One more remembrance, and this one takes us back to Laura’s high school days.
If you’ve read my book about Laura you might remember the Stokes twins, Helene ( Helena) and Phyllis, who sang harmonies with Laura in the marble-walled bathroom at the High School of Music and Art. As 10th graders, Laura and the twins formed a trio that they named the Preludes–which they pronounced “prell-yudes” rather than “pray-ludes” because they thought the latter sounded “too square.” They would cut classes together and perform impromptu bathroom concerts of such songs as “I Met Him on a Sunday,” “Wind,” “Heat Wave,” and “They Call the Wind Mariah.”
“What voices!” one of their other classmates raved to me.
They even had a tryout with Roulette Records, at which they sang “Yonder Come the Preludes”–which Laura had composed with her own lyrics and the melody of “Midnight Special.” But the girls were ill-prepared for a musical career, asking each other during the audition, “Uh, what should we sing?” Morris Levy, the notorious president of the label, told them, “Girls, go home and practice, and come back when you’re ready.”
After a couple of people I interviewed for the book told me about the Stokes twins, I became determined to find them. I even visited the High School of Music and Art (in its new Lincoln Center digs) and looked through an old yearbook to see their pictures. But I couldn’t locate Helena Stokes Lind until after the hardback came out (so there’s a little more info about them in the paperback version). We’ve remained in occasional touch since then (she still performs!), and I sadly learned that her sister passed away this year. (The picture above, which Helena just sent me, shows her and her sister shortly after the time they pal’d around with Laura.)
Hence this tribute. Phyllis, I hope you’re harmonizing with Laura again, in some wonderful marble-walled bathroom in the sky. Yonder come the Preludes!