Big Maybelle, The Moonglows, Sam “The Man” Taylor – Alan Freed’s Rock n’ Roll Dance Party – 1956 – Past Daily Weekend Pop Chronicles
Another installment of this iconic and historic document of early Rock n’ Roll. This one features one of the rare radio appearances of Blues Diva and “Queen Mother Of Soul” Big Maybelle. An artist who never quite made it into the mainstream, but gave a show stopping performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival and was immortalized on Bert Stern’s award winning Documentary Jazz On A Summer’s Day – who eventually wound up being “discovered” by millions of TV viewers from a 90s episode of The Cosby Show and also received a posthumous Grammy Hall Of Fame Award in 1999.
The other participants of the show are regulars Sam “The Man” Taylor and his orchestra, Doo-wop legends The Moonglows, and Jimmy Cavallo and the Houserockers performing music from the Freed produced movie Rock, Rock, Rock.
As I said a few weeks ago when I posted another Rock n’ Roll Dance Party, this was Network Radio’s contribution to the Rock n’ Roll phenomenon, an attempt to ride the crest of a popularity wave and cash in on a trend which many believed would revive the flagging popularity of variety radio. At first, CBS Radio was tacit in its approval of the show, and pretty much let Freed have free reign. But when the show started to get popular, the network brass saw it as an opportunity to snag a larger audience and Sam “the Man” Taylor was replaced by Count Basie and more White rock acts would appear on the show than had originally been scheduled. No Elvis Presley – he was beyond Freed’s reach by this time. But this show, and several others like it, were instrumental in bringing Rock n’ Roll to a larger segment of the population than had been done even two years earlier. Because around this time, radio station music formats were changing. Rock n’ Roll was being introduced more regularly and it was soon edging out the more mainstream Pop acts of the time – anybody who has spent any time listening to Dick Jockey programs from local radio from the early 50’s onwards will notice changes, however slight at first, because of what personalities like Alan Freed were doing.
And as was the case for the entire run of this show, it was sponsored by Camel Cigarettes. There are those of you out there who frown on giving this aspect of history much space. But the fact was, cigarettes were huge business and cigarette advertising made it possible for shows like this to exist. I don’t think listening to the somewhat pallid ads for Camel Cigarettes are going to cause people to run into their local liquor stores and shovel wads of twenties in order to light up as much it will cause you to think “wow, they really did that?” – it’s history and you can’t rewrite all of it.
That said – hit the play button and enjoy what live rock n’ roll was all about during its formative days.