METHINKS YOU’RE collecting your Social Security checks if you can remember Elvis Presley singing “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Shake Rattle & Roll” and “Blue Suede Shoes” on the Milton Berle TV show in 1956 before an estimated 40 million viewers or one-quarter of the nation’s population … Jerry Lee Lewis, nicknamed “The Killer,” playing the piano with his maniacal style in 1957 to his first big hit “Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On.” He followed that with two other Top 10 hits, “Great Balls of Fire” in 1957 and “Breathless” in 1958.”Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” has the distinction of being the first song played on American bandstand’s first national show on Aug. 5, 1957 … The No. 1 hit on that date was “Teddy Bear” by Elvis Presley. It was followed in the Top 5 by “Bye, Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers, “Love Letters in the Sand” by Pat Boone, “So Rare” by Jimmy Dorsey and “Searchin’ ” by The Coasters.
For the throngs of Jerry Lee Lewis fans, he recently announced that he will be releasing a new album in October. “Rock & Roll Time” includes high profile guests including Keith Richards, Neil Young, former Band guitarist Robbie Robertson, E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren and country singer Shelby Lynne.
The songs are a mix of styles and genres including material from Chuck Berry (“Little Queenie,” “Promised Land”), Bob Dylan (“Stepchild”), Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Mississippi Kid”) and Jimmie Rodgers (“Blues Like Midnight”).
MEKNOWS YOU’RE GETTING all those over-60 discounts if you can remember doing The Slop, The Hand Jive, The Bop, The Stroll, Mashed Potatoes, The Pony, The Limbo” and, naturally, The Twist when you were a teenager … Did any performer have a better signature move than Chuck Berry when he was doing the duck walk? He first used the maneuver as a child when he walked stooping with full-bended knees with back and head vertical under a table to retrieve a ball and his family found it humorous. Berry charted with “Maybelline,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “School Day,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Rock & Roll Music” during the 1950s and he still is doing concerts at age 87! Incredible, just incredible.
YOU WORE YOUR hair in a DA if you remember all the groups who were named for birds including The Flamingoes, The Robins, The Blue Jays, The Crows, The Black Crowes, The Falcons, The Orioles, The Penguins, The Eagles, The Cardinals and The Ravens. … And how many rockers had “Little” in their names? Here are some of the most popular ones — Little Stevie Wonder, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Little Richard, Little Caesar & The Romans, Little Eva, Little Peggy March, Little Willie John, Little Joey & The Flips and Little Junior Parker.
ME WONDER WHY the genre of novelty songs has virtually disappeared from the music scene? Could it be because the nation has just become too serious? Here are 12 of the best novelty hits of all time and the year they charted: “Monster Mash” by Bobby Boris Pickett, 1962; “Charlie Brown,” The Coasters, 1959; “The Purple People Eater,” Sheb Wooley, 1958; “Alley-Oop,” Hollywood Argyles, 1960; “Witch Doctor,” David Seville, 1958; “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight,” Lonnie Donegan, 1961; “Mr. Custer,” Larry Verne, 1960; “The Flying Saucer,” Buchanan & Goodman, 1956: “The Streak,” Ray Stevens, 1974; “My Ding-a-Ling,” Chuck Berry, 1972; “Yogi,” the Ivy Three, 1960; and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” Brian Hyland, 1960. Notice that 10 of the 12 were hits before 1965.
OK, LET’S PLAY a game. You have been stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific and were able to take a CD player and one CD with your favorite 16 songs. Which tunes would you choose? Here are my selections in chronological order with the year they were released: “Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Calloway in 1931, “Que Sera Sera” by Doris Day in 1956, “Little Girl of Mine” by the Cleftones in 1956, “Whole Lotta Shaking Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1957 , “Lonely Teardrops” by Jackie Wilson in 1958, “Shout” by the Isley Brothers in 1959, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker in 1960, “Runaround Sue” by Dion in 1961, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King in 1961, “Up on the Roof” by The Drifters in 1962, “Be My Baby” by the Ronnettes in 1963, “Can I Get a Witness” by Marvin Gaye in 1963, “My Way” by Frank Sinatra in 1967, “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles in 1967, “Papa was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations in 1971 and “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen in 1984.
All of the songs are those which I try — and I use the word try — to sing with the performer. Hey, but on a deserted island who’s gonna complain?
Barry Levine writes entertainment stories for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.