#514: The Sock by The Valentines
The Valentines were a vocal group from Vancouver, British Columbia. The original members of the group were Irene Butler, Joy Findlay and Miki Shannon. The Valentines appeared on a local Vancouver record in 1960 called “The Blamers”. On that single, they provided a backing chorus for Les Vogt. “The Blamers” entered the CFUN Hi-Five Forty chart in Vancouver (BC) on July 9, 1960, and climbed to #1 on August 6th, where it briefly knocked Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never” out of the number one spot.
The Valentines got some attention from being a backing group on Les Vogt’s local number one hit single. In the fall or 1960, a fourth member was added to the Valentines, named Nancy Davis, a friend of Miki’s. They did a number of live performances and went to a studio to record a single titled “The Sock”. Irene, Miki, Joy and Nancy were all in the studio to record the single, along with the B-side, “16 Senioritas”. Nancy was born in Vancouver and attended Gladstone High School, in the Kensington-Cedar Cottage neighborhood.
“The Sock” was written by Canadian songwriter, Allen Parker, who wrote under the pseudonym Sipson P. Kloop. Parker’s “Moon Rocketin'” and “The Blamers” were recorded by Les Vogt and appeared on Canadian labels Iona, APT, and Sparton in 1960. Parker’s regular job was as a milkman, and he composed songs in his spare time. Parker approached Les Vogt at one of his concerts and showed him some of his songs. Vogt was impressed and the two of them began a long working relationship. Parker later became Les Vogt’s manager. He also happened to be the brother-in-law of Joy Findlay.
“The Sock” was a song about a souvenir a group of girls obtained. A souvenir is a word from the French language originating in 1775, meaning a remembrance, remember or come to mind. In the song, it was a sock with a hole in it made by Elvis Presley‘s left toe. The lyrics tell us “the little hole in this stocking is from the Rolling and a’ Rocking made by Elvis Presley’s left toe.” The girls bought the sock from “the Colonel,” for “ten dollars or so.” The colonel is Col. Tom Parker, Presley’s manager (no relation to Al Parker). Consequently, there is a whole lot of talk going around about the sock.
Now that they’ve got the sock Elvis Presley used to wear, they go to a dance and throw off their shoes to display the sock. And the other “teens” at the dance holler “way to go.” In fact, they attest they wouldn’t trade the sock for a diamond or a mansion. The Valentines sing that the sock was a “G.I. issue.”
Since the Second World War, G.I. is a term that is popularly understood to refer to an enlisted soldier in the United States Army. But it has an interesting history. According to Dave Wilton in an article for Word Origins, “G.I. was originally a semi-official U.S. Army abbreviation for galvanized iron, used in inventories and supply records. It dates to at least 1907 and is commonly found in records from the First World War.” In 1970 the World War I Diary of Col. Frank P. Lahm was published. A 1917 entry in his diary recorded that “[Lympe, England] is a large depot where machines are delivered for forwarding to France. 12 large hangers [sic], brick, G.I., about 75 ft wide by 150 ft long.”
In addition, during World War 1, G.I. was commonly used in the phrase G.I. can, meaning a German artillery shell. Contained in The Cannoneer’s Have Hairy Ears: A Diary of the Front Lines, Robert Casey wrote in an entry dated September 24, 1918, “At 11 o’clock he started to drop G.I. cans into our woods.” The phrase was often shortened to just G.I. A a poem by Sgt. Albert J. Cook made its way into a 1919 book titled the Victory – History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry. Cook’s poem included these lines:
There’s about two million fellows, and there’s some of them who lie,
Where eighty-eights and G.I.’s gently drop.
Dave Wilton notes the shift from this usage of the term G.I. by the end of World War I to refer more generally to American soldiers. “G.I. started to be interpreted to mean government issue and it came to be applied as an adjective to denote anything having to do with the army. From a caption to a cartoon in the December 1918 issue of La Trine Rumor: A G.I. Christmas.”
By 1960, when the Valentines refer to the sock in their song as a “G.I. issue,” it is an abbreviated term for “Government Issue,” “Ground Infantry” or “General Issue.” And so the sock Elvis once wore the left toe out of was one he has acquired while he was drafted into the U.S. Army. March 24, 1958, the day he became a soldier, was dubbed “black Monday” for his fans by the press. Presley was given a physical and assigned army serial number 53310761, before being sworn in and made leader of his group. Presley and his fellow recruits were taken by bus to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, where he spent four days. Then he was transferred to Fort Hood, Texas. There, he was assigned to Company A of the Third Armored Division’s 1st Medium Tank Battalion, Presley completed basic training by June. While in Fort Hood, Presley’s mother took ill on August 8. Elvis was given permission to leave Fort Hood on August 12th. His mother died on August 14th. After returning to Fort Hood, Elvis Presley was assigned the to 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, West Germany. He left West Germany on March 2nd, 1960, and back in the USA, on March 5, 1960, he was officially discharged from the United States Army.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi, on January 8, 1935. His twin brother, Jessie Garon Presley, was stillborn. As a result Elvis grew up as an only child. When he was eleven years old his parents bought him a guitar at the Tupelo Hardware Store. In 1954, Elvis began his singing career recording “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon Of Kentucky” at Sun Records in Memphis. In late 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. In 1956 he had his first #1 record titled “Heartbreak Hotel”. Other number one songs include “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, “Hound Dog”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender”, “Too Much”, “All Shook Up”, “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Hard Headed Woman”, “It’s Now Or Never”, “Are You Lonesome Tonight”, “Surrender”, “Return To Sender” and “Suspicious Minds”. He starred in 33 successful films, made history with his television appearances and specials, and knew great acclaim through his many, often record-breaking, live concert performances on tour and in Las Vegas. Globally, he has sold over one billion records, more than any other recording artist.
Col. Tom Parker was born as Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk on June 26, 1909, in Breda, the Netherlands. He was the seventh of eleven children. As a boy he worked as a carnival barker in Breda. When he was 15 he moved to Rotterdam and worked at the port on the boats. He made a curious journey to America, leaving Rotterdam, switching boats in England, and changing ships in the Dutch West Indies in Curacao. Author Alannah Nash writes that the most compelling story to explain Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk’s behavior was that he knifed a man at the fairgrounds and was on the run from the Dutch authorities. There is no record or his arriving on a passenger ship to America in 1927, or when he returned to the United States in 1929, at the age of twenty. Dutch journalist Dirk Vallenga, surmises van Kuijk arrived near Mobile, Alabama, on a rumrunner, an illegal boat delivering alcohol during prohibition. Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk worked briefly at a carnival before he enlisted in the United States Army, under the name “Tom Parker.”
Parker was stationed in the Territory of Hawaii in 1929 and was honorably discharged in 1931. He re-enlisted at a fort in Florida, but went AWOL. For this, Parker (van Kuijk) was punished with solitary confinement. He from developed a psychosis resulting in being sent to a mental hospital for several months. After his time in hospital, Parker was discharged from the Army due to his mental fitness. During the Great Depression Parker later would claim he got by on a dollar a day, and doing short cons.
Following his discharge, Parker worked at a number of jobs, including food concessions and gaming carnivals. From about 1931 until 1938 he worked as a “carny” with a carnival company named Royal American Shows. In 1938 Parker made the acquaintance of Gene Autry who was on a tour with Star-O-Rama Canvas Theater. Autry had been a household name and made a lot of money as a singer and entertainer. But his star was on the wane. Tom Parker impressed Autry with his slick self-promotion as a “cracker jack press agent and manager.” Though Parker’s involvement with Gene Autry was relatively brief, Parker moved on to manage Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Minnie Pearl, Tommy Sands and Hank Snow.
In 1948, Tom Parker worked on the campaign for the re-election of Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis. Though Davis didn’t win the election in 1948 (though he served a second term in 1960), he gave Tom Parker the honorary rank of colonel. Though Louisiana didn’t even have an organized militia, Col. Tom Parker used the titled with effect to impress budding recording artists, including a young Elvis Presley.
Parker was a partner with Hank Snow in Jamboree Attractions. Though Snow was at a signing in November 1955 with Sun Records, thinking that Jamboree was becoming the new manager of Presley, the Colonel arranged for the signing of only the label transfer to RCA. Parker arranged separately to become the sole manager of Elvis Presley once the young recording star’s management contract with Bob Neal expired in March 1956.
Col. Tom Parker approached Ed Sullivan and Milton Berle to have Elvis appear on their TV shows in 1956. Parker also decided to make Elvis a brand, and 78 items of Elvis memorabilia were produced. This included “I Hate Elvis” badges for people who didn’t like Elvis (or rock ‘n roll).
Col. Tom Parker got Tommy Sands to play a teen idol that resembled the early career of Elvis Presley in the 1958 film Sing, Boy, Sing. When Elvis was drafted into the United States Army in March 1958 Col. Tom Parker, had lined up five singles Presley had recorded to be released sequentially over the next two years. Parker kept out of sight while Elvis was stationed in Germany. Parker had declined to travel to Europe, denying that he spoke any language other than English. For Presley’s return in March 1960, Parker had arranged for a train to take him from Washington, D.C., to Memphis, with stops along the way for fans to see their idol in person. As Presley’s fame grew, people became interested in Parker as well. For a time, Parker lied about his childhood, claiming to have been born in Huntington, West Virginia, (to explain his Dutch accent as being a Southern accent) and to have run away at an early age to join a circus run by an uncle. But in 1961 he was recognized in a photo with Elvis by one of his sisters back in the Netherlands.
Col. Tom Parker developed a gambling addiction as Elvis became more and more famous. As Presley’s manager, Parker got 25% of the earnings, thanks to the colonel’s clever negotiating. At the time of Presley’s death in 1977, it was suspected that Parker owed the Las Vegas Hilton over $30 million (US$124,036,244 in 2018 dollars). After a lifetime that saw him earn in excess of $100 million, Parker’s estate was barely worth $1 million when he died in 1997.
In “The Sock” we get introduced to an Elvis Presley souvenir. From the time that Col. Tom Parker launched 78 Presley souvenir items in 1956, North America was awash in Elvis souvenirs. These included charm bracelets, an Elvis Sun Record That’s All Right sterling silver ring (which in 2019 sells online for $132.88 Canadian), Love Me Tender Film posters, and a Elvis Presley Sincerely Elvis/Love Me Tender Black and White Flasher Pin Back Button. The button had lenticular images of an Elvis portrait with “Sincerely, Elvis Presley” when viewed in one direction, and Elvis playing the guitar with words “Love Me Tender” when viewed in the other direction. (In 2019 this button is valued online at $135.62 Canadian).
Elvis appeared three times on the Ed Sullivan Show. His first appearance was on September 9, 1956, where he gyrated on stage, resulting in the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis.” The show was viewed by a record 60.710,000 people which at the time represented an 82.6 % share of the television audience, and the largest single audience in television history. Consequently, Ed Sullivan had Presley appear again on his show on October 28, 1956, and for a final appearance in January 6, 1957. Presley’s “rockin’ and a-rollin'” in front of these record-breaking TV audiences made it easy to imagine him wearing out the toe in his sock.
Michael Willmore wrote the liner notes for an album titled The History of Vancouver Rock and Roll, released in 1987. At the time Willmore was the host of ‘Rock Talk’ on CO-OP Radio (102.7 FM) in Vancouver (BC). He writes that not only did Les Vogt like the backing harmonies of The Valenties on “The Blamers”. “In fact, Les Vogt liked The Valentines so much he later married one of them. They’ve long since gone their separate ways; Irene Butler became a popular country singer, and Les now runs a booking agency called Big Country Productions.” The website PNWBands.com notes that in fact, “Irene (who was Les Vogt’s wife at the time) was pregnant and left shortly after the songs were recorded. She did not return.”
Nancy, Joy and Miki kept on performing live as the Valentines. It happened that while “The Sock” was climbing the record survey on CFUN, the Grey Cup game for Canadian Football teams the Ottawa Rough Riders and the Edmonton Eskimos was taking place on November 26, 1960, in Vancouver’s Empire Stadium. The Grey Cup Parade happened a day ahead of the football game, and the Valentines were included in the parade.
Crowd at Empire Stadium, November 26, 1960.
The Valentines also did radio promos with the success of “The Sock”, until the group split up in 1962.
In 1969 Tom Northcott founded Capilano Records. One of the first singers signed to the label was former Valentines member Irene Butler. She recorded an album titled The Country Spirit of Irene Butler. From the album a single titled “Faded Love” was released. Other songs on the album included covers of Bobby Goldsboro‘s “Honey”, Glen Campbell‘s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, Tammy Wynette’s “Elusive Dreams”, O.C. Smith’s “Little Green Apples” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”.
Nancy Davis went on to be one of the regulars in the local CBC pop music variety show Let’s Go, hosted by Fred Latremouille and Red Robinson. On the Pacific Northwest Bands website, Nancy Davis writes that she “taught ‘pop’ singing in her studio in West Vancouver for 24 years while continuing to perform both locally, nationally and internationally.” She writes that her “poetry has received international acclaim and she was recently chosen as one of the top 100 poets of 2003 by the International Library of Poetry, based in the United States.”
In 2011 she published a novel about a wealthy Manhattan family titled Seasons Of Love. The following year she published a novel titled Resurrection of a Heinous Mind, set at a families’ isolated vacation cabin in rural British Columbia, and two escaped convicts. In 2015 she published a book simply titled Poetry. And in 2017 she released a third novel titled Beyond Proof, about the life of a cardiothoracic surgeon. While she still goes by her maiden name for professional purposes, since being married years ago, her surname is Caljouw. On December 17, 2019, she wrote me an email about some of the background of members of the Valentines. Nancy writes that she still keeps up socially with Joy, stating they “often meet at “The Olive Garden” for lunch and lots of chit chat.”
December 20, 2019
Michael Willmore, “The History of Vancouver Rock and Roll, Volume 1 ‘In The Beginning’,” liner notes, Vancouver Record Collectors Association, Neptoon Records, Vancouver, BC, 1987.
“Irene Butler,” Discogs.com.
“Irene Butler – Country Spirit – Rare LP,” eBid.net.
Nancy J. Davis, Seasons of Love, (RoseDog Books, 2011).
“C-FUN-Tastic 50,” CFUN 1410-AM, Vancouver, BC, December 10, 1960.
“Nancy J. Davis,” Nancyjdavisbooks.com.
Alannah Nash, The Colonel : the Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley, (Chicago Review Press, 2004) 36-51.
“Elvis Sun Record Thats All Right Jewelry Tcb Silver Sterling 925 Ring 1956,” Etsy.com.
“Vintage 1956 Elvis Presley Pin-Back Button – 1956 Vari-Vue Flasher Lenticular Vintage – Rare Elvis Button!,” Etsy.com.
Email from Nancy (Davis) Caljouw to Ray McGinnis, December 17, 2019.
Annonymous, The Cannoneers Have Hairy Ears: A Diary of the Front Lines, (Literary Licensing, 1927).
Col. Frank Lahm, World War I Diary, (Historical Research Division, Aerospace Studies Institute, 1970).
Paul S. Bliss, Victory – History of the 805th Pioneer Infantry, American Expeditionary Forces, (St. Paul, The Infantry, 1919).
Dave Wilton, “G.I.,” Wordorigins.org, February 2, 2009.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, December 10, 1960.
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