If you’re old enough to remember the ’50s, surely what may present itself foremost in your memory is the music.
OK, so I’m biased. As a musician myself, music is one of the elements of memory that links me most strongly to events of times past. And, I must now come clean: I’m really not 29 as I used to try and pass myself off to my young charges in the classroom. I do remember the music of that time, and remember it fondly.
As a youngster of the era, and I do mean youngster, I remember my brother going through his teenage years and accompanying him on his dates. Yes, that happened back then; pesky little sisters were often pawned off on older brothers as a condition for them using the family vehicle to impress the object of their current passion.
I would nestle comfortably in the backseat of the 1950 Chevy and sneak frequent peaks over the high seatback, which blocked my view to catch my brother holding hands with his date. I would be promptly swatted back into my aft position and content myself briefly with listening to the radio. We would often cruise into a drive-in restaurant, my brother would order fries and a cherry coke to keep me occupied and I would listen to the crooning of groups like The Platters with their marvelous tune, “The Great Pretender,” which caressed my ears while at the same time ignited the passion of the teens in the front seat.
If my brother attempted to put his arm around a girl, I’d break into a barely contained guffaw and duck quickly as the inevitable swat came my way. If we went in to a hamburger joint, there’d be a jukebox either on the table or a large floor version placed conveniently to accept all the domestic coinage the mostly teenage clientele could shell out.
We’d hear “Yakety-Yak” by the Del-Vikings, “Rag-Mop” by the Ames Brothers, and “There’s a Moon Out Tonight,” by the Capris. I’d wolf down my hamburger as my brother’s date would stare wide-eyed at him, usually inspired by something like,“ I Only Have Eyes For You” by the Flamingos or The Ink Spots’ “If I Didn’t Care.”
As a 7 year-old I didn’t care a whole lot for the mushy stuff. I preferred upbeat tunes like “26 Miles” by the Four Preps, Perry Como’s rendition of “Magic Moments”, or comedic tunes like Sheb Wooley’s “Flying Purple People Eater.” I would generally fall asleep to the likes of The Four Aces “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” or The Lettermen’s “ Young and Foolish,” much to the relief and delight of my older brother who could at last steal a kiss or two from his beloved of the hour.
There were no such things as music videos back then so we were colorblind. The fact that many of these groups — The Ink Spots, The Platters, The Mills Brothers, The Ravens, The Del-Vikings, The Drifters and The Five Satins, to name just a few — were African American was undiscernible to most of us denizens of white America at the time. And I and my brother could have cared less. We loved the music, were captivated by its charm and sometimes carried away by its pure emotions. Only much later would we learn that the music of these ’50s groups, which often started as either streetcorner a capella groups in the case of the African American groups, or perhaps as barbershop groups which would evolve into more jazz oriented styles, were all inspired by the music of the black church and gospel harmonies of the southern white church. The tight harmonies of jazz and its interesting color tonalities originated in the black church and would evolve into blues, jazz, doo-wop and ultimately, rock and roll.
Whatever their origin or color, we have the marvelous memories of this heritage to relive in the re-creation of those times through the antics and smooth vocal styling of Sparky, Smudge, Jinx and Frankie in Stuart Ross’ “Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings.”
Pagosa music fans and theater aficionados will have the rare opportunity to see this show locally and relive those wonderful, “magic moments” of the ’50s for four performances at the high school auditorium Nov. 18-20 at 7 p.m. and again on Nov. 21, at 2 p.m.
Be sure to mark your calendars for this heartwarming stroll down memory lane and get your tickets early at the Chamber or online at brownpapertickets.com. Tickets will also be available at the door on the evening or afternoon of the performance.
For further information or to volunteer, call Lisa Hartley at 731-2130 or Dale Morris at 731-3370.