Tag Archives: Roots of Rock

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Sunday 31 July 1966
[The audio is NOT July 31, but Oct 8, 1966, the first day of DJs]

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Federal intervention

In July 1964, the federal government, via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), adopted a non-duplication rule prohibiting FM radio stations in cities of more than 100,000 people from merely running a simulcast of the programming from their AM counterparts. Stations fought the rule and delayed implementation.

WOR-FM Rocks

Writing on the wall

Station owners did not succeed in their fight and many decided to experiment with the still new but growing rock genre. Soon rock FM stations dotted the land.

WOR-FM Rocks

Finally rocks

WOR-FM rocks

And so on July 31, 1966 New York City’s WOR-FM began running a freeform-based progressive rock format for most of its broadcast day. Management was unable to come to an agreement with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (the union that represented on air talent). As a result, the DJ’s did not start until October 8.

WOR-FM Rocks

Not quite underground

Listening to the sample above from the first day of DJs playing (not particularly different from the previous months’ playlists), the listener will realize that the playlist was not particularly different from the AM pop radio playlists.

That difference would not happen until the FM DJs began to experiment play more album cuts of their own choice.

It was that difference, the question of choice versus the handing down from on high of a playlist, that soon separated FM “pop” stations using the Drake method of programming from the stations like WNEW-FM (also in NYC). WNEW-FM gave its DJs much more leeway when choosing what to play.

WOR-FM Rocks

Short-lived

After hardly more than a year of the new format with DJs, many of the original group left. Bill Mercer, or simply Rosko, was one of the more popular of WOR’s DJs. He brought a unique free style he brought to his shows. Fans loved him and it, but he realized that management did not want that style.

On October 2, 1967, less than a year after starting, Rosko announced his departure on the air. Click below to listen to a piece of it…

Rosko joined WNEW-FM shortly afterwards and the rest is another much more enjoyable history. NYT article

WOR-FM Rocks

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

There are many dates offered for the birth of rock and roll, but certain dates unarguably made rock possible.

One: Sam Phillips opened the Memphis Recording Service on January 3, 1950.

Two: in April 1951, Phillips recorded “Rocket 88″ by  Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, a song considered by many to be the first Rock and Roll song.

Three: on January 4, 1954 while still working as a truck driver, Elvis Presley went to the Sam Phillips to record a song for his mother’s birthday which was many months away. He recorded “It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You” and “I’ll Never Stand In Your Way.” It was this recording that would lead Phillips to call Presley back to record for his Sun Records label. The receipt is dated Jan. 6, but the date of the recording was Jan. 4.

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service
Receipt (found at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/497858933781499894/)
Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Alabama kid

When growing up in Alabama, Sam Phillips had been exposed to all types of music, but he loved the blues sound he’d heard traveling through Memphis, Tennessee’ Beale Street. When he opened the Memphis Recording Service he followed that lead and recorded such Black performers as B.B. King, Junior Parker, and Howlin’ Wolf. Phillips then would sell their performances to larger record labels.

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

MRS

According to the  the Kitchen Sisters, “Before Elvis walked through the door, before Sun Studios put Memphis on the map—Sam Phillips, a young man with a tape recorder, lived by the motto, “We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.” Weddings, funerals, marching bands, the Miss Memphis Pageant—Sam recorded them all—anything to keep his fledgling Memphis Recording Service open to record Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Little Junior, Ike Turner, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley. The raw and rocking, unrecorded music of the 1950s South. (to listen to the Kitchen Sisters’ excellent podcast on Phillips >>> Kitchen Sisters)

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Sun Records

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

In 1952 Phillips started Sun Records. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site his company released 226 singles during its 16 years and “…That figure doesn’t include the 71 singles released on Sun’s sister label, Phillips International!) Those 45s and 78s with the familiar Sun logo amount to a treasure of music whose greatest moments mark the spot where rock and roll originated and thrived in all its frantic, wild-eyed abandon. “We’re all crazy,” Phillips has said of himself and his charges at Sun. “But it’s a type of insanity that borders on genius. I really feel that. To be as free as you have to be for any kind of music, you almost have to be in another dimension. And to do the broad expanse of rock and roll takes an element of mind expansion that people less creative would term insanity.” (form more >>> Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site)

So important was Sam Phillips’s impact on the history or Rock and Roll, he was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

For more about Phillips, the Memphis Recording Service, and Sun records, watch this excellent video history:

Sam Phillips Memphis Recording Service

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

When we boomers fell in love with the Beatles and enthusiastically poured more gasoline on Beatlemania’s already raging conflagration, we congratulated ourselves on finding such new wonderful music.

Ah, youth! forever dear, forever kind.

And forever naive.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

American music

The Beatles, of course, like most of the world’s young people who loved rock and roll, fell in love with American rock music: the descendant and combination of the blues, country, and gospel music. I imagine that John, Paul, George, and Ringo were a bit dumbfounded to hear our discovery of their “new” music. They knew that they were doing their best to come up with something new, yes, but thoroughly based on the American music they so loved.

Like that of Charles Hardin Buddy Holly.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Charles Hardin Holley was born on September 7, 1936  in Lubbock, Texas and played several instruments as a child, but it was the guitar that he settled on.

And he dropped the e from his last name.

He and his band, the Western and Bop Band, performed throughout the southwest. Nashville’s Decca Records signed Holly: Buddy Holly and the Two Tunes, later Buddy Holly and the Three Tones.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Success then release

Decca released a few singles before dropping the band. Holly and his band mates returned to Lubbock. During this time Holly developed his singer-songwriter skills and the band became a local favorite to open for touring musicians. The most important gig was opening for Elvis. That experience shifted Holly to rock and roll.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Norman Petty

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

On February 25, 1957 Buddy Holly and the Crickets were in Norman Petty’s Clovis, NM studio. They recorded another version of: “That’ll Be the Day.”

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Peggy Sue

The song attracted national attention and a national tour. “Peggy Sue” was a #3 hit here and a hit in the UK where young musicians like John, Paul, George, and Ringo were just starting out. A 1958 tour in England gave Holly and even bigger presence there.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

It was while on the 1958 Winter Dance Party Tour that Holly decided to take the plane and not the bus.

On February 3, 1959 that plane crashed just outside Mason City, Iowa killing all on board including the Big Bopper and Richie Valens.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly

Quarrymen

Holly’s influence continued beyond his death. The Quarrymen eventually changed their name to the Beatles in homage to Holly’s Crickets. They also slowly developed their own singer-songwriter abilities, the hallmark of the most successful musicians whom the 1960s–and beyond–produced.

Charles Hardin Buddy Holly