The drummer who never returned
Published in the Asbury Park Press and the Home News Tribune
By KEVIN COYNE
SPECIAL TO THE ASBURY PARK PRESS
Before they had any place to play, before they even really knew how to play, they had a uniform of sorts, five green Army ponchos they got at Two Brothers on Main Street in Freehold and then emblazoned with painted black diamonds on the back.
"It was cool, we were The Five Diamonds," remembered George Theiss, the lead singer and guitarist when they finally learned some songs. "We were like outlaws or cowboys, just a gang of guys, our gang. Except we didn't carry guns, we carried guitars."
They changed their name, first to The Sierras, then finally to The Castiles, and practiced in the living room of the Center Street duplex where the drummer, Bart Haynes, lived, next door to Goldstein's corner store and across the street from the pool room and Caiazzo's music store. Tex Vinyard lived in the other half of the house, and when he offered his own living room as a practice hall, he became their manager.
"I remember the first time he did that song, what was it, 'No Satisfaction'?" said Connie Jiminez, Haynes' oldest sister, referring to the Rolling Stones hit. "That was the first time Bart sang, and he did wonderful. He was just like my father, everybody loved him. He just would make you laugh all the time. He had a lot of charisma."
One day in early 1965, a quiet, acne-pitted Freehold High sophomore named Bruce Springsteen showed up at Vinyard's house with a borrowed Kent guitar and played five songs he had learned overnight by listening to the radio.
"I'm sittin' there with my ears goin' WHAT?!? WHAT?!? WHAT?!? I couldn't believe it," Vinyard once told Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh. "Bruce says, 'Well, am I gonna make it in the band?' I said, 'Son, as far as I'm concerned, you're in the band.'"
The Castiles joined the circuit of bands playing teen dances for $35 a night at CYOs, YMCAs, high school gyms, roller rinks and swim clubs, slowly building a following. But then in April 1966, Bart Haynes quit high school and joined the Marines.
"We were all so proud when he was going into the Marines, that was how we thought at the time," said Jiminez, the eldest of four Haynes children, who was six years older than Bart. "I think it was like an escape for Bart. Our mother was an alcoholic, a falling-down-drunk alcoholic, and he didn't have much of a family life. None of us did. I was like his mother. We had no real mother around, and since I was the oldest, I became the caretaker."
The next month, with a new drummer, The Castiles drove to Brick in Vinyard's 1961 Mercury and recorded their first and only single at a $$50-an-hour strip-mall studio. By the end of the year they were playing gigs as far afield as Greenwich Village, and Haynes was in Vietnam.
"He didn't want to go to Vietnam," Jiminez said. "He wanted to join the Marines, but he didn't want to go to Vietnam. I think he knew what was going to happen. He wrote us letters about how he hated it, about seeing babies crawling through the garbage looking for something to eat. He was so sickened by it all."
Home on leave once, Haynes stopped by to talk to Jim Higgins, who was shoveling snow in front of his funeral home just a few doors down from the Haynes family's home on Center Street.
"He said, 'I won't come back alive,' and I said, 'Don't talk like that,'" recalled Higgins, who had given Haynes odd jobs in the past. "'The next time you see me, you'll be burying me' it was eerie when he said that. It bothered me for a long time."
On Oct. 22, 1967 the day after Army troops arrested hundreds of protesters at the first big anti-war rally at the Pentagon, and 100,000 people lined Broad Street in Newark for a "Support Our Boys in Vietnam" parade Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Barton E. Haynes was killed by mortar fire near Quang Tri, South Vietnam.
Two days before, his sister had dreamed that he was dead.
"In the dream, I had on a pink nightgown I had at the time," said Jiminez, now a holistic spiritual counselor living in the Whiting section of Manchester. She was wearing the same nightgown as in the dream when two Marines appeared at her door with the news.
George Theiss had a similar premonition.
"I remember waking up one morning, getting out of bed, and I swore I went to the telephone, and Bart was on the other end, saying, 'I'm all right, I'm all right, I'm all right,'" Theiss said, describing an apparent dream. "The next day or so I heard he died."
Higgins Memorial Home received the flag-draped casket and buried Haynes near a tall shade tree in the Beverly National Cemetery, a peaceful spot in Burlington County near the Delaware River. An honor guard from Fort Dix fired a rifle salute into the November sky.
"I never heard a man scream like my Dad screamed in the night about losing his son," Jiminez said.
During the "Born in the U.S.A." tour that marked the peak of his fame, Bruce Springsteen talked often to his audiences about Vietnam veterans, and he told a lot of people about Bart Haynes.
"There was a lot of guys from the neighborhood going to Vietnam," Springsteen told one stadium crowd as part of a long introduction to his mournful ballad "The River" and in the midst of recounting how he avoided the draft by failing his physical. "I remember the drummer in my first band coming over my house with his Marine uniform on saying that he was going to Vietnam and he didn't know where it was. And a lot of guys went, and a lot of guys didn't come back."
Bart Haynes was 19 years old when he died. He would have turned 50 last July.
Source: from the Asbury Park Press and the Home News Tribune
Published: March 14, 1999