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.
The Four Preps had a number of hits in the Fifties. I especially remember 26 Miles and Big Man with fondness.
The four were students at Hollywood High School and were signed to a recording contract by Capitol Records after one of Capitol's executives saw them at a talent show at that school in 1956. Boy, if that’s not the basis of a film I don’t know what is.
Besides being particularly fine ballad singers, they were also fine mimics and had a couple of hits imitating other groups. This is one of them: More Money For You and Me.
Naturally, I’m going to feature the songs they send up in that song.
The Fleetwoods started out with two female lead singers, Gretchen Christopher and Barbara Ellis, with a male backup singer, Gary Troxel.
When they were signed to a record company and ready to record, a record exec said, “Can’t have that sort of thing.” Over The Fleetwoods’ strenuous objections, the exec prevailed. They did record some songs in their original format but these were relegated to albums. The singles featured Gary as lead.
In spite of that they released a number of fine songs – Come Softly To Me, The Great Imposter, Graduation’s Here and the song featured here today, Mr Blue.
The Hollywood Argyles were typical one-hit wonders, at least around my neck of the woods. It seems they needed a name for their group, so as the recording studio was on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street, that was it. I suppose it could have been worse, they might have chosen the name “Boulevard Street.”
Alley Oop seemed to us to be a typical senseless novelty song because we didn’t have the cartoon strip in our papers. It was probably a novelty song even for those who did have it.
It’s not even a very entertaining novelty song, unlike Purple People Eater, Witch Doctor and quite a few others. However, it was in the Preps’ song, so here it is.
Ah, now we have a fine group, The Platters.
The Platters were unusual for the time as they set themselves up as a legal entity with each member having an equal share. However, whenever a member left, their manager, Buck Ram, bought out that share and eventually it meant that he had complete control of the group and, especially, its name. For a long time he would have several different groups touring as The Platters, often at the same time.
Back in the fifties though, for a while they had a stable group that gave us a string of hits that were among the best of the era: Only You, The Great Pretender, My Prayer, Twilight Time and lots more. It also included the track the Preps sang, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
The only track I didn’t have in my collection is In This Whole Wide World by The Four Freshmen.
The Four Freshmen started singing together in 1948, and they are still singing today. Not the originals, though. By my count there have been 22 of them. I may have missed some. That sure beats George Washington’s axe. They have always been more jazz oriented than anything else, but they could sing pop with the best of them.
Here is a live version of the song I found courtesy of Doctor Google. I don’t know which of the 22 are in the group.
The Kingston Trio get two songs mentioned but we’re running a bit short so I’ll only use one of them.
The original line up of the Kingston Trio was Dave Guard, Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds. However, when they first started, the group was rather fluid and as many as seven or eight could be on stage together. The others eventually fell by the wayside leaving the trio.
They probably were more instrumental in instigating the folk boom of the late Fifties, early Sixties than any other group. Folkier-than-thou types castigated them for not being pure folk singers but they claimed that wasn’t what they were doing.
The Preps songs were A Worried Man and Tom Dooley, The Kinston Trio's most famous song. That’s the one you’ll be hearing today.
While checking the photos for Dion and the Belmonts, I noticed that there seems to be somewhere between two and five Belmonts. Maybe it was who was around at the time or who was out of jail (just kidding, Belmonts, I’m going on what the Preps sang).
Once they were sort of successful, they went on various tours around your country, as most of the early rock 'n' rollers did. One of these was the "Winter Dance Party" tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Dion took the clapped-out bus rather than flying that night in February 1959, because he could not afford the $36 for the flight. The promoters couldn’t have paid him much, but in this case, that probably worked out okay for him.
The group’s next song was A Teenager in Love.