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Big Chuck

October 21, 2013

Some hits from the soundtrack of my life


Try and sit still to Elvis’ electifying “Jailhouse Rock” from September of 1957. Impossible. It was the first of The King’s many No. 1 songs.

No other songbird of the oldies era personifies the trials and tribulations of a young heart than does Connie Francis. Like her country cousin Patsy Cline, Connie could cry out of both sides of the microphone. Plus she put a major Florida city on the map, Fort Lauderdale. Yes, college spring breaks simply did not exist until Connie pointed to “Where the Boys Are” in 1961.

Bobby Vinton was what we used to call a “floor filler.” Easy, breezy and with a restrained demeanor, Bobby Vinton was the most important support any of us young guys had as we slowly padded across the gym floor to ask that little blonde with the ponytail, braces and saddle shoes for a first slow dance. Thanks, Bobby!

When you lived in a small rural community like I did, the gritty and out-of-the-box sound of early Motown was positively infectious. I play a lot of Supremes, Temptations, Mary Wells, Smokey Robinson, Jackie Wilson, Four Tops, Aretha Franklin and Little Stevie Wonder on Thursday nights. And the infection still comes creeping out of the headphones whenever I hear the soulful struts of “Please Mr. Postman,” “My Girl,” “Baby Love” or anything by “Mr. Excitement,” Jackie Wilson. 

I have sung with my two younger brothers on street corners, in back rooms, at parties and in the car for a half century. So perhaps the most resonant genre of Thursday night music for me is doo-wop. The tight harmonies, the cheesy tuxedos, the big Italian hair and the finger-snapping histrionics all take me back the days of singing with my brothers Bob and Jim when I was a kid. The Cascades, The Brooklyn Bridge, The Orioles, Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Platters, The Moonglows and The Impalas were all great names. And don’t even get me started on the Mills Brothers, the godfathers to all doo-woppers. As you can imagine, my playlist on Thursday is “doo-wop heavy.”

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Big Chuck

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