An Overview : The Way It Was©2005JCMarion


Forty Miles of Bad Road was an instrumental hit by Duane Eddy in 1959. It was also used as a name for the pop music scene from 1959 to 1962 when the music moguls that controlled the business felt that they had curtailed the power of the radio disc jockeys because of the "payola" scandals the year before. At that time the dj's were accused of taking monetary payoffs to play certain records that influenced teenaged listeners to buy these records. Many were on small independent labels and marketed by small time music hustlers outside the control of the major labels. When such well known jocks as Peter Tripp, Tommy Smalls (Doctor Jive), and the biggest fish of all Alan Freed were caught in the investigation, the path was clear for the big time operators to regain control over the airplay and distribution of the "product". The quality of the music during the next four years suffered compared to the history altering years of the mid fifties. There was some great sounds during these years, but there was also a lot of garbage that got passed off to the listeners of the time. It took some retro R & B from bands in England beginning in 1963 to return the music to the people that mattered. The term "Forty Miles of Bad Road" referring to this time in history was originated by the late John Gilliland in his epic late sixties radio documentary "The Pop Chronicles" produced at KRLA in Los Angeles.

The good music of this period was produced by the Black performers coming out of the R & B years of the fifties. Examples are Ray Charles, Marv Johnson, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, Chuck Jackson, Jackie Wilson, and Ike & Tina Turner. It was the time of the evolution of the "girl groups" (Shirelles, Crystals, and Orlons for example), the first stirrings of the Motown empire, Stax-Volt and the birth of Soul Music, and the surf and car music of The Beach Boys. The last days of the vocal groups in the R & B style were at hand - The Contours, BlueJays, Rivingtons, Marcelles, Zodiacs, and Miracles. It was also the time of the developing trend of folk music on college campuses with Peter, Paul, & Mary, The Brothers Four, The Highwaymen, and the continuing popularity of The Kingston Trio. Jazz music even appeared momentarily with Dave Brubeck's "Take Five", England's Chris Barber and Acker Bilk, and Stan Getz.

Then there was the dance craze tunes led by Chubby Checker, the dominance of the Philadelphia scene spinning off from American Bandstand with Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Connie Francis, and others. The teen idol phase elevated performers such as Bryan Hyland, Troy Shondell, Jimmy Clanton, James Darren, Lou Christie, Bobby Vee, and Johnny Tillotsen. Even Lawrence Welk had a best seller during the time ! The movement seemed rudderless with The Chipmunks, "Seven Little Girls In The Back Seat With Fred", Marcie Blaine, "Johnny Angel", "Wolverton Mountain", Anita Bryant, "Pepino The Italian Mouse", "Monster Mash" and "Sukiyaki". But at the same time there was Gary "U.S." Bonds, The Isley Brothers, Jimmy Jones, Brook Benton, Booker T & The MGs, and Esther Phillips.

There was some good solid music during the Forty Miles of Bad Road, but sometimes it was a bit harder to find. They made a pop balladeer out of Fats Domino ("Little Coquette", "Walking To New Orleans" etc.), Ray Charles was re-inventing the sound of Country music, and Elvis had been turned into the polite boy next door. The rocking R & B sides many with risque lyrics were a thing of the past, doo wop was just about dead, and Mitch Miller sing-along LPs were top sellers, and the nation's youth were singing "Puppy Love" and "Alley Oop". On the horizon was the life changing horror of the Kennedy assassination and its aftermath, and the music would experience the British Invasion when American pop music would be changed forever. But for that time in the history of American pop music, it was "Forty Miles of Bad Road".

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