Lesson #2, Part I: Pompadours & Beehives

by Grandpa Mike & Daddy on February 22, 2011

iTunes Playlist for this lesson: Maile Music Project Lesson #2, Part I iTunes Playlist

YouTube Playlist for this lesson: Maile Music Project Lesson #2, Part I Youtube Playlist

Introduction from Grandpa Mike

Back in the “good  ‘ol days” — BB (before Bieber) and BM (before your quasi-namesake Miley Cyrus), there was a literal dynasty of singers whose popularity nationwide deemed them worthy of the label “teen idol.” Some of them were so-called “one-hit wonders” (more about this phenomenon later in your studies) but others actually sustained what could be considered a performing “career.”

Tiger Beat Magazine

Tiger Beat Magazine

Just like today, the youth culture of the 50’s and 60’s was fed a constant supply of good-looking (“cool and groovy”) young men and women who, in many cases, were marginally talented but had great photogenicity on TV and in the teen “fanzines” of the era (e.g. Tiger Beat, Seventeen).  Your Papa Mike , always a trendy type of guy, was sucked into the teen idolatry, along with my classmates and friends.

Dick Clark on American Bandstand

Dick Clark on American Bandstand

My main exposure to these singers was the TV show American Bandstand, invented and hosted by “the world’s oldest teenager” Dick Clark.  The kids who danced and cavorted on this very popular show (from Philadelphia originally, later from LA) were the oracles of who and what was COOL — if they gave a song a “thumbs up” it was usually because of the  pithy comment that “it had a good beat and you could dance to it.”  (Luckily, rock criticism, for the most part, has come a long way from that (right, Dave Marsh and Kurt Loder?)!

Brylcreem ad

Brylcreem ad

One of the trademarks of the teen idol business of this time was the performer(s) had to have SERIOUS hair — thus the title of this lesson.  The 50’s and early 60’s were years of American prosperity and going “green” then had nothing to do with saving the environment — it was about the color of money and the shade of your rockin’ Ray-ban Aviator sunglasses!  In the hair department, petroleum based products were “de-rigueur” (how ‘bout Papa’s bilingual abilities, Maile girl?) — every self-respecting guy had a tube of Brylcreem in his bathroom drawer and the “chicks”  carpet-bombed their heads with Aqua Net to get the desired bubble-head look.  Years later, retro acts like the B-52s, the Stray Cats, and Buster Poindexter revived the look of this musical period.

The  performers in the list below were/are the REAL DEAL — in fact, if you check out the web-sites of many of them, you may see present-day photos with dates of current/future gigs (e.g., performances).  Hope you enjoy my list, my little rocker!

(NOTE: We’re going to break this lesson into two parts – there are just too many near and dear to me to limit the list.)

The Lesson #2, Part I Teen Idols & Their Songs

1. Paul Anka
Still out there, still looking good — his hits “Diana” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” were stock spins at our parties, good “make-out” jams.

2. Frankie Avalon
Another “dreamboat” — Italian with a nasal voice and great hair — best known probably for his later career — with ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello — in all the ridiculous teen surfing movies like Beach Blanket Bingo. Like Paul Anka, still around, I believe — his “Dede Dinah” and “Venus” are great samples of his oeuvre (with my French again!)

3. Gary “U.S.” Bonds
This performer was one of my favorites from this time — his soulful raucous tunes all sounded like they were recorded at a house party in someone’s basement — definitely different than the “studio”-sound of the day.  I think I wore out the grooves on my copy of “Quarter to Three” and Gary’s “New Orleans” and “School is Out” are not far behind!  This was soul before Motown and funk before George Clinton!

4.Edd Byrnes
This guy was a blip on the radar screen of the this era.  Better known as “Kookie,” Byrnes was the crime-solving valet on the hit TV show 77 Sunset Strip (he was the earlier version of Huggy Bear — ask Daddy). He had the hair, the looks and the smile, but he had zero musical talent.  I include him here for perspective and for the  unforgettable opus “Kookie Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)” — definitely in the “one-hit  wonder” category.

5. The Champs
Tequila” — instantly recognizable — probably considered an anthem from this time-period — recorded by many other groups, but this is the original.  Always played at our parties, we danced this in a circle, as I remember it — don’t ask me why, maybe we thought it was how it done down in Tijuana.  We knew what tequila was and thus the subject matter (and only word ) of the song seemed exotic and forbidden to us 12 year-olds.  Kind of like “Gin ‘n Juice” did later, right Matt?

6. Danny & the Juniors
A great East-Coast group–I think Danny was like 14, so we really identified with him — too bad he died young, from a drug-overdose, I think. The classics “At the Hop” and  “Rock ‘n Roll is Here to Stay “ will live on forever!!

7. Del-Vikings
Great Doo-wop group (oh yeah — doo wop music created by guys singing on the street corners, without instrumental accompaniment — a very early rock influence) and you certainly should enjoy  “Come Go With Me” and “Whispering Bells”.  I loved their name — sounded like Nordic invaders (probably just a bunch of skinny kids from Jersey!)

8. Dion & the Belmonts
Another awesome act — doo-wop with street cred — Dion had a voice that sounded like he’d experienced all of life by his 16th birthday.  He was like Jack Kerouac with a set of pipes!  Listen to the jams “Runaround Sue“,” “The Wanderer” and “A Teenager in Love” and in words of Slick Willie Clinton, you can “feel his pain.”

9. The Drifters
This group evoked a great urban feel — for all the city dwelling kids, the experience of “Under the Boardwalk” and “Up on the Roof” really connected, and “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” were romantic bell-ringers of real life experiences.

10. Shelley Fabares and Connie Francis
Two of the pre-eminent female teen idols of the day — their songs really spoke of the heartache of loving and losing your “steady guy” (Maile — NOTE:  “going steady” back in Papa’s day meant seeing/dating only one boy or girl — when you’re 10 to 12 years old, that was a big deal, usually signified by wearing your “beloved’s” ring around your neck or a bracelet — Papa bought a $5 Speidel silver bracelet for his 5th grade crush, but he was “shot sown” — oh, the pain of young love’s rejection!).  Shelley’s “Johnny Angel” and Connie’s  trilogy of discovery and angst–”Lipstick On Your Collar”, “Who’s Sorry Now” and “Where the Boys Are” kind of say it all.
[Shelley Fabares' Wikipedia]
[Connie Francis' Wikipedia]

11. Lesley Gore
Her hairstyle was memorable — the ultimate Pageboy! — and her nasally voice had attitude underneath — listen to “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me” –conveyed feminism way before the bra-burning began in the 60’s.

12. Brian Hyland
A classic manufactured “teen idol” with a faintly feminine vocal quality — but remembered for his dreamy “Sealed with a Kiss” and his epic gimmick song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini“. Maile, back then two-piece bathing suits were considered avant-garde (my French again) and, in the words of Beavis and Butthead, “breakin’ the law.”

13. Major Lance
Cool name, good grooves — a precursor to Motown, with his “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” and  “The Monkey Time”.

14. Brenda Lee
One of my first crushes on a female singer (I’ll tell you later about my unrequited affection for Mick Jagger, Maile), Brenda had that combination of country and rock-a-billy going in her delivery — she was s-o-o-o-o cute and petite, I adored her! Listen to “Dum Dum”, “Dynamite” and the epic “I’m Sorry” to get a feel for what your Papa Mike was feelin’ back then, over 50 years ago.

15. Little Anthony & the Imperials
The Black version of The Four Seasons — Little Anthony had a great falsetto — his romantic ballads “Tears On My Pillow” and “Goin’ Out of My Head” are joined by the very cool dance jam “Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop”.

(We’ll stop there for now – more to come next week…)

Love, Papa Mike

(Remember, you can download all of the songs above on iTunes by clicking here: Maile Music Project Lesson #2, Part I iTunes Playlist. And you can find all the Youtube videos in one place by clicking here: Maile Music Project Lesson #2, Part I Youtube Playlist.)

  • http://mailemusicproject.com/pompadours-and-beehives-part-2/ Lesson #2, Part II: Pompadours & Beehives — The Maile Music Project

    [...] (NOTE: This is the second part of the Pompadous & Beehives lesson. Click here for the first part.) [...]

Previous post:

Next post: