Before I saw/heard the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show along with the rest of America in 1964, music was not a passion of mine. There were no musical instruments in our house. My parents had a slim collection of LPs. Our record player was a strange sleep-teaching device with a clock built into it that my dad had bought to try and learn more via sleeping.
My mom was the one that played records or listened to the radio. She would sing while vacuuming, and I thought she sounded pretty good, like Barbra Streisand.
When my mom and I went on errands in the car, the radio was always on. AM Radio, circa 1960-1963. With my mom. Her stations…I liked Nat King Cole (“Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer”) and Barbra Streisand.. Maybe I liked them ’cause they were on TV a lot at the time, and I liked their personalities. I didn’t like Sinatra or any of the Rat Pack. “High Hopes” really bugged me – Sinatra sounded stupid singing about little kid stuff, I did not trust him. He seemed vaguely mean.But Bobby Darin, Mack the Knife? I liked when that song came on.
I had a teenage Aunt, who played the radio around my grandparent’s pool. Top 40 radio. It didn’t grab me. “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny”, Elvis, Beach Boys, it just didn’t do it for me. Elvis seemed old-fashioned and corny. I remember seeing a Beach Boy record at a neighbors’ house, and even though surfing and all was cool, something about the cover made me feel that they were ‘uncool’, out-of-date. Before the Beatles arrived, music in general felt stale to this 7-year old.
Still, since I remember all that earlier music, it must have some kind of influence on me. Here is what music looked like in my house in 1963 (our entire record collection):
Keeley Smith? – A nice record, but I didn’t love it.
Spellbound – I hated when my mom put this on. Very spooky music, scared me like crazy.
Tito Puente – Not something I ever requested to hear, but it did have a good party atmosphere to it.
Harry Belafonte – Love is a Gentle Thing. I loved this record. Harry’s voice was so comforting to me.
Barbra Streisand. I thought her voice was SO pretty. I had a 6-year old crush on her.
Allan Sherman – A funny record. Harvey and Sheila? I didn’t quite get all the jokes, but I knew it was funny. I puzzled over the cover a lot. What is a celebrity? Why are those people standing in a field?
I loved this record – recorded live, so that even if I didn’t get a grown-up joke, I knew it was funny ’cause the audience was laughing. I laughed right along with them. It was a special treat when years later I got to appear on their show. And yes, Tommy is very smart and organized in real life, he seemed to be the one holding the show together.
The Limelighters – Like the Smothers Brothers, recorded live, so I could clue into what was supposed to be funny.
Kingston Trio – I actually borrowed this from my parents a couple years ago, to revisit. I can see why I liked it as a kid – some humor, some good songs and singing, high energy. But some of the humor is really racist and distasteful. It doesn’t hold up so well over the decades.
Porgy & Bess Soundtrack. This one was a little scary to me – the overture is very dramatic and big and dark in a way. But I did love the music very much, and Gershwin remains one of my favorite composers. This LP is deep in me.
The Music Man – “Marian the Librarian” was a favorite tune. I loved the way the long note is held out on “Maaaaaaaaaa-rian”. And I loved the way Robert Preston sang. There are a lot of good songs on that record.
Glenn Yarborough – I never put this record on myself. When my mom played it, it was okay, just not my thing.
Dinah Washington. I loved her voice. More than Barbra Streisand’s (although I didn’t develop a crush on Dinah). Some of the record goes awash in Nelson Riddle-style arrangements (which I’ve never cared for), but some of it swings hard and true. And her voice is ALWAYS good on it.
Gershwin for Moderns – Ted Heath. While this music has been re-released, I couldn’t find a picture of the original cover art. I don’t remember anyone playing this record when I was young. I think it was my dad’s record]. Since he never listened to music, that would explain why this record never got played. He claimed to like Stan Kenton, but his record collection was all on 78’s in the garage.
A huge, wonderful memory of my early years was when the whole family went to the record store one night. Only that one time, never before or since, we just got up after dinner and went to the music store, where you could listen to records in listening booths. We each got to pick out a record to take home. Wow! I got this Huckleberry Hound story LP.
And that’s what I was listening to before the Beatles arrived.