’m lovin’ it.
Flannel-shirted schoolboys, hugging trees and wishing for a real girl at night, still tumble down the steps behind the old phone company building to secretly and stealthily fire up some stolen cigarettes from their parents. Babies are still being produced in mass quantities worldwide at the mere suggestions of rockers like Drippy to “Give it up!” Give it up, they did and nine months later, they were giving up everything in their previous life for the raising of the child. Teens and young adults were screaming at the top of their voices and grooving to the beat of “LOW CASH” at the annual redneck, tobacco spitting, bass fishing, duck hunting, deer scouting, four wheeling, outback, pickup truck tail gators, beer swilling, meth snorting, downer-doing, boob bouncing, ass grabbing, hat wearing, whiskey breath, ass shaking, by God gettin’ down Country Music Concert in the big “O” as in zero. O is for Zero and M is for My and G is for goodness. OMG is the festival for the weekend working class. They jump up and down and holler about what they are doing, jumping up and down and hollering. Hollering and getting under the influence of something and boasting about how damn proud they are to be jumping up and down, under the influence. It makes perfect sense to me. It’s a lot like sitting on the toilet and smoking a J at the end of a long and tiring, depressing day. It takes the edge off. I think the whole edge thing could be avoided by doing this at the beginning of the day as opposed to the end of the day. Aye? Smoke the joint in the morning before anything. Thought so, or we can all just go to church and forget about gainful employment. Life goes on for the garbage man in the garbage truck, hauling everyone’s garbage to the garbage landfill. He gets paid and he and his family eat good. The barber shops are disappearing and tattoo parlors are flourishing. The church front doors are locked. The bleacher seats are rotting. The sewer mains are collapsing under the weight of busses full of overweight riders. Drippy has been in most of these places working on maintaining communications electronics which was his specialty. I was an electrical engineer, telecommunications technician, or if you prefer, a glorified copper cable puller who had to know both low and high voltage advanced electronics. I worked all over the country, from New York City to L.A. pulling wires, driving trucks, crawling through tight basement crawlspace tunnels to the top of skyscrapers splicing wire next to thousands of volts that could arc and hit you with stray voltage. It was a dangerous and exciting career that took me to many very interesting places with many more electrifying people. These people are distant to me now, as they have always been, even though we were very close.
Many of these people and places don’t exist anymore. That’s in Florida, Kentucky, Las Vegas and Singapore. They just aren’t there anymore and if there was no record, it would be like they never were there at all. We were there, believe me. I’m glad a lot of photographs were not taken. Embarrassing evidence is all that would be. No historical import. Some people in Daytona have morphed into senior citizens. They weren’t always like this. Many were dangerous hoodlums and some were brown shoed squares afraid of their own shadow. They all wind up in a nursing home unless they have the wits about them to live until they die on the streets, so to speak. That’s what I intend on doing. To rot in peace is my ideal demise.
Just imagine the rotting old school gymnasiums that Drippy and The Drops high school rock and roll band, played to sold out “sock hops” in the 60’s. I will tell you this, the first girl I asked to dance and I rocked to “Over and Over” by the Dave Clark Five. She was a beautiful girl who I lost touch with. She moved away only to come up missing and disappear. I met her Mother later in life and she told me Susie Nichols just vanished one day and no one knows what happened to her. Here a pretty blonde danced her last dance with Drippy. He is forever grateful and she is forever somewhere. b +bn= v is the only psychic clue I have and it doesn’t appear to be a good one. She could be anywhere. If she is alive, she is around 65 now.
Forgotten bars that are now asphalt parking lots complete with sewers and gutters, that now line the old downtown that they call the new downtown just like they called it the new downtown two hundred years ago and soon after were calling it the old downtown they were replacing with the new downtown. I can still stand on the stage in that very same spot if no one has taken the parking spot. I can still sing “Stormy Monday” in the same voice, in the same spot, but the bar is gone and the parking lot will sit there until they build another bar in the new downtown. You can still hear my voice. Just look down and close your eyes and channel in your mind a young maverick with a an upright bass, singing. I’ll be there. You can hear. You can feel. If you try hard enough and get it right, you can see. However you want to do it, I’ll be there.
You can hear me singing “Twist and Shout” at the old elementary school. You can hear our band play “Stagger Lee” at the old 18th Street pool hall. The smell of stale beer, dirty mop water, the espresso smell of coffee bars long disappeared with Susie. The cute barmaid “Bunny” was missing too. She made the show by winking and wiggling just at the right times. You can still detect the smell of a green and fresh marijuana cigarette in the back alleys between First and Ninth Streets, the click of tapped heels on the old cobblestone streets of Newburgh , Indiana, just across the river a few minutes away by car. All day by foot. About one hour in a bicycle. Hitchhiking was the most fun way to get there. Thanks to all who gave me rides in those days. You saved me a fortune in transportation costs. Smile.
Deserted Sunday mornings in the hobo camp were depressing. I found out that you can live all week on a box of crackers, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of green apple jelly and a knife. Water was as near as the nearest water fountain and I knew where all of them were.
In Daytona you will find out that if you walk around the boardwalk where the amusement rides and arcades are, you will be approached by panhandlers asking for spare change. At least they used to ask. I understand now, they are demanding money or cigarettes and have even knifed people for not giving to them. I keep my distance from people when I’m panhandling. I don’t want them hurting me.
You may want to take other tours to visit outlying areas. This is your chance to see the Daytona that became famous worldwide as a mecca of modern music and creative writing in the footsteps of Drippy.
The Daytona of Drippy
Why Daytona? Big Daddy Ed Roth. That’s it… and Ronnie and the Daytonas, and Sea and The East Utopian Mission… and Mac’s Famous Bar-b-que… and the Ocean Deck, and Sally’s Ice Cream up in Flagler Beach… and the Daytona Diner… and The Allman Brothers over on Vann Avenue two blocks from the beach… and Stanley Trognocki, Barry Smith, Kenny Beyke, John Dugger, Gilley and Sherry Gilreath of Sky Plumbing… David Feldhauser who killed himself in front of his wife because she didn’t want him to drink beer… to Barry Smith, my best bud and landlord, along with being the best trim carpenter in the South, hats off, see you in heaven. Todd and Nancy Waterman. Pat Marsh, Tim Buttons, Wayne the Crane Smith, Buzzy Wathen, Butch Calloway, the drummer from my hometown in Kentucky, who now lives in Port Orange with his lovely wife Lisa. He is a great drummer and friend. Bill Strock(sound guy for Sound Theory, a fantastic Orlando rock/pop cover band along with his son, Justin, Chad, Devin, and all my stoner buds are the inspiration. Justin said I had slowed down on the guitar but was still just as good as ever. That’s a good thing to slow down on guitar. I can show you all the finesse and intricate changes that are just a blur when I play fast. I’ll probably slow down to about 150 BPM. (Beats per minute) That’s slow enough. hehe
Like the rest of the United States, particularly USA teenagers, felt the effects of the mid 1950’s explosion of Rock n’ Roll and all the debauchery that went with it. Between the year of 1955 and 1957, a new and assertive culture if youth came to the forefront, spearheaded by movies like ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (James Dean) and ‘The Wild One’ (Marlon Brando) Although the later was banned at the time, and the simultaneous emergence of Rock n’ Roll music. Daytona was no exception. They were rocking at Seabreeze High School in the years that followed. They still are. Elvis is still King and music plays a vital role in our lives. Unless you are like the one person that I met, the only one to ever tell me flat out that they just didn’t like music at all in any form or fashion. silence was better they said. I can’t even imagine… and I won’t. I love music too much. I love writing even more. I love life even more. Silence means nothing. Silence is quiet and untelling. Silence demands sound. Life is the force. silence is unsettling. Be quiet, silence!
‘RAT FINK” ruled Daytona in the 60’s and beyond. Big Daddy Ed Roth.
I bought a tee-shirt there when I was 15. It was airbrushed and said in big letters, “Drippy the Rat Fink” airbrushed in multi-colors. I was hip, I was cool, I was the shiz-nitz, I was Drippy, officially, genuinely unique and real. Yes, I was the real article and my vanity says I still am. Long live BDR.
A great friend, Barry “Bubba” Smith, in 1986, when I worked for him and his brother as a rough framing and finish carpenter in Daytona, used to say to me on Sunday afternoons, “Let’s go down to the beachside to Mac’s Famous Bar. As long as we’re drinking beer, they serve free pizza. Let’s go have lunch!”, and we would and we never had any trouble except the time two guys from New Jersey challenged us to a game of pool. We accepted, wagered and we won. They got pissy and started pushing us around. Barry said, “Let’s take it outside!” So out the door we all went and one pulled a knife on Bubba. Bubba laughed and pulled out a .45 Automatic and said, “Don’t tell me all you brought to this gunfight was a little knife?” He went on to make the guy drop the knife, got them both to get in the car, hands on the steering wheel and leave. Bubba instructed them, “Get on I-95 North and head for New Jersey and don’t look back. Keep going and never come back to Florida. ever!” They drove off into the sunset. We never saw them again and the story is always a good laugh. I miss Bubba. Liver went out. Helluva great guy, Bubba Smith! He sent me a coconut in the mail once with planting and growing instructions. He got me through the toughest Christmas away from home, ever. I’ve got to say more, Barry was my friend, heart to heart, drinking buddies, coworkers, roommates, prophets and bullshitters, we made a difference and we had fun doing it. Barry was a first class kind of guy, he wanted nice clothes and vehicles, he loved his parents long after they had passed and he shared the joy of that family all the way to his death in Fort Lauderdale, living with his sister in a mansion. Barry lives in a bigger mansion now, I’m sure, very sure. What a great guy! Thank you for everything Bubba. You changed my life for the better. We bad, we nationwide! Hehehe!
The world famous Daytona Beach is a natural speedway which nature resurfaces with every tide. The hard packed sand on a bed of native coquina shell gives a velvet-like surface that has enabled motorists and motorcycle riders to establish world speed records. One may drive for 23 miles along this strip of sand which at low tide is 500 feet wide.
Blue Springs State Park blows my mind. The Manatees, reptiles and fish! Clear water springs deep from underground aquifers for the head of the river. One can lavish in the wonderful natural tropical environment, by hiking, swimming, kayaking, diving, sunbathing or walking through tours of historical import. What a wonderful way to spend the day or a lifetime for that matter. And then there are the large herds of monkeys in the Ocala National Forest. Florida from North to South, Jacksonville to The Everglades, Florida has preserving and protecting nature at heart. What natural wonders Florida has. What a fantastic place to hang your hat. Florida has good vibes.
There is an “Old Florida” that subtly exists. Travel used to be about bridging cultures and sharing unique experiences. Florida treats their guests like family. I highly recommend that anyone visit Florida. Sun, Sea, and Smiles. Life is a beach and Life is Better at The Beach. One Daytona business had cards printed that said, ‘It’s fun making our guests happy!’ What a creed! Things are different today in that it’s “New Florida” and with it comes new rules. Younger, older, midlife… Florida attracts it all. Different values, cultures and interests paint a new landscape for visitors. You can even get cruises on layaway now. Calling it an industry first, Carnival Cruise Line launched a pay-over-time program that enables passengers to pay for a cruise in three monthly, interest free installments over a three month period. Using Carnival’s Easy-Pay, after guests make the initial cruise deposit, the balance will be automatically charged to a credit card or debit card on file in three equal payments. Quite the difference when it took thousands all at once. Now, more people can enjoy cruises. With almost all of “Old Florida” still there, maybe this “New Florida” is not so bad. I could be a stick in the sand, but I’d rather be like a palm tree swaying in the breeze. Think warm tropical breezes.
Back in the day when old school “Drippy the Hippie” was performing music on the road with different bands, acts and shows in the entertainment industry, he frequently wrote songs. Many of these songs were hand written on old scraps of paper. In his many years of driving all over the USA. Mexico and Canada, I learned one thing, and that is that Drippy and Steve are two different people. One is a showman and one is a humble country boy, both with eccentric tastes. One is domineering and one is graceful. One is aggressive and one is docile. Both are aware and grateful for all things given in support and sustenance. They and we hope to publish and record these songs someday. If not, there is physical paper evidence of a guy travelling all over the place and writing songs as he drove and wrote most at 70 miles per hour on his lap with an ink pen. Safety was priority, getting the load there on time and making the show go on was paramount. Writing was a necessity of the heart and mind. All told, it is a body of work with thousands of my original short stories, songs, digital artwork, paintings, and poems. The internationally published, Rosine Magazine, regularly publishes my work as well as Poets Unlimited, on medium.com, feedburner.com, Unusual Ways To Make Money, CCCClub, Pinetop Camp Store, and a host of other publications, journals and e-zines. There is a lot of fancy footwork behind the scenes and much of the hard living is evident in Wardrip’s writing. Some by Steve, some by Drippy, some by M.S. Wardrip and even some by Mark S. Wardrip, Richard Sands or John Parrish, pen names. You can tell if it’s Steve or Drippy, but not Mark or M.S. You can tell these experiences were real or based on real events.
Why Daytona Beach, Florida?
I first went there as Steve in 1967 when I was 15 years old. Sending postcards home, I informed my family that the plants were different there, the ground was different and everything else was different there. The air, the sky, the magnetism of the ocean? Yes, I believed there was a mystical, spiritual phenomenon that occurred one early sunrise over the ocean. The magnetism was pulling me to the sea. I suppose if it were not for me resisting, I would have been sucked in and submerged becoming one with the ocean. I loved that magnetism and in two trips to Florida in the last year, the magnetism seems to be gone. I want it back, so I go in search of it, a spiritual journey.
Like the rest of the USA, Drippy’s Daytona — particularly Daytona teenagers, felt the effect of the mid ‘50’s explosion of Rock and Roll. All that went with it was both rewarding and stifling. With the enormous influence of Elvis Presley and many other major rock artists, came a whole Daytona style based on the American style of Rock n’ Roll mixed with beach music and racing music. Due to economic shortages, America’s youth was denied many of the things they wanted and needed. They made up for it by attaching a glamour to the most modest. To the Daytona teens of the 50’s and 60’s this was reinforced by the musical associations of Rock n’ Roll; the vogue for things American extended from fashion, blue jeans, tennis shoes(basketball boots), Western Bolo (Shoelace) neck ties, to factory made cigarettes Cocola, comic books and heavy slang. Dig? Nowhere was this more prevalent than in Daytona Beach and that was staying ahead of the times, just as they are today.
Sunrise is my favorite time of day to look for the magnetism. I like getting up to Ormond Beach in the dark of morning and walking out on the beach to see the sky turn from jet black to blue gray, with little streaks of pink… and orange… and red… and green… and turquoise azure and sea mist crimson, cinnamon sand, butterscotch shells, sugar-coated waves crashing in whipped cream sea foam, all culminating in the life-giving Sun, welcoming and commanding the new day. Drippy likes it too. We stand there and act like a compass looking for a magnet to guide us on our ongoing journey. Blue sky bathes the awakening landscape, there are fresh smells, sights and sounds that accompany the deliverance of light to Earth. The birds rejoice, the fish wiggle about living and going on, the reptiles sun themselves, the dogs prance about, the humans begin to rev their engines and mill about. Everyone is searching for something when they come to Florida. When they leave, they know they found what they were searching for in Florida. Peace of mind. There is a tranquil vibe going on down there. Maybe it’s life springing forth from the Fountain of Youth. Maybe a life springs is in our future. Steve Springs? Drippy Springs? Wardrip Springs? We’re all interested.
Here’s where we’ll be, Steve, Drippy and Mark, in Flagler Beach, Florida. 15 miles North of Daytona in Flagler County. Daytona Beach is in Volusia County. Flagler is a small “Old Florida” town od less than 5000 people. I went there on vacation when I was young. It was so wonderful, I vowed I would live there someday. I always wanted to be that 75 year old guy walking down the beach at sunrise. In ten more years I’ll be 75. I can’t wait that long to get down on the beach. I’m planning on getting down on the beach next month. I’ll be living in an RV near the beach, I’ll be watching the sunrise, I’ll be walking out on the pier and I’ll be eating Sally’s Ice Cream at a pink and blue picnic table listening to The Allman Brothers play “Sweet Melissa” on my phone and watching the seagulls squawk and glide over Highway A1A. Then I’ll get on my bicycle and saunter on down to Gamble Rogers State Park and back. The sea shows her strength every once in a while and takes out a few roads, houses, turtles and people. I think it must be magnetically balancing, harmonizing, vibrating, magnetising… in Drippy’s Daytona.