The Internet is an amazing resource, isn’t it? For good (and sometimes for unsavory) reasons.
As a guy who grew to manhood during Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Golden Age, I find it remarkable that I can watch videos of many of the singers and groups I enjoyed back in the day. You know some of the names…Elvis, Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee, the Platters, the Everly Brothers, and, yes, the ill-fated Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens. All were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Other personal favorites were one-hit wonders -- the Aquatones, the Demensions (a misspelling?), the Nutmegs, the Penguins -- but I’ve found videos of these doo wop groups on the Internet, too.
Unless you were there, you may find it difficult to believe how talented these performers were, and to what lengths we’d go to see them.
As a teen, I made the trek to the old State Theater in Hartford to watch a few of Alan Freed’s shows. In Christmas week of 1956, my friend Jack and I boarded the New Haven Railroad for a trip to New York City, where Freed’s holiday show was performing to sell-out crowds at the Paramount Theater on Broadway.
If memory serves, the roster of stars at the Paramount included Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Jackie Wilson, a young Paul Anka, the Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Clanton, Clyde McPhatter and the “blonde bombshell,” Joanne Campbell. Kids were literally dancing in the aisles.
Growing up in the New Haven area, we were delighted when a local group named the Five Satins crashed the national spotlight in 1956 with their hit, “In the Still of the Night.” You may have seen the lead singer, Fred Parris, accompanied by a new group of Satins perform on PBS specials in recent years.
A close friend from New Haven, Andy Dio, was an aspiring singer and trumpet player who performed throughout Connecticut and cut several records in the late ‘50s. One evening, I accompanied Andy to Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport where he shared the stage with Bobby Rydell. I may be biased, but the applause for Andy that night exceeded that for the better-known Rydell.
On another occasion, Andy and I encountered Alan Freed in the lobby of the State Theater in Hartford. (I can’t recall whether the disc jockey who coined the term ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and popularized the music throughout the U.S. was arriving or departing.) Andy provided an introduction.
My late mother-in-law, Alice Cook, was aware of my fondness for doo wop and, on one birthday, she presented me the book Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n’ Roll, written by Norm N. Nite. It was helpful for me to compile this alphabetized list of my personal favorite artists and their most memorable songs. Enjoy.
The Aquatones, “You,” 1958
Chuck Berry, “Sweet Little Sixteen,” 1958
The Cleftones, “Little Girl of Mine,” 1956
The Crests, “Sixteen Candles,” 1958
The Del Vikings, “Come Go With Me,” 1957
The Demensions, “Over the Rainbow,” 1960
The Duprees, “You Belong to Me,” 1962
The Everly Brothers, “Wake Up Little Susie,” 1957
The Five Satins, “In the Still of the Night,” 1956
The Flamingos, “Lovers Never Say Goodbye,” 1958
Charlie Gracie, “Butterfly,” 1957
Buddy Holly and the Crickets, “That’ll Be the Day,” 1957
Johnnie and Joe, “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea,” 1957
Buddy Knox, “Party Doll,” 1957
Brenda Lee, “That’s All You Gotta Do,” 1960
Mickey and Sylvia, “Love is Strange,” 1956
The Nutmegs, “Story Untold,” 1955
Roy Orbison, “Ooby Dooby,” 1956
The Penguins, “Earth Angel,” 1954
The Platters, “The Great Pretender,” 1955
Elvis Presley, “Don’t Be Cruel,” 1956
Bobby Rydell, “Kissin’ Time,” 1959
Jack Scott, “My True Love,” 1958
The Teddy Bears, “To Know Him is to Love Him,” 1958
Ritchie Valens, “Donna,” 1958
Jackie Wilson, “Lonely Teardrops,” 1958
Kathy Young and the Innocents, “A Thousand Stars,” 1960
Happy New Year to all Patch readers.