. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Conversation – Rock n’ Roll – July 29,1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Generation gaps. Yes, there was a huge one in 1956. Pop Music was going through a big change and a lot of people didn’t like it.
It was called Rock n’ Roll and many were convinced it meant the end of the world as they knew it. The objects of this disdain and derision were Elvis Presley and Bill Haley and His Comets – two of the more visible practitioners of this new form of music and two of its biggest targets.
And it made for hours of discussion – newspaper and magazine articles; everyone from Disc Jockeys to Psychiatrists all chimed in with one opinion or another on just what this new phenomenon meant and where America was headed.
Several pundits passed it off as a fad; one which was not destined to last. Others didn’t mind it and thought it reflected the urges of youth to express themselves in ways no adult would understand – and that it was a rite of passage, as Popular Music had shown in generations before. Others just didn’t think it was music, that it was jarring and unpleasant and couldn’t really be listened to for more than a minute at most.
Opinions ran the gamut and the controversy raged for years.
One of those discussion programs tackling the issue was the popular Conversation series, which ran on NBC Radio. This episode, from July of 1956, featured the legendary Broadway composer Richard Rogers and New York Disc jockey Ted Brown. The moderator is Clifton Fadiman, who has a seething dislike for Presley. Rogers, a professional composer and musician, has no objection to it – it’s not his personal favorite, but he understands the appeal and takes something of a laissez faire approach to the subject. Ted Brown is no fan. Fadiman is unbending.
Between the three of them you get a sense of what the rest of the country was feeling about this new form of music and this new expression of Youthful America.
The natural tendency was to blame this new Music for all the social ills confronting the country and its Youth. Fadiman lays blame squarely on Presley for the upsurge in Juvenile Delinquency – that this music is tearing apart the fabric of society. Rogers didn’t see it that way – Brown just hoped everything would go back to the way it was before.
So if you thought any Popular music which represented any period of time was without its detractors or alarmists, you can rest easy in knowing it’s just never changed, and most likely never will.
To remind yourself what it was like almost 60 years ago, here is that broadcast of Conversation and the subject of Rock n’ Roll. I purposely left the lead-in on as there was a promo for an upcoming popular program at the time, featuring Guy Lombardo and Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm – popular music of the generation previous to the one coming of age in 1956.
So now you know.