This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
There's a truism that the period between Buddy Holly dying, Elvis going into the army, Chuck Berry going to jail, Little Richard finding religion, Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin and the rise of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the rest was a musical wasteland.
Today's column will put paid to that in no uncertain terms. Of course, I might be biased as this was the music that was around when I was in my mid-teens, the time when that sort of thing gets seriously imprinted on one's brain.
There's no better way to start the year than with the incomparable BEN E KING.
Ben first came to my notice as the lead singer of the Drifters. He then had a successful solo career. One of his first hits was one of the finest songs from that time, Spanish Harlem.
It was written by written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector and produced by Jerry and his usual writing partner Mike Stoller, not by Spector who was more noted as a producer than a song writer (if you can follow all that).
Another great singer from the period is GENE MCDANIELS.
Gene started out as a jazz singer and that's where he ended up. However, around this time he was persuaded to sing some pop songs. Naturally, he did them better than most of the other singers who were around at the time. This is one of his big hits, Tower of Strength.
The Beatles had a big hit with this next song, but THE MARVELETTES did it first and did it better.
They had other songs that made the charts but the one for which they are most remembered is Please, Mr. Postman.
CURTIS LEE left his native Arizona and went to New York to break into the music industry.
He initially found a little success writing songs with Tommy Boyce (who later became hugely successful in that area with his later writing partner Bobby Hart). Curtis recorded some songs under the direction of Phil Spector that became hits.
Later, without Phil's direction, the hits dried up and Curtis left the music biz. One of his biggies is Pretty Little Angel Eyes.
FLOYD CRAMER was the go-to man whenever a pianist was needed on a country music recording.
Floyd also recorded a few tracks himself, some of which made the charts. This is one such, an instrumental called On the Rebound. He had a distinctive style and you could always tell when he was present on a record. He was one of the great studio musicians.
Billy CRASH CRADDOCK was a huge success in Australia, much more so than in his native country.
Because of that he toured here often. He later became a successful country singer but he will always be remembered in Oz for his many hits from the time. One of those is One Last Kiss. Bobby Vee was another who made the charts with this one.
CLARENCE (FROGMAN) HENRY is another fine musician from New Orleans.
His first hit, Ain't Got No Home, was essentially improvised in the recording studio. It was from that song that he gained his nickname. He later toured with The Beatles. After all that he had his own club in New Orleans where he'd perform now and then.
He still appears in festivals (as of the writing of this column). A song of his from 1961 is But I Do, written by Bobby Charles.
My goodness, ADAM WADE had a great voice. Still does, as far as I can tell.
Adam started out as a lab assistant to Jonas Salk on the polio research team. He left that to pursue a career in music. He had a number of hits around this time and later turned to television and films. One from this year is Take Good Care of Her.
I'm rather surprised that I didn't include this next song in either of the previous incarnations of 1961. I'm going to correct that oversight with THE SHIRELLES.
I'm also talking about their biggest hit, at least it was around where I lived. I've always put them at the top of my list of female singing groups from the time. Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
I don't know if EDEN KANE was known in America, but he had a major success in both Britain and Australia with the song Well I Ask You.
Eden was born in India and both his parents were classically trained musicians. He had two older brothers (Peter and Clive Sarstedt) with whom he also collaborated. Peter also had success with the song Where Do You Go to (My Lovely).
Eden (real name Richard Sarstedt) was the first of the brothers to hit the pop charts with this song.
I have a bonus track. Quite some time ago I rediscovered a song from my past, one I hadn't heard or thought about for decades, and thought, "Oh, I have to include that in a column". I found that it was from 1961 and as I hadn't created a third incarnation of the year at the time, that'd be where I would put it.
Time passed and I remembered that I was going to produce a 1961 column but I had forgotten about the catalyst for it. It was only later when I finished that I remembered.
Rather than throw something out, I've included it as an extra. Now, once you hear what it is, you might wonder why I bothered. That's 1961 for you. Here is PAUL EVANS with Show Folk.