Is Rock & Roll Really Here To Stay?
This weekend my wife and I attended a “Doo Wop” concert in Sarasota, Florida. Popular groups, mostly from the 60’s, comprised the Rock & Roll headliners for the raucous evening. It might be a stretch to consider 1500 sixty and seventy-somethings as raucous. Maybe loud, enthusiastic and seated would be more accurate. The groups, the Crests, Del Satins, Brooklyn Bridge, the Capris and Manhattan Harmony, danced…or shuffled…and performed over 30 songs over an enjoyable two and a half hours.
By the mid 1960s I had graduated from U.T., was married and had twin sons. Consequently, my interest in the myriad participants on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and its successor, Soul Train had waned significantly…to the level of non-existence. Therefore, I barely recognized the groups on stage that evening. Further, I was unfamiliar with all but six or so of the tunes they sang. At the time they were “hits”…I use the term reservedly…I was changing diapers and trying to sort out this new world of making a living for a growing family.
But, the night did cause my mind to drift back to the period that established my musical interests. From the early- fifties with Bill Haley and The Comets’ “Rock Around The Clock” to the mid-fifties with The Teenagers and their lead singer, thirteen year old Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” on to the late fifties and “The Great Pretender” by the Platters, Rock and Roll was, well…on a roll.
Then in the early 60s a new musical genre came on the scene…Folk Music. It blended tight harmony with music from the Civil War, to Americana to the early protest period. In the mid 60s My wife and I saw a very young John Denver as a replacement in the musical group, The Chad Mitchell Trio, perform as an opening act for Andy Williams at the open air theater in Gatlinburg. What a great show they both put on!
Folk music hit its stride but in the mid 60s the British invasion stopped it dead in its tracks…except for a few diehards like me. My favorite group is still The Journeymen with their “500 Miles.” To me they epitomized the folk genre, even though they cut only three albums.
The Four Freshmen and the Lettermen are two groups whose melodious style paralleled the folk period and have a strong, cult-like following even today.
I’m sure that each of you has a favorite genre, song, group and musical time period. I would love to hear yours…and I bet that others would too. Share them with us so we can all take that four to five decade walk back to our youth.
Scroll down and click to play the music videos.
Wow, in the midst of all the rockin’ and rollin’, I hope you didn’t hurt yourself, Ross!
Kidding aside, I wish Linda and I could have been with you. Most often, I keep Pandora tuned to stations that feature the ‘good ol’ songs’ from our youth. Perhaps that’s driven by nostalgia, but also by the fact that our world today seems to be slipping into a dark place where there are no absolutes that establish hope and reinforce values. Maybe The Platters and The Journeymen (et al) are way past their prime, but their songs still stir great memories and provide lightness of heart, Rock on!
I attended a Lettermens concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta the 1980s (admission: I think it was the Lettermen and I think it was the 1980s, but it was a top group – wanta-bes don’t play the Fox – and I’m not too far off on the date). I was up in the cheap seats in the balcony and I could see most of the close-in audience as well as the stage, but too far away to recognize people.
After mesmerizing all of us fans, the group went out into the audience and invited people to sing along with them.
One audience member identified himself as “Ross Greene” (I remembered a Ross Greene from Young Life days when I was a UT student in Knoxville, so I remembered the name. I figured this was a different Ross Greene because this was Atlanta. What were the chances?)
Well, this Ross Greene stopped the show. He had a great singing voice, one that filled the 6,000 seat Fox. He sang with the group and he sang solo, and I would have bet that the group set it all up, but even the group member with the microphone said, “Wow!”
Now that I know Ross lives in Atlanta…Ross, is there a confession you have to make? Did you have a bigger part in this early music scene than you have told us about? I think there’s a story here!
How well I remember those groups! And, I get to enjoy many of them every week! I am a volunteer DJ on the local FM radio station; have a 2-hour show every Thursday evening from 6-8pm. My show is “In the Mood” and the theme song is Glenn MIller’s “In the Mood” (arguably the most popular song in the world!). I took my first walking steps as a baby to Glenn Miller (my mother had a boarder who owned a Glenn Miller collection), so I tell listeners that I have Glenn Miller in my blood! Besides, we live in a County where a third or more of the population is in the senior citizen category – so I provide “niche” music for some of the older listeners! BUT, I mix up the genres. My actual most favorite is the “Doo Wop” music of the 50’s and early 60’s. So I frequently segue into Rock N Roll for part of the 2 hours. But back to Ross’s comments about Folk music – my favorite folk group is still The Kingston Trio. I have a collection of about 15 of their albums (they continued to be active right up in the 90’s with replacement members). The first time I aired some of their songs in a 15minute segment, the phone rang and a listener informed me that she and her husband were listening to the radio as they rode their tractor back in from the fields and that those nostalgic songs carried them back to their youth! Needles to say, I was thrilled that someone out there was actually listening, and I continue to air Kingston Trio occasionally in addition to Big Band and Rock N Roll!
My favorite Folk Music group was Peter, Paul and Mary and I attended a concert of theirs in Knoxville…then about forty years later, one of their last concerts in California.
I’ve attended, and/or observed on television, numerous Doo Wop concerts. A local (California) radio station used to have outdoor concerts in which the admission price was $00.98, their station call number.
Once, after a celebrity softball game in Las Vegas, John Denver kissed my wife (on the cheek) during a postgame autograph session. He was one of my favorite folk singers.
In response to Bill Dyke’s comment on this article …..
I am GUILTY as charged!!!…..
I started to include the FOX-Lettermen experience in the article but I didn’t think anyone would believe it. Since Bill commented on the article I guess I better come clean….
The concert was at the FOX Theater and the singing group was the original Lettermen, comprised of Mike Barnett, Dick Stewart and Tony Butala. I am fairly certain that the year was 1978. I calculated that from knowing the age of my kids at the time. The parents of a boy I was coaching in youth basketball at the time were in attendance and made a photo from up in the cheap seats. They gave it to me and I have hunted for it for years and cannot find it. YUKKK!
That night my wife and I were sitting on about the 4th row in the lower left section, to the right of the stage as the performers faced the audience. Lynne and I were on the aisle.
The founder and lead singer, Tony Butala, came into the audience looking for a “fish.” He interviewed a few people in front of us and then came to me. My wife said to him, “he knows all your songs.” He then asked me what my favorite one was and I said…stupidly…”I’ve Got a Churn Full of Chitlins and a Belly Full of Ewe.” …couldn’t resist relating the title to an old country song…not sung by the Lettermen.
He must have thought that he had either an idiot or a “live one” on the line. He then asked me to swap jackets with him, and pushed me toward the stage. They asked which of their songs I would like to sing and I said, “Any one of them.” They chose “Fools Rush In,” and asked me if I knew the words. I said yes. We then sang all three verses and the refrain. I have to admit it was a neat experience. I felt afterward and still do that the song they asked me to sing was apropos.
Butala sat down with my wife and put his arm around her. She said she was so distracted looking at me she didn’t notice him. …..likely story, but I’ll take it as fact.
Was my exit accompanied by a “Standing O?” Bill Dyke says so and I’ve never known the “Falcon hurdler” to lie…so I’m buying it.
I’ve been to the FOX many times since but no other evening there measures up to that one 34 years ago. THANKS Bill… for rekindling an old but vivid memory
Ross “The Fool Who Rushed In” Greene
Really loved that era of music. I graduated from East in 1960. During my sophmore, junior and senior years I dated someone that went to Ut. We went to many concerts in the old Alumni gym that featured all of the groups listed. Of course we danced to this music at our sock hops and parties. What a great time we grew up in!
I love the old music! The Diamonds was one of my favorite groups and I especially liked “Little Darlin”. But my all time fav is Life is Like a Dream by the Crewcuts (?).
Great story, Ross. Good that you were “outed.” JVM
You are a treasure, Ross, for all the great history and stories you bring here, opening so many interesting and wonderful windows of our past. This is such a fun one – to remember and be transported back through the power of
that special music and those performers. And you were evidently one of them – ha! Thank you for this.
Think you missed your calling? I doubt many people know you are a singer! And at the Fox Theater – wow is right! How many people know you have a voice besides Bill Dyke and your family?
I’m a rock ‘n roll fan probably since ’55 (13 years old) when Bo Diddley sang his famous song “I’m a Man” ’55. Also liked “Hey Bo Diddley” ’64 and “Bo Diddley” ’65. “Duke of Earl,” original Gene Chandler ‘61. Can’t find a release date sung by The Platters but found a video online that certainly sounds exactly like them. A blogger with all Platters’ recordings says “Duke of Earl” is not listed. Others disagree, say the Platters recorded it when they were not famous before Chandler; another says Chandler was the lead singer and the only one given the credit which dimmed The Dukays’ future when record-company shenanigans did them in. Of course, we’ll never forget “Unchained Melody” by the Platters. Also remember in those mid-teens tuning into WLAC in Nashville late at night that sometimes faded in and out.
“Crying” by Roy Orbison is always remembered as it was my boyfriend’s favorite at that time. He gave me a charm with the song engraved. Loved “Book of Love” by The Monotones ’58 but there are so many, many more songs + artists I like….way too many to list.
The one I recall as the hit of the year ‘63 is “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen. What wasn’t known is the original was written by Richard Berry in ’55. Listened to it online and nothing like the Kingsmen version! I recall being at a huge fraternity party at UT and the crowd exploded as the band sang it, sounding like the Kingsmen!
Never into country music but did like Wayland Jennings and a few others. Loved Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “If I had a Hammer” ’62, as well as Joan Baez “Blowing in the Wind,” ‘68.
I agree with Bob Dukes’ statement that the ‘good ol’ songs’ drive our nostalgia by the fact our world today is sinking into a dark place where there are no absolutes that establish hope and reinforce values. The ’40s, 50s, and early ‘60s were eras of obedience, innocence, respect for authority, church goers, and value system principles that were embraced by most all Americans.
Thanks to you, Ross and the others, for stirring up so many wonderful memories of our youth that will never be the same again. Even though rock ‘n roll lives on, there are so many other popular genres today.
You truly live life to its fullest!
WHAT FM STATION????