Note to the Boys: Music Through the Years
Updated: Oct 5, 2019
NOTE FROM THE END: Okay, just finished this first draft. It’s WAY longer than I imagined it might be so I’m going to post it in parts – looks like roughly thirds but it’s not linked to the content just what I think will fit in the blog parameters. Anyway, enjoy.
Justin and I were talking about music and history (trying to avoid politics) a while back and he asked me to put together of list of favorite or meaningful songs for each year – kind of a musical diary of who/what/how music was part of my life. So, this is a stream of consciousness mix of names, dates, stories, etc. Not sure how far I’ll get but here’s a start.
I lived in a very musical household. If you’ve ready Jimburdine.com “My Musical History” you know quite a bit about that. But going through the Billboard magazine list of “hit songs” by year (how I decided to organize this activity) has brought to the surface many memories that were buried under years of fatty deposits in my brain.
Born in 1947. Obviously, I don’t remember anything from then, but family influences around music were significant in early years. According to Billboard Magazine, there were three big songs in 1947 – “Near You” by Francis Craig (never heard or heard of), “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” by Louis Jordan (also never heard/heard of), and “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!” Definitely one I remember – by Tex Williams. Although I’m sure it was at least age 4-5 before I was conscious of much around me, I certainly can sing the first couple of lines without any prompting so penetrated somehow!
1948 – got nothing.
1949 – “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” by The Vaughn Monroe Orchestra. Lots of folks recorded, but you may be more familiar with Johnny Cash’s version. Again, I don’t remember it from two years old, but certainly heard it many times since then.
1950 – “Goodnight Irene” by Gordon Jenkins and the Weavers. You may remember Gordon Jenkins from the story on “My Musical History” about me smacking the reverb on my keyboard. . . yeah, THAT Gordon Jenkins. You’ll also remember “Goodnight Irene” from many bar scenes in B movies of the last century. (If they ever do a movie version of my brother-in-law Ron DeFore’s book on his dad and Disneyland, “Growing Up In Disneyland” there should be a scene with Don singing along with a group of WWII soldiers in an English bar . . .)
So, as I’m going through this table of Pop, R&B/Soul, and Country songs on the Billboard website, it’s interesting how many of the songs I remember are in the Country column.
That’s funny to think about because we typically didn’t have the radio playing at home and certainly not country music. TV was only an hour or two in the evening . . . maybe a bit before dinner - “Sheriff John,” “Engineer Bill,” and “Popeye” were my favorites. By far my musical memories come from the “HIFI” record player we had in the hall right outside the bedroom Linda and I shared until I got MY OWN room. My memory is that every night my dad would put a stack of LP’s (that’s long-playing records for the uninitiated), of classical music and we’d listen to that to fall asleep. Not sure how accurate that memory is, but it is certainly pervasive. Oh, “HIFI” was the precursor to stereo. We had a Packard Bell, I believe. Open the top and there was the turntable and controls for the radio. Big woofer (10-12 inch) and a couple of tweeters. Put out a decent sound. (Years later after Dad invested in a “real” stereo [he bought a very nice system], I was allowed to scavenge the speakers out of the HIFI and used them in my car. I eventually replaced them with a bookshelf speaker from Radio Shack with an 8-inch woofer and 3-inch tweeter that could handle quite a bit of power. I mounted the cabinet so it was easily removable from the back of my Opal station wagon. The Opal came with an AM/FM radio – NOBODY had FM radio’s in their cars (except Opals and Volvos) and cause the only stations were jazz, nobody missed it. Later in the 60’s when FM became cool and bands started paying more attention to the quality of their recordings, you could actually find value in an FM radio.
I used to take the Opal to the beach and put the speaker up on top, and play the music loud enough to hear from the parking lot. Everybody thought that was cool (or at least that’s what I wanted to believe!) At that time most cars only came with a front dash speaker (high end cars MAYBE a rear speaker too) but fidelity was iffy. Having “real” speakers was unheard of.
Wow, I’ve certainly wandered off into the weeds. Only up to 1951! Ok, on to 1952 – Of course you’re going to recognize “Blue Tango” by Leroy Anderson (if you’ve ever been in a Walmart after 10 PM!) Never heard/heard of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” or “The Wild Side of Life,” Billboard’s other listings for 1952.
1953 – “Song from Moulin Rouge” is another burned into my brain – but mostly from Junior High dances (early “slow dancing”!!) Just notice Willie Nelson recorded this too! Interesting too, that it’s called “Song from Moulin Rouge” as opposed to whatever the name of the song should be based on the lyrics, right??? I mean who ever heard of “Song from Jaws” or “Song from Top Gun”?
Anyway, the “country” song for 1953 is “Kaw-Liga.” I’m familiar with the song (primarily the melody) but when I listened to it just now I realized, especially in the Charley Pride version (Hank Williams Jr recorded the 1953 version), I thought they were saying “Elijah!” Apparently not.
OK, jumping ahead to 1955. Would have been 8 years old and had started piano lessons. The “pop” listing is “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado. Perez was a trumpet player with a “Latin Jazz” orchestra. A few years later this would be the song we learned who to dance the “Cha Cha” to in junior high dance class.
1956 the world changed (well one of many times) when Elvis had the pop hit song of the year with “Heartbreak Hotel.” This was about the time I started thinking in terms of records as “things” and realizing they were organized as “singles” and “albums.” I mean I knew about albums cause of our nightly listening, courtesy of my dad, but didn’t think of them as a thematic whole for a few years. Quick side-bar. Mom and dad used to love to take us to listen to live music at the Hollywood Bowl. If you took your own blanket, you could sit up on the hillside (WAY up in the nosebleed section) for practically nothing and eat a picnic dinner. Seems like we did that dozens of times – especially in the summer. It was amazing to hear live symphonic music in that setting.
1957 was “All Shook Up” for pop and “Jailhouse Rock/Treat Me Nice” was the R&B/Soul chart topper - a “two-fer” for Elvis. “My Fair Lady” sound track was the album of the year (first time I think they awarded that).
1958’s “pop” hit was a song commonly known as “Volare” (has a longer title I’m not going to bother typing). Almost every year, it seems, there was a foreign language song that make it big (mostly French). The linked version is Dean Martin’s with English lyrics. We’ll have to see if my hypothesis holds as we look ahead.
1959 was the first “story song” I can remember – the “pop” hit “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton. (“In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Missi-sip.” Best line is: “We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down, so we grabbed an alligator and we fired another round. We filled his head with cannon balls, and powdered his behind. And when we touched the powder off the gator lost his mind!” Awesome for a 12-year old’s imagination!
Same year the theme from the TV show Peter Gunn was big. I remember figuring it out on the piano and feeling pretty cool. (da, da, duh, da, duh, da, dah, dah.) Henry Mancini was the composer and over the years I play many of his tunes at school as well as piano and organ lessons at home.
Alright, 1960. Turned 13 that summer and “Theme from a Summer Place” (the movie) was the pop hit. Talk about the all-time slow dance fav – that was it. Hank Locklin’s “Please Help Me I’m Falling (in love with you)” was the country hit. Don’t remember the artist, but certainly do the song.
1961, I would have turned 14 that summer. Pop hit was “Tossin and Turnin” by Bobby Lewis(?) It was also the R&B/Soul hit. I’ve only mentioned one album of the year winner (“My Fair Lady”) since they started listing that award, but definitely should include the “Camelot” sound track as the winner for 1961 since it was the first “musical” I ever paid much attention to. Of course, Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces”, the country winner was a huge hit.
It occurs to me that we heard lots of country music every summer when we’d visit Louisiana, Arkansas and East Texas on our family vacations. Backstory: You know from Jimburdine.com that mom and dad left Arkansas during the depression and moved to LA. The only relatives we had there (after my grandmother passed when I was an infant) was Uncle Tommy (dad’s brother) and his wife Lillian, and a couple of my dad’s relatives (Aunt Annie – his aunt) and her kids. While we saw all of them occasionally, mom and dad decided to make the effort to get back to Arkansas/Louisiana/East Texas every summer to be around the rest of the family. I’m not sure of the actual frequency – it seems like every year, but may not have been 100%. I can remember being as young as 4-5 and up through 15 or 16. We’d drive (sometimes took the train and even once flew) - a 3-4-day trip, spend several weeks, and then drive back. I remember dad wasn’t always with us or not for the whole visit (cause of work/vacation limits). I’m assuming he drive back on his own, visited and then we all traveled back together. Those trips home often involved lots of side trips to national parks and roadside “adventures.” We saw Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Monument National Park, Yellowstone, etc. Pretty much all the major national parts west of the Mississippi and south of Canada. Those rides were where my sister Linda and I learned how to sing harmony because lots of the way there wasn’t even a radio signal so you’d have to fill the air time with your own music. When you could get a station, it was 99% county music – so maybe that’s why so much country music from that era is familiar.
Also, when we were in AR, LA and TX, most of the music on the radio etc. was country (a pinch of Cajun). Of course, as the years went by and the “cousins” get to be teens, rock and roll became dominant but never fully replaced country. My mom’s youngest brother, Uncle Hardy, and his wife Evie, had two kids, my cousins Vicky and Robin. Hardy/Evie had a third child, Buddy, who died very young. Anyway, Vicky was my age, Robin a couple of years older and we were very close throughout those summer visits. Robin played the clarinet quite well and one summer (after I’d started to play (clarinet) we played a duet (Muskrat Ramble) for the whole family. I thought I was very cool! Vicky’s girlfriends were some of my first “crushes.” Don’t remember any names but certainly the feelings!
Mom’s sister Corrine, had two kids – our cousins Judy, her oldest, and Charles Regan (never heard him called anything but that or “Charles Regan Evans get your butt in here”). “Regan,” as we called him, was the wild and crazy cousin. Lived out his adult through a career as a professional bull rider. Sadly, he passed away a couple of years ago.
Mom’s oldest brother, Uncle Bill, was a very successful businessman, owned a lumber company (thousands of acres of timber and a saw mill). He had a son, Gary, who was also part of the “summer posse.” Over the course of a typical summer we’d stay a week or so with each family and although they weren’t all close by, the whole clan gathered pretty regularly so I’m gonna say most weekends it wasn’t just Mom, Linda and me with one family, it was more likely 2-3-4 families.
Over the year’s Uncle Hardy (my mom’s younger brother) took it on himself to try and outdo the previous summer . . . especially in the category of watermelons! He’d send one of his guys out (he had lots of employees – most plumbing and AC guys [built pools for a while too] – to bring back the biggest watermelon they could find. More than one topped 100 lbs! Weren’t always the sweetest, but my goodness they were big!!
Also, part of our summers was spent with Uncle Earl and Aunt Marjorie, with their kids Kathy and Ben. They were a couple of years younger – Ben was about Linda’s age and Kathy a couple of years younger. They lived in Texarkana, TX.
Quick geography lesson. Mom and dad were from Camden – south central Arkansas. Uncle Hardy lived there until the 1980’s when his WHOLE family moved to Jonesboro, AR. Aunt Corrine lived in Crossett, AR until the late 70’s when mom and dad, Corrine and Freddy (a second marriage), and Earl and Marjorie all moved to Lake Claiborne, near Homer, LA (northeastern LA). Crossett is about 90 minutes east of Camden. Uncle Bill and family lived in Ruston, LA which is about 90 minutes South of Camden. Texarkana, TX is 90 minutes west of Camden. So, we spent lots of time driving in that 90-minute radius!
OK, way off topic from music, but just to fill in a couple of blanks. Mom’s two other sibling, Aunt Thelma and Aunt Dovie/Uncle Frank, all lived in Camden, walking distance (literally across the street) from Uncle Hardy. Aunt Dovie was the oldest sibling and she and Uncle Frank were already “old” when I got to know them during our summer visits. Uncle Frank was a carpenter (complete with 2-3 fingers partially missing) and a part-time Baptist minister. He took great relish in messing with my mom over things like teaching Linda and I how to “sop” with a biscuit (definitely not on the Miss Manners guide to proper etiquette). Uncle Frank’s wood pile was also were I had my run-in with a Black Widow spider. Ended up in the hospital – I think just one night – but the doctor kept the spider (which Frank had captured) and family story goes that he “has it embedded in plastic on his desk to this day.” Dovie and Frank’s kids were all older – in army or college most of the time we would visit as I recall. It doesn’t really fit, but I do have to tell you that visiting the cousins, and especially their friends, as a “California surfer” – complete with sun-bleached hair and a tan, was pretty cool in the late 50’s and early 60’s! Definitely good for the ego! Dawn, Linda and mom also made a trip to Arkansas/Louisiana one year (maybe 1968?)
OK, back to music. Jeez, just 1962?? Well, that is a great year for musical memories. Since I’d been playing clarinet since 3rd grade (age 8 – 1955), I was a pretty good player. In fact, in Jr. High (8th grade) Mr. Schwartz, the band director, asked me to switch to bass clarinet and he picked a couple of tunes that featured that instrument in concert band – not solo, but prominent parts. The pop song hit of 1962 “Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk (who calls themselves “Mr.?) Anyway, it’s a clarinet-lead piece and that was pretty unusual (except for occasional Dixieland songs that would get air play).
“Westside Story” was the album of the year – Leonard Bernstein at his best – and of course every high school band was trying to play dumbed-down versions to be “hip.” The R&B/Soul hit, according to Billboard was “Soul Twist” by King Curtis. Although it’s a tenor sax lead, and I’d switched to tenor and baritone sax by then (10th grade) I really have little memory of the tune. The country hit “Wolverton Mountain,” on the other hand, e HI can probably sing about 90% right now.
So high school, for me, was all about music. Even though I was in the “gifted program” and we had special classes, I was never really part of the smart-nerd crowd, more the music-nerd type. I’d quite surfing (cause of my vision) so music began my “thing.” I played in the marching band in the fall (bass clarinet 10th grade, baritone sax 11th grade and tenor sax 12th grade), the concert band in the spring (bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, and baritone sax, and then the jazz ensemble both fall and spring (baritone 10th and 11th grad, lead tenor sax 12th grade).
The jazz ensemble, called the Samohi Serenaders (we all hated that name) was a classic big band (16-18 piece – 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxes and a rhythm section (piano, string bass and drums). There were five soloists – first trumpet, first trombone, alto sax, tenor sax and piano. Exceptions were occasionally baritone sax solos, bass and drum solos. If you listen to the Serenaders recordings I have on Jimburdine.com you’ll hear examples of most of that. Mr. Richard Wagnon was the band director – a good jazz trumpet player but an even better band director – especially the Serenaders. A combination of a great director and some talent, we (the Serenaders) ended up winning the Los Angeles County School Districts combined “Battle of the Bands” twice while I was in high school. Held every spring in the Hollywood Bowl, bands from schools all over LA County, plus some private entries, competed before a live audience and panel of judges (big name musicians, composers, directors). It was VERY intense and lots of crash and burns as well as phenomenal performances. It was all high school kids but by 12th grade – age 17 or some 18-year olds, there were some pretty darn good players. The Jimburdine.com discussion talks about the personnel (roots of the InRhodes) and on the “listen” pages for the Serenaders, there is a great story about our own “crash and burn moment” at the Hollywood Bowl.
All of that was to say that my musical interests were varied and wide – learning (and learning about) jazz, big band ensembles, while being a normal teenager and listening to local pop radio (and somehow some country thrown in there), I was absorbing and exposed to LOTS of different kinds of music.
Besides school bands in 11th grade I was also in a “surf band” for a while (playing tenor) and late in 1964 (start of senior year), I was part of two groups - “The Fog Men” a “British invasion” cover band, and “The Paragons” more of a surf band. The former was terrible, we wore wigs with “Beatle cuts” (well at least I did – that’s what we’d planned but our first gig I was the only one who showed in with flowing tresses). We played at a school assembly – I think that was our second and last performance. I also played in a jazz trio with Vic Spiegel and our string bass play – John – wish I could remember his last name. Vic and John were the pianist and bass players with the Serenaders. We played a few Bar Mitzvah’s and a wedding reception (I think they were all relatives of Vic’s – don’t remember getting paid but it was fun to put on a tie and play for adults). Vic went on to be a successful jazz pianist in LA.
. . . STOP the PRESSES! News flash – my sister, Linda, just sent me a package of “treasures from the attic.” Among them was a 45 with two recordings I’d totally forgotten. One side is “Surf Drums” (the Paragons) featuring Mike Faulkner on alto sax and Forrest Peques on drums. The other side is the Serenaders doing “Sunday Morning” written by Neal Hefti – I play baritone sax on both. Fits right into this timeline.
OK, now I promise to stick to the “list.” BUT, I have to go back a bit ‘cause there was much going on that the “hit” records list misses. OK, 1960 - I was 13 that summer. Wasn’t working yet (except paper route) so I think this was my last summer to basically spend the day at the beach 4-5 days a week. I would take the bus down Wilshire Blvd and meet friends before noon. We’d fry/bake on the beach until 3-4 and then bus home. We didn’t “party” at that age (except birthdays etc.) but MYF (Methodist Youth Foundation) on sunday nights was definitely the place to meet young ladies. OK, getting into the weeds again . . . point I was trying to make is that somebody would always have a transistor radio to listen to so we had 5-6 hours a day of exposure. So just going down the list for 1960’s “hot singles” not surprisingly “Theme from a Summer Place” - #1 song tops the overall list. A country song, “He’ll Have to Go,” was #2. Then the Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown” was #3. The Everly Brothers were one of the biggest acts in “rock” before Elvis. He kind of blew them off the air. They had a similar rock/county feel as Elvis, great harmonies but little personality. They were sort of the last of the 50’s rock and roll in my mind.
#4, “Running Bear” (or was it Bare!?!?! – the 13-year-old joke of the day) was a country hit (“story song” like Battle of New Orleans). Then #5 “Teen Angel” - one hit wonder Mark Dinning’s only record. Again, a last gasp of the 50’s.
Elvis has two on the top 20 – “It’s Now or Never” #7 and #9 “Stuck on You.” “The Twist” by Chubby Checker is between Elvis’ at #8 (nearing the end of “dance-named songs” that dominated the last 50’s).
Three more I need to mention for historical contexts’ sake. “Greenfields” was a folksong by the “Brothers Four” – there had been a huge folk song movement in the late 50’s (Burl Ives) that lead up to TV staples like the Smother’s Brothers Show. I was never a big “folkie” but that influence certainly reappeared in the late 60’s anti-war song and bands like the Byrds. The last two I want to mention are “El Paso” by Marty Robbins – one of the great country voices and yes, another “story song,” and “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles. “Alley Oop” is a “novelty tune” about a comic strip character of the same name. Rode around on a dinosaur and I don’t remember much because I think the humor was over my head (when I was reading newspaper comic strips . . . 5-6 years old or so). Those novelty tunes like “Poison Ivy” and “Love Potion #9” were lots of fun to listen to but I don’t ever recall hearing/seeing anybody perform them live.
OK, I lied, two more. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” has to be acknowledge for its special place in the 1960’s at the beach. Overnight, one-piece bathing suits were replaced by various degrees of scandalous bikinis!
All right, last one, I promise. “Walk Don’t Run” by the Ventures was one of the
few surf tunes to ever make the Billboard list. Spent many evenings at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium watching surf movies with live or taped surf bands playing along with a live narrator (kinda like silent movies with a piano or organist).
1961’s list has a couple of big one’s too – “Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and Del Shannon’s “Runaway” have to be noted. The Shirelle’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” is one of the early “Black girl” group hits.
OK, 1962 – I already mentioned Mr. Acker Bilk, but other tunes of significance to me were “The Stripper” by the David Rose Orchestra (cause it was a big band tune), the “Loco-motion” by Little Eva – and “Wah-Watusi” by The Orlons (dance-name songs). Finally, the Beach Boys “Surfin Safari” shows up at number 100!
On to 1963. Jumping to #1 is the Beach Boys with “Surfing USA.” I was never really a big Beach Boys Fan – as a band. Enjoyed the songs because they were about surfing (I’ve surfed at all the places mentioned in Surfin USA – except Waimea Bay - but they weren’t surfers), enjoyed their musicianship and vocals most. They weren’t really a local rival band because they got big very early and quickly, although they were a “west side” [of LA] band. More direct competition came from the Crossfires from Westchester. They went on to become “The Turtles” and then “Flo and Eddie.” One of the things about the Beach Boys was that they were able to jump from “50’s” to “60’s” feel seemingly overnight. Also two folk songs in the top 20 – “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Blowin in the Wind” (#12 and 13) by Peter, Paul and Mary.
Surf music – “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris, “Wild Weekend” by the Rebels, and “Pipeline” by the Chantays. “Walk Like a Man” by the Four Seasons was #18. East coast, do-wop roots had a national impact but not particularly strong in LA. I have to include “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas just because I’ve played that song in almost every band I’ve ever been in. My favorite version is Linda Ronstadt’s.
1964 – 11th grade was a huge year – particularly that summer as the Beatles arrived in the US and played in the Hollywood Bowl - the Beatle and the whole British Invasion was in full swing. For example, #’s 1, 2, 13, 14, 16, 40, 52, 55 and 95 (out of 100) were the Beatles! Also, in the top 100 from England were Chad and Jeremy’s “A Summer Song,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “How Do You Do What You Do to Me? By Gerry and the Pacemakers, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann, “A World Without Love” by Peter and Gordon, “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals, “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, “Glad All Over” and four more by the Dave Clark Five, and two you’ve probably never heard by The Searchers. Too tired to count, but that’s got to be a third of the top 100? Two years back – maybe 2-3 total from outside the US per year. Quite a change!
1964 also had “Pretty Woman” Roy Orbison (#4), “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve” from Jan and Dean (trying SOO hard to keep up with the Beach Boys!), and “Dancing in the Streets” by Martha and the Vandellas. Heck of a year! Oddly, “Money” and “Louie, Louie” by the Kingsmen were both in 1964 – I would have guessed earlier if you’d asked me.
1965 – Graduated from high school that June. Formed the InRhodes that summer with Jim Bunnell, Jim Odom, Mike Faulkner and Forrest Peques. We added Howard Lane that fall (whom we met at Santa Monica City College . . . an okay trumpet player but excellent guitarist. We replace Forrest with Dave DeFore the spring of 1966. Besides rehearsing usually Thursday nights, and a gig almost every weekend (sometimes both nights), we listened to lots of live music. The Sunset Strip was changing from an aging alcoholic actors’ hangout to the new hip place to be in LA. Lots of clubs so we could hear live jazz, folk music, and rock sometimes all three in one evening.
As far as hit songs go, every song on the top ten has a story! Well maybe not “Wooly Bully” (#1) but the Four Top’s “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch,” “Satisfaction” by the Stones, “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers, “Help!” by the Beatles . . . I mean the list goes on and on! In fact, as I look through the top 100 for 1965, if I never heard any other music that those 100, I’m not sure I would feel like I was missing much! I mean you have the Beatles, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Kinks, the Kingsmen, Sam Cooke, the Moody Blues, the Righteous Brothers, Beach Boys, the Supremes, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Marvin Gaye, the Zombies, the Miracles . . .
1966 – In my senior year in high school, up through the spring of ’66, I’d been dating my first serious girlfriend. Dawn Kaylor. None of the other InRhodes had serious girlfriends so I got a lot of pressure to “lose the ball and chain” (what an idiot!) Anyway, a number of songs from that year have an emotional tinge as a result. ’66 the InRhodes were really coming into their own – playing all the big frat parties and UCLA and USC, house band at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium’s “Summer at the Civic” concerts, signing with Dunhill Records, recording etc. It was also a great year for turmoil in popular music, judging from the top 100 list. There was distinct evolution between the simplistic “end of the 50’s and early 60’s music and the mid-60’s (and beyond) feel. Yeah, you still had songs like “96 tears” by ? and the Mysterians, (that was there name “? And the Mysterians”) and “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkeys. But also the Four Tops "Reach Out I’ll be There," "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and Papas, “Summer in the City” by the Lovin Spoonful and “Sunny” by Bobby Hebb. Well, ok, may not so sophisticated cause there’s “Wild Thing” by the Troggs and “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James. Yet, the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” and “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel are there too. Guess I stick with my “year of transitions” argument.
Alright, 1967 – “Light My Fire” by the Doors (duh) as #6 and “Happy Together” by the Turtles (#8) are also deep in my psyche cause first one is a serious organ tune (as opposed to 96 Tears or most of the previous music where organ was an afterthought or used for a little melodic hook), and the second is one because I’ve played them 9000 times with almost every band over the years. Summer of ‘66 is when I met Miss Dawn at one of the Summer at the Civic gigs. The Young Rascals were among our favorite bands – their songs “Groovin” and “How Can I Be Sure?” were both 1967 top 100 tunes and two of “our” songs.
It's funny that I was never a big “Doors” fan – I mean we played opposite each other at a few gigs but they were really in a different league – not so much talent, although plenty of that, but they were definitely on a different wave length personally and as a band.
I should probably talk about “Black music” a bit and I think ’67 is a good year for that. Although the Watts Riots were in August of 1965, the repercussions were still very strong two summers later. Background - Dan Bagasao (“Bag ‘o soul”) was the lead trumpet in the Serenaders my first year. He was Filipino (a large community in West LA) and great trumpet player. Went on to a solid career as a jazz trumpeter in LA but died relatively young. Once in a while he would take 3-4 of us out at lunch from school (open campus, three blocks from the beach and he drove) and buy a six pack of beer. We’d each have one then after lunch and then go to the jazz band class. To be clear, these were the “mini-cans” – don’t see them in Texas – but you do see soda cans that size – just enough for a buzz. (Perhaps TMI). Anyway, my reason for mentioning Dan was because he introduced me and a couple of the guys to playing at a Pentecostal Church that had Sunday evening praise service that was essentially a 2-3 hour jam session. 8-10 maybe 15 musicians would show up and cycle in and out as one praise/gospel song would evolve into another. Some of the players were professionals, some were more amateur, but the music was amazing. Even though I was decently proficient on my instrument (playing tenor at that time), I was still pretty new to improvisation and this kind of a jam. The leader would gesture in your direction and if you didn’t “jump in” you got skipped next time around. You got better at improv FAST or you didn’t come back. I loved it – “cool Jesus!”
I remember one evening in particular. Now this was about 150 people (99% Black) in an old church sanctuary (one big room), piano, Hammond organ, drums and whatever percussion + what guys brought in – mostly wind instruments – funny I don’t remember any electric guitars. Definitely bass players (both acoustic and electric). There was a choir – maybe 20 voices (and of course the congregation). There was a message woven into the music (if you’re not familiar with the Church of God in Christ [COGIC] and the term “praise break” my apologies but your education is lacking! – (look on YouTube), but you never really knew what was next. Anyway, maybe an hour into it, this young woman – late 20’s? – came down the aisle (lots of folks were already at the altar) carrying her daughter in her arms. The girl was probably 10-12 years old – the woman was barely able to carry her (arms and legs almost dragging on the ground cause the kid was big and the mom was pretty small. Anyway, turns out it was a “healing service” and she’s brought her daughter. The child had hydrocephalus – “water on the brain” (results in a greatly enlarged head – usually fixable with surgery). Don’t google it unless you want to see some pretty disturbing pictures. Anyway, the whole service (probably another two hours) became focused on this woman and particularly her baby. There wasn’t a miraculous healing or anything (at least that I could see) but I’ve had few experiences in church that were that deep. Anyway, I probably sat in a dozen times over the next year or so – kinda dropped out after Dan graduated.
My point in telling that story was to begin to explain my relationship and understanding of Black music so some of my comments aren’t just based on “well Motown was big so sure dad must have listened to Black music.” Far different from that. The ethnic and cultural aspects of music were engrained in me early on – playing at bar mitzvahs and Jewish weddings, a black church and with every flavor of white and black as well as Filipino music/musicians, really opened my eyes to the world around me. It’s gonna sound hokey, but I think part of the reason I got into public health is the prominent role that culture and ethnicity play in my musical education.