Week before last, it was the The Monkees’ Davy Jones. This past week it was Jimmy Ellis who went to the great stage in the sky. Many folks don’t recognize “Jimmy Ellis” but they should recognize The Trammps, for which he was lead singer and whose “Disco Inferno” was an anthem of the disco era.
But I write to praise disco not to bury it. Yes, some 30 years after its prime, it’s an appropriate moment to come out of the disco closet. To be honest, I’m still perplexed that for a short time I succumbed to the siren call of the revolving mirrored ball.
I was in grad school when disco fever infected the nation. Perhaps academic stress was a factor in my going over to the dancing side. But then I’ve always enjoyed a good beat that got me on my feet. Give me A Taste of Honey over Pink Floyd any day!
Disco was very hot and a combustible event needs an accelerant. In my case, it was a friend in my apartment complex. Although most of the residents were students, Nancy (who dated and kissed Tom Petty before he went national) was a young secretary working at the university. She was able to cajole me into signing up with her and some girlfriends for a few weeks of free “basic” disco lessons by a dance studio, which hoped we would then pay for an “intermediate” class.
Of course, once we had learned some basic steps, we had to put that knowledge to use. The center of Gainesville’s disco inferno at that time was the ABC (liquor store) lounge across from the mall. We were there every Saturday night.
The good news was that our group of six or seven consisted of four women and two or three guys. So I was always on the dance floor except when I was so out of breath I needed a break. The bad news was that the dance floor was so crowded we couldn’t do the steps properly. It was a heartache knowing all the right moves but not being able to show them off.
My disco fever subsided when Nancy moved to Kansas City a few months later. She had been an art major and submitted some work samples to Hallmark when they came to town on a recruiting visit. They were impressed with her work, flew her to Kansas City for interviews with various departments and within a week she had two job offers.
Today, my brief disco past is enshrined in a three-CD set of disco hits. Every now and then, I play some of the songs I danced to 30 years ago.
But today, in remembrance of Jimmy Ellis, I’m going to watch the “Disco Inferno” video. And this time, I’ve got the dance floor to myself!