Essay 37: I suppose this stood me in good stead in later life

by rosalyster

When she was ten, my mother was in a girl band. Yes. For those of you who know my mum, please join me in drinking this in.  Do you know this story already? If you do, I hope that you have also had the pleasure of hearing her sing the opening bars of Speedy Gonzales to you. She just up and started singing it at me when we were sitting on the sofa. I feel like I will have it in my head forever, and I hope I am right about that.

For those of you who do not know my mum: firstly, I am sorry for you. She is a great lady. Second, please know that when the information about her being in a girl band truly penetrated, I found that I was not surprised. She is just the type of person who would have been in an olden-times early 60s girl band as a ten year old. She is just exactly that sort.

I thought of doing this in a whole lot of different ways, and I thought of asking my mum to write it into a story herself, but then I realised that it doesn’t even need to be a story. Just the facts themselves are enough.

Name of the band: The Tonics

Reason for name of band: they were so cute they were like a Tonic

Alternative name of band: The Reldalynns

Why: The name of the three band members were Rosemary, Elda, and Lynn. It is hard luck on Rosemary that she only got an “R” in the name, but there you are. Anyway, my mum says that was just “the beginning name”.

Details of the band’s formation: My mum cannot exactly recall. She says “someone wanted to start a band, I think.” If I was doing an oral history of The Tonics, which one day I will, I would press for more information.

Songs they sang: Speedy Gonzales

Was she nervous when they went on stage: No. Yes. Sometimes. She does not recall.

Does she have a trophy: Yes.

My mum’s comments, which are much the best part:

Well it wasn’t actually a band – it was a group (there were no instruments). I have absolutely no recollection as to why we were put together or who thought we could sing.

And Speedy Gonzales was the song we sang when we were reduced to being backing singers for an older boy (12) called Brian Roodt. We based it on Pat Boone’s version. We were actually most well- known for singing Ag pleez Daddy and Itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini. In both cases we wore special costumes and for the bikini one, my mother (a well-known dressmaker in Eshowe) actually made us bikinis and put the black polka dots onto the yellow fabric with black crayon.

As to whether I was nervous, the answer is Yes. For some reason, I was chosen as the one who could do the harmonies. I had never heard of the word or the concept of singing a harmony. Claire Demmer, the alternative music teacher in Eshowe, who on reflection was way ahead of her time, used to try and coach me by induction and I always got it right during the practices. But when it came time to be on the stage in the Star Theatre, I just couldn’t do it and ended up singing in unison with the other two and no-one seemed to notice.

The main thing that I must have learnt from doing this is that no-one seemed to notice a lot of things – especially that we were scared. They thought we were “chirrupy” and found it a total breeze.  I suppose this stood me in good stead in later life.


(pictures and NEWSPAPER ARTICLES to follow, which are like if JD Salinger and “It’s a Wise Child” descended on Eshowe. Quite unbelievable.)

Here is Pat Boone singing Speedy Gonzales:

Here, also, is the information that my mum had a girl cat called Pat Boone when she was a kid. She is also very disappointed that Pat Boone has turned into “one of the worst fascists in America.”