Class of 1957
recent update: 8-22-2007
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1957 saw rock born
Ken Ringle for the Washington Post reprinted in Fort Wayne Journal
Gazette August 12, 2007
my brother, nine years younger, saw a list of downloaded songs
(put together for a 50th high school class reunion) he said, "this
is the birth of rock-and-roll! You all were there at the beginning!"
Without the music we listened to between 1953 and 1957, the Rolling
Stones, for example, could never have hit a guitar chord. Too
;young for Korea and too old for Vietnam, we chose to serve our
country by upgrading its musical paradigm. The year before we
entered high school a nationwide hit was Patti Page singing how
much is "That Doggie in the Window." We left to the
sounds of Bo Diddley, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee
Lewis, Fats Domino, Joe Turner and ray Charles, among many, many
other now legend - not to mention the peerless doo-wop groups
such as the Platters, the Clovers and the Dominoes. Buddy Holly,
Motown and the Beatles were waiting in the wings.
Our class' seismic contribution is not generally appreciated,
largely because the baby boomers - so many! So self-reverential!
- like to think nothing ever happened in popular culture until
they started tie-dyeing T-shirts and rolling joints. The record,
however, is clear, as were the records: We even sang lyrics you
could hear and understand
is not to say that we were wholly immune to mainstream musical
figures like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or even, Pat Boone. I
could easily have filled the evening (of the reunion) with well-remembered
tunes by Elvis or the Platters, there were countless one-hit groups
whose names I couldn't remember. Each classmate I consulted had
a favorite song I had forgotten. Everybody remembered "Earth
Angel," for example, but who remembered it ws not the Platters
but the Penguins? I thought "Hearts of Stone" was by
the McGuire Sisters. It took weeks before I found it was by the
were other mysteries as well. Was "Speedo" ("They
often call me Speedo/But my real name is Mr. Earl"). How
we missed the social messages in some of these songs? In "One
Mint Julep," the Clovers sing, "I'm through with flirtin'
and drinkin' whiskey/ I got six extra children/From getting frisky."
Isn't that a warning against alcohol abuse?
After "Work With Me Annie," Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
recorded "Annie Had a Baby," declaring that now every
time Annie starts working "she has to stop and walk the baby
'cross the floor
that's what happens when the getting' gets
what about "Silhouettes" by the Rays? The singer, playing
peeping Tom on his girlfriend, discovers her silhouetted with
another man in the window of her house. Broken-hearted, he pounds
on the door to confront her perfidy, only to find he's on the
wrong block. It's not even her house. Couldn't this be a protest
against the banal anonymity of '50s housing patterns and architecture?
Well, maybe not.
Some of our music has been reborn on movie soundtracks in more
recent years: Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin"
Goin' On" in "The Year of Living Dangerously,""Sixty
Minute Man" in Bull Durham," "Love Is Strange"
in "Dirty Dancing," I Got a Woman" in "Ray,"
and so forth. Other songs, like those from Elvis, the Platters,
Chuck Berry and Ray Charles, have just never died. On the other
hand, a song like "Sh-Boom" by the Crew Cuts is nothing
more than a tiny frozen window into 1954, when it ws recorded.
It hasn't been reborn, isn't about to come back and would be a
total shrug to anyone born later, though it was a huge hit at
the time and is widely considered the first doo-wop song put on
When it first emerged, rock 'n' roll was about more than adolescent
rebellion, pulsating danceable rhythms and discomfiting parents.
It was also about romance, longing (requited and unrequited, emotional
as well as sexual), the enigmas and injustices of fate and blue
suede shoes. The saxophone, not the electric guitar, was the dominant
instrument of rock 'n roll's evolution in the 1950s. Jazz was
almost as influential as rhythm and blues in some cases, especially
the harmonically sophisticated Four Freshmen, whom Brian Wilson
of the Beach Boys would later tag as a major influence. And, not
insignificantly, women were celebrated, not just as sexual objects
but as mysterious desirable powers who were usually in charge
of any relationship. (Victims need not apply, whatever feminist
revisionists might argue later.)
one name you will not find on (the author's) list if Bill Haley.
Haley's "Rock Around the Clock," one of the most inane
and dismissible ditties ever recorded, is too frequently identified
as a seminal anthem in the evolution of rock 'n' roll. Culturally,
it was nothing of the kind. Haley was a no-talent white musician
with a no-talent white band, who exploited a phrase from an old
blues song, sped up the temp and turned it into a one-dimensional
teen hit. But the song made money and spawned too many plastic
Those of us in the class of 1957 remember - and treasure - the
real thing. Especially 50 years later.
the list of Ken Ringle's top choices:
"Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace
"Twilight Time" by the Platters
"Come Go With Me" by the Dell Vikings
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" by Jerry Lee Lewis
"In the Still of the Night" by the Five Satins
"Work With Me Annie" by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters
"Annie Had a Baby" by Hank Ballard
"In This Whole Wide World" by the Four Freshmen
"Sh-Boom" by the Crew Cuts
"Hey Miss Fannie" by The Clovers
"The Glory of Love" by the Five Keys
"The Wheel of Fortune" by the Cardinals
"Searchin'" by the Coasters.
"Little Darlin'" by the Diamonds
"Crying in the Chapel" by the Orioles
"It Should've Been Me" by Ray Charles
"Young Love" by Sonny James
"Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price
"Love Letters in the Sand" by Pat Boon
"(Let Me Be Your) teddy Bear" by Elvis Presley
"Ain't That a Shame" by Fats Domino
"Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes
"Teach Me Tonight" by Brenda Lee
"Eyesight to the Blind" by the Larks
"Tears on My Pillow" by Little Anthony and the Imperials
"Love is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia
"The Great Pretender" by the Platters
"Money Honey" by the Drifters
"Silhouettes" by the Rays
"Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lymon and the
"I Got a Woman" by Ray Charles
"P.S. I Love You" by the Hilltoppers
"No, Not Much!" by the Four Lads
"Earth angel (Will You be Mine) by the Penguins
"Ting-a-Ling" by the Clovers
"You've Got) The Magic Touch" by the Platters
"Yakety Yak" by the Coaters
"Love is a Many-Splendored Thing" by the Four Lands
"Chances Are" by Johnny Mathis
"Let the Good Times Roll" by Shirley & Lee
"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" by the Platters
"Hearts of Stone" by the Fontane Sisters
"Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Joe Turner
"You Send Me" by Sam Cooke
"Get a Job" by the Silhouettes
"Devil or Angel" by the Clovers
"Sweet Little Sixteen" by Chuck Berry
"My Prayer" by the Platters
"One Mint Julep" by the Clovers
"Speedo" by the Cadillacs