Three versions of The Ballad of Davy Crockett were released in 1955. It was probably the Fess Parker version that I first heard, since it was likely I heard the song on the Walt Disney’s television program rather than on the radio. But it may well have been Bill Hayes’ version that stuck with me, as it received the most radio play. It surely wasn’t Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version,or it would have stayed with me, as Ford’s Sixteen Tons, which was released at the end of that year,” was the third song I remember. Hayes’ “Davy Crockett” came out three months before Rock Around the Clock, the second song I remember hearing on the radio, and the official beginning of rock and roll. I was four years old, which means that i was born four years before rock and roll.
Elvis hit big in 1956, buy I wasn’t all that aware of him, having just started kindergarten so not being home with the radio playing all day. I do remember Johnny Ray’s Just Walkin in the Rain and Teresa Brewer singing The Boll Weevil Song. Those”Davy Crockett’type folk songs were becoming more popular in 1957, and i ran around the house singing stuff like “Tom Dooley” and “The Banana Boat Song.” The soft rock ballad also appealed to me, with songs like “Tammy,” and “Love Letters in the Sand” getting under my skin. i also liked the country sound of Jimmy Rodgers’ “Honeycomb.”
I discovered the novelty song with 1958’s “Purple People Eater,” and the songs from that year that caught my ear often contained an element of novelty. I laughed along to songs like Bird Dog, Yakety Yak, and Lollipop.” The radio really grabbed hold of my ears in 1959, when I was eight years old and started interacting with the world outside my home and the schoolhouse. The songs that buzzed around my head included The Battle of New Orleans, Personality, Dream Lover,Mack the Knife, Charlie Brown, Teenager in Love, Put Your head on My Shoulder, Tiger, and Poison Ivy. For some reason, Elvis still hadn’t made an impression on me.
In 1960, I was singing along with just about every song in the top 20. My older sister was already 12, and she was winning contests on the radio, so 45’s started littering up the house, and I would play them when she wasn’t around. saw my first Elvis movie, “Flaming Star,” and started listening to my sister’s collection of his earlier hits. By 1961, I had heard enough music to develop a critical sense. I wondered what a boring song like “Michael Row The Boat Ashore” was doing at #1, knowing nothing about the folk music revival that was storming the colleges. For the most part, top 40 radio offered a rich variety of music, and the songs started to imprint themselves on me. . A Hundred Pounds of Clay, Runaway, Hit the Road jack, Who Put the bomp, Runaround Sue, I Like it Like That, Big Bad John, Sad Movies, and The Mountain’s High.” I even tried winning a record on the radio, sitting there for hours waiting for someone to sneeze so I could call in and say “Bless You.” When I finally heard the sneeze, and got through to the DJ, he asked me why I called. Nobody had sneezed. So I never won that copy of “Bless You” by Tony Orlando.That Christmas, my sister got a guitar and a copy of the soundtrack to Elvis’ movie, Blue Hawaii. She started crying when she saw that record cover. The only thing she ever learned to play on the guitar was the opening riff to the Peter Gunn theme. I got some bongos and played along to the Blue Hawaii soundtrack and learned to sing like Elvis.
Up until 1962, all I knew of music was the radio and the stacks of my mom and dad’s records In 1962 I discovered Columbia House Record Club, which offered a dozen albums for a penny, if you promised to buy another 12 at regular prices within a year. The fantastic thing about the record club ads was the way they presented the available records. Jazz, country, rock, pop, classical, folk, and spoken word were all mixed together in one gigantic potpourri of artists and styles. I took advantage of the offer and introduced myself to the world of broadway musicals and motion picture soundtracks. Radio was not, however, abandoned, and dozens of new songs entered my lifetime playlist, including Town Without Pity and The Wanderer, both of which I never stopped singing. Johnny Angel,Duke of Earl, Peppermint Twist, Sherry, Crying in the Rain, Patches, Walk on the Wild Side, and Johnny Get Angry also got stuck in my head.
Rock and roll had been fading since Elvis came out of the Army acting like a grown up, but the pap that had taken its place was pretty catchy stuff, and I loved all of it. 1963 boasted One Fine Day, Blue Velvet, The End of the world, He’s so fine, Busted, Hello Stranger, Surfer girl, Walk Right In, Heat Wave, I Will follow Him, It’s My Party, Fingertips, Hey Paula, and Puff the Magic Dragon. Then came 1964, Motown and the British Invasion. Almost every song on the radio for the next five years was great, and pop music was falling from industry domains into the hands of the common people.
Rather than a making lists of all the songs I remember from those days, I’ll try for a top ten for each year. And although this was the dawn of album oriented rock Ill start by limiting myself to top 40 singles.
1964: Do Wah Diddy, House of the Rising Sun, Memphis, Dont Let the Sun Catch You Crying , Leader of the Pack, You Really Got Me, Louie Louie, I Saw Her Standing There, The Girl From Ipanema, Wishin’ and Hopin’
1965: Like a Rolling Stone, Mr. Tambourine Man, My Girl, Downtown, Eve of Destruction, Goldfinger, For Your Love, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Tell Her No, Tracks of my Tears
1966: Paint it Black, When a Man Loves a Woman, 96 Tears, Walk Away Renee, You Dont have to Say You Love Me, Sounds of Silence, Shapes of Things, Bus Stop, Kicks, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
1967: Light My Fire, Whiter Shade of pale, For What it’s Worth, To Sir With Love, Happy Together, Ruby Tuesday, Georgy girl, We Aint got Nothin Yet, Alfie, Penny Lane
1968: Sunshine of Your Love, Dock of the Bay, Angel of the Morning, Jumpin Jack Flash, Hurdy gurdy Man, White room, Look of Love, Piece of my Heart, Good Band and the Ugly, I Wish it Would Rain
I realize this reads like a classic rock playlist, and doesnt come close to representing the music of this era. So to alleviate that shortcoming, I’ll try to choose the best 10 albums of these years. The exception is 1967,perhaps the most creative year in pop music, and I was forced to raise the ante to 30 albums. Also,I carried on to include 1969.
1964: Crescent (John Coltrane) Another Side (Bob Dylan) Dusty (Dusty Springfield) Out to Lunch (Eric Dolphy) Hard Day’s Night (Beatles) I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash) Getz/Gilberto (Stan Getz) Folk singer (Muddy Waters) Together (Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells) Tom Jones (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
1965: A Love Supreme (John Coltrane) Bringing it all Back Home (Bob Dylan) My Funny Valentine (Miles Davis) Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds) Fairytale (Donovan) Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan) December’s Children (Rolling Stones) Rubber Soul (Beatles) Heliocentric Worlds (Sun Ra) I Aint marchin Anymore (Phil Ochs)
1966: Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan) Freak Out (Mothers of Invention) Revolver (Beatles) Sounds of Silence (Simon and Garfunkle) Aftermath (Rolling Stones) The Fugs (Fugs) In Concert (Phil Ochs) Fresh Cream (Cream) Wild is the Wind (Nina Simone) Boom (the Sonics)
1967: The Doors (The Doors) Absolutely Free (Mothers of Invention) John Wesley Harding (Bob Dylan) Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane) A Gift from a Flower to the Garden (Donovan) Velvet Underground and Nico (Velvet Underground and Nico) Mellow Yellow (Donovan) Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix) Electric Music for the Mind and Body (Country Joe and the Fish) Sgt Peppers (Beatles) 5,000 Spirits or Layers of the Onion (Incredible String Band) Piper at the Gates of Dawn (Pink Floyd) Goodbye and Hello (Tim Buckley) Strange Days (Doors) Axis Bold as Love (Jimi Hendrix) Alice’s Restaurant (Arlo Guthrie) Procol Harum (Procol Harum) Chelsea Girl (Nico) Pleasures of the harbor (Phil Ochs) One Nation Underground (Pearls Before Swine) Wildflowers (Judy Collins) Disraeli Gears (Cream) Forever Changes (Love) Dear Mr.Fantasy (Traffic) Songs of (Leonard Cohen) Mixed Bag (Richie Havens) Straight No chaser (Thelonious Monk) Blues is King (BB King) Something Else (The Kinks) A Hard Road )John Mayall)
1968: We’re Only In it for the Money (Mothers of Invention) Astral Weeks (Van Morrison) Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter (Incredible String Band) Odyssey and oracle (The Zombies) Wee tam and the Big Huge (Incredible String Band) Music from Big Pink (The Band) Wheels of Fire (Cream) Tape from California (Phil Ochs) Truth (Jeff Beck Group) At Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash)
1969: Rehearsals for Retirement (Phil Ochs) Blue Afternoon (Tim Buckley) Dusty in Memphis (Dusty Springfield) With a Little help from my Friends (Joe Cocker) Clouds (Joni Mitchell) In a Silent Way (Miles Davis) The Band (The Band) Let it Bleed (Rolling Stones) Led Zeppelin 2 (Led Zeppelin) Everybody Knows this is Nowhere (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)