After my parents passed away, the task of dealing with their townhouse and its contents largely fell to me. To a good extent, this was an artifact of geography: my sister and her family lived many hours away, in Florida. While I didn’t want to rush the job, it was going to be much easier for me to work during the summer months when I wasn’t teaching class. So, as August approached in 2015, I was renting a U-Haul to transport some furniture to my place and making multiple trips to the Habitat ReStore and Goodwill with donations. Another morning I drove in to downtown Cincinnati with a very specific task: to drop off a load of vinyl LPs and CDs with the Cincinnati Public Library, for them to turn around and sell to the public.
Dad’s vinyl collection was more heavily weighted toward classical music/opera, but there was plenty of rock, musicals, and comedy present as well. I pulled out a few representative disks for myself, especially from the comedy, including The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart and Flip Wilson’s The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress. (Alas, I didn’t recognize the treasure I had in Vaughn Meader’s The First Family until I’d already donated it.)
I kept all the 45s, however.
I’ve mentioned previously how a few singles had migrated from his collection to those of his children in the late 70s: among them are “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Come and Get It,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Spirit in the Sky.” But I count now around sixty pieces that had remained separate over the decades. It’s a somewhat eclectic mix, spanning about a fifteen-year period. Several are completely unfamiliar to me. A couple make me re-evaluate, maybe even question, my father’s taste in music just a little.
I plan to do the occasional post in the coming months that will highlight a few of Dad’s 45s. The premiere episode focuses on favorites of his from the early years of rock ‘n roll that also topped the charts. I’m listing them chronologically, noting the week each one hit #1, how many weeks it spent there, and where the song ranked in Dad’s pantheon (at least according to the compilation cassettes he recorded in the early 90s entitled IRH’s Rock and Roll Revue). They were all hits when he was between the ages of 25 and 30; the third and fourth ones were popular at the time my parents met.
Buddy Knox, “Party Doll” (3/30/57, 1 week, #10)
Not enough of a rock historian to know whether this was a common styling at the time, but the way Knox crooned “pah-harty” reminds me of how another Buddy sang “Pah-heggy.”
Danny and the Juniors, “At the Hop” (1/6/58, 7 weeks, #7)
This is only one of these five that has a sleeve with any character. The presence of Teddy Randazzo, who didn’t chart with ABC-Paramount until 1960, makes me think this wasn’t purchased in real time. That’s a pretty cool label.
Gary U. S. Bonds, “Quarter to Three” (6/26/61, 2 weeks, #45)
The first time I can remember hearing this song was on AT40‘s 7/3/76 broadcast of the #1 songs from the thirty-nine previous July 4ths.
Bobby Lewis, “Tossin’ and Turnin'” (7/10/61, 7 weeks, #11)
Lewis was Bonds’s successor at #1 that summer.
Joey Dee & the Starliters, “Peppermint Twist – Part I” (1/27/62, 3 weeks, #43)
Joey Dee immediately followed Chubby Checker’s second go-round at #1 with “The Twist.” I can’t know now when Dad purchased any of these singles, but since this Roulette label is the same as that of Knox’s song above, I’m suspecting he didn’t buy “Party Doll” until several years after it was a hit.
There’s another #1 song from this period that will appear in an upcoming post in this series.