Life in Philadelphia - 1961
The year your voice broke.

It’s 1961 – You Live In Philadelphia – You Aren’t A Teenager . . . Yet – Parts Don’t Fit Right –

Life in Philadelphia - 1961

The year your voice broke.

WIBG – Philadelphia – Jerry Stephens – January 6, 1961 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Admit it – if you had to do it all over again and were asked which period you would like to skip, you would invariably say “just before puberty hit”. Nothing compares to the insanity taking up residence inside the body of an 11/12 year old – you’re all over the place; you’re hot in the grips of marathon feelings and impulses. Everything exists in the Realm of The Absolutes – one minute your life is the best it’s ever been and it will never get any better. And in less than 10 seconds; there is no escape, you’re doomed – life is one enormous dumpster, and you’ve been swallowed up by it. There’s that thing about hair – what is it doing, why it is doing it where it’s doing it and when is it going to stop. And you start developing “funny feelings” – and your voice is changing. You are, by every measure and indicator of life – a mess. But you have your radio and the songs are suddenly making sense, like somebody handed you the answers to a secret code. And some of the girls in your class are starting to look “interesting”, and you’ve been getting stared at lately accompanied by funny, strange smiles. You wish someone would tell you what it all meant, but you’re too embarrassed to ask. Maybe if you just went and hid under something, like your bed, it would eventually go away. You’re really starting to wonder about this life – wonder if it has a point. Maybe if you grew a beard . . .

Listening back to this 1-hour sample of Jerry Stephens broadcasting from WIBG in Philadelphia on January 6, 1961, you can’t help but think mainstream pop music was going through a transitional period and it was smack in the middle of its dull phase. Of course, there are some songs which have become staples of a decade. But for the most part, it’s pretty forgettable stuff. Some of it’s way over-produced – some of it is idiotic and some of it fairly aches with teenage sentiment. But this was what mainstream Pop Music Radio was all about in 1961. And I bring all this up because I realize that, most likely, the vast majority of you listening to this clip weren’t born in 1961 – maybe born a few decades later. And this is a vague area for you; one that seems strange and quaint and bears no resemblance to the time you are in now. But this is history and this is where we came from and who we were – and this is what they were listening to in Philadelphia on the afternoon of January 6th in 1961.


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1 Response

  1. Jak Ray says:

    I was alive and loved the music and the radio talents in 1961. I’m not a fan of the 7 second djs that programmer Bill Drake created across America in 1965. Also, not a fan of hippie radio began by Tom Donahue in 1967. I liked radio talents with schtick. Loved the sense of urgency and a feeling if you tuned out, you would miss something great. Gary Owens is what I enjoyed when he played Top-40 music.

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