Has ‘50s rock and roll faded away?

Gary Clark Jr. and Jon Batiste are fine musicians and did the best they could in saluting rock and roll legends Fats Domino and Chuck Berry at the recent Grammy Awards but, when their brief mashup of Ain’t that a Shame and Maybellene ended, I just stared at the screen.

That’s it? Two songs in the middle of the show. Elton John is one of rock and roll’s great piano men so why didn’t he do a medley of Domino hits? I imagined an all-star tribute to Chuck Berry to end the show with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Robert Cray, Joan Jett or any combination of rockers who are indebted to the man who laid rock and roll’s foundation.

And meanwhile, I was thinkin’….(Berry reference.)

Music fans tuning in to see Kendrick Lamar, Kesha, Rihanna and Childish Gambino likely had no idea who Domino and Berry were.

Meanwhile, I’m still thinkin’…

Has ’50s rock and roll faded away? Retro rockers like Brian Setzer and Robert Gordon have done their best to keep the fires burning but are they just flicking their Bics?

My show features tunes from the late ’40s to the present day and continues to run on a community station in Middelbourne, West Virginia. WRSG. And it was recently added to the internet station Beach Booster Radio here in Wasaga Beach. But it was canceled a few weeks ago on the station I work at, 97.7 the Beach (I’m still there, my day job is commercial writing and production, thanks for concern).

I took it well, as you may recall. Picture that Willy Wonka meme that gets recycled every time someone needs to express sarcasm on Facebook.

Okay, I was pissed.

But…

The station plays ’70s to the present day. My playlist was too old and the show was doomed even though I’ve met many listeners during the past 10 years who really liked my program and tuned in every week.

But…

They were usually over 60. Which brings me to the conclusion that ’50s rock and roll is in danger of being forgotten or slowly erased and maybe it’s just the passing of the years that causes that musical memory loss. Oldies radio used to be ’50s and ’60s. Now, it’s ’70s to the ’90s and Pearl Jam and Nirvana are classic rock.

“JOHNNY MARACA’S GONNA SHAKE IT IN YOUR FACE,”–VINCE BRACA

My show was inspired by the band I played with (after a few beers) and became friends with, The Black Holes. Hailing from London, Ontario…Vince, Sean, Tom and Jedd. Holes drummer Sean Anderson was my co-worker in the late ’90s and his band introduced me to Johnny Burnette, Link Wray and Eddie Cochran….and played supercharged versions of hits by Little Richard and Chuck Berry.

I became Johnny Maraca after shaking said percussive instruments with the Holes on Johnny B. Goode.

At the time, the Holes were playing college pubs and really, since the The Stray Cats exploded on the scene in the early ’80s with their retro rockabilly tunes reminiscent of Cochran and Gene Vincent, I figured early rock and roll would always appeal to at least a small segment of music fans.

Perhaps too small for Neil (“step up…females”) Portnow and the presenters of “music’s biggest night.”

Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard are the only ’50s legends still with us. The remaining Beatles and Rolling Stones are septuagenarians.

In Johnny B. Goode, Berry wrote about a young guitarist seeing his name in lights but the bulbs on the marquee are burning out one by one. The ticket booth is boarded up. There’s an echo of staccato bends and double stops…how that little country boy could play…close your eyes and picture a brown-eyed handsome man holding an electric guitar.

Smiling, duck walking across the stage.

Rock and roll. In 1958, Danny and the Juniors said it was here to stay. In the mid ’70s, Ronnie James Dio and Rainbow gave us (well, hard rock fans, most people reading this would say, who?) long live rock and roll. A decade after that, Twister Sister went further. You couldn’t stop it, according to Dee Snider. Tonight, sang Oasis, you’re a rock and roll star.

Every  couple years, some music journalist declares rock is dead. Like many of you, I’ve either doubted their conclusions or wanted to believe such was not the case.

But now…the ’50s ARE fading away and the ’60s, even with the Beatles and Stones, will as well.

I hope I’m wrong.

About johnnymaraca

host of Johnny Maraca's Rock & Roll Riot, the rockingest show on the radio. 60 years of rockin' rhythm and blues, from the late '40s pioneers like Louis Jordan to Elvis, Chuck Berry, CCR, Stray Cats, Ramones and tons more. Friday and Saturday nights at 7 on 97.7 the Beach, listen live at http://977thebeach.ca, and WRSG in Middlebourne, West Virginia, Tuesdays 6-8 pm.
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