Picture this: Rock n’ Roll is still on the fringes – it hasn’t taken the country by storm; not yet. However, you’ve been hearing about this guy named Elvis Presley. You saw him a week earlier on Stage Show, you can’t get enough of him – they say he’ll be on again, maybe this week. You saw him a few weeks earlier on Stage Show, for the first time. Your life changed. You’re on to something. But not all your friends feel the same way you do – you don’t care. Elvis is it. You’ve got to get tickets. You’ll stand out in front of the theatre all night if you have to – so what if it’s snowing – For Elvis, you must suffer.
Much as we’re led to believe the world discovered Elvis Presley and everything became Rock n’ Roll, it didn’t happen overnight and artists like Elvis didn’t win instant universal acceptance. To some, Elvis represented all of what was going wrong with society – the rebellious nature of youth – not satisfied with quaint and simple tunes, Rock spoke to an urge that was not going to go quietly away anytime ever again. There was a budding Youth Culture and they weren’t going to take things easy. Perry Como just wasn’t making it – Dinah Shore was for an earlier generation. Teenage America needed someone to call their own; someone who just didn’t look like anyone they had seen before. Sure, there was Little Richard – but there was segregation and Little Richard played what was called “Race music” – and parents drew the line. At least Elvis was white. It was like that.
In February 1956 things were staring to happen – even radio was slowly changing – by the end of the year it would be a different story. But for the dead of Winter in 1956, all you could be was breathless.
Here is a half-hour slice of WCBS, New York and the Bill Randall show from February 11, 1956 – he mentions the next appearance of Elvis Presley on Stage Show – but he doesn’t play Mystery Train, which went to Number 1 on the Country Charts only days earlier. Music, as you will quickly notice, was a whole lot different before Rock took hold.
Enjoy, and picture being there.