It’s 1961 – You’re A Teenager – You Live In L.A. – You Know Something’s Happening, You Just Don’t Know What It Is.
It’s 1961. You’re sixteen. You’re the one on the left in the picture. You’re brooding. There’s something in the air – maybe it’s Cuba, maybe it’s Berlin – you know it’s the world and it keeps you awake at night. You read the L.A. Times story about what would happen if an Atomic Bomb dropped on L.A. – you saw your street on the map – you would be radioactive dust if it landed where it said it would. And then you heard on the radio that L.A. is long overdue for an earthquake, a BIG one. And the smog. Your eyes sting most days and your chest hurts at night.
It’s a mess – you’re a mess – life is a mess. And radio tries to help – lots of dreamy-creamy songs about love with strings and finding THE ONE. You aren’t going to find anybody – you have trouble keeping goldfish. It’s not the music so much, it’s you.
You’re starting to wonder why you’re in school – if you’re all going to die anyway, what’s the use, sitting in a class eight hours a day with some teacher who hates what he’s doing? You’re never going to see Paris – never going to fall in love. Your life is doomed.
Why doesn’t the phone ring? You took it off the hook. People are probably trying to call you, but you’re busy contemplating disaster. You did that last week – and nothing happened. You do that a lot and nothing happens- maybe it’s something you’ll just grow out of. Maybe. If the world is around that long.
1961 was a pivotal year – there were a lot of musical changes afoot. Pop Music was still the domain of the 45 and albums were afterthoughts or different music entirely. Mono lps were a dollar cheaper than their stereo counterparts but not all albums were stereo. Top-40 was finding its way – still straddling what became known as Middle-Of-the-Road, along with Blues and Country – it was still a big grab bag of music during any given hour. KRLA and KFWB were the two giants in L.A., locked neck-and-neck for popularity. This particular hour of KRLA was with Jimmy O’Neil, who would go over to KFWB and eventually host the nationally popular television program Shindig and be a household name during the age of the British Invasion. But that was still a few years off – and in 1961 he was balancing Connie Francis with Etta James, The Stereos and Roy Orbison.
Radio in L.A. was still uncharted territory and Personality Radio was the be-all/end-all for Pop Culture in 1961.
Here’s an hour of Jimmy O’Neil from KRLA – October 9, 1961.
Editors Note: The above is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.