I’m too young (a word that no one really uses along with my name any more!) to have lived through the pioneering days of rockabilly. And so I can only imagine what it was like back in those days. They must have been exciting times and they sure seem idealistic to me now.
Of course I know there were problems. But it must have been a thing to behold as young, brash kids started busting out of traditional norms and redefining the pop music scene forever. Still, it was a transitional period which saw these kids playing the same honky tonks, road houses, dance halls, and fairs as the country performers of the day played.
Seeing old videos of rockabilly pioneers Elvis, Cash, Perkins, Wanda Jackson, The Collins Kids, the Burnette Brothers, and so many others shaking up programs like The Louisiana Hayride and Town Hall Party whose audiences were used to somewhat more sedate country stars is really fun today. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see it back then! Parents were up in arms because of this “devil’s music.” The establishment hated it. But of course, they soon came around when they finally figured out how much money they could make from it. Funny how money has a way of making the establishment adjust their morals, isn’t it?
The excitement that was being generated as Elvis and others in the first wave of rockabilly toured through the south initially is hard to imagine today. And as the music spread, the shows started moving north and the music picked up even more steam. In today’s times of huge stadium concerts and lavish tour busses, it’s difficult to imagine a star like Buddy Holly busting his hump through the middle of nowhere in an ill-heated bus through a freezing February, but that’s exactly what he was doing just before his fatal plane crash.
Think about a modern star even half the caliber of Elvis playing off the bed of a truck in a parking lot somewhere one afternoon and then a local high school prom the next night. It just wouldn’t happen today. Think about a musician walking into a local radio station with his new record and his guitar and having the DJ fall in love with his music and start playing it right then and there. Think about the kids listening in and hearing this new music and loving it so much that they flood the station with requests to play it over and over again. Such a thing could–and did–happen then and this kind of story launched many successful careers. That could never happen in today’s corporate owned radio environment with its formulated and dictated playlists and robot DJs. Thankfully the internet is helping the small guys fight back though.
Not that there aren’t cool clubs and venues for musicians to play at these days–there are. But it must have been so different then. It’s just fun to think about how it was, that’s all.