I am a child of the fifties, the sixties, the seventies, and even the eighties. When it comes to music I grew up during a time when I heard the music of prior decades along with the current eras. Radio brought the world of music through the ages to my ears. FM had not been a factor in my life until 1965 when I heard my first real jazz station in the philadelphia area. My first memory of FM was hearing Cannonball Adderley’s composition of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” Oh, there were others such as Sonny Rollings and Charlie “The Bird” Parker. but radio has always been that special place in my life where memories are stored, like platters, the old term for records, are stored. I grew up with the radio as the medium of information and emotion of my age. My first memories were of listening with my mother to Arthur Godfrey in the forties as she did the ironing. Yes, house wives did ironing and many other the chores. we used to call them chores because they were jobs that had to be done. That was 1949, 1950, or there abouts. My older brother were off to grade school and I was left to spend the time with Mom. that was the way life was back then.
I remember the christmas of 1954 when my grandparents had bought my older brother and I each am radios. His was green and my was pink, I don’t thing the color really mattered that much. The golden age of radio was beginning to fad. One could still listen to Fibber McGee and Molly or the Great Gildersleeve. Maybe that is why I named to striped red tabby Leroy. My father want to call it Le Roi, a difference of the accented syllable. I won the day, it was Leroy, accent on Le nd not Roi. So it was that radio gave vent to imagination during that time of primary school. I remember the first transistor radio that I saw. A kid in my forth grade class had one. True, one had to find a way to hang the antenna for reception, but that was our first high tech device. The first transistor radio I would own came when I was fifteen and bought one for myself. We were enamored with the number of transistors a radio had. The fact was that a radio only needed two and that the other transistors acted ad diodes. If you don’t understand the technology, sorry about that. Go look it up. The station on the radio could give you all the culture you could want from the American experience. So it was that we had a way of collecting memories. In the fifties you had to carry your music with you, the transistor age had yet to emerge. That wou come in the sixties when transistor radios were forbidden on school grounds. Well, what’s a school regulation that wasn’t made to broken?
The time was 1957, I was in forth grade, or was it fifth, must be the fifth. American Bandstand with Dick Clark. I was taught how to bop by my girlfriend who lived across the street. She was a year older than me, what was her name? Ah, Chris, I shall never forget. Chris Miller, wherever you are, thank you., you are a dear. I still know how to bop. Danny and the Juniors, let go do the bop. They were late to the dance. The bop existed from the forties through the fifties and entered into the early sixties by way of the Nelsons, you know, Ozzie and Harriet. Ricky and David were the sons. Ricky would become America’s heart throb to rival Elvis. Nelson had the greater talent. But Poor Little Fool would lead the way. Bill Haley would hit the scene and send us to the moon. Seventy Seven Sunset Strip with Cookie (Ed Byrnes, the hipster and beatnick sort of) would give us the “cool” sound we wanted. The immortal “Cookie, lend me your comb” was one of the most popular tunes of the era. Later on I would learn how to twist. Mean while I learned how to walk like a man and sing like a girl, Thank you Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons. Ah, but to be the leader of the pack, Bouffant hair do and skirts that crept above the knees, yes, it as a golden age. that included the nener nener songs like ‘My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels.
The mid sixties gave us the start of that change that would define a generation. Jan and Dean would spawn the Beach Boys on the west coast where Dick Clark held court after the allegations of payola ( better known and taking money to promote records and or artists ). The recording sounds were moving from New York and Philadelphia as Phil Spector moved his “Wall Of Sound” to the west coast. The year our family moved to Philadelphia Dick Clark was embroiled in a payola scandal (accepting money to promote artists on his television show American Bandstand) and left that city for Los Angels, blowing our chances of ever appearing on the show. By 1967 the music industry had moved to Los Angels and FM had become the definition of cool. We left the AM stations to the old and the teeny boppers, as big band and bubble gum filled that AM sir waves. The British invasion had blazed the path and FM became the wave of the future and the sounds of the easy riders. But as the movie showed, that road led to greater difficulties and harder music. By the time the eighties left us the joy had left music. Bubble gum had gone to cotton candy and rock was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Even country was becoming unrecognizable, the weeds had taken over the corn patch.
Punk put a pistol in its mouth and pulled the trigger while hip hop lost its soul. Hard rock became senile, lost in a world that no longer existed. I was fortunate to have heard so many musics in my life. Bits of big band, bits of classical, bits or old country, bits of folk, and most of the rock and roll as it grew up and left home. Now my radio is broken. Oh sure, there is a classical station here in town but it’s not that good. And the reception for what I remembered hearing doesn’t come in any more. Yes, the prophet was right, the music died. I no longer hear the joy that once made the music a pleasure to hear and a pleasure to share. Kids don’t harmonize in the boys room any more, haven’t since 65. So tell me, what defines the present generation, is it the music or the gadgets glued to their faces. I wish I could take the last couple of generations back in time. Back to the kinder and gentler time when there was true innocence in childhood. Before television became the giant idiot box it is now. Back when the music you took with you was what you could sing with your friends. Those were the golden years. Yeah, there was a cold war on but no one worried much about it. You could play softball in the school yard during recess and cokes came in a six ounce bottle. We played games with our friends instead of a computer. We led civilized lives and talked about doing stuff when we became adults. Social media was school and church and clubs after school. Most weeks there was the local hop at the fire station or school gymnasium. Awkward boys and girls learned the social graces there, helped along by adults supervising the interactions. Our entire day wasn’t planned weeks in advance for us, we had time to be bored and learn how to interest ourselves in the world around us. We could climb trees and walk to parks by ourselves. Oh, we were a golden generation once, where did we go wrong?