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

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blame it on the Bossa Nova? "No!" says Billy Reed, "Blame it on Doo-Wop!"


 What happens when a girl changes 

 from bobby sox to stockings? 

"Bobby Sox to Stockings" - Frankie Avalon 
(July 1959, highest chart position #8) 

 What happens to a boy? 

"Next Door to an Angel" - Neil Sedaka 
(November 1962, highest chart position #5) 

 FACT: Girls mature at an earlier age 

 than boys. 

"The Girl Can't Help It" - Little Richard 
(February 1957, highest chart position #49) 

 What's a guy to do?  

 What happens when Venus and Mars 

 collide on the dance floor? 

 I'll be exploring that touchy topic 

 in this post and the next. 

In February of 1964 the Monarchs, a doo-wop vocal group
based in Louisville, Kentucky, released their rendition of
"Look Homeward Angel," a ballad that had been recorded in 1956 by the Four Esquires and in 1957 by Johnny Ray. The timing wasn't the greatest. The Beatles were red hot. So were other emerging British bands. During the early months of 1964 there wasn't much of a market for Eisenhower era doo-wop. As a result, the Monarchs' excellent single spent 13 weeks trying to gain traction on the Billboard chart but only made it to the halfway point. Had it been released a
few years earlier it surely would have made the top 10 and perhaps would have gone all the way to number one.

"Look Homeward Angel" - Monarchs 
(April 1964, highest chart position #47) 

The Monarchs are still together and in 2008 veteran Kentucky newspaper columnist, radio and TV personality Billy Reed attended one of their concerts. When the Monarchs performed their version of the Five Satins' hit "In the Still of the Nite" Billy was awe-inspired to publish an article entitled In Praise of Doo-wop. Billy's essay does an excellent job of describing the thoughts, feelings and sensations that race through an adolescent male when he merges with a young lady on the dance floor. When I read Billy's article I was compelled to share part of it with you
and punctuate it with a few of my favorite doo-wop oldies.
I made arrangements with Billy to reprint a portion of his column. Here, courtesy of Billy Reed Enterprises LLC and are some of Billy's astute observations.

 Even in winter, a lion is 
 still a lion, if you get my 
 drift, and that music – 
 the 1950s and ‘60s stuff 
 the Monarchs do better 
 than just about anybody 
 – always revives bitter- 
 sweet memories of what 
 it was like to be young 
 and clumsy and not 
 exactly sure of what to 
 make of this amazing 
 creature with whom you 
 happened to be slow- 
 dancing on the polished 
 floor of a dim auditorium 
 at the high school or the 
 VFW post or the neighbor- 
 hood parish. 

"You Were Mine" - Fireflies 
(November 1959, highest chart 
position #21) 

 In my mind, she always had big, luminous eyes and thick, 
 lustrous hair and – yes! – a sweet soft body that felt so 
 light in my arms. Maybe her name was Betty or Alice or 
 Martha. Maybe, if you were lucky, she would snuggle up 
 so close you were sure your heart was going to pound 
 right out of your chest. 

"Why Don't You Believe Me" - Duprees 
(September 1963, highest chart 
position #37) 

 And you prayed: 
 God, please don’t let me step on her feet…please don’t let 
 me break out into a sweat…please let this song last forever 
 so I can keep smelling her hair and hugging her waist and 
 feeling her breasts up against me. 

"Have You Heard" - Duprees 
(December 1963, highest chart 
position #18) 

 When my friend Leon Middleton, who has been the 
 Monarchs’ sax player for a mere 46 years, told me 
 about the group’s new gig, I knew immediately that it 
 was a stroke of genius.  He told me they were going to 
 put together a show that would pay tribute to Doo-Wop. 

"One Summer Night" - Danleers 
(August 1958, highest chart position #7) 

 Now if I have to explain what Doo-Wop is, it probably 
 means you’re either very young, very culturally deprived, 
 or very unworthy of serious conversation. In brief, Doo- 
 Wop is what the Belmonts did behind Dion...what the 
 Teenagers did behind Frankie Lymon...and what the 
 Imperials did behind Little Anthony. 

"I'm on the Outside (Looking in)" 
- Little Anthony and the Imperials 
(September 1964, highest chart 
position #15) 

 Doo-Wop is the background music, in other words, that 
 usually is accompanied by synchronized movements. For 
 example, when the Capris did their 1961 classic There’s A 
 Moon Out Tonight (Wuh-huh-ho-ho), the Doo-Wop guys, 
 in unison, would slowly point upward, as if at the moon, 
 before moving their arms slowly downward, also in unison. 
 That’s a classic Doo-Wop move. 

"There's a Moon Out Tonight" - Capris 
(March 1961, highest chart position #3) 

 It’s tough to find Doo-Wop these days and, frankly, I think 
 that’s a major reason the world is in such a mess. Because, 
 you see, Doo-Wop is good for the soul. Doo-Wop makes 
 you mellow and romantic. Doo-Wop makes you want to 
 smile and sing-along and wink at your life’s partner – 
 or maybe just your partner for the night. 

"Since I Don't Have You" - Skyliners 
(April 1959, highest chart position #12) 

 Thanks, Billy Reed. 

 You nailed it! 

Your description of what it was like for a young man to hold a girl in his arms and sway to doo-wop sounds hit home. It brought back powerful, wistful memories of my very first slow dance. My true story is coming up in the next post.

Have a Shady day!


  1. Oh Tom, that was the sweetest posting ever! I loved the essay Billy Reed wrote and the way you wove it into the songs and posting! This, I think has to rate as one of my most favorite postings by far! I guess I'm a sucker for a sweet minded boy and memories of kinder gentler times.

    Thank you for making me smile and misty eyed today...

  2. Another great one, Shady! How well I remember my first "stockings" and my first dance. I didn't remember Frankie's song, though. Those were some humorous images on the Neil Sedaka vidio. It was fun to hear Little Richard. Loved the quotes from Billy Reed, he was sooo right on! ;~) I think my two favorites were "There a Moon Out Tonight" and "Since I Don't Have You". We're anxious to hear your personal story, Shady! A big thank you to you!

  3. Sush - Your sweet comments have me misty eyed, dear friend! I admit to being a sentimental fool when I think about those years when things like formality and etiquette were still important and were reflected in the music of the time. You're the best, Sush, and I greatly appreciate your visit today. I hope you and yours are spared the brunt of the storm in coming days!

    Cindy - This post and the next are dedicated to young ladies like you and Sush. It was exactly as Billy described. I always became filled with awe and wonder and my brain turned to mush when I slow danced with powdered, perfumed creatures from Venus. Thank you very much for coming by so early and for your lovely comments, dear Cindy!

  4. Someday, Shady, I hope you will write a book on music of the 50's onward. You have such knowledge!

    I chaperone school dances these days, and it's kind of weird how things have evolved. It's more of athletic type dancing, hip-hopping, etc. Very seldom in what I see do boys dance with girls. It's a free for all, with mainly the girls dancing and the boys doing their own thing. Granted, that is with middle school, but even in middle school, it used to be much more boy/girl slow dancing than it is now.

    Great post, my friend!

  5. Shelly - I didn't realize that slow dancing has gone out of style with today's young people. As an ardent observer of trends I am always curious about the why and the how of them. Perhaps you could shed some light in your own posts. Whatever the reasons behind this fundamental shift it's a shame that modern young people aren't experiencing what it's like to be intimate w/o being sexual. Thank you very much for your comments, Shelly, and have a terrific Texas day!

  6. Great post Shady!!! I like many types of music, but Doo Wop is my favorite. Just like you, I like to uncover old Doo Wop greats that never made it to the top. Your Skyliners selection reminded me that they put out some outstanding Doo Wop including a good version of Close Your Eyes. Looking forward to next post.


  7. Jerre - I'm glad you liked these songs even though they were all way before your time! :) Actually I was a little too young to appreciate doo-wop when it was first popular. I didn't catch doo-wop fever until the late 60s at which time I bought most of these songs on 45rpm. I wish I still had them but 20 years ago I foolishly sold them all for a fraction of their value. Stay tuned for more doo-wop gold coming up in the next post, good buddy!

  8. Well Shady you almost completely stumped me today. Turns out Little Anthony & the Imperials was the only one I knew. Enjoyed them all but I had never heard of the other groups. You are really educating me about artists that made a difference. Stay safe my friend.

  9. You dont have to explain Doo-Wop to me, I know all about it and yes the world needs more of it. There are a few groups who are trying to bring back a new wave of Doo-Wop but we need some classics thrown into the mix. PS what if a girl wears bobby socks and she just a nutball?

  10. Odie - I'm glad to be giving you another form of education, good buddy, but the one you're getting by enrolling in computer science courses and the other things you're currently studying is what's really impressive to so many of your friends. You set a fine example, Odie! I hope you stay safe from the storm. I'll be thinking about you!

    Amber Blue Bird - You're a trend setter, dearie, and if you chose to wear bobby socks AND stockings I know that millions of young women would copy you. I'm assuming, of course, it isn't all you'd be wearing! I already knew that you appreciate classic doo-wop because you have paid tribute to it on your own blog. You're the latest and the greatest, Amber. Please stay safe in coming days. I hope Irene hangs a sharp right and heads out to sea!

  11. Hi Shady! I'm here at Sush's urging. I honestly don't know why I haven't visited on my own, before. Maybe I felt I needed a formal introduction ;)

    I have read your comments on other blogs I follow and always enjoy what you have to say. You write so thoughtfully and it's clear you really connect with those whose blogs you follow.

    I am going to share your link with my husband, as I am sure he'll also enjoy taking these trips back in time through your music selections.

  12. I think I can explain why boys and girls don't dance together much any longer. Girls got tired of waiting for a boy to ask. I remember in high school going to a dance and never once being asked. Boys are shy, or they have a girlfriend who would get mad. I quit going to the dances. It was embarrassing to stand there dying to dance.

    You know how I love Neil Sedaka. Love that song of his. "Since I Don't Have You" and "You were Mine" were favorites too. Great post, Tom. Have a lovely Friday.

  13. Desiree - I am sincerely honored to have you and your husband join me here. Thank you! I have followed some of the story lines on your blog and as an animal lover I was elated to read about the rescue of Noodle. You are good people and I welcome you here. I hope you find a lot to like and I promise that I will always give you personalized attention. Thanks again, Desiree!

    Belle - It's hard for me to believe that nobody would ask you to dance, that is unless they were bashful like me and too intimidated by your beauty! Please stay tuned for the true story of my first slow dance because I'm sure you'll be able to relate. That post is coming up on Monday. Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend Belle, and have a safe and happy weekend!

  14. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x

  15. Lola X - Hello and welcome to SDMM! Thank you very much for the compliments. I'm glad you discovered the blog and that it sparked your interest. I hope you'll stick around, enjoy the music, chase the blues, have some fun and meet new friends. You can already count me as one of them. Have a fantastic weekend in London, Lola!

  16. Tom, you old romantic you!! Lovely post about what it was like when a boy met a girl , and that close up dancing. What a difference to what happens nowadays my friend! Sush was so right . You took us back to a much more innocent age today. Like Belle, Neil Sedaka is one of my favourites! Can you believe that nobody asked her to dance?! Hope it's a bit cooler fir you over there now.

  17. Whoop whoop, great list my friend, yea Billy Anthony, Hugs!

  18. Thisisme - I'm so pleased that you stopped by once again in the middle of your Paris visit. It's still near record heat here, although a breeze is stirring because of Irene. You're right. I am an incurable romantic and there will be more evidence of it in my next post on Monday when I share a very personal experience. I cherish my memories of those innocent, awkward years and I know that you do as well. Have loads of fun this weekend in Paree, dear Thisisme, and throw Alfred a bone for me!

    Katie - These songs were popular before your time, dear friend, but I know that a refined and sophisticated woman like you can appreciate them because they hark back to a time when girls and boys acted like ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for reading and listening, Katie, and enjoy the rest of your weekend, dear friend!

  19. It's me again dear friend.I've just read Sush's post where she handed you an award, and I saw the comment from Gawgus. That comment was indeed written by my dear daughter, and not me after all ! I was thinking of something else, when I had something nice about you in another comment. Eeeek!

  20. Thisisme - EEEK is right! This is getting mighty confusing but I think I'm finally up to speed. Thank you for clearing up this latest mystery. Now I must go over and apologize to your daughter for unthanking her and thanking you by mistake when the thanks belonged to her all along! EEEK! (LOL) Better get some sleep, dear friend. I think we all need some at this point.

  21. Once again, great, informative post, Shady! I remember my first dance with a boy. It was at the jr. high dance, and the boy I had a crush on, Jerry Mann, asked me to dance. It was pretty lame, he put both arms around my waist, I put mine around his neck, and we slow danced to "Stairway to Heaven." Your songs are MUCH more romantic!! Thanks for sharing, Shady, and thanks for your always insightful comments on my blog. I really appreciate it!

  22. Joanie - Stairway to Heaven was quite a long slow dance and I imagine that by the end of it the two of you had split apart and were fast dancing and/or head banging! I agree. It's just not the same as these sweet, sappy doo-wop ballads of old that spoke of idealized love. Thank you very much for coming over for a visit, dear friend Joan, and have a wonderful week ahead in Nashville!


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