In my younger days – the 1950’s that is – I was one of those thousands, or maybe millions, of British teenagers who latched on to the US ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ performers. Elvis was my number one with Buddy Holly a close second. I can remember hearing – and then getting dad to buy – ‘Peggy Sue’ as Christmas got close in 1957. It reached number 6 in the charts – Harry Belafonte was at number 1 from 22nd November until Jerry Lee Lewis took the number one slot on 10th January1958! Buddy had 3 hits in 1958 – ‘Listen to me’ [2 weeks & peaking at 16]; ‘Rave On’ [14 weeks & peaking at 5] and ‘Early in the Morning’ [4 weeks & peaking at 4]. In January 1959 he had a brief – one week hit – ‘Heartbeat’. While I was enjoying ‘Heartbeat’ – and hoping that Buddy would be over here soon – Buddy was getting on a plane and moving on to another show.
He was in ‘The Winter Dance Party’ tour that had begun in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 23rd January 1959. The amount of travel involved created logistical problems. The distance between the venues had not been considered and, adding to the problem, the unheated tour buses broke down twice in the freezing weather. Added to this was Buddy’s drummer, Carl Bunch, had been hospitalized for frostbite to his toes which he had suffered while aboard the bus! As a result Buddy decided to organise other form of transportation so, before their next appearance – planned for 2nd February in Iowa – Buddy chartered a four-seat Beechcraft from Dwyer Flying Service in Mason City with Jennings, Allsup, and himself. His idea was to depart after the Clear Lake Surf Ballroom show and fly to their next venue, in Moorhead, Minnesota via Fargo, North Dakota. This would allow them time to rest and wash their clothes. It also meant that they could avoid a rigorous bus journey.
It was just before midnight when the Clear Lake show ended just before midnight. There were some discussions on who was joining Buddy in the flight. Allsup agreed to flip a coin for the seat with Ritchie Valens – he took out a brand new half-dollar and Ritchie called heads. Heads it was. Richie reportedly said “That’s the first time I’ve ever won anything in my life.” Allsup later opened a restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas called ‘Heads Up’. Waylon Jennings also voluntarily gave up his seat – this one to J. P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) who had influenza and complained that the tour bus was too cold and uncomfortable for a man of his size.
Roger Peterson, the pilot, took off in inclement weather, although he was not certified to fly by instruments only. Shortly after 1:00 am on Tuesday 3rd February 1959, Holly, Valens, Richardson, and Peterson were killed instantly when their plane crashed into a cornfield five miles northwest of the Mason City, Iowa airport shortly after take-off. The bodies of the entertainers were all ejected from the plane on impact while Peterson’s body remained entangled in the wreckage. Buddy Holly had sustained fatal trauma to his head and chest and numerous lacerations and fractures of his arms and legs.
We will be attending the funeral in a few days time.
It was on Friday 14th November 1952 that the British singles music charts were first published – but I knew nothing about it! It was not until Friday 23rd October 1953 that I really ‘hooked into’ popular music of the day. I kept notes and I played records – and I was told by my parents quite often to ‘turn that noise down’. Sometimes I did as they asked! Below are the records for the first 8 years that I made sure I heard who was holding the number one slot on the Friday nearest that magical first date above
1953 – Frankie Laine with ‘Hey Joe’ [2 weeks]
1954 – Don Cornell with ‘Hold My Hand’ [4 weeks]
1955 – Jimmy Young with ‘The Man from Laramie’ [4 weeks]
1956 – Frankie Laine again, this time with ‘A Woman in Love’ [4 weeks]
1957 – Paul Anka with ‘Diana’ [9 weeks starting on 30th August]
1958 – Connie Francis with ‘Carolina Moon’ with ‘Stupid Cupid’ on the flip side of the double ‘A side’ [6 weeks from 26th September.
1959 – Bobby Darin with ‘Mack the Knife’ [2 weeks]
1960 – it’s a new decade and Roy Orbison has ‘Only the Lonely’ at number 1 for 2 weeks
Let’s just roll forward 40 years to the 23rd October 2000 and we find U2’s version of ‘Beautiful Day’ holding the top spot – for me another special number.
So that’s me – do you have musical memories like this? I’d love to know if you have.
Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American composer, orchestral director and violinist as well as being the leader of one of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Bing Crosby and Al Rinker had been together in a Jazz band in Spokane, Washington while in college. However, the band was so popular that the two dropped out of college and drove Rinker’s Model T to Los Angeles where Rinker’s sister, Mildred Bailey, who was a Jazz singer, was working. Shortly after their arrival in Los Angeles they landed a gig on the vaudeville circuit, as a vocal act. Some members of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra caught their act and recommended them to Whiteman. Nothing appears to have happened.
Don Clark was a former member of the Whiteman band and, in 1926, offered the two individuals that were waiting & hoping to join Paul Whiteman the chance to make their first record.
They said ‘YES’ and, on Monday 18th October 1926, accompanied by Don Clark’s Biltmore Hotel Orchestra in Los Angeles, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker recorded “I’ve Got the Girl”. The song was recorded using an electrical, not acoustic, microphone and “I’ve Got the Girl” was released on a 78rpm disk as Columbia #824-D. On the flip side was Don Clark’s instrumental version of “Idolizing”. Two months later Bing and Al joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where, on December 22nd 1926, they cut their first records with Whiteman — “Wistful and Blue” and “Pretty Lips”.
I think it’s safe to say that the ‘rest is history’.
Christopher John Tarrant was born on Thursday 10th October 1946; was educated as a boarder in Choir House at the King’s School, Worcester where he represented the school at hockey and cricket. He briefly became a researcher for the Central Office of Information before becoming a newsreader on ATV Today. It was in 1974 that things progressed. For 8 years between 1974 & 82 he hosted the ITV children’s television show Tiswas. Two years later – in 1984 – he joined Capital Radio and was host for 20 years. He is probably best remembered, though, for his 16 years on the ITV game show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’
In March 2014 he suffered a stroke at 39,000ft on a work flight from Thailand to London. Doctors at Charing Cross Hospital, London, told him he’d had a stroke, and did emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg. Chris recalls: “They were brilliant. I’m always aware that if I hadn’t gone I could be in a wheelchair. What happened makes me want to enjoy my life. I take medication and pills. I keep pretty active. I’ve got a big rambling estate in Berkshire so I walk around hills as I can’t stand the gym. I think I’m mentally fit, too.”
Many in Britain will know this headline coming across the airwaves.
In July 1969 the charts for 5th July showed the Edwin Hawkins Singers ‘Oh Happy Day’ at number 5; ‘Living in the Past’ by Jethrow Tull at 4; ‘The Ballard of John and Yoko’ by the Beatles at 3; ‘In the Ghetto’ by Elvis at 2 and ‘Something in the Air’ by Thunderclap Newman at 1.
12th July has Thunderclap, Elvis and the Beatles in situ but ‘Hello Susie‘ by Amen Corner had shot up from 14 to 4 pushing Jethro Tull to 5.
19th July still has no change at 1 and 2 but last week’s number 9 – the Rolling Stones ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ is now at number 3; the Plastic Ono Band has shot from 21 to 4 with ‘Give Peace a Chance’ causing ‘Hello Susie’ to slip down 1 to 5.
But we are looking at the situation on 26th July 1969 and at Number One – Top of the Pops is/are the Rolling Stones with their …….
‘Honky Tonk Woman’
This will stay at number 1 until 30th August when Zager & Evans’ ‘In the Year 2525’ knocks them down – to number 2!
An hour or so ago I was reminding ‘us of a certain age’ some music of 13th July. This piece, though, touches the downside of my music recall.
It was on Wednesday 13th July 1988 that Josephine Douglas died. Again there will be readers who ask ‘Who’s she?’. But others of a certain age will remember her as the deviser, producer and co-presenter of ‘Six-Five Special’ on Saturday evening BBC TV. Without the aid of synthesisers, strobe lights, multi-track tapes, mime, colour and all the dressings of modern pop music ‘Jo’, as she was known, planted rock’n’roll firmly in the laps of people like me. With co-presenter Pete Murray she made the BBC very much aware of the fact that teenagers did exist – and could become avid watchers of programmes for them. The BBC may have been aware but it appears not to have listened. Despite its success the ‘Six-Five Special’ only ran from 16th February 1957 to 27th December 1958. Other popular music programmes took its place but us of a certain era missed Jo on our TV screens and even more on her departure on this day in 1988.
Do you like listening to current popular music? I used to – but now I seem to live in the past. The music I have in the car proves that. Let’s take today – 13th July – as an example.
On 13th July 1957 Elvis Presley had just started a seven week stay at number one with ‘All Shook Up’. It’s on one of the CDs in my car.
On 13th July 1958 the Everly Brothers were in the second week of a seven week stay with double sider ‘All I have to do is Dream/Claudette’. Yes that’s in the car as well.
However the music of 13th July 1985 is not in the car – but it is in the cupboard. So what is/was that I hear some of you asking. Well it was a dual-venue concert that was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London (attendance 72,000 people) and the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia USA where around 100,000 people took part. On this same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries including Austria, Australia, Japan, the Soviet Union and West Germany making it one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time. It was estimated that a global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcasts. What was this magical event?
It was Live Aid.
It was on this day – Thursday 7th July 1927 – that Major Christopher Reynolds Stone D.S.O., M.C., became the first disc jockey in Britain.
Christopher Stone had been educated at Eton College and had served in the Royal Fusiliers during the war. Before the war he had published a book of Sea songs and ballads and, in 1923, had written the history of his old regiment. He also became the London editor of ‘The Gramophone’ – a magazine started by his brother-in-law Compton Mackenzie. It was this link that prompted Christopher to approach the British Broadcasting Corporation [the BBC] with the idea for a record programme. They initially dismissed the suggestion but Christopher succeeded in convincing them and, on Thursday 7th July 1927 he started playing records on air. He had a relaxed, conversational style that was exceptional at a time – most of the BBC’s presentation was extremely formal – and Christopher’s programmes became an extremely popular programme.
What his listeners were not aware of though, was that he wore a dinner jacket and tie when he presented – something that was expected of all radio presenters of the time!
In 1934 Christopher joined Radio Luxembourg on £5,000 a year and was barred by the BBC in consequence. We’ll come back to this – and other parts of his life – at a later date.