Friday, November 22, 2013

50 Years Ago Today

If you were around at the time, you remember exactly where you were ... what you were doing ... and what you felt.  After 50 years, I can honestly attest that it never leaves you.

I was ten years old ... in third grade ... the news came just as we broke for lunch.  Back then I used to walk home for lunch and eat with my stay-at-home Mom.  The fact that Kennedy had been shot was already all over the news.  

Smart ass (yet perceptive) punk that I was (even at ten years of age), when the crossing guard told us "You know the President has been shot" I replied (without missing a beat) "Yeah, Johnson did it ... he wanted the job."  (I know, out of the mouths of babes ... an idiotic thing to say to be sure but I'd never been exposed to death before ... and I've NEVER forgotten my immediate reaction.)

By the time we got back to school it was official ... our teacher, Mrs. Arnold, came into the classroom, bowed her head and stated very matter-of-factly "President Kennedy Is Dead."  I'll never forget it.  One sentence ... right to the point ... and then that was it.

It was on television non-stop ... Chicago was putting out multiple editions of the newspapers on the same day just to keep up with any and all of the developing results.  Back in the days of three-channel television and no Internet, that's how it was handled.  You really couldn't watch anything else on TV, even if you wanted to ... but it really didn't matter ... we were all riveted to the screen anyway ... quite simply, there had never been anything else like it ... and television (the very media that made Kennedy the first "celebrity president" in the first place) set the precedent for "instant news" that weekend ... it changed the way we watched the world forever.

And then, what seemed like only a few hours later, watching Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald, live on TV ... had the whole world gone mad?  As a ten year old, I didn't know what to think ... but I was not alone ... neither did most of America.

Ages later I was able to visit Dallas ... Dealey Plaza ... the book depository ... incredibly, the chill came back ... like I said, it never really leaves you.

Even now, watching some of the documentaries that have been all over TV these past couple of weeks, it all comes back.  Incredible as it may seem, I actually REMEMBER some of this footage ... they played it over and over and over again at the time and at ten years of age I was an absorbent sponge, taking it all in and trying to digest it and make some sense of it all ... a lot to handle when you're just a kid.  (Years from now OUR kids will be reciting much the same reaction when they speak about the day the twin towers fell.)

50 years ... hard to believe.


Baby Boomers have truly been in their element these past couple of years ... and will continue to bask in the memories in the years to come ...

So much focus and attention has been given to the most creative time in our lives ... both musically and otherwise. We've recently celebrated the 50th Anniversaries of The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, The Rolling Stones and many others ... and right now all the buzz has been about the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the first coming of The Beatles to America shortly thereafter. 

Here's a quick look back at an interesting record that peaked at #39 on the Billboard pop charts (it reached #26 in Record World), pointing out (as Joel Whitburn describes it) "the coincidental parallels between the careers and deaths of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy". 

I remember there being a considerable amount of discussion about this when this record first came out.  (Actually, the newspapers and magazines had been buzzing about it for quite awhile ... years, in fact.  The hit single release didn't come until the Spring of 1966 ... hardly a timely release!) 

It really wasn't much of a "hit" ... probably more of a "novelty" record ... not in the sense of humorous by any stretch ... but just an "oddity" that you can't really categorize.  Like many of these, once you knew the story, you didn't need to hear it again and again.  In hindsight, I guess it's a little bit surprising that it charted at all ... but it DID cover new ground in an interesting way. 

Here it is again for the benefit of any of you who may have forgotten the irony of it all ... or simply never heard it in the first place.  (It hasn't exactly stayed in "heavy rotation"!)

The record was done by Buddy Starcher, a former disc jockey who, at various times, worked out of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Baylor, Texas.

And, as I'm always prone to do (if for no other reason than to lighten the mood a little bit), here's Ben Colder's excellent parody, "Great Men Repeat Themselves", released shortly thereafter ... and (I might add) at the absolute PEAK of the "Batman" era of television.


The other day we told you about a new CBS Television Special that will air on February 9th, the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that they're calling "The Night That Changed America".  

Here's the scoop on a brand new book that examines "101 Days That Shaped A Generation".  

Author Al Sussman looks back at the life-changing time span between November 22nd, 1963 (and Kennedy's assassination) through The Beatles first arrival on our shores, their first appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, right on up to March 1st of 1964. 

Here's more on this hot, new release:

Al Sussman announces new book 'Changin’ Times: 101 Days That Shaped A Generation'  

What events shaped and changed the baby boomer generation?  Al Sussman answers that question in his new book, ‘Changin’ Times: 101 Days That Shaped A Generation.’  

November 7, 2013 – Beatles expert and author Al Sussman is pleased to announce the release of his first book, Changin’ Times: 101 Days That Shaped A Generation (Parading Press ISBN: 978-0-9892555-1-6) later this month.    
Changin' Times takes a look at the 101 days from November 22, 1963 through March 1, 1964 and the after-effects of the John Kennedy assassination, the start of the 1964 political year, the instability in South Vietnam that would lead to the expansion of the war, the very early indications of the domestic turmoil that would come to define the '60s, the technology of the times, and the pop culture British Invasion that preceded the musical one.   
Click here: Changin' Times: 101 Days That Shaped A Generation: Al Sussman: 9780989255516: Books


I got this email from long-time FH Reader Jack Levin the other day ...

Can you email Clark Weber and ask him if WLS suspended programing after the news of Kennedy's murder broke, or did they continue playing music with the normal hourly news breaks?
Thanks -

Clark Weber recalls ...     

Hi Kent;
Yes I do recall the moment. Newsman Jerry Golden broke the story that he had been shot. I was standing in the hall outside studio #1 and as he ran by me he said, "Holy S..., President Kennedy's been shot!" I then went back to my office and called my wife. I'm not sure if Bernie Allen was playing records or if we were still rebroadcasting the "Breakfast Club" ... however we did resume normal programming. I'll contact Bernie and see what he recalls.
We never heard back from Bernie Allen in time to catch today's posting ... but, ironically, I later received an email containing the WLS Silver Dollar Survey released on that fateful day, November 22nd, 1963 ...

-- courtesy of John Bilas

And finally, one of the most famous songs associated with the assassination of President Kennedy has got to be "The Warmth of the Sun" by The Beach Boys.

We covered this in great depth a few years ago in Forgotten Hits (with a little bit of help from former Beach Boys Manager Fred Vail, who was booking the band back at the time.)

Here again is that very popular link.  (This article also ran in "Endless Summer Quarterly" several years ago, the OFFICIAL fanzine of all things Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys related!)