“Good Golly, Miss Molly . . . sure likes to ball,” went the lyrics by Little Richard – while Chuck Berry noted that, “Everyone wants to dance with Sweet Little Sixteen.” Then, as now, I suppose it all boils down to the kind of evening you’re looking for -- advice sage enough to embrace both tunes' all-timer equal TEQUILA as well. Of course, the Champs’ let’s-all-get-hammered manifesto almost gives one the impression that it was conceived in the first place just to give Pee-wee Herman a transcendent screen moment 27 years later via his bop-out dance atop a biker bar in Tim Burton’s feature debut PEE-wee’s BIG ADVENTURE.
Or to put all this another way, no small slew of bona fide pop durables came out roughly 60 years ago as we speak -- all commemorated with reverence in my ongoing Audio Archives project, begun in the summer of 1981 and still a consuming passion of mine.
Somewhat less worthy of such reverence is CLICK-CLACK by Dickey Doo & the Don’t’s – though in a pinch, you’d have to call it preferable to that tossed-together quintet’s recording of NEE NEE NA NA NA NA NU NU, which hit three months later during that group’s same brief epoch (“epoch” being an ubiquitously useful crossword puzzle word I was learning around the same time). To be sure, guileless outrageousness probably has to count for something – but for that, and even then, I preferred the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Danny Thomas rendition of JAILHOUSE ROCK.
You say what? Well, that showstopper concluded the trio’s medley of both nominated and Oscar-winning songs on a February airing of NBC-TV’s Saturday night CLUB OASIS – a broadcast I saw at the time and still like (I have a copy). For added riches, Dino and Danny teamed up for TAMMY as well (apologies to Debbie Reynolds and maybe even the source movie’s co-star Leslie Neilsen, though he was then years away from displaying his whoopee-cushion loony streak, at least in public). And this hour-long special also featured a Frank-Dino duet of I LOVE TO LOVE – also featured here this playlist -- which later became the tune of choice for a Dino-Fabian duet that would eventually air on a January, 1960, STARTIME special (also NBC). I have a copy of this show, too -- did you really think I wouldn’t? – in part because Fabian and fellow guest Andre Previn just didn’t get to work together all that much.
But I digress. Cole Porter and Rodgers & Hart weren’t active participants on Ella Fitzgerald’s first two landmark “Songbook” marathons on Verve (of course, Lorenz Hart was long deceased), but the living, breathing Duke Ellington (with his Orchestra) was right there in the recording studio to co-fashion one of the series highpoints. The Miles Davis “dropped-‘n’” albums for Prestige were back with the 6-cut Relaxin’ – four of the songs standards and each a performance mellow enough to make me think about starting to smoke a pipe -- though, no, not at age 10. (By the way, has everyone seen the great LP cover that some Photoshop wag has done – it showed up on my Facebook page – to morph WORKIN' WITH THE MILES DAVIS QUINTET into TEXTIN' with the same?) Meanwhile, Columbia’s late-’57 The Sound of Jazz LP was still getting play on its way to becoming a future staple, though what made it to stores was a recording of that CBS-TV landmark’s REHEARSAL and one that differed from the broadcast in a few other ways as well. In terms of Billie Holiday’s deteriorating voice (she would die at 44 a year-and-a-half later), FINE AND MELLOW is kind of an irresistible smooshing of the flawlessly vintage but also end-of-the-road Billie -- though until her absolute final laps, she still got by on style.
A Jimmie Rodgers two-sider led to a No. 7 hit that much later sold a lot of Spaghetti-O’s PLUS an opening credits title-tune to a major motion picture that got the very young Paul Newman best actor at Cannes. I saw Rodgers perform both while sitting as a 10-year-old in the live audience of the ED SULLIVAN SHOW (Buddy Holly was also an Ed guest that night, as was Joyce Grenfell, for that matter). Johnny Cash was again the ethos of Sun Records with BALLAD OF A TEENAGE QUEEN, and I vividly remember the Chordettes promoting their biggest hit aside from 1954’s through-the-roofer MR. SANDMAN by dressing up as overgrown children to lip-synch a wild-ass performance of LOLLIPOP on a Dick Clark Show. All said, this was probably less humiliating than all those times the Sheboygan quartet had to sit on folding chairs as “Little Godfreys” for some forced fawning over their chronically dyspeptic boss Arthur during his weekday-morning CBS broadcast. Especially during all those times (many) when Art’s Ex-Lax apparently wouldn’t kick in.
The coda to this collection is Danny & the Juniors’ ROCK AND ROLL IS HERE TO STAY, which I love even more than the group's preceding smash of AT THE HOP. Ultimately, the song’s message would prove to be true, but we’d soon be entering a tough period for pioneer rockers, thanks to Payola, sex scandals, car crashes, plane crashes, Lewis Hershey and the Draft (a potential rock-group name if there ever was one) and white suburban fathers who proved not to be as sanguine about their blonde daughters digging black recording artists as the dads were in Alan Freed movies. Before long, it would be Frankie Avalon giving us BOBBY-SOX TO STOCKINGS in a reedy voice that these days sounds like Jared Kushner emptying out some karaoke bar. But on the other hand, Avalon eventually fought on screen in the Alamo (and even survived), aiding the Duke’s version of Davy Crockett -- and then got paid to make beach party movies. So what have you done lately?
FEBRUARY – MARCH 1958
1) GOOD GOLLY, MISS MOLLY (Little Richard; Specialty); 2) SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN (Chuck Berry; Chess); ); 3) LOOK AT ME (off Buddy Holly; Brunswick); 4) IT’S SO NICE TO GO TRAV’LING (Frank Sinatra, with Nelson Riddle, off Come Fly with Me; Capitol); 5) I LOVE TO LOVE (Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin, off the Feb 1, 1958 broadcast of Club Oasis); 6) IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU (off Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet; Prestige); 7) TRINKLE TRINKLE (off Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane; Riverside); ? ROYAL FLUSH (Sonny Clark; bonus track off Cool Struttin’; Blue Note); 9) A WONDERFUL TIME UP THERE (Pat Boone; Dot); 10) IT’S TOO SOON TO KNOW (same); 11) BERTHA LOU (Clint Miller; ABC-Paramount); 12) CLICK-CLACK (Dickey Doo & the Don’ts; Swan); 13) SHE’S NEAT (Dale Wright; Fraternity); 14) ARE YOU SINCERE? (Andy Williams; Cadence); 15) AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (Frank Sinatra, with Nelson Riddle, off Come Fly with Me; Capitol); 16) MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT (same); 17) WHEN DAY IS DONE (Keely Smith, with Nelson Riddle, off I Wish You Love; Capitol); 18) ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE (outtake off same); 19) FINE AND MELLOW (Billie Holiday, with the Mal Waldron All-Stars, off The Sound of Jazz; Columbia); 20) JUST SQUEEZE (BUT DON’T TEASE ME) (Ella Fitzgerald, with Duke Ellington, off Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook; Verve); 21) PERDIDO (same); 22) I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART (Ella Fitzgerald, with Oscar Peterson & Co.); 23) YOU’RE MY EVERYTHING off Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet; Prestige); 24) FRANK SINATRA-DEAN MARTIN-DANNY THOMAS OSCAR + 1 RINGER MEDLEY: I Fall in Love Too Easily (Frank); That’s Amore (Dean); (Love Is) the Tender Trap (Frank); Three Coins in the Fountain (Frank); April Love (Dean); Sayonara (Danny); An Affair to Remember (Frank); Tammy (Dean & Danny); All the Way (Frank); Jailhouse Rock (all three; off the Feb 1, 1958 broadcast of Club Oasis;); 25) THE LONG HOT SUMMER (Jimmie Rodgers; Roulette); 26) OH, OH, I’M FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN (same); 27) THE WALK (Jimmy McCracklin; Checker); 28) BALLAD OF A TEENAGE QUEEN (Johnny Cash; Sun); 29) LOLLIPOP (The Chordettes; Cadence); 30) TEQUILA (The Champs; Challenge); 31) ROCK AND ROLL IS HERE TO STAY (Danny & the Juniors; ABC-Paramount) summer wedding guest dresses