The days when music was music.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


My grandmother, Mary Spivey, bought me a new Voice of Music (VM) record player. It was beautiful and had high fidelity sound. It had brass legs and was portable and quite a thing in those days. I was a music junkie. I bought nearly every new 45 rpm that came out, if it was a pop record. LPs and 45s were new in those days, replacing the 78 rpm format. I usually went to the Bill Lamb record shop, which was next door to the Flint Journal on First Street. It was owned by disc jockey, Bill Lamb, and his store manager was, June, who kept up with all the new releases. She had the new releases before anyone else in town. Bill, through his radio show, sponsored three Flint girl singers called, "The Three Chicks," and they made it to the Arthur Godfrey Talent show in New York, which was a big television show in the fifties. Bill Lamb's name, brought people to the record shop.

Many hits from that era were by new singers. Teresa Brewer had been around since the early fifties. "Music, Music, Music, was her first big hit, that I can remember. Later, in the mid-fifties, she would have hits like, "Ricochet," "Til I Waltz Again With You," "Bell Bottom Blues," "Let Me Go Lover," (Joan Weber recorded the original which was the theme from a Studio One television show, titled..what else but, "Let Me Go Lover"), and Brewer's "Jilted." Teresa was a short, tiny girl with a high pitched voice and a wonderful personality. She was one of my favorites. In later years, I was disappointed to hear her say that she hated those songs that were big hits. She liked the blues and jazz and in later years she would record those too, with Count Basie and other big bands.

Kay Starr was also a popular singer of the fifties, although she had been singing in big bands in the forties, she made her fame in the fifties. Her biggest hit was "The Wheel Of Fortune." She also had hits with "Side By Side," and "The Man Upstairs." I loved "Wheel Of Fortune," and I still play it often today. The superstar of that era, (the early fifties) was Johnnie Ray. His biggest hits were "Cry," and "The Little White Cloud That Cried."

Tennesee Ernie Ford had a song titled, "Sixteen Tons." It created a dance called the Chicken. I was one of the first ones to learn it, and taught it to the girls who worked at the Capitol theater. It was a simple dance, but like all dance crazes, everybody was doing it. In Ohio, I took lessons at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio to learn the Shag. Then I would show everybody what I had learned and we would "Shag around the clock." We would dance until we were all sweaty. It seemed like all the new songs had a beat that could be used to Shag. I worked at Westinghouse in Lima, and I lived with the Mauk family. Paul, Nancy and I would play my VM record player, nearly full blast and Shag for hours in the living room. Like teenagers today, I was hooked on music and used to spend all of my money buying the newest records. It kept me broke from payday to payday. Television was new in those days but it was quite a while before we had one. Then I used to watch everything from "Omnibus," to "Steve Allen's Tonight Show," that replaced Morey Amsterdam's late night talk show with a sexy gal named Dagmar. Morey's show wasn't called the Tonight Show. I don't even remember ever seeing his show but I had heard a lot about it. Television was black and white in those days but the programs were much better than they are today, in my humble opinion. How can anyone top Jackie Gleason, Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar, and Imogene Coca and Ed Sullivan? It was "free" entertainment and it was in our home. And there was usually only one commercial sponsor for the program. Yes, those were the good old days.

I still enjoyed the radio and would listen to the weekly programs along with my grandmother, Mary Spivey. She would be ironing clothes and I would lay under the bed, listening to the radio and letting my imagination create the scenes I was listening to. Today, kids don't have that advantage of using their imagination by listening to stories on the radio. Some radio stations occasionally play some of those old programs but kids today are into computers, ipods, MP3 players, itunes and much more over the Internet. I have to admit I have bought several tapes of old radio shows too, and I haven't taken the time to listen to all of them either.

( Singer Johnnie Ray-Sensation of the '50's


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