The Sixties are about to begin and we’re feeling the change of the guard.
We briefly recap the first Golden Age of Rock N Roll: 1956 to 1959. A lot happened, and fast. Too fast to last.
We skid perilously into a new decade. As we open the sixties, all the big players are offstage, and a lot of folks are saying Rock N Roll is dead.
We open in a police station in St. Louis, and Chuck Berry is in big trouble with the law. We detail Chuck’s legal fight to its conclusion in early ’63.
We also catch up with the disc jockey Alan Freed, who is going through some legal problems of his own—legal problems that are part of a larger story.
We take a look at the state of mainstream popular music in 1960. It’s grim. But the R&B charts are looking good, lots of great songs and artists. Black America is reasserting itself musically.
We will get to that…but first, Rock N Roll is about to become BIG Business. So we unpack that a little bit, and devote a big part of the show to an examination of the record industry.
They were slow to catch on, but the corporate labels—The Big Six—are now in the business of Rock N Roll. We use humor to make our point, but we also have some caustic, tough things to say about the industry.
Ever seen these acronyms: ASCAP and BMI? And what wondered what the heck they mean? We answer that question, and explain why it’s important.
We tell a tale of two Disc Jockeys: Alan Freed and Dick Clark. That tale is a metaphor for what happens in the music business from 1960 on.
For the last act, we go back to discussing great music and great musicians and we meet the Godfather of Soul: James Brown. It’s a true rags-to-riches story.
Finally, we grab a cab in front of the Apollo Theater, and head down to Greenwich Village. There we will briefly meet an up-and-coming folksinger, and set the stage for Episode Five.
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EPISODE 4 PLAYLISTS
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SHOW NOTES & CREDITS
Songs from Episode 4
Chuck Berry: “Little Queenie,” single released 1959, Chess Records.
Chuck Berry: “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” single released 1956 (B Side), Chess Records.
Percy Faith Orchestra “Theme from A Summer Place,” (Music by Max Steiner), single released 1959, Columbia Records.
The Drifters: “Save the Last Dance for Me,” single released 1960, Atlantic Records.
Sam Cooke: “Wonderful World,” single released 1960, Keen Records.
Barrett Strong: “Money,” single released 1959, Tamla Records.
Kate Smith: “God Bless America” (Written by Irving Berlin), 1938 Columbia Records.
Howlin’ Wolf: “Spoonful,” single released 1960, Chess Records.
The Miracles: “Shop Around,” single released 1960, Motown Records.
Sam Cooke: “A Change is Gonna Come,” single released 1964, RCA Records.
Muddy Waters: “The Blues Had a Baby and They Named it Rock N Roll Part 2,” from “Hard Again,” 1977 Blue Sky Records.
Artie Shaw: “High Society” (The “American Bandstand” theme). 1940 Columbia Records.
Little Eva: “The Loco-Motion” single released 1961, Motown Records.
Ray Charles: “Hit the Road Jack,” single released 1961, ABC Records.
Ben E. King: “Stand By Me,” single released 1961, Atlantic Records.
James Brown: “Night Train,” single released 1960, King Records.
The Staple Singers: “Uncloudy Day” from Uncloudy Day, 1959 Bianco Records.
James Brown: “Please, Please, Please,” single released 1956, Federal Records.
James Brown: “I Don’t Mind,” single released 1960, King Records.
James Brown: “Introduction,” from Live at the Apollo, 1963 King Records.
Berry, Chuck (1989): Chuck Berry: The Autobiography
Cohodas, Nadine (2005). Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records.
Dannen, Fredric: (1990) Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business
Miller, Scott (2011). Music: What Happened?
Murphy, Gareth: (2014) Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry
Pegg, Bruce (2002): Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry
Rotolo, Suze: (2008): A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties
Shelton, Robert (1986): No Direction Home: The Life and Times of Bob Dylan
Smith, RJ (2012): The One: The Life and Music of James Brown
Movies and Television Programs
American Graffiti, directed by George Lucas, 1973 Universal Pictures
Get On Up, directed by Tate Taylor, 2014 Universal Pictures
Cadillac Records, directed by Darnell Martin, 2008 TriStar Pictures
Online Sources, By Topic in Order of Appearance
Kennedy Campaign song by Frank Sinatra:
TV Game Show Scandal:
Billboard Pop and R&B Charts for 1960 and 1961:
Big Six Record Companies:
Note: these company names don’t match the ones we cited in the show. There’ve been changes and mergers aplenty over the years. This list is as of 1988, and consolidation has continued since then; here in late 2015 we are now down to the Big Three! This Wikipedia article has a pretty good chart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Record_label
ASCAP and BMI:
1960 Congressional Hearings and amendment of the Federal Communications Act:
Record Industry Lobbying of Congress:
Courtney Love Does The Math, Salon Magazine:
Sound by John Michael Berry
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