Wednesday, January 22, 1997

Golden Oldies

If I manage to get out of work by six p.m. I listen to Cruisin' Bruce Palmer on Bee One Oh One. He presents The Top Six at Six, but these are not today's top six, they are the top six from this day and month of some year in the past, the 50's, 60's or 70's. I missed the start of the show tonight, driving out of the parking lot just as he was introducing the number four song, Sixteen Candles. Tonight's top six at six were the top six on the pop charts for Thursday, January 22, 1959.

January, 1959. I was in tenth grade.

I associate the songs he was playing with the Stewart's store on Broadway in Kingston, New York. Stewart's (Home of the Make Your Own Sundae) was an upstate New York dairy franchise: milk, eggs, ice cream. The owner of this ice cream parlor had his own jukebox which he stocked with records based upon customer input...i.e., he actually asked us kids what songs to buy. (And when he replaced a record he would sell it to us for two bits or so.) A group of us would stop there on our way home from school to have a soda or an ice cream, hang out for a while, tell jokes, drop a nickel in the jukebox to play a tune. On weekend nights we might stop in on our way home from a movie.

Number three was Donna by Richie Valens. Just a couple weeks later Richie Valens was killed in that plane crash (along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper). I can remember being stunned when I heard that on the news. That was the first time I can remember feeling an emotional impact from a news item. (Of course in the years to come there would be many more such moments.)

Number two was Connie Francis doing a remake of an old Ella Fitzgerald song, My Happiness. Listening to this during my homeward commute I was struck by what great slow dance tunes these were (and just wait for number one). The term Oldies to me refers to pre-Beatles songs. Remember, I was a junior in college when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan's show.

I can remember watching one of those Sunday afternoon talking heads programs when they were discussing rock and roll and the approaching demise thereof. This was in the mid-fifties, folks. One of the pompous pontificators said that he would give rock&roll another six months, tops. My 14-year-old daughter recently commented that she could just picture herself and her friends with their children someday listening to an oldies rock station playing Nirvanna and Pearl Jam. And I just said, yes, it will happen.

And number one, at the top of the charts on January 22, 1959 was the Platters with Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.

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