“Sargent Yorks Lovely Beatnick Bongo Band”


The Bongo Band at The Hip Hereford. Sargent ( Sal ) York in Stripped shirt

In 1957 there was a coffee house and Beatnik hangout in downtown Fort Worth, Texas called “The Hip Hereford,” named in honor of the owner’s prized champion bull.

Sargent ( Salvatore )Tulane York was related to the legendary war hero, Sargent York, on his fathers’ side of the family, thus his naming after his famous cousin.

Growing up on a vast cattle ranch outside of Weatherford Texas, Salvatore wanted one thing; to be a singing cowboy, like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and maybe Tex Ritter.

All-day, every day, from the time he could sit a saddle, Salvatore sat on his shetland pony, “Giblet,” playing a plastic ukulele while singing “Home On The Range” and “Oh Susana.” This behavior went on for years, and his parents finally gave up on the little savant, letting him ride the range singing his two-song songbook to the cattle and the critters. At times, his parents forgot to call him in for supper, or when it rained, and little Salvatore would make camp with the doggies, showing up a few days later as if nothing strange had happened.

When Salvatore turned 17, he began going by his family name of Sargent. It made him feel dignified and a little important. He and a few boys from school formed a little guitar and fiddle band and began playing around Parker County. Chicken fights, church fundraisers, and intermission at the Cowtown Drive Inn were about the only gigs they could get. They knew four songs and were hard to listen to. They called themselves ” The Parker Valley Ranch Boys.” They met Buddy Holley once and asked for his advice. He told them to stay the hell away from him and his Crickets and to get a real job.

The band didn’t work out, so Sargent decided he would try being a Beatnik. It didn’t take talent or an education, both of which he had none of, so he figured he could make it work.

He opened the first Beatnik-type coffee house in Fort Worth near the Majestic Theater. He gave the guitar and fiddle band one more shot but it didn’t fit the atmosphere. He had another idea that would work. Why even have music! Just have a few guys playing bongo drums while people speak or recite poetry. How cool is that? No messy music or instruments, just the gentle beat of the soothing bongo to accentuate the moment.

The picture above is the first incarnation of “Sargent Yorks Lovely Beatnik Bongo Band,” onstage at The Hip Hereford. Sargent York, the band leader, is the dude in the middle wearing the striped shirt.

Word got out about how cool and hip the place was, and soon every performer around wanted to be seen there. Elvis Presley was at Fort Hood serving his time in the Army, so he would come up on Saturday nights and sing a few tunes. Jack Ruby ( yes, that one ) would bring Candy Barr, the famous stripper to do her show, and Lyndon B.Johnson and Lady Bird would stop by to shake a few hands and recite the latest bill he was introducing in the senate. Lady Bird would give gardening advice. Brother Dave Gardner, the famous comedian made a few appearances, as did Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers, Phylis Diller, Jonny Carson, Alvin, and The Chipmunks, Soupy Sales, and Rabbi Schmolie and his singing dog, Moses.

The place rocked on for another year, then when interest waned, Sargent closed the doors and went to Greenwich Village to become a folk singer.

The rumor that floated around for years, even into the mid-60s, was that some English musician was vacationing in Texas and caught a few acts at the Hip Hereford. He dug the name of the house bongo band and later passed it along to some of his blokes over on Abbey Road. Who knows, it could have happened?

%d bloggers like this: