“So Rare” vs. “Hound Dog”

Back in the early Seventies, this columnist spent a lot of time on the L. A. freeway system and thus had a goodly amount of time to listen to the radio.  In an effort to prove that our music taste was eclectic, we tuned into a station with the “Music of your life” format.  They played music from the big band era and the intrinsic value was obvious to a listener who had experienced the emergence of “Rock’n’Roll” as a genre that deserved its own chart in Billboard magazine.   

It was not the music which caused us to tune out, back then, it was the ads.  Listening to the nonstop attempts to sell Depends, denture cleaners, denture adhesives, and stool softeners at that stage of life put a definite crimp into the attempt to listen to the music that helped win WWII.  We wanted to stave off the “back in the old days” phase of life for as long as we could.

The start of the Rock Era had some interesting ties to the Big Band Era.  If memory serves correctly the last Big Band hit, Jimmy Dorsey’s “So Rare” fought for the consumer dollar at the same time old “swivel hips” (AKA Elvis the pelvis) was trying to sell a song titled Hound Dog.  If you don’t believe me just ask Casey Kasem. 

[You could look it up online.  “So Rare” was recorded on November 11, 1956.  “Hound Dog” was recorded on July 2, 1956.  (Close enough.)]

As this columnist recalls, Ted Wheems’ “Heartaches,” (featuring the whistling of Elmo Tanner) landed on the top of the pop list in the late forties and again about 1957.  Efforts to substantiate this memory online were inconclusive.

Even the guy who would become famous as the Maytag repairman had a hit back in the late Fifties.  Jess White did “Old Payola Roll Blues.”

Future Country legend Bobby Bare, under the name Bill Parsons, had a hit song, “All American Boy,” that told the story of Elvis.

When Elvis got back from his Army tour of duty in Germany, Frank Sinatra hosted a TV special program to mark “The King’s” return to the good old USA.  Can you get a CD of that whole show?

At the time those songs were on the pop charts, my parochial school class room overlooked the back yard of a home where, on days when the public school had a day off, I’d see the 16 year old kid who lived there, jump in his shiny new 1957 Thunderbird and roar off into his day of fun and frivolity.  Parochial schools usually had holy days off and the public school kids got more holidays off.

Scranton was quick to jump on the bandwagon for the new music.  Radio station WICK embraced the Rock’n’Roll genre, but it was alleged that the station met budget by playing Polish language programs on Sunday mornings.  We picked up a smidgeon of the language by tuning in early and listening while waiting for their change over back to the Rock and Roll format.  Rival station WARM was also quick to embrace the new music. 

One local TV station (WNEP as I recall)  started to run Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” program, one whole year before the ABC network offered the Philadelphia based new music dance party to their affiliates across the USA .  Again efforts to substantiate this online were unsuccessful.

We’ve been dredging up our memories of the sentimental songs from the past because of a change in our automatic response to the radio.  We’ve relocated from Los Angeles to the San Francisco bay area and consequently have had to rewire our robotic efforts to use a radio tuning knob.  The old ways don’t work in the new geography.

Goodbye Reverend Dan.  We don’t have to get up at 5 a.m. on Saturday to hear Nimrod News; we can sleep in until 6. 

What could possibly replace:  KXLU, KLAC, Jim Ladd, KMET, Humble Harv, Morgan in the Morning, the too hip guy, news commentary by Marvin E. Quasnicci, and Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW?  Scott Shannon and the True Oldies Channel (TOC) format; that’s what.  He’s shaking loose a tsunami of memories and associations that have been dormant for decades.

Scott mentions businesses in the USA where the radio is tuned to the True Oldies Channel.  While pounding out our columns, the radio at the World’s Laziest Journalist’s World Headquarters is almost always (except when Mike Malloy is on) tuned to the local TOC outlet KFRC.  Scott gave us a shout-out! 

Recently he started a new feature on the True Oldies Channel and calls it “The Cheesy, Easy Song of the Day” and we have to fight our urge to send in a million suggestions.  We’ll have to learn to spread out our e-mail suggestions to him. 

If Scott wants the schmaltzy side of Rock History, he’s gonna get so many suggestions we’ve become afraid that we will wear out the welcome mat in front of his e-mail inbox.   Hmm.  Maybe a column with our best suggestions would be a better approach?

Reverand Dan (on L. A.’s KXLU) will play Jim Backus’ “Delicious,” when this caller asks for it, but for years he has declined repeated requests (which might upset his audience emotionally) to play Elvis’s tearjerker song “Old Shep.”  (We worked with a big dog loving Elvis fan who had never even heard of that Elvis track.)   

Since we can halfway remember hearing that particular Elvis track, wouldn’t it be ironic if he picks it for the new feature?  Apparently many of the songs we heard, as a high school student, are being played again in WARMland. 

We’ll summon up our best imitation of the kid in Treasure of Sierra Madre who assured Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart):  “It’s a sure winner, mister” and send that suggestion to the True Oldies Channel cheesy suggestion box.

Apparently the new TOC feature has mushroomed in popularity and caught them off guard.  They had to ask listeners to help them reconstruct the complete list of Cheesy Play of the Day selections after it got started.

If the Cheesy Easy Song becomes a contemporary cultural phenomenon (part of the columnist mission is to man the crow’s nest to do some trend spotting) they will have to institute a Cheesy rating system.  Then they’ll need a “Cheesy Song Hall of Fame.” 

[Remember when “Shaving Cream” won Dr. Demento’s weekly competition so many times that he had to remove it from eligibility?  Dr. Demento put it in the Demented Hall of Fame and excluded it from the weekly voting.  Didn’t “Pico and Sepulveda” get a similar treatment?]

After that it will be just a short leap of marketing into the realm of a Scott Shannon’s Greatest Cheesy Songs album.

One man’s novelty tune is another’s sentimental old favorite.  When we were in the Record Finder store in Fremantle and they started to play Johnny Cash’s “Live at Fulsome Prison” album, we just stood there paralyzed until it played all the way through.

Cash’s single, “Boy Named Sue,” had so many emotional associations for us that we could never think of it as a novelty tune.  

Not only do we want to inundate the “Nut Hut” studios with Cheesy Easy suggestions, we also want to petition them with entreaties to play the new feature at the same designated times every day.  We know that the “coming up soon” bit helps keep listeners from doing any station surfing, but we’re hooked on oldies tunes, we ain’t going away unless we have to leave the World’s Laziest Journalist Headquarters for something such as a doctor’s appointment.

And another thing . . . if this becomes their iconic feature, maybe they can get a corporate sponsor for it?  “Who?” you ask?  Gee wouldn’t Kraft Cheese be a natural fit?

Who will Bartlett’s credit with creating this quote:  “If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t really there.”?  It sounds like something George Carlin would have said 

Now, our own (imaginary) disk jockey will tug at this columnist’s heartstrings by playing:

“As Time Goes By” (oddly enough that song takes this columnist back to a waterfront gin mill in 1969 San Francisco.), “If You’re Going to San Francisco,” “Old Shep,” “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” “Irish Eyes,” “Le Vie en Rose,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,”  Vaughn Monroe’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” and Hank William’s  “Poor Ole Kaw-liga.” 

We’ve got to go find a mirror and wipe a speck of dust from our eye.  Have a “I haven’t heard that song in years” type week.

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