In the mid 50s Elvis came along and achieved a popularity that no one in the genre had ever known. His emergence lifted to fame a lot of rock stars like Bill Haley and His Comets, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard.
The Rolling Stones, c.1962. (L-R) Mick Jagger,
Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman
As big as these acts were, most of them slipped in the 1960s, including Elvis. After he started making those terrible movies, his role as a top rock and roller was diminished. It didn’t matter because with the arrival of The Beatles in late 1963, everyone took a back seat to them.
I was in my early 20s by then and still a big fan of rock tunes. The Hit Parade was a big deal for popular music and many watched for the weekly Billboard list of top songs; especially the top ten.
In January of 1964, I was home on leave in Cincinnati and I remember driving through downtown when the DJ on WSAI radio said he had a tune from a new British group called The Beatles. The song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Those of you old enough to remember 1964 know how that tune started The Beatles onslaught on American pop music. It was a time when Elvis had to slide over a seat and make room for the British invasion.
Before that time, if someone made the Billboard Top Ten, they considered to be a true star. When The Beatles arrived, it didn’t take long for them to take over the entire Top Ten!
The Stones today: (L-R) Watts,
Richards, Jagger, Ron Wood
Other British stars saw the opportunities in America as groups like The Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman and His Hermits, and Freddy and the Dreamers moved across the water to take advantage of the new American market. Individual British artists like Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and Sandi Shaw came over also as all their songs became hits via radio play and popular TV shows like “Shindig” and “Hullabaloo”. Ed Sullivan showcased them also as he did Elvis when he arrived in the mid 1950s.
Most of those groups and individuals are long forgotten by now as their music didn’t hold up for future generations. As big as The Beatles were, they disbanded in 1970 and since then, John Lennon and George Harrison have died.
By the late 60s, Americans got the hint had made headway in pop music with artists like Tommy James and the Shondells and others.
Any discussion of pop music would be incomplete without mentioning The Rolling Stones. 2012 marks their 50th year of performing. Someone might say, “Yeah, but how many of them are from the original group?” It’s a legitimate question as we have seen many popular groups lose their most important members through either retirement, death, or career changes. With The Stones, three of the five original members (Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger ) are still with the group that started in 1962. Founder Brian Jones died in 1969 at 27 and Bill Wyman retired at 57 in 1993.
Think about it: Where were you in 1962? I was 21 with three years left in the Air Force. When I first heard the Stones they were more of a rhythm and blues band rather than rock. I bought their album “12 x 5” in 1964 and loved their cover versions of some blues favorites like “Around and Around” and an all time fave, “Susie Q”. (1:54)
Guitarist Keith Richards will be 69 in December. A few years ago he was interviewed and one of the questions was, “How much longer do you want to play?” His answer? “Until the chicks stop diggin’ me.”
Now, there is a stud!