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Specializing is 50's, 60's and 70's music

Rock, Roll & Remember
The oldies are still goodies for many music lovers
By John Carter, Jacksonville, Friday, April 14, 2000
Times-Union staff writer 



  They were our Happy Days.  Or sappy daze.  Depends on your perspective.  To some, they were the Fabulous Fifties and Sensational Sixties.  To others, that’s a myth perpetuated by those nostalgic for the good old days...that never really were.  Either way, the songs remain two-to three-minute blasts of positive energy that keep spinning round and round, ricocheting from one generation to the next.  And whatever the appeal, there’s no arguing the staying power.  Sure, the message was often less than profound, the song structure rudimentary and redundant.  But, by golly, you could darn well count on the songs having good beat, tight vocal harmonies, and for heaven’s sake, enough red-hot hooks to send us up on the roof for a magic moment or under the boardwalk at twilight time.  For fans, it’s some kind of wonderful.  


Like a stiff shot of Love Potion No. 9.  Those fans can count on a real blast from the past today and tomorrow as the Florida Theatre presents Rock, Roll & Remember featuring versions of the Drifters, the Marvelettes, the Coasters and the Platters.  Nostalgia is certainly a big part of the appeal.  But many think there’s more to the music’s enduring popularity than that.  How else do you explain the multigenerational phenomenon of Grease?  Or account for all the teenagers who flock to oldie concerts or who browse through Doo Wops Forever, two Arlington stores (on Merrill Road and Beach Boulevard), that specializes in oldies music?  “I have kids come in all the time looking for ‘50s and ‘60s music,” said storeowner Bob Medina.  “And not just because of their parents either.  They know about this music.  Or if they don’t, once they hear it, they’re hooked.”  For example, Medina said, an older teen came into Doo Wops recently asking for “some nice music.”  


The Coasters

“This kid said he was getting tired of the rap stuff and was looking for some music that would be good to listen to on a date,” said Medina, who usually has the ’59 baby blue and white Chevy Impala he drives parked in front of the store.  “So right away I gave him a Temptations record.  Well, the next week the kid'’ back in here buying every Temptations record he can find.  You don’t have to sell this music.  Once they hear it, the music speaks for itself."

 This weekend’s Rock, Roll & Remember performers have quite a repertoire to do their talking.  The Platters’ hits include four No. 1 songs and 16 gold records.  Here’s a sampling: Only you, The Magic Touch, Twilight Time, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Harbor Lights, Ebb Tide, I’ll Never Smile Again and The Great Pretender. 

  The Drifters’ hits include There Goes My Baby, This Magic Moment, Save the Last Dance for Me, Up on the Roof, On Broadway, Under the Boardwalk, Some Kind of Wonderful and A Lover’s Question.  The Coasters are known more for their off-kilter, comic pop.  They scored big hits with novelty songs such as Poison Ivy, Charlie Brown, Along Came Jones, Yakety Yak, Little Egypt, Searching and Love Potion No. 9.  The Marvelettes helped usher in the era of the “girl groups” with monster hits such as Please Mr. Postman, Playboy, Don’t Mess With Bill and Too Many Fish in the Sea.


The Platters

  The great irony of oldies music is that it never gets old, said Pat Garrett, program director for WKQL, “Cool” FM 96.9.“I’ve been programming this stuff for 13 years now,” he said, “and I’m still not sick of it.  It has a perpetual good feeling to it.  It has a lot of positive energy, it’s fun and it just sounds good.  But even so, I’m not sure I can really explain this kind of longevity.”  Part of the magic of many pop oldies is the clever vocal arrangements, often worked out-in part anyway-to compensate for limited musicianship, said Teddy Washington, a Jacksonville trumpeter who for six years was one of James Brown’s Famous Flames.  “There’s something about vocal harmony that just gets to people,” he said.  “And then when you get that four-part harmony-look out.  Four-part harmony will just grab hold of you and not let go.”

  Phil Tutino moved to Jacksonville recently from Connecticut.  He loves oldies so much he meets monthly to play and discuss his beloved music with a group called Al’s Doo Wop Club (named for the late Al Albert, a Jacksonville music fanatic who had a staggering 100,000 oldies records).  Tutino, too, thinks that unique, often audacious vocal arrangements have a lot to do with rock we really remember.  “A lot of the doo wop groups in the neighborhood where I grew up didn’t even use instruments,” he said.  “It was street corner stuff.  They’d make up all these vocal parts to create a big sound.”  Tutino himself was in a New Haven group called the Avolons.  He held down one of the vocal parts and also played a little guitar, using “a couple of the six chords I know; but then that’s all we really needed.”  Call him a stick-in-the-mud all you want, Tutino says, chide him for being narrow-minded-it doesn’t matter.  His love of oldies and the era that produced them is unshakable.  “I’m 62 now,” he said.  “Sixty-two!  And I hate that.  I really hate it.  But I’ll tell you something: I wouldn’t trade growing up when I did and with the music we had for anything in this world.”

Copyright © 2000