October 02, 2017
HOPE, Ark.—About ten years after the Summer of Love, tolerance for such nonsense remained rare in Arkansas. It was a sun shiny day when John Simmons entered the Post Office sporting his "disgusting afro" haircut. He would soon regret his less-than-chivalrous act of not holding the door open for a city police officer since the back of John's t-shirt featured a "cartoon voice balloon" with a single word - Bullshit. Such profanity was not tolerated back then, and because a Post Office is by definition on federal ground, the officer left the building and waited for John to re-enter his jurisdiction - the street. As soon as John exited federal land, the officer promptly drove his car from across the street, and said "Hold it there buddy!" John was arrested for disorderly conduct. It was July 4, 1977 in the college town of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The officer took John's driver's license and said: "Do you know where the police department is?" John said yes, to which the officer replied: "Well that's where this driver's license will be. Come follow me." John followed. The officer asked the City Attorney what the charge should be. All they could come up with was disorderly conduct. John related: "The cops took my shirt and it was covered in puppy hair. I took it off and there was a flurry of dog hair." Ultimately they released John with a see-you-in-court salutation. John says "I had to go back to my house to get another shirt so I could go back to work. It pissed me off because my boss asked why I was late and I told him about it. Then he got pissed. He thought it was my fault for wearing the shirt in the first place. "You gonna wear that to work?" he said. I already had several times."
After calling his father (an attorney) to relate his predicament, John called his friend, John Fricks, at the Klipsch factory in Hope. Soon Bob Moers, president of Klipsch & Associates, returned his call. Bob engaged local Hope attorney Al Graves, and wrote to John's local attorney, Sid Davis, authorizing him to represent John, with K&A footing the bill. Bob's letter said "It is my personal desire to stop this vigilante attitude regarding such matters and, as such am interested in the long term effects as well as helping John in this case." Under separate cover Bob sent Sid a couple of Bullshit t-shirts, one to give to John. Apparently Sid gave that one to his wife! John eventually received his original shirt back from the police and over the years, wore it to death. Little did he know that 40 years later it would amount to anything! John had a law student friend in Tulsa that cited a case in California where a guy was charged with disorderly conduct for entering a federal court room in a jacket that read "F**k the Draft". John gave the information to Mr. Davis as well as Bob Moers as a precedent. Ultimately the charges were dropped, and John signed a "Release of all Claims" form on August 9, 1977. This precluded any false arrest claims, and John said "I didn't see any need to be vindictive. It was kind of ridiculous to begin with."
Ginger Shiras of the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock covered the story and issued it on the AP. Someone at K&A called her and she did a telephone interview with John. It was also written up in Playboy Magazine, shortly thereafter. [I'd like to have that issue even without the photography!] For a long time, John was greeted with an enthusiastic "bullshit" whenever he walked into any of the Dickson Street bars in Fayetteville.
Late in 2016 as we were anticipating this 40th anniversary re-cap of this story, we polled the Klipsch Forum for an original Bullshit T-shirt to present to John. Larry Bentsen answered the call with a "slightly used" shirt that he wore while building LaScalas at K&A in 1977! Thanks Larry!
Growing up, our "long-haired freak" was an Army brat when he and his two sisters (one his twin) first moved to Arkansas. After his father left the army he studied law at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. With his degree in hand the family moved to Arkadelphia, a small town in south central Arkansas. It too was (and is) a college town, but far smaller and less liberal than the home of the Razorbacks - the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. John was less than impressed with Arkadelphia, so when it was time for his college education, he migrated back north to Fayetteville.
There, he lived in a house with a local musician (drummer), so they were involved in the music scene, very Bohemian. The guy was playing music in Dallas about half the time, which left the house all to John. They had a little mixed-breed dog that looked similar to a Labrador retriever, the house mascot. John's roommate was a car nut and decided to buy a Porsche turbo. A magazine with a review of the car was laying on the table near the puppy, so Turbo soon became the dog's name.
John worked in the third Walmart store ever! "They wanted me in this management program and said I'd have my own store in six months. They had these plans for global expansion and all this crap. All I knew was that it was a low-rent store in south Fayetteville. I got mad at them because I had a canoe trip planned with my girlfriend and another couple on the Buffalo River. We had already bought our food and packed our cars and were ready to go. I was working at Walmart Friday night and during my shift the manager came in and said he needed me to work Saturday. I can't work I said. I've already got this trip planned. "Do you want a canoe trip or your job?" the manager asked. I opted to keep the job and arranged for a friend of mine to take my end of the canoe - not sure what happened with my girlfriend -----. I went to work the next morning at nine and he said "Oh no, we needed you here at nine tonight to help clean up. We don't need you during the day" and that's when I quit. Totally unreasonable. Looking back about all of this, I had a chance to do this, and I had a chance to do that. I have a feeling that I would have quit sometime before the multi-million dollars came in."
John went in and out of schools, including U of A and then Oklahoma. He returned to Fayetteville to live, and was working in Siloam Springs for Franklin Electric. He went to school three days a week and worked three days a week. In school, he studied mechanical engineering. At work, he essentially did engineering projects that supplemented the maintenance department, sometimes at the annoyance of his fellow maintenance workers. They gave him a Franklin Electric hat with the initials F. E. However, they said it stood for "f**king engineer" as he was known in their circle. Rather than doing regular maintenance, John would design new tooling to improve their processes, with their best machinist being assigned to him. John never received his M. E. degree, but he went on to work various engineering jobs.
John's next employment was in the oil and gas industry as a "land man" in Denver. This involved searching titles and leasing mineral rights, with travel to the sites and visits with land owners, basically talking them into "signing on the dotted line". After Colorado, John moved back to Arkansas and became an engineer at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. He then went to work for Trane, so most of his career was as a salesman for air conditioning equipment. John's ties to K&A ran deep, including personal friendships with:
There were many visits to Hope. On one occasion John recalls PWK at the lab (Museum now) with a Radio Flyer wagon moving a Heresy back and forth to see when he could hear a difference. This was during K&A's time alignment experiments that led to Gary Gillum's 1978 AES engineering report: A Shuffleboard Experiment of Time-Delay effects in Loudspeakers. Paul took the time to chat with John and explain the experiment in "words of one cylinder". Another time John witnessed an early MCM demo. It was set up not too far from the factory with the MCM's on a hill, and a picnic set up on another hill. John recalls that they "cranked 'em up." He was impressed.
John's first Klipsch speakers were Heresy's, tested and signed by his good friend John Fricks. When he moved out West they wouldn't fit in his car, so he had to sell them. John has owned two sets of Cornwall's, one pair he bought from a church in Little Rock that had been "sold a bill of goods" - small speakers in the eaves and a big console. John scored them for $500.00. These were the newer style with the horns configured like current production. John preferred the sound of the older Cornwalls that had the horns mounted vertically in left and right configurations. He bided his time and ended up trading them for an older pair. Regarding the Klipsch sound, John says other speakers sound like they're under water.
John currently resides in Fayetteville, AR. After 40 years the memories are still vivid.
*The t-shirt debuted in August of 1975, with all K&A employees receiving one in a special ceremony held on the front dock of the factory. By October K&A's add agency, Goodloe Stuck, noted they had read a Crosstalk newsletter indicating a re-order of shirts was necessary. Goodloe said: "Apparently you've had no kickback on the defecatory expletive on the back. Which proves the wisdom of a bumper sticker I saw today "ESCHEW OBFUSCATION"." Bob Moers' reply was "The Klipschirts are going over really well. We have had no bad comments on them." However, earlier on August 16th, 17-year old Dwight Miles of Houston Texas was arrested for disorderly conduct! Apparently this news was forwarded directly to PWK by local K&A dealer Home Entertainment, Inc. on August 29th. PWK probably dismissed it as insignificant.
© 2017 Jim Hunter and KHMA