Category Archives: 1950s

Crash & Heartbreak

Record companies, not to mention insurance companies, have long recognized the link between motor vehicles, teenage operators, and unfortunate results.  For the insurance guys this has resulted in higher rates & claims.  For the record industry it’s led to a bunch of hit records, particularly in the late ‘50s & early ‘60s.

For oldies aficionados, few names evoke a more immediate response than J. Frank Wilson – “the Last Kiss guy”.  Not much of a recording career, but when you place #2 on the Billboard Top 100 for 1964, who cares – this song is the KING of the ‘Crash & Heartbreak’ segment forever.  BTW, the line “I gotta be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world” has always frightened me a lot – jeez, I hope that’s not how it works.  Anyway, here’s J. Frank and his biggest hit:

The next selection is designed to wring every ounce of teenage angst out of the listeners and it clearly succeeded because when it was released in 1959 it was actually banned on a host of radio stations because it was “too sad”.  It eventually fought its way through to the top of the Billboard Charts but wow, “too sad” to play???  Speaks to the era, I guess.

Teen Angel is a simple story song with a tragic plot: car stalls on the railroad tracks, boy & girl make it out safely, girl gets creamed when she goes back to fetch his HS ring.  Hey look, people die all the time trying to save pets, so who are we to judge her motive (I’m sure it would have taken months to get the ring replaced & by then – who knows – he might have moved on).  Anyway, grab some tissues and listen up:

Although it’s clear that guys are always driving (I mean, we’re talking ‘50s-‘60s) so far it’s been the girls who’ve paid the price.  Now it’s time to turn the tables with the Shangri Las’ ballad about that bad boy, The Leader of the Pack.

Pretty thin story line but it’s tough to convert a modern-day tragic tale (good girl, motorcycle hood, dad hates him, skid, crash) into Romeo & Juliette…UNLESS someone has overlaid the song onto video from Marlon Brando’s Wild One movie.  The song’s still a top pick but the video makes it better (listen but don’t watch if you’re a purist):

Pick 3 From The Everly Brothers

The better the performer(s), the tougher the challenge to PICK 3! That is the case with the Everly Brothers. Don and Phil teamed up for so many hits starting in the late 50’s with Bye Bye Love (1957) and leading to On the Wings Of A Nightingale in 1984, which was a song written by Paul McCartney. Who can forget Cathy’s Clown and All I Got To Do Is Dream among many others?

Paul Simon, who was influenced by their music and a huge fan said: “… they witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.” John Lennon and Paul McCartney were influenced by these guys and referred to themselves as “the English Everly Brothers”. In fact, for Please Please Me they based the vocal arrangement on Cathy’s Clown.


The brothers were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Along the way, they had their issues, but still produced some of the very best music for 50 plus years. Phil died in 2014 from lung disease and Don has retired to a quieter life.
My number 3 pick is Walk Right Back… I love how you know the song right from the very first note, then their harmonies take over. My favorite part of the song is the change of tempo halfway through the song. I love the line…”Bring your love to me, don’t send it.”  Very cool lyrics. I am sure you’ll enjoy this golden oldie…


My number 2 pick is Let it be Me. The opening line says… “I bless the day I found you.” What more can you say? This is a love song of the highest order. This was the song that The Everly Brothers usually used to close their shows, except for their very last show when they closed their very last performance with Sam Cooke’s You Send Me. The rendition I attached here really shows the emotion that they intended us to experience. This from their show in Melbourne, Australia. Enjoy!


As difficult as it was to pick 3 from The Everly Brothers, picking number 1 was easy! No doubt about it… Crying in the Rain. One of my TOP 10 of All Time! My only complaint is that it is too short, so whenever I put it into a playlist I need to enter it twice, back to back!


You will love the version that I offer here since it was from the Ed Sullivan Show when the guys were in their marine uniforms. The vocals in this recording might be overlaid from the actual recording because it sounds every bit as good.


Pick 3 From Johnny Mathis

Do yourself a favor… During dinner tomorrow night tell Alexa to play some Johnny Mathis songs or let YouTube play a medley of his hits for you. I bet that you have forgotten what a special voice he has. You’ll be glad you did…

If you are going to Pick 3 for Johnny Mathis, you must begin with his signature song “Wonderful, Wonderful”. I think this song demonstrates the remarkable quality of Johnny’s voice. The orchestration compliments his talents and the production allows him to just belt out perfect pitch at full volume. Simply a classic for all time and a signature song properly titled!

Given the vast portfolio to pick from, it is fun to put forth your own favorites from the king of back seat music. My next choice is “It’s Not for me to Say”. In this song, Johnny is not afraid to let his partner know how he feels; likewise, in my next pick, “Chances Are”. Pure romance and a warmth that you can sense.

Finally, I pick “A Certain Smile” to complete my selections. This is another ballad about risky love, but worth the chance. Fantastic melody, haunting lyrics, and outstanding vocals. How can you not love this music!

It’s hard to believe these songs date back to 1957-58 and they still sound fresh and alive.

OMG, is that four picks? Well too bad, he’s worth it!