You never know who you’re going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter’s not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By – or, better, that TGB needed his column – which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
This is the last of an on-going series featuring the music of a particular year. These aren’t the Top 10, Top 40 or Top anything, they’re just tunes I selected from the year with no apparent logic behind it.
What happened in 1959?
- Well, I was in 3rd form (year 9)
- We moved from a small country town to the big smoke
- Castro assumed control of Cuba. U.S. immediately recognised his government
- Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue was released
- The Saint Lawrence Seaway was opened by a couple of people
- Nikita Krushchev was refused entry to Disneyland
- Australia won the Davis Cup (again)
- Buddy Holly died.
LLOYD PRICE had once again hit his straps by 1959. He had several hits in the early Fifties but his career was halted for a time when he was called up and sent to Korea.
Lloyd had four charting songs in 1959 (well five but one is too silly to mention). These were Personality, I’m Going to Get Married, Stagger Lee and Where Were You on Our Wedding Day?
Any of these would be worth including but it’s only one per customer. I’ve used Stagger Lee elsewhere and Personality is a bit over-used so I’m going with I’m Going to Get Married.
What a good year this was for RICKY NELSON too.
Three of his best songs came out, Never Be Anyone Else But You, It’s Late and Just a Little Too Much. It’s going to be difficult choosing one of these. However, I bought one of them at the time on a 45 so I’ll go with that one, Just a Little Too Much.
This has the great James Burton playing lead guitar, as he did with all of Ricky’s songs.
Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis knew each other as young children. They sang together and by the time they were in high school they were writing songs as well.
For one song, they thought they needed a trumpet so they asked around and found Gary Troxel. Unfortunately, he couldn’t play in their key and they couldn’t sing in his, so they nearly dismissed the idea until Gary started singing. He fitted in with them perfectly and THE FLEETWOODS were born.
The three always considered themselves to be three equal voices and that was so for their first few songs. The record company, however, saw a group with a bloke and a couple of women and couldn’t grasp the idea that they were equals and why wasn’t he the lead vocal and they the back up singers?
After strenuous objection from the three of them, the company pretty much blackmailed them – do it our way or not at all. Deep sigh. Here’s an early song of theirs, Come Softly To Me.
SANTO AND JOHNNY Farina were from Brooklyn.
During the war, their father heard a steel guitar being played and said his boys should learn this instrument. He organised a teacher and away we go.
Initially, Santo, the elder performed with a trio but when Johnny was old enough they formed a duo. Johnny by then had decided he preferred playing a regular electric guitar and their distinctive sound was born.
Their most famous track is Sleepwalk, which earned them a gold record, and here it is.
BUDDY HOLLY was alive for only five weeks of 1959.
What a waste his death was. The musical evolution he had shown in just two years of recording is remarkable. I believe he could have been one of the first generation of rockers who would have fitted right in with the musical revolution of the Sixties.
With the song featured today, I’m not going to use that now much overused and misused word irony, however, it’s interesting that Buddy’s last song is called It Doesn’t Matter Any More.
Something else I find interesting is that although Buddy wrote virtually all the songs he and the Crickets recorded, this song was written by Paul Anka.
THE IMPALAS were a DooWop group from Brooklyn.
They were discovered by a couple of promoters and songwriters who had the song, Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home), up their collective sleeves and needed someone to record it.
The Impalas struck it huge with the song. Even I bought a copy. However, that was it for the group and they didn’t have another hit. They disbanded in 1961 but, of course, reformed in the eighties to cash in on the oldies’ circuit.
Ah, now we’re talking. RAY CHARLES Robinson was from Georgia. Glaucoma caused him to lose his sight when he was about six.
His parents both died when he was a teenager and he learned to play the piano at a school for the blind in Florida. He worked in that state for a while before hiving off to Seattle where he first recorded.
Initially, he sang in the smooth style of Charles Brown and Nat King Cole. However, after working with Lowell Fulson and Guitar Slim he developed his own sound that we know today. Probably more than anyone, he was instrumental in developing soul music.
The only other contender would be Sam Cooke, but Ray brought more elements into the mix: gospel vocals as well as jazz, R&B, straight blues and country. We can hear all that in the song today, What’d I Say.
CARL DOBKINS JR was born in Cincinnati, a city his folks moved to from Appalachia looking for work.
His folks gave Carl a ukulele when he was young. He soon mastered this and moved on to his mum’s guitar, singing country songs of the time. At 16, he made a demo record of a couple of songs he had written and took them to a local DJ.
He was impressed and got Carl to record some of them. These became regional hits and that led to Decca records and the legendary Owen Bradley producing him.
They recorded My Heart Is An Open Book and that became a big success. Carl still lives in Cincinnati, he’s still married to his childhood sweetheart and still keeps his bag packed for any singing engagement that may ensue.
DINAH WASHINGTON was born in Tuscaloosa but grew up in Chicago where her family moved to when she was three. That family knew her as Ruth Jones. Although she was only 39 when she died, Dinah was married at least eight times (there may have been others).
After learning piano, singing in church and then at local clubs, Dinah found herself at the same club that Billie Holiday was performing. She was spotted by Lionel Hampton who hired her on the spot. He also claims to have given her her stage name.
She gained a reputation as a fine jazz singer over the next few years, but the jazz purists scoffed when she recorded What A Difference A Day Makes.
Well, too bad, it’s a fine song and here it is.
CRASH CRADDOCK, known as Billy to his mum and dad, gained his nickname in high school where he indulged in an activity Americans call – and I’m sure they refer to it thus just to bring merriment to the rest of the world – football.
Crash was a cousin of Gene Vincent, so I guess the music genes were there. He first made it big in Australia. Huge in fact. He was last man chosen on a tour to this country with Bobby Rydell, The Everly Brothers, Santo and Johnny, and The Diamonds.
Upon arrival, they were all greeted at the airport by screaming teenagers. Not an unusual event back then. Crash assumed it was for any or all of the others but it was for him. Communications weren’t what they are today and he didn’t know that his first single had spent the previous month on top of the charts.
I remember seeing him on TV, he was sitting on a high stool clad in his trademark white jumper (sweater to you). Everyone had to have one of those. Yes, I’ll admit it, I had one too.
He had several big hits in this country after that. Here’s the one that started it all, Boom Boom Baby.
In past columns, I have already used some of the songs from this year. If you’d like to hear more you can find them here.
Phew, I made it. 100 songs later. I thought this series with songs from each of the years was a good idea when I started. There were times when I was doing them that I wasn’t so sure. Indeed, it was more along the lines of, “What have I got myself into?”
However, I made it. I don’t know if there will be anything else like this but you never know, I might get enthusiastic.