– WABC – Alan Freed and dial-hopping – March 1959 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
1959 – last year of a decade; a decade that started with a war in Korea and was ending with the Cold War. A nervous decade – and like most teenagers at the time, wondering if there was going to be a tomorrow, or maybe they would find life on another planet, and knowing your luck, it would be as confused as yours.
You can’t really put your finger on it, but there’s something happening – you feel older, and you look older but you don’t really think older. At times you wish you were five again – nothing to worry about; everything taken care of. And then you’re glad you’re getting older – you can stay out late at night on the weekends and you can fall in love.
Love baffles you though – your head is all over the place – you think you’re ugly and you don’t dress right. Girls your age don’t like guys your age. Girls your age want guys in college and the best it’s going to be for you is someone who still wears braces and hasn’t quite gotten over acne and who still giggles at everything.
Well, at least you have your radio – and that’s something you can depend on – even if you have to listen to all the dedications; it seems like everybody is going steady – except you.
These are confusing times – you wish it all made sense. But maybe it’s just not supposed to. That makes sense.
To get an idea of what Top-40 radio was doing in the New York area in 1959, here’s an hour’s worth of Alan Freed via WABC around March of that year – interesting in the sense that, only a few months later, Freed would fired from WABC because of the Payola Scandal; something that would be sweeping the nation. Alan Freed, for those of you who don’t know, was one of the key figures in the introduction of Rock n’ Roll/R&B to primarily white audiences in the 1950s. He, ostensibly broke the color barrier in Rock music and opened the flood gates. Unfortunately, his contributions to Popular Culture have been somewhat tarnished over the years, he nonetheless was a highly influential figure in getting music out of the doldrums.
And in typical kid-fashion, with attention spans somewhat suspect and songs cut in and out and announcements clipped repeatedly, other radio stations are dialed to in search of the magic song. So this hour can be a little frustrating in places, but not frustrating enough to hit the erase button. You probably would have done the same thing if it was happening to you.
And maybe it did.
Enjoy, and try picking out the songs you know by heart – it might be harder than you think.
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