THE HISTORY OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL 1957 – PART THREE

Posted: August 5, 2014 in MUSIC, Rock n Roll 1957 Part 3
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HOW JOHN MET PAUL – BUDDY HOLLY & THE CRICKETS – THE COASTERS – SAM COOKE – TOM & JERRY – BILL JUSTIS – DICK CLARK

by Robert Seoane

HOW JOHN MET PAUL

Sixteen-year-old John Winston Lennon jumped into the lorry that was to take him and his skiffle group The Quarrymen to their first public performance ever. A year and a half after John heard Elvis sing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the radio and managed to save enough money to buy his first guitar, he practiced and enlisted his friends to join him. Besides John on lead vocals and guitar, The Quarrymen were comprised of Eric Griffiths (guitar), Colin Hanton (drums), Rod Davies (banjo), Pete Shotton (washboard) and Len Garry (tea chest bass).

Skiffle music was popular in the UK during the fifties, pretty much at the same time that rock ‘n’ roll started to emerge in the United States. The term “skiffle” came out of African-American culture from the United States and came to mean a “rent party” where people would gather together with homemade instruments and throw a neighborhood party in order to raise money to pay the rent. The homemade instruments varied, as it was mainly whatever was handy around the house and can either make a sound or keep a beat: the washboard, jugs, the washtub bass, the cigar-box fiddle, the musical saw, and even comb-and-paper kazoos, mixed with acoustic instruments like guitar and banjo.

The first use of the term on record was in 1925 with Jimmy Bryant and his Chicago Skifflers. Skiffle records were released in the 1920s such as “Hometown Skiffle” and “Skiffle Blues”.

A mixture of jazz, blues and folk music, skiffle began to die off in the United States by the 1940s, but it emerged as a popular form of music in the UK when banjo player Lonnie Donegan, member of a traditional jazz band called The Jazzmen, played skiffle music during intervals of his Jazzmen performances.

Donegan would sing and play guitar or banjo as two others joined him on washboard and tea chest bass. Lonegan’s version of Leadbelly’s “Rock island Line” was a Top Ten hit in the UK (#6) and in the United States (#8) in 1956 and soon, the skiffle craze in the UK began.

John Lennon got caught up in that craze and, along with his love for the new sound called rock ‘n’ roll, headed for St. Peter’s Church in Woolton, Liverpool on July 7, 1957 to perform with his Quarrymen.

“The entertainment began at two p.m. with the opening procession, which entailed one or two wonderfully festooned lorries crawling at a snail’s pace through the village on their ceremonious way to the Church field. The first lorry carried the Rose Queen, seated on her throne, surrounded by her retinue, all dressed in pink and white satin, sporting long ribbons and hand-made roses in their hair. These girls had been chosen from the Sunday school groups, on the basis of age and good behaviour.

The following lorry carried various entertainers, including the Quarry Men. The boys were up there on the back of the moving lorry trying to stay upright and play their instruments at the same time. John gave up battling with balance and sat with his legs hanging over the edge, playing his guitar and singing. He continued all through the slow, slow journey as the lorry puttered its way along. Jackie and I leaped alongside the lorry, with our mother laughing and waving at John, making him laugh. He seemed to be the only one who was really trying to play and we were really trying to put him off!”
–Julia Baird; John Lennon’s half-sister

One of the members of the audience that afternoon was a fellow classmate of The Quarrymen’s tea chest bass player Ivan Vaughan, fifteen year old James Paul McCartney. Paul recalls the first time he heard and saw John Lennon.

“I remember coming into the fete and seeing all the sideshows. And also hearing all this great music wafting in from this little Tannoy system. It was John and the band. I remember I was amazed and thought, ‘Oh great’, because I was obviously into the music. I remember John singing a song called Come Go With Me. He’d heard it on the radio. He didn’t really know the verses, but he knew the chorus. The rest he just made up himself. I just thought, ‘Well, he looks good, he’s singing well and he seems like a great lead singer to me.’ Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave. I remember John was good. He was really the only outstanding member, all the rest kind of slipped away.”– Paul McCartney 1995

The Quarrymen were to play again that evening at 8PM across the street in the church hall for the Grand Dance. Ivan took the opportunity between sets to introduce Paul to John, recommending him as a possible member of the band. McCartney was already in rock ‘n’ roll star mode, wearing a white coat with silver flecks and black drainpipe trousers. John and Paul chatted for a few minutes and soon Paul was teaching John how to tune a guitar properly, as John and his friend Eric Griffiths’ guitars were in G banjo tuning. Then Paul ripped into his version of Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock”, Gene Vincent’s “Be Bop A Lula” and a medley of Little Richard hits. John Lennon was duly impressed.

“I also knocked around on the backstage piano and that would have been A Whole Lot Of Shakin’ by Jerry Lee. That’s when I remember John leaning over, contributing a deft right hand in the upper octaves and surprising me with his beery breath. It’s not that I was shocked, it’s just that I remember this particular detail.” –Paul McCartney

Later that night, John, Paul and Ivan went to a bar and lied to get served liquor. After Paul left, John considered the dilemma he had just been given. Yes, Paul McCartney was damn good, which meant that John would no longer be the dominant figure in the band. He thought for days whether he wanted to be in a band where he was the main figure or if he wanted to make the band strong by admitting someone as good if not better than him. They ultimately decided to include him. Pete Shotton saw him two weeks later riding his bike and flagged him down to tell him the news. That evening, John and Paul met again. In an interview with Esquire magazine in 2013 with Matt Damon, Damon explained how Paul McCartney showed Bono of U2 exactly where this second meeting took place.

Bono’s “like, a student of the Beatles. He’s read every book on the Beatles. He’s seen every bit of film. There’s nothing he doesn’t know. So when Paul stops and says ‘That’s where it happened,’ Bono’s like, ‘That’s where what happened?’ because he thinks he knows everything. And Paul says, ‘That’s where the Beatles started. That’s where John gave me half his chocolate bar.’ And now Bono’s like, ‘What chocolate bar? I’ve never heard of any chocolate bar.’ And Paul says, ‘John had a chocolate bar, and he shared it with me. And he didn’t give me some of his chocolate bar. He didn’t give me a square of his chocolate bar. He didn’t give me a quarter of his chocolate bar. He gave me half of his chocolate bar. And that’s why the Beatles started right there.’ Isn’t that fantastic? It’s the most important story about the Beatles, and it’s in none of the books! And Paul tells it to Bono. Because he knows how much Bono loves the Beatles.” –Matt Damon

1957 was undoubtedly a vitally important year in the musical development of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As teenagers, they soaked up every record that made it to the Liverpool ports from America. They watched every rock ‘n’ roll movie that managed to play, most of the time six months after its US debut, such as “The Girl Can’t Help It”, which was in UK theaters during the time John and Paul first met. All of the aforementioned rock ‘n’ roll pioneers deeply influenced John and Paul, impressed by the Everly Brothers’ harmonies and Buddy Holly’s abiilty to write songs. The ingredients to the greatest rock band of all time were still being added to the soup in 1957 and it was still seven years away from exploding onto the world and starting a social and musical revolution that would reverberate into the 21st Century.

 

BUDDY HOLLY & THE CRICKETS

You can add Lubbock to the list of southern towns that grew rock ‘n’ roll music pioneers along with Tupelo, New Orleans, Memphis, Macon… and Liverpool.

Charles Hardin Holley, nicknamed “Buddy” by his family since he was a child, saw Elvis Presley play one day in 1955 when the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll stopped in Buddy’s home town of Lubbock. Being musical since he was a young boy, he immediately took to Elvis’ rockabilly sound. Still in high school, he had just recently formed a duo with his pal Bob Montgomery. They called themselves… what else? “Buddy and Bob” and they played mostly bluegrass, enjoying moderate local success.

Listening to Elvis suddenly gave him a direction. It happened so fast that just a few months later, on October 15th of that same year, Buddy, Bob Montgomery and upright bassist Larry Welborn opened the bill for Presley upon his return to Lubbock. Early the following year, they opened for Bill Haley and His Comets. That’s when a Nashville talent scout was in attendance and took notice of Buddy Holly.

By February of 1956, Buddy Holly had signed a recording contract with Decca Records. The record company misspelled Holley’s name to “Holly”. Buddy liked it and kept it as his last name. The recording sessions at Decca however proved too stringent for Holly’s style and produced nothing memorable, except for a handful of songs. One of them was “Rock Around With Ollie Vee” which sounded exactly what it was: Buddy Holly playing guitar and doing Elvis.

But the rest of the songs recorded sounded tame and leaned towards the slow, country side. One particular song they had recorded that Buddy had written was a slowed-down version of “That’ll Be The Day”. The song had been inspired after Buddy went to the movies with drummer Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis to watch “The Searchers”. Star John Wayne played Ethan Edwards, a character who’s catchphrase in the film was “that’ll be the day”.

THAT’LL BE THE DAY – THE CRICKETS

Seeing that his days at Decca were probably numbered, he decided to form a four piece band, weary of the duo and trio ensemble he had always played with. Guitarist Niki Sullivan, bassist Joe Mauldin and drummer Jerry Allison joined Buddy, who would sing lead vocals and also play guitar. Inadvertently, Buddy Holly had just laid out the blueprint for many, many rock bands to come: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums. This was a grouping that would be indelibly copied first and made famous by The Beatles. It wasn’t going to be the only lesson the Beatles and many other groups would cull from Buddy Holly.

The band members mulled over a name for their band. One of them noted that many bands were lately named after birds, so it was suggested that perhaps they should name themselves after an insect. They considered several names, including “beetles” but finally settled on The Crickets. This time it was John Lennon who came up with his own group’s name by following Holly’s insect “Crickets” theme, then added the brilliant twist of changing the double ‘e’ in “beetles” to an ‘ea” from “beat”.

By January of 1957 Buddy Holly was out of a recording contract. Decca had rescinded their offer and left him high and dry. It seemed he had missed the boat in his career and was destined to a long, dull life of being a nobody.

Holly, however, would not lay down and continued playing with his Crickets. At one point, he met Norman Petty and his career was suddenly taking off again. Petty had a recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico and charged by the song, not the hour. They gathered together to record some songs in Clovis and out came some incredible rock ‘n’ roll classics.

Buddy re-recorded a sped up version of “That’ll Be The Day” that sounded great, incorporating not only the rockabilly sound he had quickly grown to love, but also incorporating his own unique vocal hiccup style, no doubt influence by country and western vocalizations.

“We-ell, you gave me all your lovin’ and your… tu-urtle dovin’, a-all your hugs and kisses and your money too, we-ell…” “That’ll Be The Day” – The Crickets

He was faced with a dilemma because part of the clause Decca had with Holly was that he could not re-record a song he had already recorded for them. This, however was easily solved when Buddy was offered not one but two new different record contracts thanks in part to Norman Petty. Brunswick Records signed The Crickets on March 19, 1957, and released “That’ll Be The Day” under the group name instead of Holly’s, to shield him from a Decca lawsuit. Soon after, Buddy Holly signed on to Coral Records as a solo artist. He was in the unique position of having been signed by two different record companies, although the irony was that both Brunswick and Coral Records were both subsidiaries of Decca.

“That’ll Be The Day” was released as a single by The Crickets from Brunswick Records on May 27, 1957. It went to Number One in Billboard’s “Best Seller In Stores” chart and Number Two in the R&B chart. On December 1, 1957, he played the song along with another hiccup classic “Peggy Sue” on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Crickets’ appearance on the show cemented two more fashion statements into the rock ‘n’ roll world. Buddy Holly did not have Elvis’ sex appeal, but his songwriting and singing styles were so strong that it was overlooked, even down to the black frame glasses he had to wear. Glasses on rock stars would surface again, particularly with Elvis Costello but also before that with the likes of John Lennon in the later Beatle years and Elton John.


The second fashion statement The Crickets introduced to rock ‘n’ roll was inspired by the Everly Brothers. Buddy was a good friend of Phil and Don’s and he always noticed how the duo always dressed sharply when they appeared live and on TV. So Buddy insisted that the Crickets wear suits at all their appearances. This, along with the four piece band arrangement, and the fact that Holly was also a songwriter of all his tunes, were two other components the Beatles learned and from The Crickets.

Being his first hit, the lyrics of the song were prophetic and were to be echoed again in a song written fourteen years later by Don McLean as an ode to Buddy Holly.

“Well that’ll be the day when you say goodbye, yeah, yes that’ll be the day when you make me cry,
you say you’re gonna leave me, you know it’s a lie, ’cause that’ll be the day when I die…” That’ll Be The Day – The Crickets

“So bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry, and them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing this’ll be the day that I die, this’ll be the day that I die…” American Pie – Don McLean

 

WORDS OF LOVE – BUDDY HOLLY

Holly’s first single with Coral Records as a solo artist was “Words Of Love”. He recorded his own harmonies and mixed them along with his lead, the first artist to ever do so. The song was released the day before summer officially began, on June 20, 1957. It was not a hit, not even cracking any of the Billboard charts, but remains today a rock ‘n’ roll classic. It became more well known after The Beatles recorded it in 1964 for their “Beatles For Sale” album in the UK, and released on the Beatles VI album in the USA.

“Words Of Love” is an exquisite song with a catchy guitar riff that accompanies the melody throughout simple, sweet lyrics.

“Hold me close and tell me how you feel-ah, tell me love is real-ah… Words of love you whisper soft and true, darling I love you…” –Words Of Love – Buddy Holly

Holly sings the song in a lower range then most of his rock ‘n’ roll tunes. When you hear The Beatles’ version, faithfully recorded and sung very much like the original with John and Paul sharing vocals, you can hear where Holly influenced Lennon’s vocal style. George Harrison’s guitar faithfully copies Holly’s version.

PEGGY SUE/EVERY DAY – BUDDY HOLLY

If “Words Of Love” felt like an arbiter of things to come, it would be very short lived. This next double A-side single was a big hit. “Peggy Sue” made it to Number 3 on the Billboard Pop chart. Here in this song, Holly epitomized his hiccup way of singing and made it a style all his own. Who else can sing the name “Sue” as if it had nine syllables? Like all his songs, the lyrics were simple and always about love. But the melodies and the beat were transcendent, and then there was the jangly guitar solo.

“If you knew Peggy Sue, then you’d know why I feel blue, without Peggy, my Peggy Sue-oo-ooh, oh well, I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue…” Peggy Sue – Buddy Holly

Although two of the other three Crickets, besides Holly, played on this single, both songs were attributed to Holly as the singer. Norman Petty along with Crickets drummer Jerry Allison were listed as sole co-writers of “Peggy Sue”. After Holly’s death, Allison insisted on including Holly as third songwriter in the credits.

It was originally to be called “Cindy Lou” after Holly’s niece. But when Buddy found out that drummer Jerry Allison had broken up with his girlfriend Peggy Sue Gerron, he changed the title of the song in order to help him get her back. They did, as Peggy Sue went on to become Peggy Sue Allison.

“Peggy Sue” has a distinctive drumming that can be attributed to both Allison and Producer Petty. Allison drummed in paradiddles, a drum rudiment that consisted of four rapid drum beats in alternating succession with the drumsticks. Norman Petty, in the meanwhile, developed an engineering technique that made the paradiddles sound as if they were drifting in and out of the song. Listen to it and you’ll understand just what I mean.

The B-Side to “Peggy Sue” was “Everyday”, a song so filled with the joy of life and happiness that it becomes instantly ingrained into your soul upon first hearing, guaranteed. In this song alone, you can hear the future of many Paul McCartney compositions with and after The Beatles. It was those joyful love songs that Paul wrote, like “Good Day Sunshine” and “All My Loving”, where you can hear the same joy of life Holly shared in “Everyday”.

Along with hand clapping, the musical instrument that opens the song is a celeste, sort of like a glockenspiel, and can also be heard in Tchaikovsky’s “Sugar Plum Fairy” from “The Nutcraker”. As a result, Holly became the first to introduce an instrument that had no roots in rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm & blues or country and western music. The idea that rock ‘n’ roll was a musical form in which you can add anything to it had not been considered by anyone else yet until this song.

The celeste was played by Norman Petty’s wife, Vi, and it makes the song sound at first like a cute children’s tune. But once Holly starts to sing, you can feel that the song, with its simple, sweet lyrics, is coming straight from his heart and into yours.

“Everyday it’s a gettin’ closer, goin’ faster than a roller coaster, love like yours will surely come my way, a hey, a hey hey…” Everyday – Buddy Holly

Besides Ed Sullivan, Buddy Holly And The Crickets were starting to get national TV exposure in 1957 as well as important bookings. On August 26, they appeared on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” on ABC TV, just four days after he first appeared at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City, spending a week playing there for a black audience, and slowly but surely turning the audience into rockabilly fans. During that time, they were the only white performers to be doing a tour of black neighborhood theaters nationwide.

OH, BOY/NOT FADE AWAY – THE CRICKETS

The second single from The Crickets barely made it into Billboard’s Top Ten at Number 10, but that doesn’t diminish this single from being the juggernaut of a pair of rock ‘n’ roll songs, with beats and melodies that would sear itself into the brains of future rock legends and burn a line through the decades.

“All of my love, all of my kissin’, you don’t know what you’ve been missin’, Oh’ Boy…” Oh, Boy – The Crickets.

Paul McCartney was undoubtedly influenced by this song when he wrote “All My Loving”, particularly with the “kiss” and “miss” rhyme.

“Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you…” All My Loving – The Beatles

“Oh, Boy” has an undeniable burst of rock ‘n’ roll energy driving it from the moment it begins and propelling it throughout the entire song, complete with a joyful, jangly electric guitar solo that George Harrison must’ve played over and over a million times because it sounds so much like his early guitar sound with the Beatles. The beginning of “Oh, Boy” is reminiscent of the famous open from Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” but turbo charged, where Holly’s “all of my love” replaces Perkins’ “It’s one for the money” and so on, but sang much faster and with the beat landing on the last syllable instead of after it as in Perkins’ song.

The single was released on October 27, 1957. “Oh, Boy” was written by Sonny West, who recorded it a few years earlier to no success. Holly took it and made it his own.

The single’s B-Side “Not Fade Away” is credited to Charles Hardin (Buddy) and Norman Petty. Its beat is borrowed from Bo Diddley, except that the stress is on the second beat instead of the third. Drummer Jerry Allison used a cardboard box as percussion for this recording.

“Not Fade Away” is also notable because The Rolling Stones recorded it and released it as their second single in 1964. Although it didn’t crack the Top 40 in the US, it was a Top Five smash for the group in the UK. Instead of playing it Holly’s way however, the Stones sang it with the Bo Diddley beat.

The rock group Rush also recorded it as their debut single in 1973.

Like most of Buddy Holly’s songs, “Not Fade Away” has been covered by dozens of rock artists, too innumerable to mention. Suffice to say that each and every song Holly released was quickly being absorbed by the burgeoning artists across the pond in the UK, learning and honing themselves for the onslaught that was to arrive the following decade.

THE CHIRPING CRICKETS

Buddy Holly And The Crickets released their first album on the Brunswick label around Thanksgiving of 1957. It was called “The Chirping Crickets” and contained the already released “That’ll be The Day” as well as “Oh, Boy” and “Not Fade Away”. It also contained “Maybe Baby”. That song would be released in the beginning of 1958 as the next Crickets’ single and it would make it up to Number 14 in The Billboard’s Pop Chart, but cracking the Top 10 R&B chart.

The other songs collected in this album apart from the aforementioned ones didn’t stand out as much as the singles. Most kept the same rockabilly beat and the jangling electric guitar solo that seemed to be laying down new ground in rhythm and style, but besides that, they were too derivative of the sound currently being heard at the time, whereas the Crickets’ singles were filled with originality and firmly imprinted with Buddy Holly’s style.

The last month of 1957 began with Buddy Holly And the Crickets’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on the first, then on The Arthur Murray Party on the 29th. Soon, they would embark on a tour to Australia and the UK. 1958 was to be a banner year for Buddy Holly and The Crickets, and the year where he would write the rest of his rock ‘n’ roll chestnuts.

THE COASTERS

Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller were two songwriters who wrote several significant hits in the Fifties and early Sixties, and for many of the reigning gods of rock ‘n’ roll at the time. By 1955, their repertoire already included “Hound Dog” as sung by Big Mama Thornton in 1953, then by Elvis three years later. “Jailhouse Rock” followed in 1957.

They started their own label, Spark Records, in 1955. One of the groups they worked with were a doo wop group called The Robins. Having already produced four previous songs for The Robins, it was their fifth song, “Smokey Joe’s Café” that had a bit of success with radio airplay and caught the ear of Atlantic Records.

Lieber and Stoller were adept at injecting humor into their lyrics. From comparing a whiny mate to a hound dog (“cryin’ all the time…”) and implying homosexual attraction in “Jailhouse Rock (“you’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see”), L&S needed a specific outlet for their wit to bloom. Soon, Atlantic Records offered Lieber & Stoller an independent production contract to produce The Robins for Atlantic. Of the five member of the group, only two of them, Carl Gardner and Bobby Nunn, agreed to follow Lieber & Stoller to Atlantic. As a result, they had to form a new group in order to fulfill their agreement with Atlantic. That’s how The Coasters were born.

The distinctive voices of Gardner and Nunn were evident upon listening to “Smokey Joe’s Café”, and so was the L&B sense of humor.

“I know I’ll never eat again at Smokey Joe’s Café, and so we’ll never meet again at Smokey Joe’s Café, I’d rather eat my chili beans at Jack’s or John’s or Jim’s or Jean’s, than take my chances eating down at Smokey Joe’s Café…” Smokey Joe’s Café – The Robins

“Smokey Joe’s Café” became the title of a Broadway play that debuted in the mid Nineties, showcasing the music of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and included, among other L&S classic standards, most of the hits that The Coasters made famous.

The Coasters formed in October in 1955 with Gardner and Nunn of the Robins. After careful search, they recruited Billy Guy, Leon Hughes and guitarist Adolph Jacobs. Together, with the amazing songwriting talents of Lieber & Stoller, they recorded a handful of singles that captured Fifties teenage angst and lingo, rocketing The Coasters into a permanent place in rock ‘n’ roll history, and proving that rock ‘n’ roll lyrics could also be clever.

The first Coasters’ single written by Lieber & Stoller was “Down In Mexico”. Released in 1956, it was only a hit in the R&B charts, reaching Number Eight.

It was their second single that would reach national attention.

SEARCHIN’ – THE COASTERS

Released in 1957, the double A-side “Searchin’” and “Young Blood” topped the R&B chart for thirteen weeks. “Young Blood’ made it to Number Eight in Billboard’s Pop Singles chart and “Searchin’” reached Number Six. These two songs evoke awkward adolescent attraction in the vocal phrasings and tongue in cheek lyrics, and paved the way for Lieber & Stoller to push the envelope in their subsequent hits. But the lyrics weren’t the best part of the song. Inherent in all of L&S’ music, were the catchy melodies.

“I’ve been searching.. I’m searchin’.. Yea, searchin’ every which way, yea yay..” Searchin’ – The Coasters

Lieber & Stoller were already borrowing images from past rock ‘n’ roll songs to augment their lyrics in “Searchin’”, mentioning Fats Domino’s earlier hit “Blueberry Hill”.

“Well now, if I have to swim a river, you know I will, and if I have to climb a mountain, you know I will, And if she’s hiding up on blueberry hill, am I gonna find her child… you know I will.”

The words continued their tongue in cheek search for their love by mentioning popular law enforcement figures of the day.

“Well, Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade got nothin’ child on me, Sergeant Friday, Charlie Chan and Boston Blackie, no matter where she’s hiding, she’s gonna hear me comin’, gonna walk right down that street like Bulldog Drummond…”

Billy Guy handled the vocals and sang in a high register to accentuate the humor in the plight of the vocalist/narrator, as the background vocals repeated the same chorus, “gonna find her”, as if trying to convince the vocalist of the urgency of the quest. “Searchin’” has been played by numerous rock groups of the Sixties, having grown up listening to The Coasters and all the aforementioned groups on the radio, and remains a rock ‘n’ roll standard. In fact, all of the Coasters’ hit singles are essential songs that had to be learned back in the day, especially if you truly considered yourself a self-respecting burgeoning rock star.

YOUNGBLOOD – THE COASTERS

Jerry Felder was a young Jewish boy who was a childhood victim of polio and had to use crutches to walk around all his life. He loved the blues and hung around black clubs, changing his name to a more blues sounding artist than Jerry Felder, and called himself Doc Pomus. Besides singing, he wrote blues songs and sent one of his compositions to Lieber and Stoller called “Youngblood”. Imagine his surprise when a few weeks later he hears The Coasters on the radio singing a radically different version of his song. Lieber & Stoller had given Doc Pomus songwriting credit in return and a royalty check of fifteen hundred dollars. Doc Pomus had found his true calling.

“I took one look and I was fractured, I tried to walk but I was lame, I tried to talk but I just stuttered, what’s your name, what’s your name, what’s your name, what’s your name?” Youngblood – The Coasters

Part of what made the song so damn catchy was the repetition of “what’s your name” and, earlier in the song “look-a there”, by each individual member of the group. The Beatles used to include it in their repertoire during their days in The Cavern and took special delight in mincing and singing those words in any way possible, as heard in their BBC Anthology album released in 1994.

Doc Pomus would go on to compose more classic rock ‘n’ roll songs into the early Sixties, including “Save The Last Dance For Me” and “This Magic Moment”.


L&S’ lyrics in “Youngblood” contained the typical teenage angst that helped the song become a hit, as the father of the object of the singer’s love does not allow him to date his daughter, despite repetitive admonitions of how “you’re the one…”.

A song that went nowhere was released by the Coasters after this juggernaut of a single, called “Idol With The Golden Head”. But thanks to Lieber & Stoller, The Coasters had their career assured for now.

YAKETY YAK – THE COASTERS

“Yakety-Yak”, the 1950s way of saying “yada yada yada” today, was The Coasters’ only single release in 1958, but it may as well have been there last, because nothing they released after it could quite match its brilliance. The recipe: Take words heard by every teenager in the country by their parents in one form or another and turn them into lyrics, add a rock ‘n’ roll backbeat and a searing, mocking saxophone, and you have a song that every teenager will always and instantly relate to.

“Take out the papers and the trash, or you don’t get no spending cash, if you don’t scrub that kitchen floor, you ain’t gonna rock ‘n’ roll no more, yakety-yak, don’t talk back…”” Yakety Yak – The Coasters

It was the second time L&S would include a sole a capella voice within a Coasters song, a gimmick that became their trademark, from the four way repeat in “Young Blood” to the comical “don’t talk back” baritone in “Yakety-Yak” and more to come. The lyrics not only mimicked to a tee the ingredients of a growing Generation Gap, the vocals were sung in such a way as to sound like motherly nagging, stopped briefly only by a fatherly’s assertion and sole contribution to the nag… Don’t Talk Back. Stoller described this song to be a ‘playlet” a small bit of musical theater depicting teenage life.

“You just put on your coat and hat, and walk yourself to the laundromat, and when you’re finished doing that, bring in the dog and put out the cat… yakety-yak, don’t talk back…” Yakety Yak – The Coasters

After the third stanza, King Curtis cuts in with his laughing tenor saxophone and delivers a sax solo in shorts bursts of happy noise reminiscent of the Benny Hill Theme.

“Yakety-Yak” hit Billboard’s top position in the Pop charts and stayed there for seven weeks. It was very much part of the soundtrack of the summer of ’58.

CHARLIE BROWN/THREE COOL CATS – THE COASTERS

Lieber & Stoller tried to duplicate the success of “Yakety-Yak” with “Charlie Brown”, using the same technique of stopping the music to accentuate the humor of a repeating lyric. Where in “Yakety-Yak”, that phrase was “Don’t talk back”, in “Charlie Brown” it was “Why is everybody always picking on me?”. Additionally, they used some magical recording trickery that was considered cutting edge at the time by recording the sung words “Yeah, you!” at half speed so when it played at regular speed it would sound sped up.

This time, L&S wrote a song for The Coasters about the class clown. The single was released on January 1959. The name they chose had nothing to do with the comic strip character from “Peanuts”.

“Fee, fee, fi, fi, fo fo, fum, I smell smoke in the auditorium, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown, he’s a clown, that Charlie Brown. He’s gonna get caught, just you wait and see, ‘Why is everybody always picking on me?’” Charlie Brown – The Coasters

“CB” climbed to Number Two in the Billboard chart, one position short of the success of “Yakety-Yak”, and though the song had a catchy melody and the usual witty humor, it was essentially a sequel to “Yakety-Yak” and an attempt to write another hit long the same vein.

“After ‘Yakety Yak,’ I thought we could write every Coasters song in ten minutes. Man, was I wrong! When we tried to write a follow-up, Mike had lots of musical ideas, but I was stuck. … After nearly a week of agonizing, a simple name came to mind. ‘Charlie Brown.’ Then, ‘He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown.’ Mike already had a skip-along melodic template in place. He helped me with the story and suddenly a character, played by Dub Jones, stepped out on stage.” – Jerry Lieber

King Curtis once again contributed his tenor sax to the song. “Charlie Brown” proved as wildly successful as “Yakety-Yak”, perhaps even more so. To date, there have been up to eighty recorded version of the song by various artists over the years.

“Charlie Brown’s” flip side, “Three Cool Cats”, was another catchy song with a stumble rhythm about three guys looking for “three cool chicks”. Written with their other trademark of individual vocal trade offs with three singers like they did in “Young Blood”, The Beatles had a lot of fun singing in funny voices during that section on their recorded demo that they made for Decca records on New Year’s Day 1962.

“Well, up popped that first cool cat, he said, ‘Man, look at that!, man, do you see what I see? Well, I want that middle chick!’ ‘I want that little chick!’ ‘Hey man, save one chick for me!’” Three Cool Cats – The Coasters

Unbeknownst to them, The Coasters had pretty much dried up their string of hits as the decade came to an end. But they did manage to hit the Top Ten two more times in 1959 before never reaching that high in the charts for the rest of their career.

ALONG CAME JONES – THE COASTERS

Lieber & Stoller’s “Along Came Jones” is essentially about a guy watching a western on TV. The song melodically was a bit of a stretch during their a capella section, and the lyrics were getting ambitious by complicating the story of the song which consisted not just of the TV western, but also of the TV viewer getting up to fix himself a snack during a commercial break.

“And then he grabbed her… and then?… he tied her up… and then?… he lit the fuse to the dynamite, and then… and then… ah ah… and then along came Jones, tall thin Jones, slow walkin’ Jones, slow talkin’ Jones, along came long lean lanky Jones…” Along Came Jones – The Coasters

The funniest thing about the song was listening to black musicians parodying white Western TV and movie stars of the day on record. It was a catchy tune, complete with another one of King Curtis’ tenor sax solos, but it couldn’t hold a candle to their previous hits. It was inspired by a 1945 comedy western of the same name starring Gary Cooper, and lyricist Lieber described Cooper when describing Jones. Released during the spring of 1959, it reached Number Nine in the Billboard’s Pop Chart, barely making it in and no doubt carried into the Top Ten mostly by the success of their last hits. It looked like their star was fading, until they came up with another song that was among their cleverest and best.

POISON IVY – THE COASTERS

Just in time for the end of the summer of ’59, Lieber & Stoller wrote “Poison ivy” as a last burst of musical genius, where the melody was so instantly catchy and the lyircs so clever, it looked like The Coasters were back in full form. It reached Number Seven on Billboard’s pop chart and proved to be their last Top Ten hit.
The song is about a girl named “Poison Ivy” and it compares her to every malady children were exposed to back in those days. The rhymes were funny and the play on words clever, but what made the song work was the great melody.

“Measles make you bumpy and mumps’ll make you lumpy and chicken pox’ll make you jump and twitch, a common cold’ll fool ya and whooping cough’ll cool ya but poison ivy, Lord’ll make you itch!!
You’re gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion, you’ll be scratchin’ like a hound the minute you start to mess around with Poison iv-y-y-y-y, poison iv-y-y-y-y…Late at night while you’re sleepin’ poison ivy comes a’creepin’ arou-ou-ou-ou-ou-ound…” Poison Ivy – The Coasters

As in all previous Coasters songs, many bands and artists covered this song including The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones and The Hollies.

The Coasters released those last three songs all in 1959 and went on to record and release ten more singles from 1960 to 1964, none of them getting close to the Top Ten again. The closest single to do so after their Fifties reign came in 1961 when “Little Egypt (Ying Yang)” made it up to Number 23.

Elvis chose to also record the song for his 1964 movie “Roustabout”.

After 1964, the Coasters were to release two more singles, a remake of “Love Potion Number Nine” released in 1971 and climbing only up to Number 76, and a mid 90s comeback with “Sorry But I’m going to Have To Pass” with a whole new Coasters line up. The song didn’t break the US charts but did make it to Number 41 in the UK.

Today, The Coasters’ name has been picked up by Billy Guy’s son and he has put together a new version of the group. Two members of the original group have since died tragically. As of 2015, only Leon Hughes is still alive. Tenor saxophonist King Curtis was murdered in 1971, stabbed to death outside his apartment building by two junkies. Cornelius Gunter was shot to death in 1990 in a Las Vegas parking lot.

SAM COOKE (1957-1959)

He couldn’t be labeled. He wasn’t a doo-wop singer because his vocalization was smooth, reminiscent of Nat King Cole, but with a backbeat. He certainly wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll for the same reason. So they had to come up with a new genre and they called it Soul.

Sam Cooke, The King Of Soul, was the original pioneer of soul music and opened the door for future soul singer-songwriters including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Otis Redding and many more. A good looking man, his voice went down like honey to anyone’s ears, making the songs he sang immediately familiar and welcoming to the listener. He was born Sam Cook, but he added an ‘e’ to his name for unknown reasons.

His career began as lead singer of the gospel group, “The Soul Stirrers” in 1950 and spent the next six years singing gospel music. His first single as a solo artist was called “Lovable”, a remake of a gospel song called “Wonderful” and was released in 1956. He changed his name for that single to Dale Cook, simply because he did not want to alienate his gospel fanbase with a secular song, but his voice was so distinctive it didn’t fool anybody.

He had been recording for Specialty Records with The Soul Stirrers, the label that also had Little Richard, and label owner Art Rupe expected Cooke to sing rock ‘n’ roll. When it became obvious that Cooke’s style was much more laid back, he quit the label.

YOU SEND ME/SUMMERTIME – SAM COOKE

In 1957, he signed with Keen Records. His first single with them was “You Send Me”, an exquisite love song that was sent over the top by Cooke’s smooth vocal. It spent six weeks as Number One on Billboard’s R&B chart and three weeks at Number One on Billboard’s Pop chart.

Cooke had written “You Send Me” in 1955 and attempted to record it at the same time he recorded his first single with Specialty. He re-recorded it when he signed with Keen, but it was intended as the B-side to another song he recorded, George Gershwin’s “Summertime”.

The reason Cooke left Soecialty Records to sign with Keen was due to his disagreement with Specialty Records owner Arthur Goldberg aka Art Rupe. Rupe had a conniption when he walked into the recording studio and heard Cooke recording “Summertime”, an old Gershwin tune. The two had a major argument over the direction of Cooke’s style. Feeling that Rupe was trying to turn himself into someone he wasn’t, Cooke quit and re-recorded the Gershwin song over at Keen along with “You Send Me”.

This wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll, Rupe had argued. DJs around the country agreed, and played “You Send Me” on the radio instead of “Summertime”. In the long run, it didn’t really matter what style the song was because the public, the great deciding factor, loved “You Send Me”. Rupe was half right only because “You Send Me” was a great song, but it still wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll. Still, it fit under the pop umbrella as the first soul song ever recorded.

As with Little Richard, other record companies tried to “whiten” the song by giving “You Send Me” to a white artist, Theresa Brewer, to record. Although it became her biggest hit, it fell short of Cooke’s version in popularity, rising only to Number 8 in the Billboard’s Pop chart. When listening to Cooke’s version, it shows just how deeply ingrained racism was in the United States, since Cooke’s version of the song doesn’t sound like there is any ethnicity behind it at all. One wonders what the need was to have a white person re-record the song. But the fact that Cooke’s song was more popular only assured Cooke’s version was the definitive one.

“Summertime” is a great song. Composed in 1935 by George Gershwin for his Broadway musical, “Porgy and Bess”, it’s one of the most covered songs in music history, with over 25,000 versions recorded to date. It’s obvious why Keen Records wanted to release it as the A-side of Sam Cooke’s first single. But where “Summertime” was a great song all to itself, it wasn’t rock n’ roll. “You Send Me” had a more modern feel, and superseded it in success.

“Summertime” had various jazz and blues inflections that lent itself to modern ears, even today. Gershwin’s fine musical ear captured the folk music style of African-Americans at the time, and Cooke delivered the vocal with feeling.

I’LL COME RUNNING BACK TO YOU – SAM COOKE

Written by his brother Bill, “I’ll Come Running Back To You” had elements of “You Send Me”, in that Specialty Records owner Art Rupe used the same instruments and background vocalists for the recording. As usual, Cooke’s voice lifted the song to another level, so sweet it made you fall in love with the first person you see while you were listening to it.

“I’ll Come…” was rush released after the success of “You Send Me” around Thanksgiving of 1957. It was a Number One hit on Billboard’s R&B chart, but did not duplicate the success of “You Send Me” in the Pop charts, reaching only to Number 18.

I LOVE YOU FOR SENTIMENTAL REASONS – SAM COOKE

Cooke’s third single did about the same as his previous one, reaching up to Number 17. A superficial glance at his waning success would judge him hastily and label him a one hit wonder, but in all fairness, this was a re-tread of an old song. Written in 1945 by Ivory “Deek” Watson (founding member of The Ink Spots) and William “Pat” Best (founding member of The Four Tunes), it was made popular by Nat “King” Cole the following year and remains the biggest selling version of the song.

Cooke’s version was a little sped up, with a laid back beat that distinguished it from Cole’s version. Admittedly, Nat “King” Cole’s version is the definitive and superior one. Cooke seems to be singing it dutifully, without the grace and charm of his earlier singles.

His next single, “That’s All I Need To Know”, didn’t even make it into the charts. “You Send Me” would prove to be the only Top Ten Pop hit he’d have for the remainder of the 1950s. He still enjoyed success in the R&B charts however.

YOU WERE MADE FOR ME/LONELY ISLAND – SAM COOKE

Released in the Spring of 1958, “You Were Made For Me” made it to Number Seven in Billboard’s R&B chart but barely cracked the Pop Top Forty. It was another love song that his smooth vocal manages to lift up to a higher level.

The flip side of the single “Lonely Island” also managed to make it at Number 10 in Billboard’s R&B chart and even surpassed the A side on the Pop Charts, cracking the Top 30. Like the A side, “Lonely Island” goes down smoothly and only gets better after multiple listens.

Specialty Records owner Art Rupe had also complained about the vanilla chorus that backed Cooke’s tunes, having always wanted to paint Cooke as a rock ‘n’ roller like another Specialty Records singer, Little Richard. But that was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Sam Cooke did not have Little Richard’s style, nor did he seem to have anyone else’s. Cooke was very much a retro artist, reminiscent of crooners from decades before but with instrumentation that modernized his sound.

He released two more singles in 1958. One of them, “Win Your Love For Me” actually made it into Billboard’s R&B Top Five, settling in at Number Four, and was knocking on the Top Pop Twenty’s door, reaching up to Number 22.

1959 proved to be more of the same middling pop success Cooke had been enjoying, mixed with R&B superstardom. Like most R&B singers of the 1950s, Cooke focused on releasing singles over albums. He released five singles in 1959, one of them being a re-release of Gershwin’s “Summertime”.

EVERYBODY LOVES TO CHA CHA CHA – SAM COOKE

A danceable, hummable, catchy tune, “ELTCCC” made it to Number Two in Billboard’s R&B chart and Number 31 on Billboard’s Pop chart. The cha-cha-cha was a dance of Cuban origin which enjoyed a surge of popularity in the late 50s and Cooke banked on it, although the cha cha cha rhythm was as smooth and laid back as his vocal. Written by Cooke himself, it was inspired during a Christmas party at singer and friend Lou Rawls’ home. Cooke’s daughter began to dance and someone yelled out “Everybody cha cha cha!”. Cooke quickly responded to that and wrote the song on the spot.

ONLY SIXTEEN – SAM COOKE

While “Only Sixteen” only managed to enter the Top 15 in Billboard’s R&B chart and the Top 30 in the pop chart, the song carried more of the style Sam Cooke established with “You Send Me” than any of his previous singles. Lou Rawls’ was also inadvertently responsible for the writing of this song because Cooke was inspired by Rawls’ stepsister Eunice who was about to reach her sixteenth birthday.

“Only Sixteen” was actually written by Cooke for actor Steve Rowland who had become friends with Cooke. Cooke had taken the bridge of an earlier song he had written “The Little Things You Do”, and used it for “Only Sixteen”. Rowland was trying to begin a singing career and “Only Sixteen” would be his first record. Rowland’s manager however didn’t like the song so Rowland had to return it to Cooke, who recorded it for himself.

THERE, I’VE SAID IT AGAIN – SAM COOKE

Cooke’s last single of the 1950s was written by Redd Evans and David Mann in 1945 and did quite poorly for Cooke in Billboard’s Pop chart, climbing up to only Number 81 and Number 25 on the R&B chart. The song would be re-recorded by Bobby Vinton five years later and would hit Number One in January of 1964. It was ironic that this tune would be shoved out of the Number One position in February of 1964 by a new upstart young band called The Beatles, as if the old style was giving way to the new. But for Cooke, it was just another song that went nowhere.

The beginning of the 1960s would prove to be quite different for Sam Cooke, as he would begin to rack up Top Ten Hits year after year until his untimely, mysterious and tragic death in 1964. But as 1959 came to a close, there seemed to be no end in sight for Cooke’s tepid success in pop history. That however, was only months away from changing permanently.

 

TOM AND JERRY

This single, released in late 1957 through Sid Rosen’s Big Records, would not deserve a mention in terms of musicianship or originality if it weren’t for the duo performing it. Sounding a little like the Everly Brothers on helium, copying their trademark guitar style, and in a vain attempt to coin another gibberish rock ‘n’ roll phrase ala “be-bop-a-lula”, “Hey Schoolgirl” ultimately sold 100,000 copies and made it to Number 49 on the Billboard Pop chart.

“Hey, schoolgirl in the second row, the teacher’s lookin’ over so I got to whisper way down low, to say ‘who-bop-a-loo-chi-bop, let’s meet after school at three…” Hey Schoolgirl – Tom & Jerry.

Tom Graph and Jerry Landis were Tom and Jerry, but those weren’t really their names. Big Records owner Rosen saw it fit to change them from their more dreary real monikers: Arthur Garfunkel and Paul Simon, respectively, destined to hit worldwide fame eight years later using their real names.

Then, both only fifteen years old, the two friends had known each other since elementary school and shared the same musical tastes. Both profoundly influenced by fifties music of the day, the two decided to form a duo and worked at it all through high school. They recorded several songs under the name Tom & Jerry, many of them like “Two Teenagers” and “Baby Talk” could have easily fit into The Diamonds repertoire or any other singing doo-wop groups of the day.


Paul Simon has always had a chameleon type of talent that can take any style of music and write a song incorporating it, from the fifties to folk, through the psychedelically influenced Beatles’ middle period. As a solo artist, while delivering a steady output of hits over the rest of the century, Simon dabbled with African and Brazilian rhythms on two classic albums, “Graceland” (1986) and “Rhythm Of The Saints” (1991) as well as jazz, gospel and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

Upon high school graduation, Simon and Garfunkel went their separate ways to different colleges, but got back together in the Sixties to become one of the most influential duos in rock ‘n’ roll history.

 

RAUNCHY – BILL JUSTIS

When Bill Justis’ “Raunchy” was released in November of 1957, fourteen year old George Harrison heard it and was determined to play it. He practiced until he got it right. That song and all that practicing would be coming in handy when he would play it the following year for just turned seventeen year old Quarrymen bandmate John Lennon, introduced to him by a sixteen year old fellow Quarrymen bandmate, Paul McCartney.

Despite the fact that this song would help launch the career of one of the greatest songwriters and guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll history, Bill Justis had gone to music school in Tulane in New Orleans and was actually played mostly trumpet and saxophone. Eventually, he worked for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, arranging the songs of Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash and dabbling into his own songwriting and musical recordings.

“Raunchy” holds the honor of being the very first rock ‘n’ roll instrumental to ever reach the Billboard Pop Chart. It charted three times, all the way to Number Two each time, and by three different artists including Justis, the other two being Ernie Freeman at Imperial Records and Billy Vaughn on Dot.

Bill Justis died of cancer in Nashville, Tennessee in 1982 at the age of 55 and is buried in Memphis.

 

DICK CLARK

Destiny has a funny way to make last minute adjustments, changing the course of individuals’ lives from one moment to the next. If a black boy had not asked a white girl to dance on TV, Richard Augustus Wagstaff “Dick” Clark, Jr. may never had made it to the national airwaves.

In 1955, Alan Freed was the Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll, having coined the actual term itself, organizing the very first rock ‘n’ roll concert festivals and filming one rock ‘n’ roll movie after another for a young teenage market thirsting to hear all the new rock ‘n’ roll groups springing up. Network television noticed this burgeoning new audience and offered Freed his own weekly prime time summer TV show in 1957 called “The Big Beat”. Immediately upon its premiere, “The Big Beat” received decent ratings, indicating that rock ‘n’ roll had a legitimate place in network TV. But by the fourth episode, the show was doomed. Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, who had enjoyed success with their Number One 1956 hit “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”, were the guests. During their performance, Lymon asked a white girl to dance. This offended several local affiliates throughout the southern states and, despite its good ratings, was immediately cancelled. ABC sought a tamer replacement. After all, they weren’t going to lose out on producing a TV show around a musical genre that was proving lucrative. They chose Dick Clark.

Dick Clark was no pushover however. The networks liked him because he was a clean cut handsome young man in his late twenties. Freed was a little older and marred by the payola scandal. Clark was smart enough to avoid rocking the network boat, but at the same time insisted on desegregated audiences and back as well as white rock ‘n’ roll acts.

His luck didn’t just begin with Alan Freed’s unfortunate twist of fate however. When ABC tapped him, it was because he was already hosting a local rock ‘n’ roll TV show in Philadelphia called “Bandstand”. It was originally called “Bob Horn’s Bandstand” when Dick Clark joined the show as substitute host in 1952. But Bob Horn proved to be an alcoholic and as a result, was stopped and arrested one night for drunk driving. Dick Clark soon replaced him as permanent host and dropped Horn’s name from the show. ABC TV picked up “Bandstand”, Dick Clark and all, and renamed it “American Bandstand”. It was the second time somebody’s shortcomings would pave the way for clean-cut Clark to step into.

“I was roundly criticized for being in and around rock and roll music at its inception. It was the devil’s music, it would make your teeth fall out and your hair turn blue, whatever the hell. You get through that.” – Dick Clark

“American Bandstand” was a daily afternoon show from 1957 to 1963. It was added to the Saturday night line-up in 1958 and as a result, managed to be watched by 20 million people, making the program a make-or-break gig for the artists performing.

“The man was big. He was the biggest thing in America at that time. He was bigger than the president.” –Hank Ballard

The show was the first to countdown the weekly Top Ten songs, a technique parodied still today by David Letterman’s Top Ten. After 1963, “American Bandstand” would only be seen once a week. The show lasted thirty years, until 1987. It was the longest running show in TV history, second only to “Saturday Night Live”, “60 Minutes” and a couple of daytime soap operas.

During that time, Clark introduced literally thousands of rock acts, many destined to become icons, two thirds of these acts can be found in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. The Beatles and Elvis, ironically enough, never performed live on his show although they were alluded to and had clips played of them performing. In 1964, Clark moved the show from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in 1964 due to the new popularity of surf music, epitomized by The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and the like.

During the first several years of the show, “American Bandstand” introduced some of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll stars of the youth generation, making them palatable for parents who saw a nice clean-cut young man in a suit introducing these acts. Ike and Tina Turner, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Chubby Checker were just a handful of acts introduced on “American Bandstand”.

“My talent is bringing out the best in other talent, organizing people to showcase them and being able to survive the ordeal. I hope someday that somebody will say that in the beginning stages of the birth of the music of the fifties, though I didn’t contribute in terms of creativity, I helped keep it alive.” –Dick Clark

As time progressed, music changed and tastes varied, Dick Clark remained his youthful self, and was given the title “America’s oldest teenager”. During the run of “American Bandstand”, it introduced over 10,000 rock acts to the country, many of them not having been able to appear anywhere else on TV due to the industry’s unofficial stance against rock ‘n’ roll music.

“Politicians . . . did their damnedest to respond to the pressures they were getting from parents and publishing companies and people who were being driven out of business [by rock]. . . . It hit a responsive chord with the electorate, the older people. . . . they full-out hated the music. [But] it stayed alive. It could’ve been nipped in the bud, because they could’ve stopped it from being on television and radio.” –Dick Clark

Clark didn’t stop at just “American Bandstand”. Besides being the conduit for many of our most beloved rock ‘n’ roll entertainers, he also made a living hosting dozens of different TV game shows like “The $10,000 Pyramid”.

He also served as CEO of Dick Clark Productions, opened up the American Bandstand Diner franchise, created and produced the American Music Awards in 1973 and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in 1972, an annual program that still airs every New Year’s Eve and is now hosted by Ryan Seacrest. At one point during the 1980s, Dick Clark was so ubiquitous, he could be seen on all three major networks” on ABC in “American Bandstand”, on CBS in “The $10,000 Pyramid” and on NBC hosting “TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes” with Ed McMahon, a fellow Philadelphian who Clark once introduced to Johnny Carson.

In 2006, Dick Clark suffered a stroke but continued working, hosting “New Year’s Rockin” Eve” with a limited appearance and handing over the rest of the hosting duties to Seacrest.

Dick Clark died in 2012 of a heart attack following surgery to fix an enlarged prostate.

“America’s oldest teenager” was 82 at the time of his death.

“With American Bandstand, he introduced decades’ worth of viewers to the music of our times. He reshaped the television landscape forever as a creative and innovative producer. And, of course, for 40 years, we welcomed him into our homes to ring in the New Year.” –President Barack Obama

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