Thursday, May 09, 2013

My Greatest Experience in Music So Far

Racial tensions were heating up in the 60’s.  In the 50’s, a black man singing about sex to teenaged “White Boys” was just wrong.  Sam Phillips had some wonderful race music that he couldn’t get on the air simply because it was politically incorrect at the time.  In April of 1953, a young white man who had moved to Memphis from Tupelo showed up at the “Sun Recording Studios”.  He wanted to record a birthday record just for his mother “Gladys”.  The secretary at Sun Record kept the young man’s name and address on file.  A year later Sam Phillips would be seeking the young man named Elvis for a song called “That’s alright Mama”.

Sam Phillips used Elvis Presley as a bridge between white singers and black music.  As the genre grew in popularity; It would soon become known as “The Devil’s Music”.  To this day, musicians such as Brian Setzer Joke about Rock-a-Billy being “The Devil’s Music”  As is the case with success in the entertainment industry, white singers lined up in front of Sun Studios to try their hand at race music.  Phillips would not only discover Elvis, but he introduce the world to “Roy Orbison”, “Jerry Lee Lewis”, Johnny Cash and the Man who “could have been king,” “Carl Perkins”.  Carl had a hit song he was to perform on the Ed Sullivan show called “Blue Suede Shoes”, but on the way to deliver his performance, he was injured in an automobile accident.  By the time he was released from the Hospital; Elvis had already recorded Blue Suede Shoes and it was a top 10 hit.  This was something that would haunt Carl Perkins the rest of his life.  Carl would have success with another one of his songs called “Honey don’t”.  It was covered by a band called The Beatles.

Down in Lubbock, Texas, a young fan of Presley’s would tear up the charts with hits like “Peggy Sue”, “It’s so easy” and “That’ll be the day”.  Buddy Holley who’s contract name was Holly, would have a short but meteoric career.  He is one of Rock’s greatest influences on English Rock music as Elvis never toured England.  In Southern California, a young Little Richard fan named Ricardo Valenzuela would bridge the Latino music gap with a hit song called “La Bamba”, while another Texas disc Jockey named “Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. aka, J.P. Richardson aka “The Big Bopper” was having success with a hit song called “Chantilly Lace”.   In garages across the U.S. young teens were seeing the reaction of girls when Elvis shook his pelvis and rattled and rolled.
Sadly, on February 3rd 1959,  the three shooting stars mentioned above would die in a plane chartered by Holly while taking off from Mason city Airport after giving their last performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa.
The Hollywood Hormone formula
Elvis Presley, a friend of Holly would receive his draft notice later that year. The American Rock and Roll scene was extinguished as soon as it was lit.  Yet because Elvis’ manager Tom Parker was afraid of flying, Elvis never toured the U.K. however the young Buddy Holly and his “Crickets” did.  This left an impression on a young John Lennon and even more so on a lad named Paul McCartney.  The two would put together The Beatles (After "The Crickets) in 1960 and perform on American Television in 1964.  The Beatles became the hood ornament of the British invasion in 1964.

But what happened during the 3 years in between Holly’s death and the British Invasion?

The brilliant scientists in Hollywood saw Rock and Roll music as simply another Love Story.  They saw young girls fainting over a handsome Elvis.  It was the SEX.  That’s all it was to Hollywood.  The prettier the better.  So after Hollywood stripped down the Rock and Roll Formula; we were given a newer version of “Frank Sinatra”.  Only this time the music was race music being sung by handsome actors that sang like “Mister Rogers” from PBS’s Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.  Probably the most egregious singer was Pat Boone.  The man who made more money than Little Richard did off of the LR hit “Tutti Fruiti”.  Pat Boone had no shame, and to be fair to Mr. Boone and his daughter, I would have done the same thing.  Boone sang what he was told to sing.  It’s the way it was “Back in the Day” (I apologize for that tired Cliché) The list of Hollywood phonies goes on from Fabian, Tab Hunter and Frankie Avalon to perhaps the only reputable talent, Rick Nelson from the TV show Ozzy and Harriet. (No not that Ozzy)
Fortunately, Buddy Holly’s music would return once again in the form of the “British Invasion”.  The most famous of the Invaders were the Fab four, John, Paul, George and Ringo.  What most people don’t know is that the first demo the Beatles recorded was “That’ll be the day”.  The Buddy Holly hit.  But the Beatles had another mentor, one that is unmistakable in early Beatle music, an original Race music writer, Richard Wayne Penniman  aka, “Little Richard”.

Once again, The Beatles with their long hair and their “colored music” gave Teens a tool of rebellion, while mom and dad listened to Frank Sinatra,  Lawrence Welk and Mitch Miller.
Please come back tomorrow for the Greatest Experience in Music in My Life……….So far.


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