A local opinion letter wished for us all to return to simpler times. Is that what we really want? I don’t, but so many do. A return to simple times? (simplemindedness?) A return to Ozzie and Harriet, “I’m home, Lucy “ “Hey Wild Bill, wait for me” “Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane!”http://youtu.be/p0B1ufyXOds
I grew up in those times. Why would anyone want to go back? Maybe because they closed their eyes to what those times were REALY like. (no matter what decade you grew up in, it was simpler times because you were a frigging simple kid…unaware)
Let’s see, tax rates on the top 2% were 90%. (And now you’re bitching?) The Republican President was spending huge amounts of federal dollars on a nation-wide freeway system which was creating thousands of jobs and the economy was growing rapidly. (Oh, pray tell) Black folks, (excuse me, they were referred to as “coloreds”) had separate drinking fountains, bathrooms, restaurants and hotels.
The best black musicians had to eat in the kitchen and not be seen anywhere but the stage. Women could be teachers, nurses, secretaries and waitresses… a doctor?…forget about it. A politician?…never! A Housewife…better.
Anyone who commented negatively about the government was called communist (Oh, yeah, that’s the same now, only maybe now it’s a socialist, Marxist or something un-American)
We were all fed musical crumbs. The great rhythm and blues music wasn’t allowed on the radio, unless it was “covered” by the anemic sounds of Pat Boone, Bill Haley or Jerry Lee Lewis. In the late ’50s, non-threatening Negroes like Fats Domino and Little Richard were finally allowed to do their “own” music.
In my opinion the best thing that happened in the ‘50s was “Brown vs. Board of Education” and Rock and Roll. I watched my black and white TV as the National Guard had to escort young black students into segregated schools. I didn’t understand why they were kept out in the first place. My parents did their best to explain to me about the holdover racists from the slavery era.
A brand new thing from Japan became very popular…the transistor radio…wow! It was as important as the I-pod was a few years ago. I would put in new batteries and be able to dial up WLAC in Nashville late at night. The “Hoss-man,” DJ Bill Allen played “different” music from 10 till midnight every night. It was music only heard on this station, because black music was banned on all the big Chicago/Indianapolis stations that were dominant in my Indiana home. It was an incredible shock to hear “Ain’t that a Shame” being played by the great Fats Domino instead of Pat Boone. (True story…in the studio when Pat Boone was releasing the song, he insisted that they change the name to “Isn’t that a shame”…they told him to get over it).
The “Hoss-man” played music by Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, The Spaniels, Junior Parker, Sonny Boy Williamson and many more great artists. A few of us “outcasts” would spend hours at school and free time talking about the music, the beat, the “feeling” that was coming over the radio waves.
When we white guys found a black sounding singer (Elvis), we just stole the black sounds and the music became Rock and Roll. For a few of us white musicians, it was our way out from the heavy burdens of Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, or (heaven help us) The Chordettes…ugh. I hated bad weather because WLAC would only come in on clear nights.
I enjoyed the radio commercials from the Hoss-man as much as the music. The three sponsors I remember well are:
1) “The World’s Largest Mail-Order Phonograph Record Shop”—Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee.
2) Owens-Corning Asbestos (yes, you’re reading correctly…like I said we were still a little naive, corporations already had proof that both asbestos and cigarettes were harmful but covered it up…ahhhh, the 50s). The Hoss-man used to read “off the script” on this commercial and with his big gravelly black-sounding voice, say, “Hey, you know what I like bestos? I like my asbestos.”
3) White Rose Petroleum Jelly– The Hoss-man once again would go “off script” and say, “Hey kids, if you’re gonna get any tonight, get some White Rose.”
These memories were part of a huge change that was slowly gaining momentum; changes to our music, our culture, our society. A large segment fought against these changes. They didn’t like what we young people were hearing. They didn’t like our greasy hair and pegged pants. They didn’t like those Negroes getting rights. They didn’t like the women getting sassy.
Today, things are changing again. We are close to closing the circle on “all are equal” as gay rights are finally getting “rights.”
But, just like I experienced in the 50s, whenever a fresh breeze starts slowly blowing in the wind, old stale familiar odors stand up against the threat.