The Gathering Storm : September 1954©2004JCMarion


The stage was set as September 7, 1954 was announced as the date Alan Freed would move from WJW in Cleveland, Ohio to WINS in New York City. The move would be the defining event that would transform the musical tastes of America and the world, a move from which we are still experiencing repercussions fifty years later. The New York station also announced plans to syndicate the show to additional markets in the Midwest - Cleveland and Columbus Ohio, Flint, Michigan, and Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri. Another significant move was the hiring of a top advertising executive who was an expert in marketing toward the Black community. By this time the major record companies had come to the realization that young record buyers, mostly in their teens were the backbone of the pop record market and their tastes had gravitated toward rhythm & blues tunes. Pop music covers had proved that point and even the majors had seen that in many instances the original version of the tune outsold the pop cover. The perfect example was "Sh-Boom" where in many areas the original by The Chords sold better than the cover version by the Crewcuts. Further proof of the new direction by the majors is the signing of The Five Keys by Capitol Records after the group's success on Aladdin, a Los Angeles independent. Also Decca Records signed The Hollywood Flames, recently on another L.A. indie, Lucky Records.

The independent labels start to increase advertising in the trade papers as they see the changes that are happening in the country. During the month Josie Records pushes "Gloria" by The Cadillacs, "If I Give My Heart To You" by The Four Bars, and "Darling" by The Ray-O-Vacs. Bruce Records announces a pop music prospect with The Harptones "Why Should I Love You? ". Aladdin Records on the West Coast is offering "You Make Me Happy" by The Dodgers. The Dominos are reportedly aiming at the pop music field with their new recording for Jubilee, while a young record company head named Ray Gahan starts up a new entry called Boulevard Records in Detroit and prepares their first release of "Runaround" by The Three Chuckles. A traveling R & B revue stopped off at the Brooklyn Paramount for two sold out shows featuring top Black R & B talent and was further proof of the popularity of the music among both Black and White teenagers. The Robins are signed for an appearance in a musical variety movie short for Universal-International.

Some of the top selling records during the month are "God Only Knows" by The Capris (Gotham 104), "Buick 59" by The Medallions (Dootone 347), "Hearts Of Stone" by The Jewels (R and B 1301), "Oop Shoop" by Shirley Gunter & The Queens (Flair 1050) which is covered by The Crewcuts for Mercury. Also doing well on the sales charts during September is "The Real Thing" by The Spiders (Imperial 5305), and "Zippety Zum" by The Chords (Cat 109). The growing popularity of the style of the R & B vocal groups is apparent in the release of many new recordings during the month. These include "Honey Baby" by The Blue Diamonds (Savoy 1134), "My Heart Is Crying For You" by The Chimes (Flair 1051), "My Loving Baby" by The El Dorados (Vee Jay 115), "Freddie" by Carmen Taylor & The Boleros (Atlantic 1041), "Why Do I Wait?" by The Quails with Bill Robinson (DeLuxe 6059), "At Last" by The Dreamers (Flair 1052), "The Wind" by The Diablos (Fortune 511), "Let Nature Take Its Course" by The Du Droppers (Groove 0036), "Native Girl" by The Native Boys (Modern 939), "Love Me" by The Romeos (Apollo 461), and "There Will Be No One Else But You" by The Embers on a major label - Columbia 40287.

It is obvious that the growth of the popularity of rhythm & blues music among increasing numbers of White teenagers is having an effect on the establishment as the attacks begin in September. The radio and television show "Juke Box Jury" which features music from the bland pop music past is now rendered obsolete almost overnight (a fate that would also befall "Your Hit Parade" soon) because of the inability to relate to the changes in musical trends. The mc of the show Peter Potter, called the music a "low level in home music entertainment" and much of it "obscene and of lewd intonation, and certainly not fit for radio broadcast". He also wondered whether anybody would be interested in a reissue of "Sh-Boom" in twenty years. (We all know the answer to that one, don't we?). Many radio stations also began to protest what they called suggestive lyrics. The prime offenders in most cases were the highly popular "Annie" records by The Midnighters for Federal Records. Surprisingly, one of those stations was WDIA in Memphis which broadcasts almost exclusively for a Black audience. It seemed that when the records were primarily for Black record buyers there was no concern at all, but as soon as White teenagers were seen as fans and consumers of the music the moral guardians of America raised their voices in concern. Some things never change.

The lines were being drawn and the battleground was set. It was set in motion by a White radio disc jockey moving from Cleveland to New York City in September of 1954. What a time it was !

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