. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC Radio – Conversation “What Is The Jukebox Saying? – Feb. 15, 1955 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection.
It’s hard to imagine that, 60 years ago, Rock n’ Roll represented the end of society as we knew it. Members of the Music Industry establishment were baffled that suddenly this new music had become so popular among teenagers and young adults that it threatened to topple the tried-and-true field of Popular Music in the 1950s.
And a lot was written and commented on during those first formative years of this new genre. I have run several vintage radio programs where Rock n’ Roll was discussed – all of it hosted by members of the Old Guard, the establishment of Popular music pundits, industry executives and music publishers. They were all actively engaged in hand-wringing; questioning the moral fiber of America – how these seemingly nonsense songs could ever make their way into our group conscience was puzzling to them. But they represented an older generation – an established hierarchy who were in danger of being quickly made obsolete by the fast paced music of the time.
This radio program features a discussion between three members of the Music business. It was part of the Converstion series from NBC radio and it was originally broadcast on February 15, 1955. The panel members are Mitch Miller, head of A&R at Columbia Records and a vehement opponent of Rock n’ Roll. Composer and lyricist Alec Wilder – one of the legendary figures in 20th century Classical music as well as a writer of much Pop Music which have gone on to become Standards over the years. Lastly, music publisher Howie Richmond, who did much to promote popular music and was not all that adverse to Rock n’ Roll.
The panel is moderated by Clifton Fadiman, who is staunchly opposed to Rock n’ Roll, and goes out of his way to ridicule this new genre, as many at the time did.
You have to understand that, 60 years ago, Rock n’ Roll was something totally foreign and strange to much of the population at the time – it was met with a goodly amount of resistance. What saved it was the mere fact of its popularity among the Youth of America, who came to be known as The Baby Boom generation – and subsequently a very potent economic entity. Their sheer numbers, their buying power and their intense love of this new music, insured its popularity and development in the years to come. But that’s not to say the powers that comprised the Music business rolled over and accepted it with open arms. Mitch Miller, who was head of the A&R Department of Columbia Records was dead against this new music – and did everything he could to discourage its evolution and hoped it would be a fad, destined to die out. History proved him wrong.
But at the time, it was interesting to hear the reactions – and in hindsight, roll your eyes at just how much inane resistance there was to change.
Happens all the time.
Here, as a reminder that things don’t happen overnight, is that episode of Conversation, as it was broadcast on February 15, 1955.