Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Before Dylan

The Capris                                                                               The Six Teens

At one point in my teenage life I thought about becoming a disc jockey and I seemed to have a sense for discovering the very coolest records of the time.  This began in the late 50s when I was in junior high school, and for the first time became aware of music meant for my young ears.  Records were being played at parties and on the radio and before long I acquired a three speed record player and made the first of many trips to the local record shop when I bought three 45s:  Come and Go with Me (The Dell Vikings), Little Darlin’ (The Diamonds), and School Days (Chuck Berry).  Before long I was buying and collecting all the coolest sounds.  As my interest grew I learned more about rock and roll and rhythm and blues (aka Doo Wop) through other avid collectors and disc jockeys like Hunter Hancock, Art Laboe, and the Duke of Wax.
The songs that attracted me most were not the popular fare of the times, but rather those that leaned strongly towards simplicity and with limited or no background accompaniment.  Uniqueness and howling were plusses, but safe, studied pieces were anathemas.  If Perry Como, Paul Anka, Frankie Avalon, Pat Boone, Bobby Rydell, et al came on the radio the channel was immediately changed, but this didn’t happen much on the programs we listened to.
This musical niche clearly emanated primarily from the black communities throughout the country.  The more obscure the songs the better as long as they elicited that anti-mainstream, simple teenage love, edgy sound.  They were “bitchin’.” By the early 60s Motown began dominating the youthful record industry and to this day I resent Motown music for it.
Many of the internet lists of the best Doo Wop songs (we called them R & B) just don’t make sense to me – they seem like they’ve been assembled by folks who didn’t really live the music at the time.  In the Still of the Night (The Five Satins), Earth Angel (The Penguins), Maybe (The Chantels), The Closer You Are (The Channels), et al are firmly entrenched at or near the top of any serious Best 100 Doo Wop list, but I want to give credit to some of the great songs that have mostly remained on the periphery of the popular charts.  Here are a mere half dozen examples of the numerous vocal groups’ records (with You Tube links) I would play if I were DJing oldies:

God Only Knows (The Capris)
            A Casual Look (The Six Teens)
           The Way You Look Tonight (The Jaguars)
            Deserie (The Charts)
6 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, 1 Hour (Sharps) 
           100 Years from Today (Alice Jean and The Mondellos)
Perhaps one day I will share some male and female vocalists, couples, and instrumentals…

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