I've spend a fair amount of time thinking about what I wanted to write here.... and about how much of this I want to be autobiographical as compared to historical concerning the music that I grew up with, played and loved. To put things in their proper context, if you know the lyrics to any of the songs recorded by Johnny and the Hurricanes, only one of us is in the same era.
I grew up during the dawn of Rock & Roll, but I am really a Rhythm & Blues Man... not unlike the King himself, Elvis Presley who's music was greatly influenced by the Black Artists of the time. In fact, many early Rockers cut their teeth on the Blues... you can hear the blues influences in the early music as well as a lot of the stuff that gets airplay today.
I was maybe 11 or 12 years old when I became interested in music. Most of the stuff on the air at the time was recorded by people like Connie Francis, Pat Boone, Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Carl Perkins and people like that. There was some "rock" around, but at that time, no one really knew what rock was. Artists like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis defined one pole and groups like the Isley Brothers, Ike Turner, Frankie Lyman, the Coasters and the Cadillacs defined the other. Everyone else pretty much fell in the middle somewhere.
Rock & Roll is commonly thought to have started with a Swing crossover recording done by Bill Haley and the Comets called "See you later Alligator". This inauspicious beginning that could have been just another Glen Miller song wound up changing pop music demonstratively and forever. The Comets' more popular release, "Rock around the clock", provided the "rock" for rock n' roll and permanently changed the music landscape for Planet Earth forever. Curiously, Bill Haley was considered to be a "Rockabilly" Artist in the same genre of Carl Perkins tho the styles of those 2 men had little in common.
Personally, I was never very fond of the "white bread" music that was getting all of the airplay in the 50's.. I used to get no end of shit from people for listening to "jigger-boo" music instead. Mega-talents such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry and a *lot* of Black Artists you'll probably never hear of just couldn't get air play on white radio stations back then. So, it was left to the tiny, 2,000 watt radio stations like WILD in Roxbury, Massachusetts to play the stuff. It seems incredible now, but at the time, most (White) people preferred Pat Boone's plagiarized version of Little Richard's far superior and original recording of Tutti Fruiti! In fact, the vast majority of Rock & Roll recordings done by White Groups in that era were actually written and were previously recorded by Black Artists...not that anyone would know that based on the fact that White radio stations just didn't play that stuff.
I started hanging out in the WILD Studios and would listen to my Hero, Wild Man Steve for hours on end. Eventually, Steve got tired of looking at my pathetic face through the glass.. he invited me in to chat and when he saw how dedicated I was to music and to broadcasting, he more or less took me under his wing. The Wild Man Steve was decades ahead of his time... he taught me most of the fundamental stuff that I subsequently used to get myself on the air years later. Steve was in the genre of D.J.'s who wrote his own copy, selected his own play list, aired his own commercials and so on. Being a Jock in those days kept a fellow pretty busy...and don't forget, most cuts only ran for 3 minutes or less! Steve also aired a Sunday religious revival Show that was all snake oil and hallelujahs!... James Brown in the Blues Brother movie had nothing on this cat.
Trivia question: Who is Speedo Earl and what's he doing now?
I grew older and wanted to go out on my own. Being dirt poor, I couldn't afford to buy any equipment so I used to pick up junk electrical parts where ever I could and used those materials to build my own amps, turntables and sound systems. Most of the records I had were borrowed or dug out of an "economy bin" somewhere.. I used to find a lot of golden music at the bottom of those piles! I began D.J. ing record hops, CYO dances and stuff like that. This helped to finance bigger and better equipment. Before long, I had my own little following and my own unique format. I stole ...errrr... acquired the handle of Wild Man Frank as a tribute to the man I most admired in this business... later, I became the Wild Man Frank, your Doctor of Love, a title that Wolfman Jack partially boosted when he hit Buffalo, N.Y. a few years later. I also used to yell "ballooooo-dah!" a lot until a guy in Boston stole my line and started calling himself Bud Balloo.... so don't get on my case about ripping off the Wild Man name from Steve.. he probably grabbed it from someone else anyway :)
The late 50's and early 60's were an exciting time for music. It was during these days that Rock & Roll was defined, thanks to guys like Dick Clark, Ken Carter and the Pepsi Dance Party, Murray the K, Alan Freed and a bunch of others who's names evade me at the moment. By the time the Beatles came along, there were clearly defined segments that came together to be known as Rock & Roll... Motown sounds like the Shirelles, Phil Spectors Camp including the Crystals and his Wife Ronnie (The Ronettes), Sun Records' Carl Perkins and about a dozen other big, big names, as well as smaller but no less powerful influences such as Roy Orbison, Neil Sedaka, Freddy (boom boom) Cannon, Paul Anka, Fabian and Rick Nelson. A "Surfer" sound also started to emerge, led by the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean as well as the British sound with groups like the Dave Clark Five, Heman's Hermits, and of course, for comic relief, paul Revere and the Raiders :)
I'll leave current history at the sounds of the 70's... Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Greg Allman Band, "Slowhand's" (Eric Clapton) various host bands, George Thurgood and the Delaware Destroyers, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. I'm open to comments, but the last real Rock and Roll group I can think of is Huey Lewis and the News... for sure the crap that's been getting air play for the past 10 years or so just doesn't qualify to be called Rock & Roll, in my opinion...
These days, I am unabashedly 100% Blues and 0% any cheap substitutes. Lonnie Mack, an Artist who was churning 'em out in the 50's is still alive and well and better than ever! And he's in some good company with the likes of Mike Morgan and the Crawl, the Brothers Vaughn, Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Portland's own Robert Cray!
It's voting time! IMO, The King of Rock and Roll was and always will be Elvis Presley. I doubt there is much controversy there. While many Artists made big contributions, it is Elvis who define the sound and the look of what Rockers would be for the next several decades. Bill Haley and the Comets may have been "first"..but first doesn't always mean best. And the milestone of first may actually belong to Ike Turner who's "Rocket 88" is widely considered by many to be the first real rock and roll music... if not the first rock, then certainly the first Soul!
As for the Queen: no disrespect to Aretha Franklin, the first female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...but my vote goes to Anna Mae Bullock. You may know her better as Tina Turner. Not only did the Ike and Tina Turner Review turn out some of the most powerful sounds of the times, but Tina Turner was the one who taught Mick Jagger to dance on stage! I was so disappointed when Tina Turner went out on her own with Phil Spector's Deep River Mountain High Tour.... Nutbush City Limits, IMO, is the last truly great song to come out of the pioneering days of Rock and Roll. Like Sonny and Cher, breaking up great Duos seldom results in better music...
I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few other Pioneers who had a profound influence on the early years of rock music. The first is Robert Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan who is widely credited with having a very strong influence on many British Bands of the era. Also Willie Nelson who wrote many of the songs that were later recorded by Country and Rock Artists.
I'll need some help here: I'd like to list the top ten recordings of all time one here, but with so many to chose from, it's gonna be tough. I'll throw out a few and with help from people who E-mail me their suggestions, I'll try to present an accurate and prioritized list. My top ten list is about the best 10 songs ever and not about sales... in fact, most of the great stuff didn't get near the airplay that the crap did. Anyway, here's my stab at it:
|# 1||Freebird||Lynyrd Skynyrd|
|# 2||One night with you||Elvis Presley|
|# 3||Johnny B. Goode||Chuck Berry|
|# 4||Good Golly Miss Molly||Little Richard|
|# 5||Ain't that a shame||Fats Domino|
|# 6||Twist and shout||Isley Brothers|
|# 7||I'm on fire||Jerry Lee Lewis|
|# 8||Blue Suede Shoes||Carl Perkins|
|# 9||True Love Waits||Buddy Holly and the Crickets|
|96 tears||? and the Mysterians|
|La Bamba||Richie Valens|
|TBD||The Beach Boys|
|Subterranian homesick blues||Bob Dylan|
|TBD||Freddy (boom boom) Cannon|
|TBD||The Rolling Stones|
Back in the "good old days", you could find me being MC to our own little Wild Man Frank Five Band at local dances or on the air at WZRE in Boston. Later, I headed North and did the 10pm - 2am "Top of the Hop" slot at WDCR/WFRD in Hanover, New Hampshire for several years. To prove my versatility, I also hosted Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on WVPR, Vermont Public Radio. These days, the mike is silent, but if you are old enough to remember the early days of WORL, you'll find pictures of my sidekick, Ellie Elephant, at http://www.easyrider.com/eloise.htm on this very own web site! Those sure were the days...
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Last modified February 18, 1998
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