No matter where you go, Rock n’ Roll has taken over. Every city, town and hamlet, from Bangor Maine to Santa Monica California is cranking out this new and sometimes strange music. It’s been bubbling under for a couple years, but now it’s 1958 and it’s everywhere. But more than that, it’s different everywhere. Some songs you hear in L.A. but you don’t hear in New York. Some songs in New York you won’t hear in San Francisco. Some songs in San Francisco you won’t hear in Boston. Groups and singers and labels, little labels, pop up all over the country – and every high school seems to have their own stars – and they all want to be on American Bandstand and they all want to play those big holiday shows, like the ones Alan Freed puts on. Everybody has something going on and your cousin spends a lot of time in front of the mirror or working on his hair.
So here you are, staying with your cousin on Long Island. Lucky for you, he has a tape recorder and listens non-stop to WABC, WMGM, WMCA, WIMNS and a million other radio stations. So what you do, just to let your friends back in L.A. know what’s happening, is you record the radio – you dial hop. Sometimes you stay on a song and other times you get bored and switch the station to another song. It’s too much and its non-stop, and you have a lot to do before you go home at the end of the week.
Nobody really pays much attention to it now, but the 1950s were significant for a lot of reasons, aside from the cold war, red scares and juvenile delinquency, there was also the massive popularity of the 45 record, reel to reel tape recorders were now affordable and creeping into just about every home in America, top-40 radio was riding the crest of a huge wave, one that was getting bigger by the day. Of course, it wasn’t meant stay that way, with all things in perpetual change, there were further changes waiting in the wings, all under the heading of The 60’s. But this was the first time America had the beginnings of a youth culture; it was the tip of an iceberg. The kids born in 1945 were turning 13 in 1958, and there were starting to be a lot of them, and they wanted different things, their music was suddenly no longer your dad’s music, it was your music. And some of it was pretty strange. So to give you an idea of what this new musical atmosphere sounded like, here is a half-hour grab-bag of sounds, legendary voices of early Top-40 radio, heard on your typical average day in October of 1958. If you happen to be the age that many of the people people listening to these stations were, you will not recognize a single thing, most likely, you’ll scratch your head in perplexity and stare with amazement that this is the music some swore you were heading straight to hell over. Yes, they honestly did. The call letters, commercials and dj banter are mostly cut down by whoever recorded it at the time, but its enough to give you a taste for the era and maybe listen for more.