Dirt Tracks and Garage Bands
When NASCAR and Eldora racetrack owner Tony Stewart recently announced his retirement, my thoughts went back to a late spring in 1965 when a bunch of us went to Eldora Speedway in North Star for the initial dirt track race of the season. In those days, we could hit Shady Bowl racetrack in Degraff on Saturday night under the lights and Eldora afternoon. At the time, Earl Baltes, Eldora’s founder, still ran the track. There was a place called the Bar E Club located on the back 40 of the race track where the drivers and fans would hang out after the race. Before establishing the race track, Earl was the leader of a band called the Melody Makers, so he had a special bond with start-up bands and gave them a chance to perform at Bar E. Also Earl had a daughter named Starr who was a real knock-out, and we hoped her and her friends would be there, so off we went to Bar E after that afternoon's races. Not only was Starr there, but the local garage band playing was the Rick Z Combo. The lead singer, Rick Zehringer and his drummer brother Randy were from nearby Ft. Recovery and they played a song called “Hang on Sloopy”. A few months later, they changed their name to the McCoys, with the song rising to Billboard's #1 by October and eventually became the unofficial fight song of the Ohio State Buckeyes! We followed the band around to places like Chrystal Ballroom (another Baltes venue), Eagle Park in Minster and LaSourdesville Amusement Park near Cincinnati, plus also listened to them regularly on WING and CKLW radio until the band broke up in 1970. Meanwhile, back to cutie Starr; one of my high school buddies, Joe Schmitmeyer, ended up marrying her, working regularly at the race track, and eventually giving Earl Baltes and his wife Bernice several wonderful grandkids.