January 6, 1961 – 8 in the morning. It’s a Friday, the end of the first full week of school after Christmas vacation. Like just about every other kid in every other high school around the country, you had your choice of Electives; Home Ec – Woodworking – Auto Shop or Typing. You chose Typing. Why? Because you heard it was good for getting a job.
Your goal is 60 words a minute. Everyone is busy typing a letter to Mr. Brown of The Excelsior Ball bearing company. You’re thinking about the weekend – you’re also thinking about that book report you’re supposed to hand in on Monday. Silas Marner, the book you were supposed to read over the vacation, but you haven’t started it yet. Maybe it will snow this weekend. Maybe there’s a good movie playing.
Why do you keep typing Mr. Bing of The Imperial Ball Company? You’re never going to pass this class.
And if you were anywhere in the Philadelphia area on this particular Friday morning, January 1, 1961, you were probably listening to WIBG and Bill Wright.
WIBG was the Number 1 rated Top-40 station in Philadelphia in 1961 – this was what Pop Music was all about at the time; all over the place, and looking for a niche to settle in. A lot of “novelty” records – those songs with gimmicks and not a whole of musicality going for them. An across-the-board sampling of what mainstream music was about in 1961 – everyone from Lawrence Welk to Jerry Butler, making appearances during this one-hour slice of musical history. In retrospect, it would be enough to drive you insane these days – but in 1961 it was just popular music – the records people bought, the songs they asked for. There were strange pairings, but it all seemed to work. At least it did in 1961 – before the days of Top-40 and formats – anything that fit somewhere under 2:30 had a possibility of getting on the air – and that meant the playing field was wide open.
If you were born in 1961, you probably don’t remember this – if you were born earlier, a lot earlier, then you do. To you, this won’t sound. This was what you listened to and it didn’t bother you at all.
And – consider the people who were around, listening regularly at the time; they were either your parents, or your grandparents. And they don’t know what the fuss is about.
Have a listen and keep an open mind. It’s an hour and it’s from January 6, 1961.