Sunday, May 26, 2013

Music I Grew Up With

I think I first became aware of music in the early 1950s, probably around the age of six. My mother was a amateur musician (she played the piano by ear) and a great fan of American musicals.
I was taken most Friday nights (and sometimes Saturdays as well) to the cinema and indoctrinated with musical films of the 1940s and 50s and even 30s. They must have been the first feature (remember when cinemas showed a newsreel, a short, previews, some cartoons and a B movie followed by interval and then the main feature?), as I was always asleep during the second.
It is a constant source of amusement for the co driver (and the daughter) that when watching old musicals on TCM or Fox Classics and the like, I know the words of most every song and the order in which they come. Gotta love Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hammerstein (or Hart) and Cole Porter.
The Bee Gees (Click to watch)

In Australia, Hit Parades in the early 1950s were dominated by American artists and the music was generally in the gentler style.
Perry Como, Dina Shore, Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds, Nat ‘King” Cole, Patti Page and Tony Bennet, to mention just a few, were household names. Even bands like Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians and Percy Faith had hits.
Then in mid 1955 came a song called ‘Rock Around the Clock’.
And the music scene began to slowly change.
The Australian Hit Parade was still predominantly American artists but the style of music was different. The Platters, Johnnie Ray, Paul Anka and the Everly Brothers were making inroads with more upbeat tunes.
And then along came Elvis Presley.

Olivia Newton John (Click to watch)

In the mid 50s American entrepreneur Lee Gordon started bringing out major acts from the USA like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry as well as the more established traditional stars.
Meanwhile on the ‘home front’ young local musicians became inspired to try their hand at this new form of music.
“Bandstand” (a copy of the American version) started on TV in 1958 only two years after this medium was introduced to the country and was aimed directly at the teenage market. Regulars included Col Joye, Judy Stone, Little Pattie and the soon to be internationally famous Bee Gees and Peter Allen (one half of the Allen Brothers) and a little later Olivia Newton John.
The Allen Brothers (Click to watch)

A year later the national broadcaster, The ABC, began “Six O’Clock Rock” hosted by the ‘wild one’ Johnny O’Keefe. He was a bit of a loose cannon in what turned out to be a sadly short life. While he generally behaved himself  on TV there were no holds barred on stage.
Boy! Those live shows were wild.
Our parents despaired at the behaviour of both performers and audience.
Our generation was going the hell in a handcart.
But we survived.
J. O'K (Click to watch)

Other popular acts of the time included Lonnie Lee and the Leemen, Dig Richards and the R'Jays, Digger Revell and the Denvermen and New Zealand's Johnny Devlin and the Devils.
Lee Gordon used these local acts as supports for his international celebrity concerts and their popularity started to skyrocket.
Soon the locals were more popular than most of the imports.
The first wave of Australian Rock had begun.

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