âI got lost in a familiar song. I closed my eyes and escaped.
These lyrics from the opening verse of Boston’s hit “More Than A Feeling” are perhaps among the truest words ever spoken in music history.
Music takes us back to times and places in our lives. We’re sure you all have a song or two that do.
For me, one of those songs was recorded before many of us were born. In 1949, Brother Bones released his whistled version of the song, “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Three years later, it has become synonymous with a team that most of us immediately think of from the first notes.
The Harlem Globe-trotters.
The Globetrotters have been around for almost 100 years, having been founded by Abe Saperstein in 1926. They were a legitimate basketball team and could really play. They won the World Basketball Championship in 1940 and in 1948 and 1949 knocked out the great Lakers of Minneapolis, led by Hall of Famer George Mikan.
In 1950, three former Globetrotters became the first black players to join the NBA.
Along the way the Globetrotters started clowning around with big tracks and they would become more of an entertainment novelty and their popularity started to increase. NBA greats Wilt Chamberlain (1958-59) and Connie Hawkins (1963-67) made stints with the team when they needed a home.
But as good as these players are, they weren’t around when the Globetrotters peaked in the early to mid-1970s.
Led by the charismatic “Clown Prince of Basketball” Meadowlark Lemon and the dribbling skills and infectious smile of Fred “Curly” Neal, the Globetrotters have become a phenomenon over the years.
In the pre-VCR era, you couldn’t wait for the Globetrotters to make an appearance on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, which followed them all over the world to places like China, Russia and Berlin when the Cold War was still on. terribly cold.
As a youngster, I couldn’t wait for these Saturday afternoon appearances. Afterwards, I headed for the garage to try and spin the ball on my finger like Neal, my favorite player, but to no avail.
Fortunately, I was fortunate enough to see the Globetrotters at their peak in Norfolk as they tackled Red Klotz and the Washington Generals again.
They did all the old favorite routines – the water bucket gag where the audience is hit with confetti, the baseball game and Meadowlark shooting free throws with a rubber band attached to the ball. I had seen them all several times before, but I laughed as hard as if it was the first time.
But as much as the Globetrotters were about entertaining, their athletic ability was not lost on a youngster.
Neal’s ball-handling skills were amazing in his routine where he dribbles, slides and twists a defender into pretzels. He could punch a set piece from almost half the court with consistency.
Lemon had a hook shot that he could throw from all areas of the pitch as well. And the speed at which he handled the ball in the weaving attack was amazing.
Add a mix of talented players and it was really spectacular between the gags.
The Globetrotters would become so popular around this time that they would have their own cartoons and variety show on Saturday mornings. They’ve even appeared in several Scooby Doo cartoons, helping Scoob, Shaggy, and the gang solve some mysteries.
Playing with a red, white and blue ball and sporting those colors in their uniforms, they were truly America’s ambassadors. And people of all races loved them, regardless of their skin color.
Honestly, I don’t know much about the current Globetrotters, but I do know that they will be playing here at the Wilkins Center at Shenandoah University on August 30th. I am told that tickets are still available.
I’m sure they’ll do some of the same routines I saw Meadowlark and Curly perform almost four decades earlier. And you can bet there is some phenomenal talent on the list.
It sounds like a good time, one that was due to arrive in March 2020 but has been postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hopefully it will be a successful event, one that we know will have a âsweetâ air.