Who Is This Old Geezer?
And Why Should I Care?
Let's Answer The Second Question First
Are you the kind of person who enjoys discovering literary or musical talent that has slithered under the radar of the corporate media giants? Well, here's your chance to discover an author and tunesmith who has escaped the notice of even his hometown newspaper. Fact is, not even his next-door neighbor, even if under intense questioning by a determined prosecutor, could name a book he's written or song he has sung.
So, when you drop the name Prentice Mills at your next cocktail party, book club meeting or in a coy Facebook post, you're a cinch to impress folks with the depth of your Bohemian bona fides. That's what we all want, right? To impress folks.
So, I'll Bite. Who Is He?
On one hand, he's a white-haired old guy who was playing a plastic guitar in his backyard in Seagoville, Texas when American Bandstand made its debut on black and white television screens. That was 1957. He vividly remembers the day that Fats Domino first appeared on the show. That event ignited ideas that remain with him to this day—ideas of playing musical instruments, singing and making phonograph records.
They don't make a lot of vinyl records anymore. But, you'll find out more about his idea to make one if you follow his blog on this site. It's recommended that you follow it closely and recommend it to your friends. You'll impress them.
Prentice always knew that if he were to someday make a phonograph record, he would need to have a song—a good song that no one else had ever recorded. And, he figured he'd need to learn the instruments that might be needed to play that song. So, starting in 1957, Prentice spent 61 years (so far) practicing the piano and, at least, a dozen other instruments ranging from saxophone to hammered dulcimers. He got the hang of playing those things right away and became somewhat of a legend within the walls of his home. He never exhibited his talents elsewhere. Well, except in prison.
The Prison Years
Prison? Yeah, this is a strange story. The short version, though, goes this way...
Prentice's father worked for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. In the mid-1960s the federal prison system introduced what it called the "Work Release" program, a scheme which allowed inmates to get jobs outside the prison. Several inmates who had been professional musicians before their convictions for non-violent crimes asked the warden if they might form a band and get gigs under the Work Release program. The warden said it would be okay, but only if they were accompanied on their outings by a prison official.
The band found three officers who were willing to accompany them to gigs, mostly at military installations, and they set about putting together a first-rate show. Only one thing was missing—a piano player. That's where Prentice, a 15-year-old piano wizard, came into the picture. In fact, here's a 1966 photo of Prentice and his inmate band. (Check out the white socks. They were cool then.)
The HyTones all-inmate (except one) band performing in El Paso, Texas. November 1965.
Cut To The Chase
I don't want to get too long-winded. There's no better way to lose a reader's interest, even with a tale as gripping as this one. So, let's cover a lot of years with as few words as possible.
In 1965, Prentice started writing songs for the inmate band to perform. He wrote a couple dozen songs and sang a bunch of them himself. Audiences seemed to like them. At least, the audiences were polite.
In 1968, Prentice met a girl. That's her in the wine-colored dress, a stunningly beautiful Georgia Peach, then and now. From that day to this, Prentice has written songs for and about her. It's added up to a lot of songs, a couple hundred or so.
During that fifty-year period, Prentice did a lot of things. He married that girl, and they traveled the country together. They attended several universities, took a few degrees, fell into and out of trouble, did absolutely nothing in an orthodox way, and raised a son. And they had a helluva lot of fun!
All the while, Prentice kept writing songs. Fact is, he's been a genuine songwriting fool. And, now he's recording and releasing many of those songs on Red Opel Records. You can download or stream them at iTunes , Spotify and wherever else you get music online. What's more, he's recently written a book!
"When she held me tight it felt so right,
Like Dixie covered in dew."
Writing What You Know
Sticks And Stones. That's the title he chose for his first novel, a story that squeezes the essence from many of his songs, compressing and curing the emotional resin into a chunk of pure literary amber. Flowery language? Well, the story will speak for itself. You should read it. It's for sale on this site.
The book tells the story of two young people, teenagers really, struggling with very adult problems. It's a story from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a tumultuous and confusing time in America. The young stars in this book's "movie of the mind" confront issues of love, marriage, morality, religion, bigotry and scandal—all for the prize of being together. In spite of their battle scars, I know they would say it was a great time to be alive and in love. There's no bad time to be in love.
I want to say that there's something moldy and dank in the heart of a reader who doesn't find something special in this story, but that would be unfair. And judgmental. Some readers have loved the book, others haven't. That's the way it is in this world. Still...
The Bottom Line
Who is Prentice Mills? Read his book. Listen to his music. Follow his blog. Impress your friends.
Red Opel Books • Red Opel Records • Perkerson Park Press
© 2018 Prentice Mills / Red Opel Books / Red Opel Records