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Where's the Good Music?

by Ron Kitson

Each generation seems to like "their" music better than the "old" songs and the attitude seems to be gaining momentum.

Yet, as kids in the 1940s and early '50s, we not only enjoyed the "Top Ten", we loved the old songs from the '20s and '30s along with some much older sing-along songs as well and would sing them on bus trips or around a camp fire.

We listened to whatever radio station our parents decided on. There were only a few stations to pick from and I don't remember many music shows where they just played records. We had one radio in the kitchen when we lived on the farm and that was it.

We had an old player piano plus, my mother would buy the sheet music to new hits and play them on the piano while we all sang. Now, a family of five probably spends the evening watching five different TV sets.

After we moved to Bowmanville in 1945, my parents bought an Electrohome Hi-Fi floor model with large speakers, "Broadcast" and "Short Wave" bands along with a three speed record player with automatic changer. Wow, what luxury. It now rests in our family room.

Having started out singing the old cowboy songs like Red River Valley and When The Work's All Done This Fall, I was a sure hook for the "Country" music of the late 1940s with the big hits of Eddy Arnold, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Hank Williams, Red Foley and Pee Wee King just to name a few. And of course, everyone loved Bing who could sing anything.

One of the first songs I learned was the Jimmy Davis hit "You Are My Sunshine" which was a blockbuster hit also recorded by Bing Crosby and several others. It was a grown-up's hit song but now it's considered just a "children's" song and I don't know why that is.

All the old "winter" songs like Jingle Bells, Frosty The Snowman, Let It Snow, Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride and I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm only get played at Christmas time and I don't know why that is either. They're not Christmas songs, just winter songs.

As the early years slipped by, I began to enjoy more of the young Pop stars like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Teresa Brewer, Frankie Laine, and many, many more who continued to turn out fabulous hit songs, many of which have become standards.

Then came the 1950s with Bill Haley, Carl Perkins, the Everly Brothers, Elvis and a long list of Rock-A-Billy stars. New pop singers like Connie Francis, Pat Boone, the Platters, the Four Lads and a long list of stars who gave us many more great new hits as well as new renditions of some of the great oldies.

And then something happened to popular music and gradually, talent seemed to become less of a factor while good looks and/or the "Rebel" theme were aimed at the young who by this time had money to spend and they spent a lot of it on records.

I enjoyed some of the new music through the sixties and a little bit into the seventies. Then, perhaps my age became a factor but among the few songs I was enjoying, there were so many I couldn't stand and I lost interest in the new music.

Today, most radio stations in the big cities don't want to play the great standards at all. They worry they will lose listeners if they do and they do need good ratings in order to sell advertising.

It would be a treat to turn the radio on and listen to some good new music with good singers and great bands. Good new intrumentals, songs about far away places and some fun songs to help brighten your day but they're all gone. The big void was not in the "Old Days", it's now.

I miss the great Country Classics and as far as I know, no radio station in our area plays them. I really believe one or two an hour could keep a lot of people like me listening.

And then there's Teen Pop and Hip Hop. Very young stars singing very adult lyrics to a very youthful audience. Many of these young artists today are very talented I'm sure but the variety we enjoyed in the past, seems to be lacking and the lyrics seem to me to be inappropriate for children.

Also, is it just me or do many of these young singers sound the same? It used to be that, you knew who the singer was as soon as the first word was sung. You didn't ask yourself, "Gee, is that Dean Martin or is it Frankie Laine? Is that Patti Page or is it Teresa Brewer?"

You didn't have to ask "Is that Johnny Cash or Slim Whitman? Is that Kitty Wells or Loretta Lynn?" The same goes for most of the perennials in other music categories. Each being unique and sounding like no one else.

For some reason, older people have always had trouble accepting new songs and new artists but I hear obscene lyrics blasting from car radios and question the purpose and wonder how anyone can consider it good music.

As a DJ back in the fifties when people would ask me what I thought of Rock'n'Roll, I would say "Any music that is enjoyed by a lot of people is good music."

But I don't say that any more.

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