Thursday, July 18, 2013

Badstreet USA & The Magic Of Freebird Fantasia

I'm absolutely sick of the "Shield-Freebirds" comparison.  I hate to break it to the world, but aside from being a trio of wrestlers, the two groups having nothing in common.  Dean Ambrose does not perform their theme song, they don't wear the stars-and-bars, and so far they haven't been revolutionary.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy The Shield and feel that the sky is the limit for them, especially Ambrose.  When it comes down to it, however, they nor anybody else can recreate the magic of the Fabulous Freebirds. 

Michael Hayes.  Terry Gordy.  Buddy Roberts.  Three wrestlers that came together at the right time to, most memorably, become the arch enemies of the white-bread, squeaky-clean, Von Erich boys.  They were a hard drinking gang of southern boys that dished out some beatings, took many in return, and proved to be exactly what World Class Championship Wrestling needed.  Each member had individual tools that brought something different to the table and therefore the group simply gelled.  From a marketing standpoint, it was the charisma and personality of Hayes that made the team one of the most merchandised of the era.

Everyone has a different opinion on who exactly was the first wrestler to use theme music, but Michael "P.S." Hayes may have been the first to sing his own.  Hayes certainly looked like a rock star, and through his wrestling career was able to become one.  After years of using Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird," Hayes and Jimmy Papa composed a brand new entrance for the team in 1983.  Thirty years later, "Badstreet USA" is still one of the most popular and memorable wrestling themes of all-time.  A music video was even produced for the song starring the Freebirds as well as their frequent ally (and later Freebird himself) "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin.

It wasn't until 1987 that a full album starring Michael Hayes came to fruition.  "Off The Streets" was offered through magazine order forms and produced by Jimmy Papa's Grand Theft Records.  The album featured "Badstreet USA" as well as nine other tracks performed by Hayes and the Badstreet Band.  The album includes a separate "centerfold" style photo insert that puts even those classic "Fabulous Ones" music videos to shame as far as classic wrestling camp.  For those who pre-ordered, an authentically autographed Hayes-Grand Theft Records promotional photo was included due to delays in the album's release.   It has often been reported that Hayes had trouble securing a record deal, thus explaining the long gap between the release of the "Badstreet USA" single and the album itself.

With the anti-hero style popularity of Hayes and the gang, it's hard to believe that any record company wouldn't have wanted to capitalize.  WCCW wasn't exactly regional at this point, and with the Von Erich-Freebird wars seen by millions in syndication surely the album would've done well.  Nevertheless, the craze of the time was captured one day at a mall in Irving, Texas, also the home of Grand Theft Records.  Recognizing the hysteria of young Texans revolving around World Class, the wise manager of Irving's Camelot Music store had an idea.

It was the mid-1980's and the "Badstreet USA" single was available at the famous Sportatorium (in downtown Dallas, Texas) as well as through mail order.  The manager of the Camelot location decided to contact Grand Theft Records and order copies of the hot item to sell in the store.  Not only were copies secured, but an appearance by Hayes was set up to promote and autograph the singles.  The 45 was so popular that half of the copies sold before the appearance even took place!

With a turnout of around seven hundred screaming fans, the signing was ultimately a success.  The pictures of this appearance shown here have never before been viewed by the public.  Hayes is shown signing away, but seeing as that this was the golden era of WCCW wrestling, the Freebird probably also kept up an image suitable for a heel at the time.  It looks as if posters advertising the single were signed in addition to the aforementioned 45's.  Are these hundreds of autographed items stashed away in attics across The Lone Star State?  Fortunately, the store manager decided to recently part with her own keepsake of the event (a framed display of the photos shown here and signed 45) which is why I'm able to share these here for all to enjoy.

If there was ever any doubt, I think that these images prove that the Freebirds were just as responsible for the "fandemonium" of the WCCW glory days as the Von Erich's were.  Not all fans were interested in the handsome local athletes.  Many were rooting for the rough-and-tumble rock star and his band of thieves.  It didn't hurt that they had a killer anthem as well.  Freebird Fantasia Forever!

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