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.
1959 was the year I was uprooted halfway through high school (and halfway through the year) from my small country town and deposited in a really big city (Melbourne).
That was for a couple of reasons: to keep the family together (my sister had already made that move), and to ensure a good education for the next kid (me) as my big sister really had to struggle to do that on her own – she was the only person in her year 12 class.
It was also a pretty good year for music.
It was with the group THE TEDDY BEARS that we first encountered Phil Spector. This was ostensibly a trio; the other two were Marshall Leib and Annette Kleinbard. There were others who came and went, most notably Sandy Nelson who had a later career as a drummer.
Phil wrote the song To Know Him is to Love Him for the group and particularly for Annette to sing the lead. It was their only hit. Annette later changed her name to Carol Connors and had a successful career as a songwriter.
Does music from this year get any better than this? That’s a rhetorical question to which the answer is no. That’s because we have THE PLATTERS.
The only question really is which song to play. I decided on one of their best, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
BILLY GRAMMER was both a singer a fine guitarist.
He was one of the few who had a signature guitar made and named for him. Not just that but the company changed its name to the Grammer Guitar Company. He had a few hits during his career, the biggest of which was Gotta Travel On.
COL JOYE was the second biggest rock & roller in Australia at the time.
He was the one the parents liked rather that the outrageous Johnny O’Keefe whom the kids liked. Sort of like Ricky Nelson and Elvis in that regard. Col’s contribution is Bye, Bye Baby Goodbye.
By this year, FATS DOMINO had been making records for at least a decade, so he knew what he was doing by this stage.
One of the things he did really well was the song, I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Some Day.
Along with two or three others, GUY MITCHELL was a breath of fresh air in the early fifties. He, and they, showed this kid that there might be some interesting music out there amongst all the dross.
Guy kept making good records as the decade went on, one of which is Heartaches by the Number.
FRANKIE FORD was another native of Louisiana who took up music at an early age.
After some minor success he was used as a backup vocalist. When he did this for Huey “Piano” Smith with Huey’s song, Sea Cruise, the record company decided to release Frankie’s version as Huey already had a couple of songs on the charts. Frankie did likewise with the song.
You can be pretty certain that MARTY ROBBINS would be present this year.
Marty seems surprised that seventeen and eighteen year olds were getting together. Oh, Marty, Marty, Marty they’ve been doing that since we evolved into humans (and no doubt before that). She Was Only Seventeen.
By now anything the EVERLY BROTHERS recorded was guaranteed to top the charts.
This is a tale of woe that the lads don’t want Mary to know about; that is that they’re banged up in the clink. She might figure that something’s wrong when they don’t come home. Take a Message to Mary.
PHIL PHILLIPS received a pittance from his recording of Sea of Love.
He wrote the song, recorded it and saw that it hit the top of the charts, selling more than a million. He recorded an album but refused to have it released due to the shonky deal the record company struck with him.
He’s still trying to get his due after all this time. It’s particularly galling as the song has been covered quite often and was used in the successful film of the same name.