From the time I was 8 years old I had my ear to a record player. My older sisters were listening to the early 50s pop of The Four Freshmen, Joni James, Teresa Brewer, etc. My cousin was a jazz trumpet player and my Aunt (Dolly Dawn) had been a radio and recording star in the 30s. Dolly was a jazz singer at the beginning of the Big Band era and was actually cited by Ella Fitzgerald as an early influence. So there was plenty of music around.
The first record that caught my ear was "P.S. I Love You" by the Hilltoppers. Then came Rock and Roll. "Only You" by the Platters and "Tutti Frutti" by Litttle Richard. I think I played that one a thousand times when I first got my hands on it. Of course, all of the adults said Elvis sang flat and would be lost without the echo chamber. But my sister would squirm when he was on TV, and the next day there was talk at school about this weird guy who wiggled with his guitar. At night I would hang out in her room and listen to Alan Freed on the old wooden radio. Also down at the end of the dial to the black stations; Jocko’s rocketship (Jocko Henderson) and Dr. Jive (Tommy Smalls). I was exposed to real R&B from Bobby Marchan, Hank Ballard, Ray Charles and Ruth Brown. I would have to hook my sister into driving me to neighboring Englewood to get the obscure R&B records before they broke or were snuffed out by a white cover. Then came Bo Diddley, The Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Larry Williams, etc. It wouldn’t be long before I was drawn to Alan Freed’s Rock and Roll shows in New York.
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