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ELDER MUSIC: 1963

Posted Sep 11 2011 8:30am

PeterTibbles75x75 You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles ( bio here ) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here .


1963 was the year of The Beatles, at least here in Australia and in Britain of course. America was a bit slower to catch on. I’m going to ignore them just as I ignored Elvis in the Fifties because, hey, you know all about them anyway.

Okay, those with keen ears and a good memory will know I’m lying because Elvis did appear once, but it’s the principle of the thing. It was also the year that Bob Dylan impinged on my consciousness. He’s missing from these too.

What happened in 1963?

  • Julia Child made her debut on TV
  • JFK declared that he was a doughnut in West Berlin
  • The smiley face symbol was invented. Time to scrap it
  • “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was released; nothing will be the same again
  • Kurt Vonnegut released Cat’s Cradle
  • The phrase “grassy knoll” entered the vernacular
  • America won the Davis Cup (oh dear)
  • Dick Powell died.

RANDY AND THE RAINBOWS had a minor hit this year with a song covered a lot more successfully later by Blondie.

Randy & the Rainbows

That song is Denise. The group was yet another one from Queens. It consisted of Dominick "Randy" Safuto, his brother Frank, Sal Zero, his brother Mike and Ken Arcipowski.

All of them had been in various previous groups, but there were quite a number of them so I won’t bother mentioning them. Alas for the group, this was their one and only hit. Here it is.

The silly Fifties type songs were still around in 1963. This one is by JOHNNY CYMBAL.

Johnny Cymbal

Johnny was born in Scotland and he was originally named John Blair. At a very young age he was adopted by his mother’s second husband, Nick Cymbal, so his was not a stage name as is often thought.

The family moved to Canada when Johnny was eight and later to Cleveland. He was taken by rock & roll, taught himself guitar and started writing songs. He turned into a prolific songwriter and many artists have covered his songs through the years.

Today, however, we’re interested (well, sort of) in one he recorded himself called Mr Bassman. The bass part is sung by Ronnie Bright of The Valentines.

THE CASCADES were a vocal group most of whose members met on a ship in the U.S. Navy.

The Cascades

They were John Gummoe, Eddie Snyder, David Szabo, Dave Stevens and Dave Wilson. Although several members played instruments, when they were recorded by Phil Spector he used his usual crew to lay down the music and just had the lads sing. One of the songs they recorded, and their best known, is The Rhythm of the Rain.

THE CRYSTALS started out as a quintet but by the time the next song was recorded, one had left leaving four of them.

The Crystals

Those four were Barbara Alston, Dee Dee Kenniebrew, Myrna Girard and Patsy Wright. Myrna was later replaced by Lala Brooks.

It’s almost certain that not all of them sang on this track. Indeed, originally none of them did. Their producer, the notorious Phil Spector, was a bit fast and loose assigning group names to his various songs. He recorded this one with Darlene Love singing lead and with The Blossoms and Cher singing backup.

However, he had a falling out with Darlene so he stripped her vocals and had Lala rerecord the lead, so there’s one Crystal on the track. That track is Da Doo Ron Ron.

GENE PITNEY was an early singer/songwriter, who also sang songs of other composers.

Gene Pitney

He also wrote songs for others as that’s how he started in the music business – Rubber Ball, He’s a Rebel, Hello Mary Lou are just three of many of his compositions.

He seemed to like singing about films – Town Without Pity, The Man who Shot Liberty Valance are just a couple that spring to mind. He had many hits throughout the sixties and his popularity in Britain, Europe and Australia didn’t wane with the British invasion.

This is one of his hits from this year, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, 24 Hours From Tulsa.

THE RONETTES were a trio from New York and consisted of sisters Ronnie and Estelle Bennett (and I’ve used the obvious joke before) and their cousin Nedra Talley.

The Ronettes

They started singing at a very young age when the families would gather at granny’s on a Saturday night and everyone would sing and entertain each other.

Ronnie formed a group with the three mentioned and two other female cousins, Diane and Elaine, and a male cousin, Ira, as well. They performed around the traps with Ira singing lead.

One day on amateur night at the Apollo, the band played the wrong song, one Ira didn’t know, and Ronnie stepped forward and sang lead. In the way of show biz legends, she was a great success.

Eventually, the other three left, leaving the group we know. They were signed to Phil Spector’s record label and he oversaw all their hits. This is one of them, Be My Baby.

THE ESSEX had their genesis in Okinawa when a couple of marines who were stationed there started performing together. Upon returning to a base in North Carolina, they recruited several more marines and a group was born. One of those left and they became a quartet.

The Essex

The remaining members were Walter Vickers, Rodney Taylor, Billy Hill and Anita Humes. It’s claimed that the song was inspired by the sound of multiple teletype machines (remember them?) in the communications room on the base.

They had a couple more singles, but as they were all still marines, they couldn’t go out on tour to support these records. This is that first song, Easier Said Than Done.

Surf music had now been around for a little while, but by 1963 it was in full swing. There are many tunes I could have used, those from the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Surfaris and on and on. I’ve gone for one from my own country, where, naturally this sort of music caught on, particularly in Sydney.

We folks down in Melbourne are a bit more cerebral so it wasn’t as popular here. Anyway, the song I’ve chosen is by THE DELLTONES.

The Delltones

The Dellies (as we call them here) started in 1958 and are still performing. Indeed, some say they are the group who have performed continuously for the longest with an original member still with the group – that’s Peewee Wilson, on the right in the photo.

They started as a purely vocal group but have evolved into a complete rock band. The song today is from their vocal days, Hangin’ Five.

After The Beatles had a few hits, the DAVE CLARK FIVE followed in their wake and were not only going to be the next big thing, they were going to eclipse the fab four as well. Well, that turned out as expected.

The Dave Clark Five

Dave Clark started a group way back in 1957, The Dave Clark Quartet. After a bunch of comings and goings it ended up as five of them. Unlike other groups, and as he was the leader, Dave put himself and his drum-kit front and centre with the others on each side.

He was also a canny businessman and had control over all their recordings and he owned the master tapes. Pretty unusual for the time. This is the group’s biggest hit, or at least the one I remember, Glad All Over.

Little PEGGY MARCH, or Margaret Battavio to her folks, was from Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

Peggy March

She was discovered by a record producer when she was 13 while singing at her cousin’s wedding. The record company changed her name and added the “Little” as she was only 145 cm tall (that’s 4 feet 9 in American money) – well, she was only 13.

The following year, she had her big hit that topped the charts all around the world (at least, those countries that had charts). Although that’s the song we remember, she had several others that wandered on to the charts over the years, none that I can recall though.

She’s still recording and singing. This is the big one, I Will Follow Him.

1964 will appear in two weeks' time.

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