Posts Tagged ‘The Beatles’

by Robert Seoane


The year 1959 had some notable milestones occurring within its 365 days. The United States had 48 states until both Alaska and Hawaii were given official statehood status that year. Alaska had been purchased by the US from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million ($121 million in 2015, still a bargain for a land where you can see Russia from your house). It then became a territory of the USA on May 11, 1912 and finally became the 49th state on January 3rd, 1959. Hawaii followed suit as the 50th state on August 21, 1959 after having been a territory since August 12, 1898.

These two new states were ratified just in time to enjoy the creation of the first Barbie doll manufactured in 1959.

It was also a year in which the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States began in earnest… and the USSR was winning, by sending the first man-made object to reach a celestial body when the unmanned Luna 2 spacecraft crash landed on the moon on September 14, 1959.

And in music history, the first ever Grammy Awards were introduced in 1959, hosted by Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was busy that year. Besides releasing two classic albums, “Come Dance With Me” and “No One Cares”, and appearing on television on a regular basis, he also got involved in politics. On November 2, 1959 in Los Angeles, he introduced Democratic Senator from Massachussetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy at a fundraising dinner to a host of supporters where JFK hinted at his interest of running for President.

“It seems to me that in the 1960 election…that we should take into that election words which were spoken by Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. …. In that speech he said…’Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in the spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.’ It seems to me in the United States in the last seven years, we have come very close to a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference, and I do not look with pleasure upon going through another decade of it…and therefore I think this election is most important.” — Senator John F. Kennedy; November 2, 1959.

Meanwhile, television was now in its eleventh year of existence, and the three networks ABC, CBS and NBC unveiled a host of new TV shows with names like “Hawaiian Eye” a detective adventure series with a young Robert Conrad; the 1959-1973 TV cowboy western series “Bonanza”, filmed in color but still broadcast in black and white since TV did not yet have the technology to broadcast color developed fully; “The Price Is Right”, still airing today but totally different from its first episode; a new Hanna-Barbera cartoon character named Huckleberry Hound, also in color… and “The Twilight Zone”.

Of all these television debuts, “The Twilight Zone”, premiering on October 2, 1959, was the most unique. Created by screenwriter and playwright Rod Serling and coming off his classic Playhouse 90 teleplay “Requiem For A Heavyweight”(1956), Serling introduced an anthology series of the unexplained and creepy, writing most of the episodes and famously introducing them, always with a cigarette in his hand. He was the only consistent face in the series, as each week a different story was told by then unknown actors such as Robert Duvall, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Redford, Dennis Hopper, Lee Marvin and Burt Reynolds to name a few. Its famous theme music however, would not be introduced until the second season. Its first season’s score was written by the renowned Bernard Herrmann, who had composed soundtracks for many Alfred Hitchcock movies as well as the classic score for Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” (1976). The iconic theme song however, was written by Romanian-born French composer Marius Constant.

Serling was quite simply a brilliant writer, having written 92 of the 156 “Twilight Zone” episodes during its five-year run. Aside from this iconic, landmark series, he also wrote with Michael Wilson, an adaptation of the 1963 French novel “La Planete des Singes” by Pierre Boulle, author of “Bridge On The River Kwai” and translated the title to “Planet Of The Apes”. After the film’s release in 1968, it became so popular that four sequels, were produced through 1973, as well as a television show, an animated series and comic books. The franchise was resurrected in 2001 by Director Tim Burton to dismal reviews, but then was rebooted ten years later in 2011 with probably the best version in the series since the original, “The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes”.



Many believe that the break up of the Beatles lays squarely on the lap of Yoko Ono, who met John Lennon in 1966. This is an extremely simplistic point of view, because as in most every rock ‘n’ roll disbanding, several factors contributed to the break up of the greatest band in the world. To begin with, it was Paul McCartney, not John, who announced that the Beatles had officially broken up in March 1970. Also, George Harrison had become increasingly unhappy because of the fact that he had a backlog of music that had no room in Beatle albums.

John and Paul were always the principal songwriters, while George was usually granted two tracks per album. George complained that whenever they got to his compositions, they rushed through the recording, while John and Paul always took their sweet time with theirs. Ringo Starr, who wasn’t a songwriter, was given one track to sing for every album release. The only exception occurred during the recording of the double disc “The Beatles” (1968) more popularly known as The White Album. Ringo was given two tracks to sing, “Don’t Pass Me By” and “Good Night”. George was given the unprecedented number of four tracks in The White Album: “Piggies”, “Long, Long, Long”, “Savoy Truffle” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

By the time the group got around to recording “Abbey Road” (1969), Harrison’s songwriting could no longer be overlooked, having written the classics “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun”. Still, between 1968 and 1970, George had written so many songs that when the group broke up, Harrison was the first Beatle to release a solo album (not including his 1968 film soundtrack “Wonderwall”) on November 27, 1970. “All Things Must Pass” was a three record set with two of the records filled with original music and the third a compilation of informal jams, and was nominated by the Grammys for Album Of The Year.

Quarreling was beginning to be more commonplace after 1968. Paul, a demanding sort, was a perfectionist and knew exactly how he wanted his tracks to be recorded, much to George’s dismay, whose ideas for Paul’s tunes would usually be rejected (just one notable exception is the beautiful guitar in “And I Love Her”; totally George’s contribution). Even Ringo, who went along with everything, got fed up in 1968 and quit for two weeks, only to be begged back by the other three and adorning his drum kit with dozens of colorful flowers upon his return.

So Yoko Ono was not the reason for the break up of the Beatles. It may have not been helpful that John insisted on her company in the recording studio, a place where no one but the Beatles were ever allowed in, but it was not the sole contributing factor.

The temporary break up of the Quarrymen was due to totally different dynamics.

Before the beginning, when John, Paul and George still called themselves the Quarrymen, (the name was taken from a line of their school song at Quarry Bank High), the Beatles almost never came to be due to persistent lineup changes and drunken rows that at one point broke the Quarrymen up for seven months.

Between 1956 and 1959, the Quarrymen’s line-up would change considerably, making it very difficult for John to form a permanent band. Some of the band members never took playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band seriously, and others just weren’t very good musicians. Only Paul McCartney and George Harrison passed musical muster and shared the same desire to carve a rock ‘n’ roll career for themselves with John.

Difficulties were common. The Quarrymen had to alternate rehearsals at their respective parents’ homes, not always successfully. They liked playing at George’s house because his mom would serve them shots. Pete Shotton’s mom however wasn’t as forthcoming and ordered them to play in a cold corrugated air raid shelter in their backyard to hold in the noise. They also rehearsed at drummer Colin Hanton’s home as well as Eric Griffiths’. Griffiths’ father had died in WWII and his mother worked in the daytime, giving them plenty of time to rehearse without bothering anyone. But their best rehearsal location was at John’s mom’s house, Julia, the coolest mother of them all without a doubt, because she actually had a collection of rock ‘n’ roll songs like Shirley & Lee’s “Let The Good Times Roll” and Gene Vincent’s “Be Bop A Lula”. The Quarrymen would play the songs over and over until they had it down pat. As a result, the group was getting really good, especially John, Paul and George.

Another difficulty was obtaining the proper musical instruments. When the Quarrymen were still a skiffle group, they needed a tea chest bass, a standard instrument for the genre. Schoolmate Bill Smith had one so he was in, but he never really showed up to rehearsals, so he was out. One particular evening, John and Eric Griffiths couldn’t locate Smith for a gig they were booked in that night so they took it upon themselves to break into Smith’s parents’ garage to retrieve it. They handed the tea chest bass to another schoolmate, Len Garry, but he couldn’t always be available either, so they would call on yet another schoolmate, Ivan Vaughan, to play with them when Garry wasn’t available. A third friend, Nigel Walley also stood in at the tea chest bass but that was soon over when he forgot the bass at a bus station on his way home. It was just as well, because by then they were all deeply immersed into the amazing new sound of rock ‘n’ roll so they didn’t need a tea chest bass anyway. Walley then took it upon himself to be their manager, to some success. Most of the gigs were free, but hey, they had gigs.

One of the gigs Nigel Walley scored was a skiffle amateur contest organized by one Carroll Levis in which each competing band would be given three minutes to perform. The Quarrymen finished to thunderous applause, but it was a competing band, the Sunnyside Skiffle Group, that beat them with their onstage antics. John Lennon complained bitterly to Levis, stating that the contest had been rigged because the other group had brought “ringers” to cheer for them, so Levis gave them both another chance and this time used a “clap-o-meter”. The Quarrymen lost by a hair.

Walley also managed to get the Quarrymen a gig at the Cavern Club in 1957 as a skiffle group. He had met the father of the Cavern Club owner, Dr. Joseph Sytner at the Lee Park Golf Club where Walley was an apprentice golf professional. He managed to convince Sytner to get his son to book the Quarrymen. Sytner Sr. suggested they play at the golf club first so he could hear and see them for himself, and was duly impressed when the Quarrymen had a following, filling up the venue with around 100 supporters. The performance was such a success, despite the fact that band mate Rod Davis broke his zipper and had to play the banjo covering it, that they were able to raise up to 15 pounds in audience donations, much more than other groups were normally paid.

The Quarrymen were then booked at the Cavern for the first time. There was one little problem, however. John and his fellow band members were leaning more towards playing rock ‘n’ roll, but the Cavern was, back then, a jazz club. Still, they did allow skiffle music so they agreed to only play that. After their second song however, John started to play Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel”. Soon, they received a hastily written note from Sytner as he waded through the packed crowd to hand it to John. It read “cut out the bloody rock and roll”. Nobody in 1957 could have guessed that John would return to the Cavern four years later as the Beatles to play “the bloody rock and roll” when their fan base had grown to such a point that they couldn’t be ignored.

Cracks in the Quarrymen lineup were already beginning to show as early as ’57 when John’s friend Pete Shotton told John he was no longer interested in playing with the group. John responded by taking the washboard Shotton used for percussion and smashing it over his head. After dusting him off, John proceeded to plead with Pete to stay on for a couple more performances. Their next gig would be the one where Pete brought Paul McCartney at St. Paul’s Church fete on July 6, 1957.

But in January 1959, it was down to just John, Paul, George and drummer Colin Hanton. Pete Shotton was tired of the rock ‘n’ roll life, telling John just before his washboard became his neck adornment, “I hate this, John, it’s not for me”. Eric Griffiths was forgotten about when George joined the band as lead guitarist, so Griffiths, insulted, quit and joined the Merchant Marines not long afterwards. Len Garry came down with tubercular meningitis, went to the hospital and never played with the group again. In the meantime, John and Paul began to write songs together and apart, inspired by Buddy Holly because he wrote his own music. Together, they wrote “One After 909” an early rocker the Beatles recorded as a demo in 1963 and was then re-recorded on January 20, 1969 when they played it live on the Apple rooftop where they were almost arrested for disturbing the peace. The song ultimately wound up on the Beatles’ final album release, “Let It Be” (1970).

The other two early Quarrymen songs were John and Paul’s “Like Dreamers Do”, which was recorded by the Applejacks in 1964, and John’s “Hello, Little Girl”. Their music was developing slowly but surely.

One thing that could be said, even early on in their careers, was that they were a bunch of clowns. That was part of the Beatles’ incredible charm. Besides writing songs that would endure for generations, they never took themselves seriously and were happy to make faces and joke around onstage, something most pop stars today simply don’t do.

By January of 1959, John Lennon had temporarily lost interest in playing music, still mourning the death of his mother Julia after being hit and killed by a car just six short months earlier. They did however manage to perform at two venues that month. They played on New Year’s Day 1959 at the Speke Bus Depot social club that had been organized by George Harrison’s father, then at a party at Woolton Village Club three weeks later. After those two performances, they had an opportunity to play at the Pavillion Theater in Lodge Lane, where the management was looking for a band to play thirty-minute sets between bingo games. The job was theirs for the taking, having played their first set quite well. But before the next set, John, Paul and Colin had a few beers (George was underage and not allowed to take part) and then switched to “Poor Man’s Black Velvets”, a mix of Guinness and cider, and got summarily drunk on their collective asses. Their second set, as a result, was a disaster, and having lost the opportunity for a steady gig, got into a great drunken row on their way home, with Paul telling Colin Hanton that he sucked at drumming, even sober. Pete Shotton had come to hear them play that night and had joined the four afterwards and had to pry Colin and Paul apart as fists began to fly. After that night, the Quarrymen had no drummer.

The Quarrymen found themselves without any more gigs after that. John and Paul however, continued writing songs together, but George Harrison went his own way and joined another group, the Les Stewart Quartet. It wasn’t until eight months later, on August 29, 1959, that the Quarrymen reunited. The Les Stewart Quartet had a gig playing at Mona Best’s Casbah Coffee Club but Stewart refused to play when guitarist Ken Brown missed rehearsals. George quickly called John and Paul to sub. As a result, the Quarrymen name was resurrected one last time and the group, John, Paul, George and Ken, played seven Saturdays in a row from August to October of that year, earning fifteen shillings a week. It was always a packed house, despite the fact that they had no drummer. Their gig at the Casbah ended badly when Brown arrived at one of the shows but couldn’t play because he had fallen ill. Mona Best insisted that Brown should still get paid for showing up, but John and Paul loudly voiced their objection, insisting that they should all receive Ken’s pay to be distributed among the three for playing anyway. That disagreement led to the group walking away from their first steady gig.

On October 18, 1959, John, Paul and George had another opportunity to play in one of Carroll Levis’ talent shows. This time, they decided to drop the Quarrymen name once and for all and called themselves Johnny and the Moondogs for that one performance. They passed the audition, but when they arrived to play again on November 15, 1959, the registration line seemed endless. Waiting for hours to play, not having a drummer, having only two guitars among the three of them and only just enough money to take the last bus to Liverpool at 9:47PM, they gave up and went home, but not before John saw a cutaway electric guitar by the stage door and pilfered it.



“I looked up to Stu. I depended on him to tell me the truth…Stu would tell me if something was good and I’d believe him” -John Lennon

John enrolled in the Liverpool College of Art in 1957. Stuart Sutcliffe had enrolled the year before and they soon became good friends. John admired Stu’s artistic talent as a painter, and Stu admired John’s musical ability. Stu was an intuitive soul, able to see through John’s tough exterior, acting like a “teddy boy”. Teddy boys were the 1950’s version of today’s gangstas and John fit the part well, always wearing leather and developing a chip on his shoulder to hide his vulnerabilities. This fraudulent façade of John’s was made more impactful after the death of his mother.

“Paul and I got to know Stuart Sutcliffe through going into the art college. Stuart was a thin, arty guy with glasses and a little Van Gogh beard; a good painter. John really liked Stuart as an artist. Stuart obviously liked John because he played the guitar and was a big Ted. Stuart was cool. He was great looking and had a great vibe about him, and was a very friendly bloke. I liked Stuart a lot; he was always very gentle. John had a slight superiority complex at times, but Stuart didn’t discriminate against Paul and me because we weren’t from the art school. He started to come and watch us when we played at parties and he became a fan of ours. He actually got some parties for John, Paul and me to play at.” – George Harrison

Stu Sutcliffe was an aspiring, talented artist and in 1959, sold one of his first works, which in comparison to his other brilliant paintings, doesn’t do his art justice. “Summer Painting” was sold for £65 (£1135 in 2015, which translates to approximately $1750 today). It was a tidy sum, and Stu was planning to use it to invest in his artwork. But John, Paul and George were continuing to struggle in forming a permanent group, now nameless, and they needed a bass guitarist.

“What do you do with £65? We all reminded him over a coffee: ‘Funny you should have got that amount, Stuart – it is very near the cost of a Hofner bass.’ He said, ‘No, I can’t just spend all that.’ It was a fortune in those days, like an inheritance. He said he had to buy canvases or paint. We said, ‘Stu, see reason, love. A Hofner, a big ace group… fame!’ He gave in and bought this big Hofner bass that dwarfed him. The trouble was he couldn’t play well. This was a bit of a drawback, but it looked good, so it wasn’t too much of a problem. When he came into the band, around Christmas of 1959, we were a little jealous of him; it was something I didn’t deal with very well. We were always slightly jealous of John’s other friendships. He was the older fellow; it was just the way it was. When Stuart came in, it felt as if he was taking the position away from George and me. We had to take a bit of a back seat. Stuart was John’s age, went to art college, was a very good painter and had all the cred that we didn’t.” -Paul McCartney

Stuart Sutcliffe’s “Summer Painting” circa 1959




“A one-hit wonder can make a more powerful impact than a recording star who’s got 20 or 30 hits behind him.” – Bob Dylan accepting his induction as MusicCares Person of the Year on February 6, 2015


One of the more popular and enduring songs of 1959 is Lieber & Stoller’s “Kansas City”, sung by Wilbert Harrison. Its laid back groove tells the story of a young man hitting the town to look for “crazy little women”. It was a laid back groove and instantly catchy, never mind that Lieber & Stoller had never really been to Kansas City. Its popularity was undeniable as it rocketed up the Billboard Pop chart to Number One in the Spring of 1959, selling over one million copies and receiving a gold disc.

“I’m going to Kansas City… Kansas City here I come (2x), they got some crazy little women there and I’m gonna get me one…” ”Kansas City” – Wilbert Harrison

“Kansas City” was originally written in 1952 and it was one of Lieber & Stoller’s first compositions, recorded that year by Little Willie Littlefield. Littlefield’s version is a bit more upbeat and showcases a sexy tenor sax. The lyrics are also a bit more risqué. Instead of singing “they got some crazy little women there and I’m gonna get me one”, he sings “they got a crazy way of lovin’ and I’m gonna get me some”. If they were trying to tame it by changing the lyrics, it wasn’t by much. After all, what else would a young man want to do with crazy little women?

Since its success with Harrison, there have been over three hundred cover versions of the song.

Little Richard recorded two versions of “Kansas City” in 1955. The first version, traditional to the original version of “Kansas City”, wasn’t released until 1970. Little Richard’s second version was released at around the same time as Wilbert Harrison’s and was the version that was recorded by the Beatles and released on their “Beatles For Sale” UK album and “The Beatles VI” US album, both in late 1964. Little Richard added the “hey hey hey hey” lyrics to the song and then got the idea to record a stand alone version of just that section in 1956, calling it “Hey Hey Hey Hey (Going Back To Birmingham)” so he can collect co-songwriting royalties off his “Kansas City” version.

Although Little Richard must be credited for adding a great groove to “Kansas City” and changing the lyrics around, The Beatles, led by Paul McCartney’s vocals, kicks serious ass.

Other versions of “Kansas City” were then subsequently recorded by James Brown, Bill Haley & His Comets, Peggy Lee, Dion, Jan & Dean, Fats Domino, Sammy Davis Jr., The Everly Brothers, Tom Jones and Muddy Waters to name a few.

The city of Kansas City adopted the song and made it their state song, so I suppose there really are “crazy little women” there. Although 12th Street and Vine no longer exists, a park was designed in the shape of a grand piano, and a path in the shape of a treble clef in the very location where 12th Street and Vine used to be.

Wilbert Harrison died of a stroke at a nursing home in 1994 at age 65. Jerry Lieber died on August 28, 2011 at age 78 from cardio-pulmonary failure. Mike Stoller is 82 years old in 2015.



One of the most popular doo-wop groups of the Fifties was the Flamingos. The Flamingos were a family act. Formed in 1952 in Chicago, Illinois by brothers Jacob and Ezekial Carey, they recruited their two cousins, baritone Paul Wilson and first tenor Johnny Carter to join the group and soon added the only non-family member Earl Lewis. They seemed to have an obsession with naming their group for feathered friends because they had previously called themselves the Swallows, El Flamingos and the Five Flamingos until they finally settled on just the Flamingos.

After some personnel changes, Jake and Zeke Carrey (who returned to the group in 1958 after a brief stint in the military) were joined by Nate Nelson, Tommy Hunt, Terry Johnson and Paul Wilson.

The Flamingos scored their first hit, “I’ll Be Home” when they signed with Checker Records, the Chess Records subsidiary. A slow, uneventful song, it reached Number Five in the R&B Billboard chart in 1955. Pat Boone released it a year later and his version made it to Number Six in the Billboard Pop chart. Both versions are forgettable.

“I Only Have Eyes For You” is quite a different story. Written by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin in 1934 for a movie called “Dames”. The Flamingos contemporized it, giving it the doo-wop spin with their “de-bop, sh-bop” chirping that makes it distinctively a Fifties pop hit. When listening to both versions, it’s pretty striking to hear the difference in style, which is why the Flamingos song endures to this day.

In 2001, The Flamingos were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Today in 2015, all the members of the Flamingos except for Tommy Hunt, are deceased.



Rock ‘n’ roll in 1959 seemed to enjoy travel, since two Top Ten songs with city names were big hits that year. Besides “Kansas City”, “Tallahassee Lassie”, although quite simplistic, rocked itself up to Number Six on Billboard’s Top 100.

Its composer Frederic Anthony Picariello, born in Massachusetts and establishing a fan base in Boston, was a fan of rhythm & blues and an ardent admirer of both Chuck Berry and Little Richard. He formed a group and called themselves Freddy Karmon and the Hurricanes. Having formed his band, he took to songwriting, using lyrics his mother wrote to compose a song called “Rock and Roll Baby”. His manager, Boston disc jockey Jack McDermott, took the song to two producers he knew, Bob Crewe and Frank Slay. The duo liked the song, and offered to rearrange and produce it if they could re-write the lyrics and receive two-thirds of the songwriting credit. Recognizing an opportunity when he saw it, Piciarello took them up on the deal. The result was “Tallahassee Lassie”.

Dick Clark of American Bandstand saw potential in the song, even though it was rejected by every record company that heard it. Clark was part owner of Swan Records in Philadelphia and offered to distribute the song as long as they allowed him to make some important changes. He wanted the bass drum sound highlighted as well as Piciarello’s “whoo”, which were both buried in the original recording. They agreed and Clark suggested adding hand claps as well. Subsequently, right before its release, Swan Records President Bernie Binnick suggested that Piciarello change his stage name to Freddy Cannon. The result was a winner, and Dick Clark showcased it on his show.

“Well, she comes from Tallahassee, she got a hi-fi chassis, maybe looks a little sassy, but to me, she’s real classy, yeah, my Tallahassee Lassie down in F-L-A” “Tallahassee Lassie” – Freddy Cannon

Cannon released his next single with a title of another Florida town, “Okeefenokee”, but it didn’t even make it into the Top Forty, stalling at Number 43. He was only able to reach the Top Ten two more times, later in 1959 with “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans” (again with the town titles) and then again in 1962 with “Palisades Park”. His song titles were sounding like travelogues. Both songs made it to Number Three in the Billboard Hot 100, and both songs were nothing to write home about.

Freddy Cannon, now 74 years old, continues to appear in concert venues throughout the country.



“Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb”, despite being a Top Ten hit, is an annoying song. Its origin comes from the television show “77 Sunset Strip”, a major hit that lasted for six years, from 1958 to 1964.

Edward Byrne Breitenberger, known professionally as Edd Byrnes, plays the cool, hip private eye, inspired by James Dean’s attitude and the blueprint for the character of Henry Winkler’s Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli from the TV show “Happy Days” (1974-1984).

Kookie’s comb was his trademark, combing his hair at the beginning of every single episode so often that one was tempted to take the comb from his hand and break it to pieces. Henry Winkler’s Fonz would goof on that, as he would begin to comb his hair but never really did, reacting at his reflection in the mirror with his own trademark “aaayyy”, secure in the knowledge that he looked perfect already.

Byrne’s Kookie character also consistently spoke in “jive talk” indicative of the era, and pretty damn funny to hear today.

An interesting footnote is that in the pilot episode, Edd Byrnes plays Kookie as a serial killer, but after it was picked up as a weekly series on ABC, Byrnes received such acclaim from female teens everywhere, so principal Sunset Strip actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. narrated a disclaimer just before its premiere to explain away why Edd Byrnes’ character “Kookie” was still in the show.

“We previewed this show, and because Edd Byrnes was such a hit we decided that Kookie and his comb had to be in our series. So this week, we’ll just forget that in the pilot he went off to prison to be executed.” –Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

Connie Stevens, borrowed from another detective series that had debuted in 1959, “Hawaiian Eye”, was tapped to sing on “Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb” with Byrnes. The tune was obviously written to capitalize on the popularity of both “77 Sunset Strip” and “Hawaiian Eye”, as well as on the crush teenage fans had for Byrnes, as proved by the ear shattering screams heard ‘round the world when they both appeared on “American Bandstand”. The novelty song made it to Number Four on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1959. But it’s still an annoying song.

Connie Stevens enjoyed a busy career during the Sixties and Seventies, releasing records that made it to the Top Ten in 1960 and appearing on TV series such as “Maverick” with James Garner and sharing co-star credit with George Burns in the one season sitcom “Wendy and Me” (1964-1965). She played on Broadway in Neil Simon’s “The Star Spangled Girl” in 1966 and continued making television appearances during the Seventies in shows such as “Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roast”, “The Muppet Show” and a few Bob Hope specials.

After “77 Sunset Strip” got canceled in 1964, Edd Byrnes played minor roles in television programs until 1978, when he was cast as a horn dog Dick Clark type in “Grease” during a sequence that showcased a variation of Johnny Otis’ “Willie and the Hand Jive”(1958).

As of this writing in February 2015, both Byrnes and Stevens are alive and well.



Called the “New Orleans Dynamo”, Francis Guzzo aka Frankie Ford still tours 200 days a year, even at 75 years old in 2015, despite the fact that he only had one hit song, released in 1959, called “Sea Cruise”.

“Sea Cruise” was originally written and recorded by another New Orleans resident, Huey “Piano” Smith with Bobby Marchan doing vocals. But the record company decided to erase Marchan’s vocals and replace it with Ford’s, then adding some foghorns and bells as an intro.

Ford released only two more singles in 1960, both of which sank into obscurity.

Huey Smith’s piano playing style defined the New Orleans sound of the Fifties, headed by Fats Domino, one of Smith’s biggest influences. Smith began his career touring at age eighteen in the early Fifties with his friend Eddie Jones, otherwise known professionally as “Guitar Slim”. By 1953, Smith had signed to Savoy Records, recording his first single “You Made Me Cry”. Since that single wasn’t a success, he also worked as session musician and played piano for Little Richard and Lloyd Price.

He formed Huey “Piano” Smith and his Clowns in 1957 and enlisted Marchan to sing lead, achieving gold record status and selling over one million singles with his first hit, the classic “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” remade in 1972 by Johnny Rivers.

Smith’s biggest hit however, was neither “Sea Cruise” nor “Rockin’…”, but a funny song with an irresistibly catchy hook called “Don’t You Just Know It” released in 1958. It made it to Number Nine on the Billboard Pop chart and Number Four on the R&B chart, becoming their second million seller.

“I can’t lose with the stuff I use (Don’t you just know it) Baby, don’t believe I wear two left shoes (Don’t you just know it) Ah ha ha ha (Ah ha ha ha) Ey eh, oh (Ey eh, oh) Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba (Gooba, gooba, gooba, gooba) Ah ha ha ha (Ah ha ha ha)…” “Don’t You Just Know It” – Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and his Clowns

After that song, Smith spent several years making comebacks in other names and guises. He’s 81 years old, today in 2015.



Philip Batiste from Louisiana, who changed his name to Phil Philips (no relation to Phillip Philllips who won on “American Idol” in 2012) when he embarked on his singing career, is one of those unfortunate musicians who never saw a dime of royalties for his song that has been remade many times. In fact, all he ever received for recording his composition and sole hit “Sea Of Love” was exactly $6800 in 1959, roughly $55,000 in 2015 dollars. An album he recorded to back the single was also never released.

“Because I decided to fight for what was rightfully and legally mine, a full album that I recorded was never released. I’m not being paid, nor have I ever been paid, as an artist for ‘Sea of Love’. I never received justice and to this day have not received justice.” –Phil Phillips

“Sea Of Love” made it to Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Number One on the R&B chart. It was a million seller and received a gold disc. The composition was resurrected in 1984 by Robert Plant when he formed a group after Led Zeppelin broke up called The Honeydrippers. This updated version made it to Number Three that year. Plant’s version eliminated the dated doo-wop background vocals and, along with a laid back guitar solo, added strings to give it a more lush, traditional feel. It worked marvelously.

An excellent suspense thriller called “Sea of Love” was released in 1989 with Al Pacino, John Goodman and Ellen Barkin. The film showcased Phillips’ original recording, as well as a darker interpretation of the song by Tom Waits and released in his 2006 collection, “Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards”.

Phillips could have made millions off his own composition what with the amount of times the song has been re-recorded. Waits added his version on his album. Del Shannon recorded a version in 1981, the same year Iggy Pop also recorded it. Besides the movie “Sea Of Love”, it was also showcased in “Juno” (2007) performed by a group called “Cat Power”. It was even in an episode of “The Simpsons” called “Future-Drama” in 2005.

To date, Phil Phillips still hasn’t received any satisfaction for the monies owed him. His last performance of the song was in New Orleans in 2005, a few months before Katrina devastated the city. Despite it all, Phil Phillips is still alive and is 88 years young.



by Robert Seoane


The best thing about 1958 was that everybody was still alive. Current and future rock legends were enjoying or about to enjoy the most productive years of their lives. Future rock superstars like Prince and Michael Jackson were born in 1958. Despite the fact that rock ‘n’ roll was still barely three years old, 1958 would prove to be the last year without a casualty. In 1958, the sky wasn’t even the limit. New artists were emerging from other mediums and current artists were enjoying the peak of their careers.

Among notable milestones that took place in 1958 was the introduction of the American Express card and Mr. Clean. Also, commercial jet airline service opened between New York and Miami in 1958 and the toy company Wham-O introduced another fad into American culture a year after the Frisbee with the hula hoop. The teenage idol of the day was newcomer Steve McQueen starring in the year’s hokiest horror flick “The Blob”.

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” –President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Look, ma! No cavities” –Crest toothpaste ad



“I waited, and I’m sure Elvis did too, for each Ricky Nelson record… like we would a Chuck Berry record or a Fats Domino record, to see what was going on. I used to say to some of the guys that Ricky Nelson learned to sing on million selling records.” – Roy Orbison

Eric Hillard “Ricky” Nelson was the youngest son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, a couple with one of the most popular situation comedies on early TV. He was the first rock ‘n’ roll singer to come from television. He was a good looking kid, with a resemblance to Elvis, but the biggest distinction between them was that Ricky Nelson, despite his numerous hits, was very wooden in his singing style and stage presence. He rarely smiled, whereas a lot of Elvis’ charm came from his ability to dazzle with his charming smile as he chuckled to himself at times while singing. Ricky Nelson, as handsome as he was, only started to loosen up after his career had hit its peak.

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” began its radio broadcasts on October 8, 1944 and continued for a decade, overlapping its TV show by two years. The TV show, about the comic trials and tribulations of a good old fashioned American family, ran for fourteen years from 1952 to 1966.

As any typical teenager of the day, the real life Ricky Nelson was enthralled with rock ‘n’ roll, particularly Carl Perkins. Ricky learned clarinet, drums and basic guitar chords as a pre-teen. Having the unique opportunity of appearing on national television every week with his parents and brother gave him an edge when he decided to go to his father Ozzie and tell him he would like to record a song to impress a girl he liked, as if being a TV star wasn’t enough.

Always the entrepreneur, Ozzie Nelson’s gears started turning and realized he had a whole new outlet for a burgeoning young market. Ozzie secured a one-record deal for his son through Verve Records. Verve had been looking for a young, malleable singer they could use to compete for Elvis fans. Soon, Ricky Nelson was in the recording studio recording Fats Domino’s “I’m Walking” and “A Teenager’s Romance”, which was promptly released as his first single in April of 1957. That same month, an Ozzie and Harriet episode ran called “Ricky The Drummer”. During that half hour, Ricky Nelson’s recording career began. He was showcased playing the drums, choosing a particularly snazzy tune that required neat drum rolls, and at the end came out to lip-sync his single “I’m Walking”. Still a skinny, unsure teenager his performance was completely lacking in emotion. But it didn’t matter. Ricky Nelson had grown up with America on TV for five years by then, and hundreds of thousands of young girls his age had grown up with him and many already had a crush on the TV idol.

“I’m Walking” did well in the charts, rising up to Number Four in Billboard’s Pop chart, but having Nelson record that particular song seemed too much like the “Pat Boone Maneuver” of trotting out a white artist to interpret a song that was played and sung much better by the African-American original songwriter, only because America was too racist to accept most black artists. But Nelson proved so popular that nobody cared about his complete lack of ability to let loose, singing with very little range of emotion and displaying only some fundamental, brief dance moves.

It was Ricky Nelson’s second single that started to set him apart. He was still pretty stiff and his voice didn’t have much nuance but he could carry a tune in his own distinctive soft-rockabilly style.


Ricky’s second hit was actually the B-side of the single released after “I’m Walking”. “Be Bop Baby” was preferred by DJs over the country as well as its radio audience over the selected A side,
“Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”, an old standard recorded not too differently and just as uneventful as the original country version written and released by Scott Weisman in 1945.

“Be Bop Baby” was a much more modern, hip song which Ricky sang along playfully to sharp guitar strums that made the song naturally danceable. It reached Number Three on the Billboard pop chart towards the end of 1957.

“A be bop baby still in her teens, just as sweet as she can be, A be bop baby in her old blue jeans, is the be bop baby for me, a be bop baby for me…” Be Bop Baby – Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson’s career was looking as bright as it could be when Hollywood came knocking and offered him a co-starring role with John Wayne and Dean Martin in “Rio Bravo” in 1957. He was showcased singing and playing guitar in the movie with Martin, then took the lead on a second song, this time accompanied on harmonica by legendary character cowboy actor Walter Brennan.

Ricky’s movie career seemed to have a lot of promise, but he only appeared in just a few more films after that, including “The Wackiest Ship In The Army” (1960), this time accompanied on piano by Academy award winning actor Jack Lemmon.


Eighteen year old Sharon Sheeley wrote “Poor Little Fool” about herself right after she broke up with Don Everly of The Everly Brothers when she was fifteen. She presented it to Ricky Nelson, claiming the song had been written for Elvis by her godfather. Nelson recorded it and it went to Number One on the Billboard chart for two weeks during the summer of 1958. She was the youngest woman to have written a Number One hit at the time, a distinction that in 2014, during the time of this writing, now belongs to Lorde who made her debut when she was sixteen. Sharon Sheeley was with Eddie Cochran in the taxi that took his life when it blew a tire and slammed into a post. Sheeley suffered a broken pelvis but survived. She lived 62 years until 2002, when she suffered a brain hemorrhage.

“She’d play around and teased me with her carefree devil eyes, she’d hold me close and kiss me but her heart was full of lies, Poor little fool, oh yeah, I was a fool, uh huh” – Poor Little Fool – Ricky Nelson

“Poor Little Fool” was already a hit for Ricky Nelson when he released his second album. He didn’t want to release the song as a single because he didn’t want to hurt the sales of his album. It was released as a single anyway and Nelson declared his disapproval by not allowing a photograph of him on the single’s sleeve, a right he had contractually with his record company, Imperial. Despite that, it still went to Number One.

Ozzie Nelson knew he had a goldmine in his hands and would showcase his son Ricky at the end of every few episodes. Being a control freak, Ozzie forbade his son from appearing on any other national television show as a performer, so he never played on “American Bandstand” or “The Ed Sullivan Show” although he had desperately wanted to. He finally did appear on Ed Sullivan in 1967. The Ozzie and Harriet show had gone off the air in 1966 after a fourteen year run, so he no longer had to honor his father’s demands, although rock music tastes had matured and developed away from his rockabilly style by then.

Ricky Nelson would have to thank his father, despite his controlling ways, for launching a very successful recording career. Between 1957 and 1962 he had recorded 30 songs that had entered the Top 40, more than any other artist except Elvis.


Nelson’s next single was “Lonesome Town”, a song that sounded so much like an Elvis song a la “Love Me Tender”, that there was no doubt that Heartbreak Hotel was probably located somewhere in Lonesome Town.

“Goin’ down to lonesome town where the broken hearts stay, goin’ down to lonesome town to cry my troubles away. In the town of broken dreams, the streets are filled with regret, maybe down in lonesome town I can learn to forget.” Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson

Throughout the rest of 1958 and 1959, Ricky Nelson charted regularly, with five songs that would reach the Top Ten out of the seven that had charted during the next eighteen months. As the new decade dawned however, Nelson dipped in popularity. In 1960, none of the six songs released made it to the Top Ten. It looked like Ricky Nelson’s career was taking a downward spiral.


Nelson changed his professional name from Ricky to Rick when he turned twenty-one. “Travelin’ Man” was Rick’s first single of 1961 after a string of songs that didn’t get close to the Top Ten, except for “Young Emotions”, climbing up to Number 12 at the beginning of the new decade. The rest of his output lingered in the 20s, 30s 50s and 70s in the Top 100 Pop chart.

“Travelin’ Man” changed that, hitting Number One and followed on the charts by its B-Side “Hello, Mary Lou”, reaching up to Number Nine. Rick Nelson had come back. About a guy who literally had a girlfriend in every port, “Travelin Man” has an easy air about it, like of Rick Nelson’s songs. He always seemed almost too relaxed when he sang and as a result, made us feel comfortable in his soft rockabilly style, certainly a precursor to the soft rock movement that predominated the early 1970s.

“Hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart, sweet Mary Lou I’m so in love with you. I knew Mary Lou, we’d never part, so hello Mary Lou, goodbye heart…” Hello Mary Lou – Rick Nelson

“Hello Mary Lou” had a quicker tempo but was still rockabilly at its best, rivaling the heroes and peers he admired and mirroring Carl Perkins and Elvis. Nelson’s songs came distilled with his easy-going style.

After that solid hit, Rick Nelson began to slide again. He didn’t have a Top Ten song until the following year, 1962 with “Young World”.

He managed two more Top Ten songs that same year, none that have stood the test of time. Rick inevitably slipped into the same label with the rest of the great artists and groups of the Fifties. Once The Beatles landed in 1964, they changed music forever. Instantly, almost everything before them was labeled “nostalgia”.

Rick Nelson was not a quitter however. Despite being barely noticed by the young pop audience market of the Sixties , he released two to three albums each and every single year of that tumultuous decade. Sales however, were not good. Besides his recording career, he was wise enough to continue pursuing his acting career and spent the 1970s and 1980s appearing as a guest star on TV shows of the day such as “McCloud”, “Love Boat” and “The Streets Of San Francisco”, as well as several TV movies.

Perseverance paid off however and in 1972, he released his last Top Ten Hit.


Rick Nelson wrote a song about his experience at a nostalgia rock ‘n’ roll festival he played one night in Madison Square Garden. Apparently, it didn’t go very well.

“If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck, but if memories were I sang, I’d rather drive a truck, but it’s right now, I learned my lesson well, you see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself” Garden Party – Rick Nelson

It seems that Nelson was booed off the stage on October 15, 1971 at Madison Square Garden when he came on wearing contemporary wardrobe (bell bottoms and a purple velvet shirt) and long hair down to his shoulders, not looking at like the young TV idol, Ricky. After starting out with “Hello Mary Lou”, he sang Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me”. His third song was The Rolling Stones’ “Country Honk”, a slow country and western version of “Honky Tonk Woman” off the “Let It Bleed” album. That’s when he started to get boos and promptly, Nelson decided to not finish the song and walked off stage. He watched the rest of the show, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell, from backstage and didn’t appear with everyone else for the finale. The moment had apparently left such an impression on him that he had to write a song about it. It would be the last Top Forty song of his career.

“Played them the old songs, thought that’s why they came. No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same. I said, hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me. When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave.” Garden Party – Rick Nelson

There are two references to The Beatles in “Garden Party”, two of them who were attending the show as fans, not performers. Nelson referred to John Lennon as Yoko’s walrus, which was a pretty obvious clue. But a little harder to understand was George Harrison’s mention as ‘Mr. Hughes’. Many thought Nelson was referring to Howard Hughes but he was in fact singing about his next door neighbor and friend Beatle George who attended the concert incognito. “Hughes” was an alias he went by. Harrison had also been working closely with Bob Dylan during that period.

“People came from miles around, everyone was there, Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air, and over in the corner, much to my surprise, Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise.” Garden Party – Rick Nelson

Rick Nelson stopped recording with his last album release of original recordings “Playing To Win” (1981), after a consistent annual output of product. Overall, he released 36 albums and over ninety singles.

Rick Nelson had his share of troubles during the Seventies and Eighties, including drug use, an extravagant lifestyle that included private Lear jets, an unwanted pregnancy Nelson denied despite DNA evidence proving otherwise, and many infidelities that resulted ultimately in a long, painful divorce.

Rick Nelson toured extensively through the years in order to afford the lifestyle that he and his family had grown accustomed to. He hated flying but he also did not enjoy bus trips from one gig to another, so in 1985 he decided to purchase a 1944 Douglas DC- that once belonged to the DuPont family and subsequently Jerry Lee Lewis. The plane was beset with problems and one wonders why Nelson put up with more than one incident of the plane enduring malfunctions if he was so afraid of flying. One time, he and the crew went so far as to have to push the plane off the runway because an engine had blown.

On December 26, 1985, Nelson, his girlfriend Helen Blair along with his band members, traveled through a short tour of the southeastern United States to perform holiday dates. On New Year’s Eve, 1985, they boarded the Douglas DC- in Guntersville, Alabama in order to fly to Dallas, Texas for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza that Nelson and his band would appear in.

One of the malfunctions besetting Nelson’s plane that day was the heater. It had been acting up earlier and during flight, apparently caught on fire. Panic evidently ensued inside the plane because an unused fire extinguisher was found in the cockpit. The pilots lost control of the aircraft, hit a few trees and crashed outside DeKalb, Texas. Of the seven passengers, bass guitarist Patrick Woodward, drummer Rick Intveld, keyboardist Andy Chapin, guitarist Bobby Neal, road manager Donald Russell, Helen Blair and Rick Nelson died. The pilot and co-pilot, Brad Rank and Ken Ferguson, survived. They managed to wriggle out of the cockpit after the accident. Calling into the plane for survivors, they received no response. Ferguson, when briefed by authorities, told them that co-pilot Rank kept repeating to him “Don’t tell anyone about the heater”.

“One of the times, I refused to turn it (the heater) on. I was getting more nervous. I didn’t think we should be messing with that heater en-route.” -Pilot Ken Ferguson

Autopsies were made on everyone and, although the pilots were found to be drug-free, Nelson’s body had traces of cocaine in his system. As per his death certificate, he died of smoke inhalation and thermal burns. His son Matthew learned about his father’s death on the radio the following day while driving in his car and became hysterical. He and his twin brother Gunnar were set to be on that plane, but Rick had changed his mind about having them with him just days before his departure. His mother Harriet also learned about her son’s death on the news. Father Ozzie was spared the tragic news, having died ten years earlier at age 69.

Rick Nelson was 45 years old at the time of his death.



A new dance style was sweeping up teenage high school dances around the country since late 1957 called The Stroll. It was very much like a Virginia Reel as Dick Clark once pointed out, where boys and girls line up opposite each other and take turns as a couple dancing down the middle, a couple at a time, to the groove of the music.

Dick Clark suggested to A&R executive Clyde Otis that the dance style be turned into a song. Otis quickly co-wrote the song with Nancy Lee and called it “The Stroll”.

“The Stroll” was given to the Canadian group The Diamonds to record. They were coming off their last big hit, “Little Darlin’” and this was to ensure them another hit single. It ultimately reached to Number Four on the Billboard Pop chart and Number Five on the R&B chart.




Since rock ‘n’ roll was being played throughout the country in 1958 in every high school dance, or “hop” as they used to call them, it was only a matter of time before someone released songs about just that.

The sock hop was ingrained in the youth culture of the Fifties. The term was derived from the requirement of the students to remove their hard heeled black school shoes when dancing at the gym so there wouldn’t be scuff marks. Dance hop records emerged from the sock hop tradition and the first one of its kind was “At The Hop”.

Written by Artie Singer, John Medora and David White, it was recorded and released as a single by a group called Danny & The Juniors. It was originally called “Do The Bop”, but it was Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” to suggest the title of the song be changed to “At The Hop”. After their appearance on “Bandstand”, the record shot up to Number One in the Billboard Pop chart and stayed there for five weeks. The song received a second breath of life in the late Sixties when Sha-Na-Na performed it during the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Four years later, the movie “American Graffiti” would also showcase the song, sung by retro band Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids.

“You can rock it, you can roll it, do the stomp and even stroll it at the hop, when the record starts spinnin’ you calypso and you chicken at the hop, do the dance sensation that is sweepin’ the nation at the hop…” At The Hop – Danny & The Juniors

Dick Clark had interests in the songs he was suggesting and even asked for fees from writers like Artie Singer. Grudgingly, they forked over or else Clark would not allow them on “Bandstand”. This was the very act from which Alan Freed lost everything just two years before. Clark got away with it because the laws had changed somewhat and he apparently managed to find some loopholes. He also was smart enough to sell the song before the 1960 payola hearings. In the end, Dick Clark was given the opportunity to divest himself from investments that may be defined by the law as payola.



A perfect example of a “one hit wonder”, The Silhouettes formed in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, originally as The Thunderbirds, and recorded a handful of songs. “Get A Job” was one of them, a song about unemployment and the difficulties of finding work, but in an upbeat swing.

Tenor of the group Richard Lewis wrote the lyrics, and once explained that he had heard the refrain “get a job” from his mother after he came back from serving in the military. The mantra inspired him to write the song with the rest of the members of the group, who are credited for the now stereotypical Fifties rock ‘n’ roll background vocal gibberish “sha na na” and “yip yip yip yip”.

“And when I get the paper, I read it through and through, and my girl never fails to say if there is any work for me, and when I go back to the house I hear the woman’s mouth, preaching and a-crying, tell me that I’m lying ’bout a job that I never could find.” Get A Job – The Silhouettes

Their manager Kae Williams issued “Get A Job” as the B-side to another song they had recorded called “I Am Lonely” on his own Junior Records label, then sold the recordings to Ember Records in late 1957. The single was released and “Get A Job” was preferred as the song to be played by DJs throughout the country. It wound up Number One in both the Billboard Pop and R&B chart. They also appeared on “American Bandstand”. Ultimately, “Get A Job” sold over a million records. After that, the group never managed to place another song on the chart again.

“Get A Job” uses the typical doo wop singing style of the Fifties, coming up with nonsense phrases that mean nothing other than singing along with the melody. In the case of “Get A Job”, the “sha na na” background vocal inspired the name of the retro fifties band “Sha-Na-Na” that performed in Woodstock in 1969 and had a short lived syndicated TV show in the 70s.



Robert James Byrd, Sr., aka Bobby Day, is a one hit wonder only in the sense that “Rockin’ Robin” was initially the only song he ever charted as Bobby Day. His other songwriting efforts, “Over and Over” and “Little Bitty Pretty One” were made famous by other artists. “Rockin’ Robin” ironically enough, wasn’t written by Day but by Leon Rene under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas. Day had released the song through Rene’s Class record label. It spent one week at the top of the Billboard Pop chart in 1958.

Michael Jackson seemed to have been a Bobby Day fan because besides The Jackson Five’s recording “”Little Bitty Pretty One” in 1972, Michael also recorded “Rockin’ Robin” that same year and released it as a solo single. Whereas Bobby Day’s version sounds like a fun rock ‘n’ roll dance number for kids of ages, Jackson’s version tends to sound more childlike because of Michael’s voice and the fact that he was 14 years old when he recorded it.

“Over and Over” was the B-side of “Rockin’ Robin”. This Day-penned song went up to Number 41 on the Billboard Pop chart, but when it was re-recorded with a much harder edge by The Dave Clark Five seven years later, it managed to be the group’s only Number One hit in the USA.

Bobby Day released “Little Bitty Pretty One” as a single in 1957 under the name of his group “The Satellites” but it went nowhere. Thurston Harris’ version of “Little Bitty Pretty One” was released at around the same time Day released “Rockin’ Robin” and went to Number Six of the Billboard Pop Chart. It was also re-recorded in 1962 by Clyde McPhatter. Other artists such as Frankie Lymon and Huey Lewis & The News played the song in their performances.

Bobby Day’s recorded releases date up to 1963. His lack of continued success caused him to move to Australia, but soon came back to the United States and settled in Florida. He made a live on-stage comeback in the UK in 1989 but died of cancer the following year at age 62.



On February 6, 1958, Paul McCartney urged his friend George Harrison to meet John Lennon because Paul felt that George would make a suitable addition to their band The Quarrymen.

Paul had met George on the bus on their way to school every day at the Liverpool Institute. Despite being almost a year younger than Paul, 14 year old George was already a good guitarist and the two became fast friends as they spent time playing guitar together.

The Quarrymen had the ambitious idea of including a third good guitarist into the band, particularly because John was leaning more towards rock ‘n’ roll music and away from skiffle. This left Quarryman banjo player Eric Griffiths with no instrument to play so he left the group. That’s when Paul suggested George. The audition took place the evening of February 6th on top of a double decker bus. At Paul’s urging, George pulled out his guitar and played a note-perfect rendition of Bill Justis’ “Raunchy” for John. John was impressed and realized George had to be in, particularly because he knew more chords than John did, as John was still honing his own guitar chops. The fact that George’s mother encouraged the boys to rehearse at their home and offered them shots of whisky helped sweeten the deal. The only problem that concerned John is that George was so damn young. He looked even younger than Paul who already “looked like 10” because of his baby face. George hadn’t even sprouted a whisker to shave off yet. But he was in anyway. They’d just have to find a way around it. Rumor has it that it did take George about a month of hounding them to be included in the band before John finally relented.


At this point, The Quarrymen consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, John “Duff” Lowe on piano and Colin Hanton on drums. By the summer, the group was committed to record themselves. On a hot Sunday afternoon, July 14, 1958, the boys pooled their money together, they needed one or two pounds, got on a local bus with their instruments, except for the piano that was waiting for them at the studio, and entered Percy Phillips Recording Studio in Liverpool.

The Quarrymen recorded two songs that day. The record itself is the earliest recording ever made of The Beatles sans Ringo, who wouldn’t join the group for another four years.

John sang the lead on the first song, Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day”.

The second song, “In Spite Of The Danger” was more intriguing. It was an original composition written by Paul with George. Although in later years, Paul insisted that he wrote most of the song, he did admit that it was George playing lead guitar. It was the only time Paul and George ever collaborated together on any Beatles song. John also sings vocal in this song along with George and Paul. Even at such an early stage in their careers, the song has interesting melodic changes that make it quite a decent song. Both these compositions were recorded in approximately fifteen minutes.

Only one ten inch 78rps vinyl record was pressed of the two sided single as part of the deal for recording it in that studio. As a result, the five band members agreed to each hold it for a week and alternate with one another. John held it the first week, then Paul, then George. Colin then held it for a week and handed it over to Duff, who held it for the next twenty-three years.

The Beatles had apparently forgotten or cared little about that recording, especially since Duff tried to contact them over the years, apparently to inform John that it was his week. Finally, some time in the early 1980s, Paul bought it off Duff Lowe for an undisclosed amount and made fifty copies, sending them to his closest friends as a Christmas offering, George and Ringo included. This single is now considered the rarest record in the world, worth conservatively around three hundred thousand dollars.



by Robert Seoane


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.



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”.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.