Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Long Live Rock and Roll

I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert here, just an observer. I was born during the Second World War and grew up in this era. The views I express here are only my opinions, I’m sure there are many that will disagree about these opinions, but what the hey. We had music back then, yes we did, and it wasn’t somebody beating a T-rex bone on a log, it was music of my era. A lot of slow dancing songs for some reason, maybe we were in the romantic stage of music, I don’t know. We had some do-wop music, like the Platters and some music by Doris Day, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Pat Boone and of course Frank Sinatra. This was our parent’s music. We didn’t know it at the time but we were looking for our own style, image. Something that would define us. The first song I would recall that I would consider Rock and Roll was “Rock around the Clock”, by Bill Hailey and the Comets.

This must have been around 1955-56. We, or rather I for sure, went bananas. This music was calling to our little juvenile hearts. There is no way to estimate how many times this record was played on the old jukebox at the A & W root beer stand. I can’t recall ever driving into the A & W in my Hot ’51 Chevy or riding shotgun in my friends ’47 Ford coupe, ole purp, it was painted this hideous lavender color, and this song not be playing over the outside speakers. Of course, in my corner of Mid-America, shortly after this song set us on the road to perdition, according to our parents, then came along the King. ELVIS.

Wow. There was now no returning to boring old folk’s music. We had come into our own. Yes, before someone blows a gasket, there were other singers and bands involved in this new phenomenon. Let someone else give you the Rock and Roll history lessons, like Wikipedia, I’m just giving you my story’s version. Get over it. 1956, 1957 and 1958 were the beginning for us youngsters to reach for the stars. We had a goal, at least we boys had a goal, to be Rock and Roll super-stars and pick up all the chicks we wanted. Really great goals in life but when your 15 – 16 years old, not many of us had loftier goals. Oh sure, there were some who talked about going to college, nerds!!! I think every boy in my junior and senior year in high school was trying to learn to play some musical instrument. Guitars, drums, and for even some the piano. Some of the more nerdy dudes were even trying to learn the horn instruments. Nerds!!! It didn’t do most of us any good but it sure impressed the girls.

It would be negligent of talking about the history of Rock and Roll without mentioning two names. Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. Both of these entertainers had very short but spectacular careers. Both were killed in the tragic plane crash in 1959 along with The Big Bopper.

Buddy Holly played rock and roll for only two short years, but the wealth of material he recorded in that time made a major and lasting impact on popular music.
Although his success lasted only a year and a half before his death, Buddy Holly is described by critic Bruce Eder as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll. Some of his songs include; Well…All Right, Peggy Sue, Rave On, It’s So Easy and Not Fade Away.
Ritchie Valens was a Rock and Roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano Rock movement, Valens' recording career lasted only eight months. During this time, however, he scored several hits, most notably "La Bamba", which was originally a Mexican folk song that Valens transformed with a rock rhythm and beat that became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement. He also had a big hit with Donna, which I remember all the girls loved to dance by. As 15 and 16 year old boys, we used to sing, mmmmmmm La Bamba, of course we didn’t know a word of Spanish, but we loved that song.
Don McLean would later write a song in tribute of them, “The Day the Music Died”.

Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard inspired the piano player wannabes. I even tried a lick or two at learning it. No luck. I tell everyone I’m tone deaf, but the truth of the matter is, I just don’t have any musical talent. I feel pretty sure that my senior class in high school set an all time record for worst sports teams in the history of the school. We didn’t care; we were hooked on this new music. We couldn’t get enough of it. Bill Hailey, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, man, they were the kings. Of course their were others, but these people were the pioneers. They filled our little hungry souls.

Good Golly Miss Molly, we were having some kind of ball.

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