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Sunday, December 28, 2014

HOW TORONTO STIMULATED THE ORIGINS OF ROCK AND ROLL


The Idol and Got Talent TV shows are high tech copies of several early versions.  From 1934 to 1945 Major Edward Bowes MC'd the Original Amateur Hour.   Frank Sinatra appeared in a show with The Hoboken Four.  Bowes passed away and Ted Mack brought the show to television, running until 1970.  Discovered were Gladys Knight and Irene Cara in their early youth, Teresa Brewer, Pat Boone,  Jerry ValeAnn-Margaet, and Tanya Tucker.

Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts ran on CBS from 1946 to 1958, finding Pat Boone (before Ted Mack), the Chordettes, McGuire Sisters, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, The Diamonds, Eddie Fisher, Connie Francis, Steve Lawrence, Al Martino, Jonathan Winters and Patsy Cline.  Buddy Holly, The Four Freshmen and Elvis Presley auditioned, but did not make the cut.  Arthur Godfrey can be given credit for putting Toronto on the map for helping spur the early days of Rock and Roll.


It took me 60 years, but I finally figured out that Toronto, Canada was the origin of several of my favorite songs and can be credited with helping kick-off Rock and Roll:
In fact, you can get a lot more specific, for both The Four Lads and The Crewcuts came from St. Michael's Choir School in Toronto.  Mitch Miller signed The Four Lads to  in 1951 sing back-up for Johnny Ray's Cry and The Little White Cloud that Cried.  Then in 1953 came their first hit, Istanbul (not Constantinople, #10), followed in 1955 with Moments to Remember, (#2), No Not Much (#2) and Standing on the Corner (#3).  They never made it to #1.

Two originals from The Four Lads, joined two others to form The Crew-Cuts in 1953, named for their hair style, got their break on Arthur Godfreys's Talent Scouts, and were an opening act for Gisele MacKenzie.  In 1954 they covered The Chords hit, Sh-Boom, and hit #1.  Later that year, they did it again, besting The Penguins by reaching #3 with Earth Angel.  Over time, though, The Penguins sold 10 million copies of Earth Angel.
In 1953, David Somerville was working as a sound engineer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto, and teamed with three others to form The Diamonds.  In 1955 they came in first on Talent Scouts, and after a few minor hits, released Little Darlin' in 1957, reaching #2.  Their Stroll that year peaked at #4.

In 1956 four students at Hollywood High School (in California) formed The Four Preps and in 1957 wrote and performed on 26 Miles (Catalina), reaching #2 in 1958.  They also did Big Man in 1960, hitting #13.  I mention them because in 1966, David Somerville replaced one of the originals, and now sings for both The Diamonds and The Four Preps.

Here is Somerville (extreme left) as a Four Prep from PBS' Magic Moments:


I toss in The Lettermen, because Jim Pike of that group also is part of the Four Preps.  I recall watching The Lettermen entertaining us in Toyon Hall on the Stanford Campus around 1961 with The Way You Look Tonight (#13) and When I Fall in Love (#7).  

Here is a great million dollar question.  Link The Association with these groups.  They had two #1 songs, Cherish in 1966 and Windy in 1967.  The answer?  Go do this research yourself.  In any case, Toronto was an important influence in the very early days of Rock and Roll.  I get many pleasant memories of my stops in Toronto, from picking raspberries to admiring the progressive society for which they're proud.  On the other hand, maybe, with former Mayor Rob Ford, too much so:


Can't end with that, so let me say that a long, long time ago I actually went to a Bubblegum Pop concert there, a genre which featured Tommy James and The Shondells (Mony Mony), The Partridge Family (C'mon Get Happy) and The Lemon Pipers (Green Tambourine).  Of course, the Archies (Sugar, Sugar).  But they were a fictional garage band and never performed.  Oh, unless you really like freezing weather, go to Toronto only during the summer months.

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