And what, after all, is New
Year's Day for, if not for taking stock, and observing the passage
of the years...
And if we were to gaze back,
say, fifty years ago or so...
Man, what a year!
Fifty years ago...
World War II had been over
for less than ten years.
Walt Disney had just broadcast
the first of three television shows starring Fess Parker as Davy
Crockett in December of '54, and Crockett-mania was already beginning
to sweep the nation as 1955 dawned, spawning among other things
scores of recorded versions of the theme song - four of which
Which was somewhat unfortunate
for Disney, as in the final episode, set to air in February,
they'd already killed the character off.
Disney at this time was more
preoccupied with a new vision, however - a half completed park
in Anaheim that he'd sunk all his money into. Slated to open
in July, the idea that people would trudge out to the middle
of nowhere to see replicas of a turn of the century Main Street
and a European castle was ludicrous to many, and Disneyland as
'55 dawned was being referred to as "Disney's folly".
Again as 1955 dawned, Warner
Brothers announced (January 4th) that they had just signed a
young television actor from New York as the lead in the upcoming
film "Rebel Without a Cause". James Dean immediately
moved to California, to begin what was clearly going to be a
long and promising film career. (He had made a previous film,
"East of Eden", but that film was not scheduled to
be released until March.)
Also in January of '55, a recently
transplanted disc jockey from Cleveland held a Rhythm and Blues
show in New York City. He dubbed the thing a "Rock 'n' Roll"
show - a euphemism he'd been using for a couple of years by that
time. His name was Alan Freed.
Down South, a young singing
truck driver had just signed a one year contract with the Louisiana
Hayride radio show. He was a country boy who belted out Rhythm
and Blues songs, and as 1955 dawned it appeared likely that Elvis
Presley was on his way to a reasonably decent career as a novelty
Country & Western singer.
At the same time, a guy in
Missouri had a similar novelty act, writing and performing Country
tunes which he would perform with his Rhythm and Blues band.
In early 1955 Chicago's Chess label saw potential in the act,
and the future was beginning to look promising for Chuck Berry.
Out in California, shooting
was wrapping up in El Segundo for a movie about juvenile delinquents.
The producers needed a suitable opening song, and the son of
the film's star suggested a little novelty record from his collection
that had been released the previous year, and disappeared without
much of an impact. It had been recorded by an aging Western Swing
band who were something of a novelty themselves, as they specialized
in taking Rhythm and Blues songs by Joe Turner and running them
through the Country/Swing mill.
That song, of course, was "Rock
Around the Clock", and by late Spring the term "Rock
'n' Roll" had gone from a regional catch phrase to an adolescent
obsession, and Bill Haley and his Comets had become the first
Fifty years ago . . .
Fifty years ago my parents
Fifty years ago my grandmother
was my age.