Rock ’n’ Roll Yearbook May 1959
It’s funny the way an old cardboard box and a long-distance telephone call got together to turn me into a crystal-ball gazer. But that’s how it happened.
The other day at home we were going through some of the souvenirs I had managed to scrape together in high school and college. Everything was there—class pins, keys, dogeared textbooks, school pennants and papers, and the programs from graduations. Bobbie and I just couldn’t help but make a comment about each old thing we re-discovered, and little Dickie just trotted about merrily examining them after we had put them into neat piles. It sure was a pleasant way to spend a cool Sunday afternoon in the spring.
Monday morning, the phone rang and it was Photoplay. (I’ll confess I played hookey from the office that week but, as I said, it was spring.) June’s coming up, and graduation’s ahead, I was reminded. “Say,” I interrupted, “maybe we could have a little graduation of our own?”
Well, we’ve been kind of close to the music world these past few years, and although you in the audience are the real experts, we thought it might be fun to take a flyer into the future and see what else will be spinning besides this sturdy old world. So, while they’re putting the little red ribbons on the diplomas, and the class of 1960 waits for the 59ers to head into the world, let’s gather ‘round this big wide crystal ball.
The first thing I can make out in this magic orb is a troop ship, and if you look closely you’ll see that it’s coming into New York harbor, past the Statue of Liberty, and now moving slowly into the pier. There are a lot of Gl’s on deck waving, and that dock just seems jammed with reporters, photographers, and there must be thousands of fellows and girls waving.
One soldier up on deck is shaking hands with all of his buddies, and there he is walking over to the rail to wave at the crowd. Gee, they’re really going wild, aren’t they? Hey, that’s our Elvis . . . Yep, Elvis Presley has finished his tour of duty over in Germany, and here he is back in the States and all ready to take up just where he left off. Now you might say that was an easy one to see . . . Sure it was. And it’s easy to see that Elvis’ return will keep that “big beat” rockin’ along on records. We can also predict that he’ll take up his personal appearance trail, and you can bet there will be plenty of time for stopovers in Hollywood to make some more of those hit movies. But let’s take a closer peek into that crystal ball and see if we can spot a rival who’ll top Elvis this year. You know, it could happen.
We can sure see other stars hitting the trail by train or plane to California for film-work. It seems to be the thing to do these days, and don’t be surprised if you bump into Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Darin, Johnny Nash, or Jimmy Clanton if you stop for a soda near Hollywood and Vine. Paul Anka postcards that he’ll be there, too, and while I’m reading the card I have to check the postmark because you can never tell from what spot on earth Paul will be writing. He manages to divide his time and talents between here and Europe—and the biggest problem for Paul is to find the time to keep all of the people on both sides of the Atlantic—and Pacific—happy.
I can also predict that no matter where you are—Hollywood, Calif. or Hollywood, Fla. or points in-between—if you come across my fabulous friend, Fabian, he’ll have a few schoolbooks somewhere in the vicinity. With most of the stars it’s a problem signing autographs, and while Fabian shares that pleasant duty he’s also got to find time to fill in test papers to keep up with his schoolwork. Fabian’s very serious about his singing career, and he’s just as serious about his studies.
That’s a problem that a young artist has and one that you don’t hear too much about. Fabian keeps pretty busy with his personal appearances, but his teachers make sure he doesn’t forget them. He doesn’t, either. You’re liable to find him going through one of his books at the oddest times and in the strangest places I know. Why, just the other night we were on our way to make a personal appearance together and we stopped off for a snack along the way. There I was trying to make stimulating conversation between bites—and what was Fabian doing? He had his head buried in an algebra book getting ready for a test. Now I wish I had been that way . . . but there I go again, so let’s predict Fabian will finish high school with flying colors, hit records, and happy profs.
Neil Sedaka is another of our young fellows with nothing but good in the future. He’s been coming up great in the past, and with his all-around talent—he’s a terrific songwriter as well as performer—Neil can’t help but become a bigger and brighter star.
All of these handsome and talented guys are going to help make popular music even bigger and better than ever. It’s an amazing experience to watch it grow, and next year I wouldn’t be at all surprised if more than $500,000,000 worth of records passed over the disc counters across the country. That’ll be enough to keep you dancing for a few hours, won’t it? But maybe you’ll be spending some of that dance time with some steps you’ll have to learn from grandpappy.
I refer to none other than that grand old style they call “The Waltz.” Uh-huh. You heard right.
Well now, wait a second. Honest, I haven’t gone off the track. I can see that “Waltz” train coming up, and the gang sure seems to enjoy it. No, I don’t think it’ll push the jitterbug steps out of the picture, and straight dance styles won’t change that much, but there is plenty of room for one more—believe me—’specially if that one more is a graceful “one-two-three-turn.”
First time I noticed it was when we played “The Chipmunk Song” by David Seville last Christmas on “American Bandstand.” You know the fellows and girls will try anything, but the usual steps just didn’t work out with the music. At first, almost everybody stood around and waited for the number to end while just a few hardy souls tried to fit in the regular steps to the strange rhythm. Nothing worked out until someone, I forget just who it was, tried gliding along waltz-style. That was it . . . it fitted perfectly . . . and then another couple tried . . . then a third . . . soon we had a crowded dance floor again. What’s more we had dusted off a style that a lot of us had forgotten—or never known. The big thrill though is the fun we all had doing it, and it’s a pleasure to report that our mail tells us it’s just as much fun to all of you.
I hope it’s as much fun as watching the development of a new star. That’s always a pleasure, and if you watch closely in the months ahead you are sure to get what I mean. We often think it just happens overnight, but Tommy Edwards can tell you it doesn’t. A few years ago, all of us in the business knew Tommy as a real fine guy with plenty of talent. He was just looking for the right song, one tailored for Tommy Edwards, and stardom. I don’t have to tell you that he found it.
“All in the Game” . . . Yep, Tommy knew it was, and that proved to be the title of his ticket to a gold record. This was really a case of two veterans getting together, because back around the days before World War One, this was popular as “Melody in ‘A.’ ” (Incidentally, if you collect odd facts, this is about the only song hit we can remember that was written by a Vice-President of the United States, Charles Dawes.) So, using Tommy as our guide, we’ll forecast that another veteran show-business personality—one who has worked long hours perfecting style and practicing technique—will come out of hiding and make it real “big” before too long. We’ve got a candidate. She’s—yes, that’s right, she—pretty, talented, and a wonderful girl with a vocal style all her own. We’ve been playing her records, but as yet the real big song hasn’t come along. Why don’t you try to “discover” her along with us? It shouldn’t be too long now.
How about a clue? No fair, that would be cheating, but we’ll help you narrow down the field by saying we don’t mean Connie Francis. No sir, that gal has already come into her own these past few months . . . and it just didn’t happen for Connie overnight either, although it almost seems that way. I guess the reason for that is Connie just burst into brilliance with “Who’s Sorry Now?” I remember the first night Connie did that number on the show. The music was familiar, but that magic Francis touch made it sound so very new. Then when Connie came back with “My Happiness” . . . well, there wasn’t any question. This is a “star.”
We’ve been chatting about new “stars” but have you noticed the songs? That’s right, many of them are the top standards of a few years back. In a new arrangment, and with a beat here and a beat there, you’re really snapping them up. And this big welcome home for old musical alumni is a trend that’s going to continue. They may be “old favorites” but when The Platters did “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and Billy Williams came through with “Nola” you couldn’t help but consider them “new.” You know there are plenty more “gold” records locked in the music files, and in the future months you’ll be hearing them done in new arrangements and by new voices. If you hear any muttering in the wings, that must be from the young writers hoping for their chance, too. Don’t worry, fellows, . . . it’s an old show business saying that “There’s plenty of room at the top.” That’s as true in the musical world as in the business world.
Here another angle of the crystal ball, and if it seems a bit cloudy let me tell you what’s behind those shadows. It’s nothing but rumors. You know, rumors—things we hear about that never happen . . . or things that are supposed to have happened but didn’t. Well I’ll bet we’ll have plenty of them in store for us, but I hope none are as wacky as the ones we heard last year. Yoicks . . . every time I think of them! Remember the one about Frankie Avalon? For about twenty-four hours, just everywhere you turned last winter someone was sure to whisper, “Hey, did you hear . . . Frankie Avalon was married the other day!” Every whisper was backed by a solemn nod that you couldn’t doubt, and many of the young girls I met that day looked as if they had lost their best boyfriends. Most of them assured me they had.
Yessir, it was real blue around the office that morning. That is, it was until we were able to get Frankie at home. I don’t think I ever heard a more amazed answer in my life when I asked, “Frankie, any truth to the rumor you’ve been married?” I guess you really can’t blame him for being surprised, and his “No” sure made life worth living again for about a thousand young ladies I could name.
Then there was the crazy rumor that Fats Domino had taken sick and died. You can imagine how he felt denying that one on our “American Bandstand” show.
It’s amazing the way these stories come up, but they do, and you’ll be hearing some this next year. Best way is to do as Steve Allen does. He keeps a scrapbook with all of the untrue stories about him pasted inside.
Gosh, it’s going to be a lot of fun waiting to see if all of these predictions really do come true. Just to make certain that at least one does, I think I’ll toss in a real easy one. And that is that when the songs of the future are written, sung and recorded—the young folks of these United States will still be dancing to them.
—BY DICK CLARK
DON’T MISS DICK ON ABC-TV, ON “AMERICAN BANDSTAND,” MONDAY-FRIDAY, FROM 4 TO 5:30 P.M. EDT, AND “THE DICK CLARK SHOW,” SATURDAY, 7:30 P.M. EDT.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JUNE 1959
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