Monday, January 10, 2011

1950's Music

From the time I discovered Elvis, I have loved music. I don't remember a constant stream of music coming from my memories of the 50's accept for my love of Elvis.  My father hated Elvis so I don't know how I was aware of him enough to be mesmerized by his music at 6 years old. 

My father had the musical gleam of stardom in his eye, but it was for country music. He  tells the tale of me being held in the arms of steel guitar's most influential artist, Jerry Byrd, at the Ryman Auditorium, when I was a baby.  So, the music I would have been most exposed to was country.  I do know, that in the 1960's, I would come home from school to the tunes of Johnny Cash, Don Gibson and Marty Robbins, on  "The Buick Factory Whistle" radio show while my father was getting ready to go to work.  I don't remember music being a part of my household then like my daughters remember theirs.

I discovered 1950's rock n roll in the early 60's because my father's parents owned honkytonks and diners in Missouri and Arkansas.  Until I lived in the Carolinas, I thought that ws "the south".  My grandmother was 90 pounds, maybe, and 5 foot nothing but my grandfather was large man ready to get between any would be fighters.  I have few memories of going into the Palmerhouse honkytonk with her in the morning  so she could get ready for that night's business.  There were games sitting around that all took quarters to keep the night's guests busy while they spent their money on booze and burgers.  There was a shuffle board, a hand gripped strength detector,and  a bowling machine. Easily, the most amazing  was the brightly lighted jukebox that took red quarters.  The jukebox serviceman would give my grandmother quarters painted with red fingernail polish that she could used to start the patrons feeding it themselves.  When he came in to change the 45 rpm records, he would give her back the red quarters.  Those are the ones I got to use.  Remember,  I was still 6 or 7 years old.  I loved those quarters. He also gave her the old records that he had replaced with current ones.  In the early 60's, she gave me those records and I continued to received them from various diners for a few more years.

I kept them for decades and gave them to my sister just a few years ago for a party of her own. I haven't thought about them in a long time.  I hope she still has them.  They were played with love at many parties of a twelve year old and many pajama parties of a certain 15/16 year old.   Old "Sun Record" labels from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis slamming his " Great Balls of Fire".  Little Richard and Chuck Berry belting out "Long Tall Sally" and "Johnny B. Goode".  I also discovered the slow dancing, romantic sounds of Sam Cooke, The Platters, Brook Benton and Paul Anka.

I also discovered Doo Wop from these records, which is the sound of blended voices,  usually acappella, like "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers or The Coaster's "Poison Ivy"  Dion and the Belmonts, The Del-Vikings, the Coasters, no doubt, had great influence on many musicians that followed.  But, more importantly to this young girl of the 50's, I heard them, loved them and couldn't wait to hear more. In the meantime, Berry Gordy had just founded Motown Records in Detroit.

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