The Stokes at Duffy's in St. Thomas in 1966

It was early in the summer of 1966 when the drummer of my band The Stokes, Adrian (Adrie) Buxeda and myself had just turned 16, that he came to my house in what I thought was a routine visit (which as it turned out it wasn't, and instead was the beginning of an epoch that lasted three years for the band) and told me that he had just seen an ad in The San Juan Star (the only English language newspaper in Puerto Rico at the time) looking for bands to play in St Thomas that summer.

But that wasn't all.

Adrie had been to St Thomas many times before. He had seen the "belly of the beast" Duffy's club, up close.

As such, Adrie knew that Duffy's was the place to play at - setting aside for now the fact that we were too young to do so at the time (well, legally anyway, but who's counting...?!)

So when Adrian saw that ad in the newspaper, he quickly came over to my house with the phone number to call. A phone number of the hotel where Duffy was staying in San Juan.

Before I could tell Adrian to just go ahead and call him, he told me that he had already called him and told Duffy that "we were interested".

The next step was to arrange an audition...

Which brings me to another side of the story. Since the ad had been placed in the (English language) newspaper, I was certain that other bands had seen it and that maybe we could stand no chance next to some of them, like The Teen Sound, The Thunders and other bands whose members were older than us (i.e., over 18; I was the oldest of my band, age 16), and all these bands played very well I might add.

Well, the audition came and we did our best, starting with "In The Midnight Hour" (Young Rascal's version), "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" (Byrds), "Devil With A Blue Dress On" and other hits of the time. During all this, Duffy had a smile in his face and his companion, Joan too. I was no student of psychology and I could not make out their faces.

I didn't know what to make of that, so we just played about 4 songs I think.

The first thing he asked was for our availability. (Right. Like high school students have so much to do during the summer, I thought! Ha ha!).

He said that the deal (for the chosen band) would be one week at his club with the option of a second week, if the first week was a success.

Next was the matter of money. I can't believe I started "negotiating" with Duffy (if you can call it negotiating), trying to undercut the Teen Sounds by about $50 for the 2 weeks deal, but he stopped me (all of 16 years old I repeat) and he said that he knew that I was trying to undercut the Teen Sounds but that wasn't necessary because:

1) He had "X" amount of dollars set to spend (no; I don't remember the dollar amount) and
2) He would like our band to be IT, in part because of our AGE; he thought our age would be an interesting attraction for the Duffy's crowd, and that yes, we also played very well, thank you, (or else he would not have extended the offer to us).

That's what he was thinking during the audition, he finally told us: "You guys are so YOUNG... this is going to be an extra attraction by itself at my club in St. Thomas".

FINAL PART: First night at Duffy's. That first night while we were connecting our guitars, bass etc, the look of the crowd at Duffy's (~50% full at that time) was of something that today would be expressed as "what the heck are these kids doing here? Did Duffy stop carding at the door? Is this take your child to work day"?!

The first song of the first set of the first night we opened with, was "In The Midnight Hour" and I can clearly remember how nervous we were (it will always be etched in my brain). Also, what will also be etched in my brain, is the LOOK in the eyes of the waitress and others when we started. She was merrily walking to a table when she stopped in her tracks (during that first song) and looked at us like she could not reconcile what she was hearing (great music) with what she was seeing (children playing in a rock band).

After that first set, the waitress and the Go Go Dancer ("Ding-Dong") came to us to our table and told us that we were "great". And also told us how they would like to "get to know us better".

After a couple of days, Duffy told us to plan for staying the whole of the two weeks. The week had been a success.

Ray & Tony
Ray and Tony at the bar (Coke w/lime, please...) Smile
Walter, Adrian & Tony
Me up front at guitar and Walter Figueroa (Bass) To My Left.
We may have been playing California Dreamin'...
Adrian & Jorge
Adrian. Jorge Arzola is at the organ in back.
Dance Floor
Banner they made for us
Inside Duffy's
Our drummer Adrian.
More Dance Floor
Dance Floor
Stage at Duffy's
Side View
Side View
Directing? (Smile)

I have further tales of Duffy's. I say further because apparently we made a name for ourselves so much so at the time, that Duffy came back to Puerto Rico during the next summer (1967) to hire us back except that the band didn't exist at the time. (There is a short story behind that moment in history involving Ramón Saldaña but it shall remain untold. ) But my band did exist in 1968 and 1969 when Duffy's club was called "A Place In The Sun" and we DID go again. Then (in 1968 and 69) the owner was not Hugh Duffy but Jack Roach, the owner of the Jet Set in Old San Juan then. The Jet Set, by the way, was a dive close to the docks and frequented by prostitutes and Navy personnel and always had great rock bands. The deal was that we played at the Jet Set for two weeks, and then immediately after, 5 weeks at A Place In The Sun (AKA Duffy's). That happened in the summers of 1968 and 1969.

Here are the photos from those two years:

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