Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Buddy Holly, Learning the Game.
Buddy Holly, Peggy Sue Got Married.
Buddy Holly, Love is Strange.
Buddy Holly, Dearest.
Buddy Holly, Slippin' and Slidin'.

The newly-married couple moved into 3B at the Brevoort in the fall of 1958, just as the sycamores were turning. They were very polite whenever you came across them in the hallway. The girl, Maria Elena, is Puerto Rican. While at first she seems shy, she's actually a lifelong New Yorker, and has a quiet confidence in the way she carries herself, as well as an operatic laugh. Her husband, Buddy, is a skinny guy with thick black-framed glasses--when he speaks, you hear Texas.

Their one-bedroom apartment seems relatively modest for someone who, as the neighbors realize, is involved in show business in some fashion. Buddy's often carrying a guitar case. His gawkiness seems to rule against him being any sort of entertainer, though perhaps he's a songwriter up at the Brill, or maybe he produces Frankie Avalon records. Few people at the Brevoort listen to the pop radio stations, and of those, even fewer would have associated Buddy with songs like "Oh Boy!" or "Maybe Baby," which the DJs say are by a band called the Crickets.

The Brevoort, on Fifth Ave. between 8th and 9th, is a huge, bright-new building, only four years old. It seems to radiate cleanness and modernity. The heat pipes work without clanking, the water's always hot when you want it to be. It stands on the grave of the former Brevoort Hotel, once home to a Who's Who of American Reds and bohemians--Emma Goldman, Eugene O'Neill, Isadora Duncan. Longtime New Yorkers complain that replacing the legendary Brevoort with some gruesome middle-class apartments is another sign New York's losing its soul.

In December, Buddy seems between jobs, as he's hanging around the apartment more often. In the mornings, when Maria goes out to the store, Buddy sits on the couch, tunes his guitar and starts running through some new songs. He had last been in the studio two months before, when he had recorded "True Love Ways" and "It Doesn't Matter Anymore." He had been used to Norman Petty's hole-in-the-wall studio in New Mexico, the band doing take after manic take until they got it. At the Coral Record Studios, it was as layered as a wedding cake. Buddy had sung in a vocal booth, then sat on a folding chair in the control room as the row of engineers punched up the string section. He had heard his voice rise and fall, buoyed by tenor saxophone, chased by descending violas. Dick Jacobs, the producer, had smoked through half a pack of cigarettes and simply nodded his head when he thought the mix was done.

It had been only five years since Buddy and his best friend Bob Montgomery had been playing country songs around Texas. Now it sometimes feels like he's leaving country, and even rock & roll behind him, leaving it back in Texas with his old band, his old producer. There's a new sound now--softer, more arranged, soundtracks for imaginary movies. Buddy pinches the strings on his guitar, makes a chord; he imagines Tony Bennett, or Dean Martin even, singing one of his songs.

He's been writing a bunch lately. Some are wistful, like "Learning the Game." When Maria gets back from the store, he plays them for her, and when he thinks one's good enough, he turns on the tape recorder and commits the song to the reels of its memory. Sometimes he and Maria walk across Washington Square Park to her aunt's house, where there's a piano. He plays his songs while the two women smile, drinking tea. They clap when he finishes, and he guffaws.

One morning, whiling away a few hours, Buddy gets the idea to do a sequel to "Peggy Sue," in which Peggy gets married, the way everyone seems to do when they turn 20 or so. He dashes it out quickly, using the same riff as the earlier song--it's half a joke, but there's a sense of loss, a feeling of something ending, in the performance he commits to tape.

Early in the new year, things are tight. Buddy's split from his former manager has tied up all his money. Buddy's on the phone all the time, looking for some quick work. By mid-January it's arranged. Buddy will head a tour of the Upper Midwest with the Bopper, Dion and Ritchie Valens. Small snowbound towns, hardly any days off between shows, but it'll pay enough.

In the last days before the tour, Buddy keeps recording. He takes Little Richard's "Slippin' and Slidin" and digs into it, extends it, taking pleasure in the changes, in the rhymes, in lines like "she's a solid sender." He breaks the words down, popping consonants, twisting vowels as he works through the song.

And he turns Mickey and Sylvia's "Love is Strange," that pair's sassy, knowing duet, into something as dewily innocent as his own "Everyday." "Dearest," a Mickey and Sylvia b-side, he hushes to sleep, lowering his voice to its depths. One line he sings like a hymn: Our love will grow old...mmm, yeah...our love will grow old.

One shatteringly cold morning, Buddy's in the lobby with a suitcase and his guitar, waiting for a cab to take him to Idlewild. He calls Maria after each show. It's lousy. The crowds are fine (in the audience at the Duluth show is an 17-year-old kid from Hibbing), but the transportation is terrible--the bus has no heat most of the time. It's like a tour of Antarctica. It'd be great if they could get a plane once in a while.

The morning of February 3, some people at the Brevoort, reading the News or the Times or the Herald over breakfast, notice a small AP story tucked away on an inner page. Buddy is dead; a plane lies in pieces on a frozen Iowa field.

Neighbors see if Maria Elena's around, to offer condolences, to be awkward in her presence, but she's gone to her aunt's. A man from Buddy's producers comes by the apartment one day to pick up the tapes. He packs them in a small valise and heads up to midtown. Over the next year or so, they'll overdub strings, bass, drums, backing vocals--weighing the tracks down, but making them commercial enough to sell. "Peggy Sue Got Married" even becomes a small hit.

In the late spring of 1959, the realtors start showing around Apt. 3B at the Brevoort.

The "apartment" tapes Buddy Holly made in Dec. 1958-Jan. 1959 are Holly's last recordings, and have never been released unaltered on CD. The overdubbed versions are found on Remember.

The Brevoort
still stands, though I imagine the rent's a bit more these days.

The photos, all of which are from the last days of Buddy Holly's life, are from this amazing resource.

Maria Elena Holly eventually remarried and had children.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita...

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken.
The Kinks, Young and Innocent Days.
The Beatles, Help!
Frank Sinatra, Why Try to Change Me Now?
Howlin' Wolf, Getting Old and Grey.
Marvin Gaye, Where Are We Going?
The Kinks, Where Did My Spring Go?

There's a Samuel Beckett story (probably apocryphal) in which Beckett and a friend are walking in London. It's a fine spring day. The friend turns to Beckett: "What a day! Makes one glad to be alive!" And Beckett says, "I wouldn't go that far."

Yeah, it's my birthday today.

Kinks: Arthur and Village Green (spec. ed), respectively; Beatles: here; Sinatra: No One Cares; Wolf: Memphis Days 2; Gaye: Very Best.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


"she moved in circles, and those circles moved"

Theodore Roethke, I Knew a Woman.
Clyde McPhatter, A Lover's Question.
The Drifters, Drip Drop.
Dwight Pullen, Sunglasses After Dark.
Don and Dewey, Bim Bam.
The Everly Brothers, Down In the Willow Garden.
Jimmy and Johnny, I Can't Find the Door Knob.
The Kalin Twins, When.
Bob Denton with Eddie Cochran, Thinkin' About You.
Dorothy Masuka, Five Bells.
Mel Torme, Body and Soul.
Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, I'll Be All Smiles Tonight.
The Monotones, Book of Love.
Solven Whistlers, Something New in Africa.
Oscar McLollie and Jeanette Baker, Hey Girl, Hey Boy.
Warren Miller, Everybody's Got a Baby But Me.
The Olympics, Western Movies.
Duke Ellington with Mahalia Jackson, Come Sunday (Black, Brown and Beige Pt. IV).
The Elegants, Little Star.
Jerry Butler and the Impressions, For Your Precious Love.

So let's finish off 1958, starting with Theodore Roethke intoning like Zeus in a nostalgiac mood.

Clyde McPhatter, the former lead singer of the Drifters, had left the group back in 1955, but had had only middling luck with charting singles on his own. McPhatter singles were top choice for white performers looking to make a quick remake, which sometimes led to confusion among record buyers and affected McPhatter's sales. Finally, in 1958, McPhatter got a Top 10 pop hit with Brook Benton's "A Lover's Question," an utterly exquisite piece of music whose central question--does the person I love truly love me?--seems unanswerable, at age 17 or 56. This is one of my favorite songs, ever, for what it's worth.

In 1971, after a decade in the wilderness, McPhatter wound up in an R&B revival at the Academy of Music in New York, stuck in an opening slot. "I used to be a headliner, baby," he told the indifferent audience. A year later, he was dead at age 38.

Recorded in New York on August 7, 1958, with Milt Hinton, King Curtis and arrangement by Ray Ellis; released in September as Atlantic 1199. On Deep Sea Ball.

As for McPhatter's former band, here's "Drip Drop," which is a last blast of pure R&B greatness from the "old" Drifters, a year before "There Goes My Baby" and Ben E. King transformed them. This transitory incarnation of the Drifters was headed by lead singer Bobby Hendricks and featured Jimmy Oliver, Gerhart Thrasher, Jimmy Millender and Tommy Evans.

Recorded on April 28, 1958 and released as Atlantic 1187, where it was thrown away as the b-side of the band's take on "Moonlight Bay." On Let the Boogie Woogie Roll.

Dwight Pullen
was born in Alabama, but in his short life he lived all over the place--California, Alaska, Oregon. A year after releasing "Sunglasses After Dark," Pullen became Gene Vincent's road manager; two years later, Pullen was dead of cancer at 31. Released as Carlton 455 in March 1958; on Rockin' From Coast to Coast.

Dewey Terry and Don Bowman were high-school friends from Pasadena, playing in a band called the Squires. Terry also worked after school at a cut-rate record processing plant owned by one Larry Mead, who also happened to run some local record labels. Soon enough, the Squires began releasing singles on Mead labels like Dig This Record and Mambo.

Terry and Bowman left the Squires around the time they graduated high school in 1956, and as a duo wound up on Specialty Records. "Bim Bam" is a typical single of theirs from this period: it's rock & roll refined down to its essential elements. While Don and Dewey didn't have any hits, cover versions of their material often scored--Dale and Grace had a #1 with "I'm Leaving It (All) Up to You," the Olympics took "Big Boy Pete," Jerry Reed had a country hit with "Ko-Ko Joe," and "Farmer John" became a garage rock standard in the '60s.

In the '60s, Terry and Bowman backed Little Richard (in a band that included a young Jimi Hendrix), and also were a lounge act for a time, playing at the Dunes. Bowman eventually renamed himself Don "Sugarcane" Harris and became a blues violinist, playing with Frank Zappa and the '80s punk blues band Tupelo Chain Sex; Terry kept on as a session guitarist and ran a small trucking company on the side. Bowman died in 1999, Terry in 2003.

"Bim Bam" was released as Specialty 631; on Jungle Hop.

You could consider the Everly Brothers' take on "Down in the Willow Garden" a horrific remake of "Wake Up Little Susie." As in "Susie," the lovers go out on a date and the girl falls asleep, but this time the singer poisons his girl with tainted burgundy wine, stabs her with a saber, then throws her body into the river.

I'm not sure what teenagers who got Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, an LP released for Christmas '58, made of a record consisting mainly of murder ballads and lamentations on old age and death. In any case, "Willow Garden" is a gorgeously sung ballad, one that establishes the Everlys as the true heirs to the Blue Sky Boys and the Delmore Brothers.

Recorded on August 16, 1958; on Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.

Jimmy Lee Fautheree, born in Smackover, Arkansas in 1934, teamed up with Johnny Mathis (no, not him--this was "Country" Johnny Mathis) in the early '50s and the pair got attention at the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport. But Mathis quit the group in 1955 and Fautheree's brother, Lynn, had to subsitute as "Johnny" for gigs. Mathis returned for some studio-only duets with Fautheree, one of which, the ripping rockabilly novelty "I Can't Find the Door Knob," was released as D 1004 in June 1958 c/w "Keep Telling Me." On If You Don't Somebody Else Will.

The Kalin Twins were Herbie and Hal, born in Port Jervis, NY, in 1934. When Herbie was drafted into the Air Force in the early '50s, the twins kept in touch by recording songs on a tape recorder and sending tapes back and forth. "When" was their only hit, especially in the UK, where it sold two million copies. As happens, though, the twins never got anywhere near the charts again, and stopped recording by the early 1960s. Hal was killed in a traffic accident in August 2005, and his brother died of cancer eleven months later.

"When" was released in August 1958 as Decca 30642 c/w "Three O'Clock Thrill"; on When. The Kalins ran a website until their deaths, which included an excerpt of an autobiography which, to my knowledge, was never published.

Eddie Cochran, while recording "Summertime Blues" and C'mon Everybody" in the course of five months in '58, also remained in high demand as a session guitarist (working with everyone from Gene Vincent to John Ashley and the Voices of Allah). Here he is on Bob Denton's "Thinkin' About You," a goofy country-pop track in which Cochran provides a riff so sharp and infectious that it steals the song away from the amiable Denton. Recorded in late '58 in Hollywood, released as Crest 1086. On Cruisin' the Drive In.

Dorothy Masuka, one of the great South African jazz/pop singers of the postwar years, shows how it's done with "Five Bells." Masuka would be exiled from South Africa a few years later for singing about the assassinated Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba. On The Grande Dame of African Music.

Mel Tormé, son of Russian Jews who settled in Chicago (the name was originally Torma), precocious vaudeville singer and drummer, struggling film actor, and who once backed up Chico Marx on stage, had spent most of the '50s trying to keep above water. While of the same generation as Sinatra and Bennett, Tormé got few breaks (the great exception being his and Robert Wells' composition "The Christmas Song," which became a holiday perennial). Sometimes he didn't have a record contract, and he had to perform in Australia and Europe to support himself during lean years. But in '58 Tormé was signed by Verve, where he recorded eight LPs over the next few years. While not big sellers, the records were well received by critics and jazz musicians.

Tormé's take on the ultimate jazz standard "Body and Soul," from his first Verve sessions, highlights his quiet artistry: listen to the way his voice dances above Marty Paich's arrangement, a sort of Baroque cool jazz. Recorded in Los Angeles on June 27, 1958; on Tormé.

Hylo Brown
, born in River, Kentucky in 1922 as Frank Brown Jr., got his nickname due to his vocal range. In the mid-'50s he was touring with Flatt and Scruggs, and formed a subsdiary group of sorts, the Timberliners--the two bands would routinely swap touring schedules and TV appearances. In 1958, Brown and the Timberliners recorded a self-titled LP that is generally considered to be one of the best bluegrass albums in history.

"I'll Be All Smiles Tonight," a 19th Century ballad by one T.B. Ransom, had been covered by everyone from the Carter Family to the Louvin Brothers. Brown's version is built around two intricate duets--Red Rector's mandolin and Tater Tate's fiddle, and Brown's tenor and Rector's baritone.

Recorded in Nashville on August 10, 1958, also with Jim Smoak (banjo) and Joe Phillips (bass). Find on Best of Vol. 2.

And who wrote the book of love? The Monotones never disclosed. As Greil Marcus wrote in Stranded, "Book of Love" is "the ultimate one-shot. Single of singles." Released in February 1958 as Argo 5920. On Doo Wop Uptempo.

South Africa's The Solven Whistlers were headed by Spokes Mashiyane, a pennywhistle player who helped establish kwela as the country's most popular dance music. "Something New in Africa" comes as a curtain raiser to 1960, when 17 African nations achieved independence. On The History of Township Music.

Oscar McLollie was an R&B journeyman based out of Los Angeles, and had spent much of the decade hopping around labels (including Mercury, Excelsior and Modern) and trying all sorts of styles--Christmas novelties ("God Gave Us Christmas"), regional novelties ("All the Oil in Texas"), rock & roll ("Red Hot Rod Roll"), classy Nat King Cole-esque pop ("Pagliacci (With a Broken Heart)") and yet more novelties ("Take Your Shoes Off Pop").

Finally, in 1958, McLollie was given a singing parter, Jeanette Baker, at the behest of Class Records owner Leon Rene. McLollie and Baker hated each other on sight, but managed to record a one-off duet, "Hey Girl," which neatly stole from the Kendall Sisters' "Yea Yea" and Fats Domino's "La La." It was a solid hit, and McLollie went back to the studio to record a follow-up, only to find Rene had procured another partner for him: a woman known only as Annette. "We recorded together and then I never saw her again," McLollie said years later. Released as Class 228; find on The Golden Age of American Rock & Roll Vol. 8.

World Cup '58: world meets Pelé

Warren Miller was born in Philadelphia in 1937 and only released three singles in his life. "Everybody's Got a Baby But Me" is his first. For cash-in rockabilly funded by UAR, a label that United Artists had just rolled out to flog its film soundtracks, this is still pretty hot stuff. Released as UA-104X in February 1958. Find on That'll Flat Git It! Vol. 12.

The Olympics were founded by former gospel singer Walter Ward, and featured tenor Charles Fizer, who was shot to death by National Guardsmen during the Watts riots in '65. The greatest of their hits,"Western Movies," an ancestor to Public Enemy's "She Watch Channel Zero," was released in May 1958 as Demon 1508, c/w "Well!". On 25 All Time Novelty Hits.

Duke Ellington first performed his "Black, Brown and Beige" suite ("a tone parallel to the history of the American Negro," as he called it) in 1943, to mixed response. He shelved the work for a decade or more, then reinvented in it the studio, with Mahalia Jackson adding the weight of the world. Recorded February 11-12, 1958, in Los Angeles; on Black, Brown and Beige.

The Elegants, from Staten Island, took their name from a bottle of Schenley's whiskey ("Elegance"), stole "Little Star" from Mozart, and were never heard from again after they charted with the single. An American success story, in miniature. Released in July 1958 as APT 25005 c/w "Getting Dizzy"; on Doo Wop Uptempo.

And at last, here's the mighty "For Your Precious Love," a cornerstone of soul, one of the finest vocal records of its era, pure secular gospel.

Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield had started out with the Chicago-based Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, but by 1957 they were singing R&B, in a band called the Roosters, which included three recent arrivals from Tennessee--Sam Gooden and brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks. Vi Muszynski, a songwriter and aspiring record label owner, recorded some demos with the Roosters near the Cabrini Green housing project, where some of them lived.

"For Your Precious Love" came out of these sessions, and was taken up by Vee-Jay, which distributed the record and in the process changed the Roosters' name to the Impressions. Released as Falcon/Abner 1013. Find here.

Films of 1958

Touch of Evil. The opening shot.
Popiól i Diament (Ashes and Diamonds). "The end of the war isn't the end of our fight."
Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (The Hidden Fortress).
Man of the West.
The Horse's Mouth. Constable: "Have you just sent a telephone message of a threatening character to Mr. Hickson of Portland Place?" Gulley Jimson: "I only said I'd burn his house down and cut his liver out." Constable: "Now he doesn't want to prosecute, but if you go on making a nuisance of yourself, well, he's gonna have to take steps."
King Creole. For me, the best Elvis movie by a mile, in which Elvis has to choose between Carolyn Jones, who later played Morticia Addams, and Dolores Hart, who later became a nun. And his performance of "Trouble" is about as defining a moment as he ever had.
The Tarnished Angels.
Gunman's Walk.
Horror of Dracula. When Mr. Cushing met Mr. Lee.
Separate Tables.
The Big Country.
Fiend Without a Face.
The Sheepman.
Thunder Road. I know it's late, but we can make it if we run.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Sun Ra and His Arkestra, Saturn.

One would have needed either fanatical dedication or just blind luck to have actually heard this track in the year of its release--Jazz in Silhouette, the Sun Ra LP that contains "Saturn," was pressed on cheap vinyl, issued in handmade covers, and sold only in a few Midwestern record stores and by the generally-broke members of the Arkestra for cash after gigs. The LP was at last officially released by Impulse in 1975, but even then distribution was spotty and sales were miniscule.

It's a shame, as it's one of Sun Ra's most accessible records. "Saturn" in particular is an amazing track, looking ahead to free jazz while keeping one foot in bebop, even R&B. It opens with Ra's six-beat exorcism on piano, then a wild 14-bar introduction that shifts and lunges all over the place (more than two octaves, according to Ekkehard Jost). Then, as if a projectionist has changed reels, a danceable, even slightly corny main theme emerges, with John Gilmore on tenor sax and Pat Patrick on baritone sax delivering a sweet pair of solos. Consider the whole piece swing music for the first moon colony.

Sun Ra was born Herman "Sonny" Blount in Birmingham, Ala., in 1914. The odd story of Blount's life can't be reduced a few sentences of biography. Even Blount's Birmingham childhood home was bizarre, as Robert Campbell relates: In a Southern city that was heavily segregated by race, the Blounts did not live in either a black neighborhood or a white neighborhood. Theirs was the only house on an entire city block. They were located across the street from the Post Office and close to the main railroad station. As a child, Sonny could look out the window and see the big sign over the railroad tracks that greeted visitors to The Magic City; many years later that would become the title of one of his greatest (and most avant-garde) compositions. To the north, there were just open fields.

"Saturn" was recorded at "El Saturn Studio" (i.e., someone's basement or rehearsal room) in Chicago, with Pat Patrick (bari sax), Marshall Allen (alto sax), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Charles Davis (bari sax), James Spaulding (alto sax. flute), Julian Priester (tb), Hobart Dotson (t), Ronnie Boykens (b) and William Cochran (d).

Next week: we wrap up '58. In style, as always. Plus, I get a year older.

Monday, February 12, 2007


The Jamies, Summertime, Summertime.

The Jamies were a quartet from the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester (one of the guys has a honker of an accent): siblings Tom and Serena Jameson, Jeannie Ray and Arthur Blair. "Summertime, Summertime" was their one-hit wonder. Has any song better captured the joy of the first day after school's ended, with nothing but an endless length of sun-blessed days stretching out before you?

I love the glorious ramshackle nature of this track--the way everyone singing seems on the verge of going flat, or the zinging harpsichord, which sounds like the Jamies' dotty great-aunt is accompanying them, or the way Serena has to cram in an overlong line (so it sounds like "cos whatsa sum'vacation without romance" and you can hear her stumble midway through, poor kid).

There's one line that's always puzzled me: "It's time to head straight for the mills." As a kid, when first hearing this song, I thought of a bunch of teenagers being shipped off to work at a textile factory or something, which seemed a cruel betrayal of the song's philosophy. But what are they singing? The most common, quite logical theory has it that the Jamies are actually singing "It's time to head straight for them hills." The dark horse theory, however, ventured by one crank on Usenet back in the day, was that the Jamies were singing about heading for "The Mills"--a reference to "Dorchester Mills," an alleged hot beach spot somewhere in the Boston area. The main flaw with this theory is that I've never run across any other reference to the so-called "Dorchester Mills" in my life.

(Boston anecdote: I once saw some kids, maybe 10 or 11 years old, walking along Commonwealth Avenue, near Kenmore Square. They were a bit rough, like a 1990 version of the Dead End Kids. One of them hurled a huge plastic Coke cup on the sidewalk behind him. His friend, seeing this, yelled at him: "Hey, this isn't Dorchester!")

While "Summertime" was initially released as Epic 9281 in September 1958 (how cruel to put this track out just as school was resuming), it was reissued four years later. On 25 All-Time Greatest Summer Songs.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


The Coasters, Yakety Yak.
The Silhouettes, Get a Job.
The Miracles, Got a Job.

In which teenagers declare war on the adult world. While skirmishes out in the brush continue to this day, the kids eventually seized control, though they still had to get jobs at some point.

The Coasters' "Yakety Yak" was recorded in New York on March 17, 1958, with King Curtis on the sax break and Mike Stoller (who wrote the song with Jerry Leiber) as arranger and pianist. It was released as Atco 6116 c/w "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart," and was played in the home of every adolescent in America: find here.

The Silhouettes
were once a gospel group known as the The Gospel Tornados, but their masterpiece, "Get a Job," dealt with secular time: first released in late '57 as Junior 391, the single went national early the next year as Ember 1029: find on Doo Wop Uptempo. The Miracles' answer record "Got a Job," the first appearance of an ambitious young singer named William "Smokey" Robinson, and the first composition by an equally ambitious producer named Berry Gordy, was rushed out in March 1958 as End 1016: find on Ooo Baby Baby.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Rod Bernard, Pardon Mr. Gordon.
Rod Bernard, This Should Go On Forever.

You might not be able to guess from listening to the tracks, but Rod Bernard was a Cajun. Born in Opelusas, Louisiana, in 1940, Bernard was playing guitar and singing professionally by the time he was 10 years old, first in a group called the Blue Room Gang and, after Bernard had heard Elvis, with a rock & roll band called the Twisters.

"This Should Go On Forever" was Bernard's moment in the sun: a national pop hit, leading to appearances on American Bandstand (where Dick Clark asked Bernard to rewrite the song's best lines, "If it's sin to really love you/then a sinner I will be" so as not to offend teenagers) and tours with Frankie Avalon and Chuck Berry.

However, I've always loved the other side of the single far more. That's where you'll find "Pardon Mr. Gordon," which follows in the grand tradition of songs sung by men who acknowledge they're going to get thrashed by a bigger, meaner guy if they don't get out of the way. (Descendents include Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Three Steps.")

And is it just me, or does the sped-up Alvin and the Chipmunks-esque line really sound like Bernard's saying "Shut the fuck up"? Maybe it's just me.

Released as Jin 105, and later in 1959 as Argo 5327. On Essential Collection.

Click here to see Gordon lip-synching "This Should Go On Forever" on American Bandstand, April 1959.