Contact/ About/ Privacy

Lido Lavender

Buick 1959 in Lido Lavender.  Fair Use of picture.
Lido Lavender
by Susan B

My grandfather was a sociable Chicago gentleman.  In the late 1950s and 1960s, he and my grandmother lived on the South side of Chicago.  Grandpa was friends with the owners of two of Chicago's famous historic South side record labels.  Grandpa was a long-time Chicago real estate investor, and I think he was involved with finding or financing real estate for these record labels.

 One of the labels was Vee-Jay Records, which was one of the first Black-owned record labels.  Vee-Jay Records was famous for having a lot of the most successful rhythm and blues acts.  Vee-Jay also distributed records by white acts such as The Four Seasons, and then later, The Beatles.  Vee-Jay Records was the first U.S. record label to distribute The Beatles' early records. Later, Vee-Jay Records became home to Jimi Hendrix and Billy Preston.

Grandpa was also friends with Leonard and Phil Chess, the two Polish-Jewish brothers who owned Chess Records.  Chess Records released, on numerous record labels and imprints, a lot of the blues,  rhythm and blues, and soul music acts that went on to become famous.  In 1964, while Vee-Jay Records was selling The Beatles' first songs, Chess Records was recording The Rolling Stones.

Both the Chess brothers and the folks at Vee-Jay often gave Grandpa promotional copies of their new records.  They seemed to value his opinion.  In turn, he sometimes gave 45 rpm records to our family to see how "the kids" liked certain songs.  (45 rpms were small vinyl records that had one song on each side.  They were played on a record player or phonograph using a needle.)  My parents listened to music by the likes of Perry Como and Doris Day.  By contrast, the Chess and Vee-Jay Records were ushering in the rock and roll era.  In 1960, Chubby Checker released his version of the song, "The Twist," setting off a new dance craze that changed the way couples danced with each other.

My parents had a sedan style car, but they needed a bigger car to hold the kids.  Today, families get SUVs and mini-vans.  Back then, those kind of cars did not exist.  Families then had station wagons, also called estate wagons.  Station wagons had a front seat, a back seat, and then a rear compartment to carry stuff in, or to let kids sit in.  Some station wagons had seats that folded up in the back.  Those seats held only small, skinny children.  Back then, there were no seatbelts or child car seats. There was the general belief that a car could fit however many people you could stuff into it.  There was no sense that cars should be safe; that came later in 1965 when Ralph Nader wrote a book about car safety (or lack thereof) and kicked off the movement to make cars less of a rolling death trap.

Back then, people went to a car dealer and ordered a car and chose the color and the various extra features.  The customer would choose the color of their car from a chart with paint chips. Each year, the car companies had a new color chart with that year's stylish new colors.  Then, the car order would be sent to the car company's plant in Detroit, where it would be custom made specially for that buyer.  Then, the car was shipped to the dealer, who would call in the buyer to come pick up their brand new car.

My parents were looking to buy a station wagon, but were on a tight budget.  One day, Grandpa called my father to say that one of his record label friends had ordered a new car, a luxury model Buick station wagon, but that when it arrived, it was the wrong color, and he told the car dealer he was not buying it.  The car was brand new and perfectly good, just an odd color.  The dealer felt the color was so odd that he was willing to sell the station wagon at a very good price.  Grandpa had the car on hold at the dealer for my father to have first dibs to buy it at the good price.  My parents had to make up their minds fast, and say they wanted the car, or else lose the opportunity to buy it.

The color of the car was called Lido Lavender.  As it turned out, the Buick paint chips showed Lido Lavender as a greyish lavender, very subtle.  Some of the cars ordered in Lido Lavender were arriving at the dealers in that subtle color.  Other cars ordered in Lido Lavender were arriving at the dealers in a loud shiny purplish color.  The station wagon ordered by the record label folks arrived at the dealer in a stunning, shiny purplish-pink color.  The folks at the record label thought a shiny purple station wagon was too outrageous of a vehicle, even for people shuttling around the likes of Howlin' Wolf and later, The Beatles.  Back then, most cars on the road were black or white or a sedate green.

Grandpa insisted that my parents should buy the car.  It was a luxury car, he said, and the dealer was cutting the price drastically because of the color mix-up.  My parents agreed to buy the purple station wagon.  The car had real leather seats and a fancy radio.  It had fins in the back and whitewall tires.  It was the flashiest, jazziest, craziest station wagon anyone back then had ever seen.  And our family was riding around in it.

Everywhere we went, people commented on the car.  "Wow, your car is really somethin'," people would say.  Sometimes people would pose for a picture with our car.  "Never seen anything like it," they'd say.  People would honk at us on the highway, and point at our car, giving a thumbs-up. 

In 1964, when The Beatles were going to be on television on the Ed Sullivan Show, Grandpa insisted that we had to come over to their house to watch it with him and Grandma.  Grandpa was so excited that his friends' record label had an act about to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, which at the time, was the most famous show, and everyone watched it.

My parents had no idea who The Beatles were, but they were taken in by our grandfather's insistence and excitement.  If the Lido Lavender paint had been mixed right, it would have been The Beatles being shuttled in the car to the Ed Sullivan show.  The Lido Lavender was too purplish, so it was our family in the shiny purple station wagon. 

When we got to our grandparents, we each got a dish of ice cream.  Then, we gathered around the television set to watch Ed Sullivan announce his special guests, The Beatles.  The four lads from Liverpool sang the very same songs that were on the 45 rpms that Grandpa had given us to test whether we liked the songs.  As the Beatles sang, I already knew every word.  My little sister stood up and danced The Twist, just as we had been practicing at home.  Grandma told her to sit down and stop blocking the view.  The British Invasion had just begun.