For many of a certain age, some things just go together. Frankie and Annette. Hula Hoops and hips. Poodles and skirts. War and peace. Cool cars and rock 'n' roll.

Of all those combos, it's the last one that really revs their engines and gets their blood flowing. Just mention those days and they start humming "Drive My Car" by The Beatles, "Little Deuce Coupe" by The Beach Boys or "No Particular Place to Go" by Chuck Berry. And they remember that sweet ride they polished and pampered before giving her up in the interest of false maturity.

Monterey's sixth annual Rock & Rod Festival on May 18-20 helps celebrate this classic love story of cars and music from the 1950s and '60s.

It features hundreds of vintage, customs, classics, hot rods, street rods, muscle cars and trucks (plus custom and classic motorcycles) on display throughout the Monterey County Fairgrounds.

Some of those car owners will enter "Best of the West" competitions, which award cash prizes to the best of classics and customs in each division. What's more, various vendors will offer food, classic car accessories and specialty items of all kinds.

It all starts Friday evening with (naturally) a sock hop held in the Monterey Room beginning at 6p.m.

On Saturday, the car and motorcycle show commences, and live music will rock the stages all day and into night — showcasing a variety of classic stars, including Felix Cavaliere's Rascals ("Good Lovin'," "Groovin'," "It's A Beautiful Morning," "A Girl Like You," "Lonely Too Long"), and Terry Sylvester, formerly of the Hollies ("The Air That I Breathe," "Long Tall Woman In A Black Dress," "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.") Sunday will be a continuation of the car and motorcycle show coupled with more live entertainment and awards presentations.

Proceeds from the event benefit developmentally disabled adults through Gateway Center's Capital Campaign Program.

Event chairman Terry Wecker wants to bring back those wistful days when cars, music and friends created a kaleidoscope of great memories.

"For many it was the time of their lives, a wonderful experience," he said. "It's a part of history but still alive today. It's an experience we can share with the younger generation."

Wecker is particularly excited about seeing Cavaliere ... and the faces of festival-goers who will recognize his music.

"Those are songs people can relate to and dance to and it brings them back to days of a slower pace, before computers and cell phones," he said.

As an inductee into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Cavaliere continues to create contemporary classics well into the fifth decade of his career.

From 1965 through 1969, the Rascals were a consistent chart-topper, evolving from "blue-eyed soul" to pop psychedelia and jazz fusion.

Cavaliere sang lead on most of the tracks, while Eddie Brigati took the mic on the band's ballads. The Rascals' biggest hit, "People Got to Be Free," was co-written by the two singers, as an impassioned response to the assassinations of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"As members of Atlantic Records, we had a front row seat to all the civil rights events taking place," Cavaliere said. "I had been involved in that battle since my early teenage years."

The song topped the charts for five weeks in 1968 and inspired the follow-up single "A Ray of Hope," written for and about Ted Kennedy.

Cavaliere embarked on a solo career that thrived throughout the 1970s, releasing his self-titled debut in 1974, a collaborative project with Todd Rundgren.

He followed in 1975 with "Destiny." Two years later in 1977, he opted to return to a band environment, releasing "Treasure," the self-titled debut from the band of the same name. In 1979, Cavaliere issued "Castles in the Air."

Looking back on the '70s, he said "the music industry was beginning to stumble ... disco and MTV. Then the 'Big Chill' brought a new life to all of the '60s music."

His fifth, and final solo release "Dreams in Motion" came years later in 1994. Three years later, Cavaliere and his band mates from The Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, joining inductees Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Chuck Berry, among other greats.

"It is such a joy to watch people enjoy music, young people and old, reacting to new music and old," said Cavaliere. "I am very, very, fortunate."

Rock & Rod Festival won't just stop at one Hall of Famer, however. Sylvester (born in Liverpool, England, and raised a street over from a family called McCartney) left school at age 14 to join George Harrison's older brother Peter as a panel beater (auto body repair).

By age 16 he was sharing the stage with The Beatles at the famous Cavern Club, fronting his own group, the Escorts.

In August 1965, the Escorts appeared with the Hollies at the "Hit House Club" in Munich, Germany. Hollies' members Graham Nash and Allan Clarke ended up joining the stage with the Escorts.

In January 1966, when guitarist Ralph Ellis decided to leave the Swinging Blue Jeans ("Hippy Hippy Shake," "Good Golly Miss Molly"), Sylvester was asked to join the group.

In December 1968, Nash left the Hollies to form Crosby, Stills and Nash. The remaining members of the Hollies remembered Sylvester from Munich, and asked him to join the group. His first single with the Hollies, "Sorry Suzanne," reached No. 3 on the UK charts and established the group once again as a hit-making act.

Sylvester's first album "Hollies Sing Dylan" went even further, all the way to No. 1. Soon after, they recorded "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" with an unknown session man named Elton John playing piano. The song became a worldwide hit.

Other musical entertainment includes: The Yard Dogs, the official house band for the festival; Los High Tops, Northern California's renowned three-piece "Surfabilly" band; Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, respected practitioners of American roots music; Chicano All Stars, the old-school, energetic Latin rock and danceable reggae group from Monterey County; Tom Faia, a solo artist and songwriter who's performed in Nashville but now lives in Carmel and plays with his band Tom Faia and the Juice; and Class Act, a rock band originally formed for the sole purpose of playing at the Salinas High School class of 1963 reunion.

Mike Hale is a freelance writer and can be reached at grubhunter@comcast.net. GO!


FESTIVAL
·What: Sixth annual Monterey County Rock & Rod Festival
·Where: Monterey Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey
·When: Friday through Sunday, May 18-20; Friday sock hop 6p.m.; gates open 11a.m. Saturday, 10a.m. Sunday
·Tickets: $20 sock hop only; two-day general admission $30, $7 for kids 6-12; Saturday only $25, $5; Sunday only $10, $5; available at Big Green Zuchini Real Estate, Gateway Center, Cypress Sporting Goods, Jersey's Subs, Bill's Monterey Custom Motorcycles or online at www.montereyrockrod.com