As certainly should have been expected, television and magazines (and to a lesser extent right now) newspapers are in historical mode this week, marking next week’s fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. By the end of next week, we’ll have been inundated with story after story about the events in Dallas that November day in 1963 and how they’ve reverberated through these last fifty years.
And we’ll go all anniversary again next February, when we mark fifty years since the Beatles first came to these shores and showed up in our living rooms via the Ed Sullivan show. That should be a bit more fun than this month’s reliving of the Kennedy assassination.
So we’re going to go back fifty years as well this morning, taking a look at four local radio surveys from fifty years ago today, a little less than a week before the world changed so abruptly and horribly. Given today’s date, we’ll see what records were at No. 11 and No. 16 on those local surveys and find our Saturday Single among them. We’ll also note, as we generally do, which records stood at No. 1 on that day at those stations.
We’ll start here in Minnesota, at the Twin Cities’ KDWB and its Fabulous Forty. Sitting at No. 11 is Tommy Roe’s “Everybody,” a record I’ve certainly heard but to which I’ve never paid any real attention. If, before this morning, someone had played it for me and asked me who I thought recorded it, I certainly would not have said Tommy Roe. I’m pleasantly surprised. Moving five spots down KDWB’s survey, we find Skeeter Davis with “I Can’t Stay Mad At You,” a shooby-dooby-laden record that I am certain I have never heard before. Parked at No. 1 in the KDWB survey, on the other hand, is a record that I’ve heard many times: “Deep Purple” by Nino Tempo and April Stevens.
From there, we’ll head to New England and Springfield, Massachusetts, where WHYN released its Radio 56 Survey. The No. 11 record there fifty years ago today was Joey Powers’ “Midnight Mary,” in which the singer asks his girl to meet him at midnight, just like always. That might have been slightly naughty fifty years ago, and I wonder how it came across to parents and other authority figures. (The kicker, of course, is that the couple is secretly married, which might have eased some moral concerns but also might have worried parents in another direction.) Sitting at No. 16 in Springfield was Barry & The Tamerlanes’ “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight,” an unimpressive record that’s entirely different from the similarly titled Boyce & Hart entry from 1967. (That latter record spelled its final word as “Tonite,” and I wonder as I write if that spelling was a purposeful deed intended to differentiate the two songs/records.) And finally for Springfield, we’ll note that the No. 1 record at WHYN fifty years ago today was the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.”
We’ll head west next, stopping at San Francisco’s KEWB, where the No. 11 record on the station’s Fabulous Forty was the Skeeter Davis record that was No. 16 in the Twin Cities. At No. 16, we find “Bossa Nova Baby” by Elvis Presley from the movie Fun in Acapulco. Some of Presley’s movie tunes were worthwhile, but this one doesn’t make that list, making our stop in San Francisco – the only west coast city with a station that released a survey that Saturday – a little disappointing. Sitting at No. 1 on KEWB was “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer. (I should have been more precise and noted that the KBWE survey was the only West Coast one offered at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive; our pal Yah Shure checked out oldiesloon for us and reported below.)
Our final stop this morning is KBOX in Dallas. Perched at No. 11 is “Walking Proud” by Steve Lawrence, a record that sounds very much different than I expected. I anticipated sweet Fifties-style pop and got a record that sounds, actually, very rocking for 1963. Given the sound, it wouldn’t surprise me if the famed Wrecking Crew backed Lawrence on the Gerry Goffin/Carole King song. The No. 16 record at KBOX that week was Chubby Checker’s dance song “Loddy Lo,” which showed up over the years, perhaps on vinyl but often as a sing-along, at many, many parties. And the No. 1 record at KBOX in that week fifty years ago was Tommy Roe’s “Everybody.”
So, where do we turn on this Saturday morning? I’m very tempted by “Walking Proud” simply because of the backing. But Lawrence’s voice doesn’t quite work with the backing; there’s a mismatch there. And then, there’s the Roe single. I’m not helped by the fact that, with rare exception, anything I know about Top 40 prior to the Beatles – including a lot of Roe’s records – has been learned long after the fact. Tommy Roe, to the listener portion of me (as opposed to the historian) is the guy who did “Sweet Pea” and “Hooray for Hazel,” both of which I dislike. (On “Dizzy,” I am neutral.)
But “Everybody” is so good that I have to set aside what I hear as his later missteps. Tommy Roe’s “Everybody,” which went to No. 3, is today’s Saturday Single.