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Rock n’ Roll history this weekend, in the form of Alan Freed’s Camel Rock n’ Roll Dance Party from CBS Radio on June 9,1956. One of network radio’s few forays into the early days of Rock n’ Roll, and one that didn’t last particularly long, since Top-40 radio was on the horizon and quickly grabbing, not only the attention, but the audience as well.
On this particular episode from June 9, 1956, the house band is Count Basie with their singer Joe Williams, who add the Jazz/Big-Band/Jump-Blues component to the proceedings. They are joined by The Penguins, who had scored a massive hit with Earth Angel and became one of the pivotal groups in the Doo-Wop era, even though they never had a hit after that. Also on the program is singer Dori Anne Grey who fell somewhere into Pop and who had several singles on Mercury and one album released the following year – none of which were hits.
Even though CBS Radio was blazing a trail with this new form of Popular Music; Rock n’ Roll, there was still hesitation to completely dive into it. So subsequently the only Rock n’ Roll entry into this show was The Penguins. Had CBS been in earnest over this endeavor, they would have packed the acts in like one of Alan Freed’s live shows. But they were wary, having heard from a number of pundits that Rock n’ Roll was a passing fad and that it would be a dead issue in 6 months or less. The Youth Market wasn’t the potent entity it later became as the Baby Boom generation.
But it’s interesting to get a taste of just what the climate was like for Rock n’ Roll to gain popularity in the 1950s. It didn’t happen overnight, and even though Alan Freed’s career would be scorched and over with the payola scandal a few years later, he still did a lot to further the cause of this new music on as big a platform as he could grab. TV would follow months later with American Bandstand. Whether one had influence over the other in the eyes of network brass is something for speculation – the important point was that, for all the talk of the temporary nature of Rock n’ Roll, it was very much going to be here to stay.
Here’ a sample of what Alan Freed was doing in June of 1956.