High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cruisin' with the Rockin' Bird & Silver Dollar Jack

It's time to salute two more volumes of the Cruisin' series while we gaze at a few more of those evocative vintage soda pop ads.

Let's cruise east to Philly and then west to Saint Lou.

Joe Niagara - WIBG, Philadelphia

"A Thousand Miles Away" - Heartbeats (January 1957)

Wiggage radio icon Joe "the Rockin' Bird" Niagara loved his do-wop, and "A Thousand Miles Away" by the Heartbeats was one of the 50s' finest. Group leader "Shep" Sheppard later lent his distinctive vocals to "Daddy's Home" when he changed groups and formed Shep & the Limelites.

By late 1957 when I turned 8 years of age, I had already been playing deejay for three years in my downstairs game room. I spent hours at a time sifting through the stack of 45s that belonged to my parents and older brother and digging the sounds on both sides.

"Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers and "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly were two of my brother's 45s that played in heavy rotation on my tinny toy turntable.

At that tender age my tastes were already eclectic. I loved my brother's rock 'n roll records but I also enjoyed my parents' collection of mellow pop and crossover country, among them "Just Walking in the Rain" by Johnnie Ray, "Singing the Blues" by Guy Mitchell, "The Green Door" by Jim Lowe, "Bo Weevil" by Teresa Brewer, "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford, "Tammy" by Debbie Reynolds, the wailin' instrumental "Raunchy" by Ernie Freeman, and "Catch a Falling Star" by Perry Como, a song that came along at the start of 1958. Yes, I admit that I even enjoyed Pat Boone's hit singles which included "Don't Forbid Me," "Love Letters in the Sand," and "April Love."

"You Send Me" - Sam Cooke (November 1957)

Yet, the records endorsed by my parents didn't send me like the music of soulful black recording artists like Sam Cooke. Sam's voice was like butta and "You Send Me" became one of my favorite songs.

My earlier the better rule applies to Sam Cooke, because I prefer the early secular phase of his career immediately after he left the Soul Stirrers gospel group and began releasing pop songs on Specialty.

Jack Carney - WIL, St. Louis

It was great to be 8 in '58. Everywhere I looked, there was entertainment seemingly designed with me in mind: Annette, Spin and Marty, Boys of the Western Sea , The Hardy Boys,

The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Cisco and Pancho, "Hoppy" Cassidy, Roy and Dale, Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Mike Nelson (Sea Hunt), Ricky, it was all must see TV!

Drive-in theaters screened low budget horror and sci-fi flicks in a double feature format. All across America, crazy mixed-up kids like me were getting their kookie, way-out kicks!

"Short Shorts" - Royal Teens (February 1958)
"Short Shorts," the squeaky sax novelty number by the Royal Teens brings it all back alive for me. Royal Teens personnel included Bob Gaudio, who later partnered with Frankie Valli to form the Four Seasons, and Al Kooper, one of the leading figures in rock music in the 60s who toured and played guitar with the group in 1959. In January of '58 the self-contained band was jamming and goofing in the studio at the end of a recording session when "Short Shorts" came together. The guys grabbed two girls who were hanging around the studio and pressed them into service on the call-and-response parts of the song. Two different short shorts girls were later used in this capacity when the band performed the song on TV and in concert. "Short Shorts" is way out there, daddy-o...crazy, man, crazy!

"Dede Dinah" - Frankie Avalon (February 1958)

In 1958, a lot of rock wasn't too far from schlock but it sure kept me interested. Frankie Avalon held his nose when he recorded portions of "Dede Dinah." He later held his breath as he waited to see if audiences would hold their noses and plug their ears. Most didn't. The record went top 10 and ranks as one of my guiltiest pleasures. Go! Go! Go!

Don't miss the next installment of Cruisin'...coming soon!

Have a Shady day!

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