You’re A Teenager — You Live In L.A. It’s 1954 And Rock n’ Roll Is…
. . .and you go to Fairfax Hi, and there’s always somebody walking around with a camera asking you to smile, whether you want to or not.
The one constant, which will be forever part of our culture, no matter when it was or when it will be; being a teenager and the perennial, inevitable, awkward rites of passage.
Picture this: The teenagers in the photo above, actual students from Fairfax Hi in 1954 are, with any luck, hovering between 77 and 80 years old today. Those faces are the faces of you, your parents, your grandparents and possibly your great-grand parents.
They were all teenagers at one time — goofy, mixed up, angst-ridden, popular, pariahs, cool kids, odd kids, straight kids, delinquents — all with one thing in common; they were between 14 and 17 and life was a big mystery — always has been — always will.
In 1954, Rock n’ Roll was a distant blip on the horizon. The closest you as a teenager were going to get to it in 1954 was Jump-Blues, and that was the exclusive domain of the small radio station which catered primarily to Urban (i.e. Black) audiences. The main stations at the time (and radio was still the dominant force, but was quickly fading in favor of TV) were playing what was the popular music of the day. This was what mainstream America was listening to — this was what the average teenager heard and these were the records they bought.
There were a few forays into this strangely forbidden music — you can hear a faint glimpse of it by way of the song voted most popular by the kids from Pasadena; The Cheers’ I Need Your Lovin’. Cringeworthy by todays standards, and probably raised a few eyebrows then, but for different reasons. However, a similar tune by Tony Bennett was voted down in the popularity poll by those same kids.
Remember, this was all well before there was such a thing as The Youth Market — in 1954, mainstream popularity was dictated by those considerably older who still had the buying power. And you were still misunderstood. In 1954 things were starting to change, and by the end of the following year the musical barriers would begin to break down — being replaced by what would soon be known as The Generation Gap.
But for 1954, your spokesman was Jack Linkletter — he was the son of Art Linkletter who was a fixture on daytime radio and TV,and his House Party was seen and heard by millions. Jack Linkletter would eventually transition over to Folk Music and become the face of Hootenanny, a popular Folk-oriented TV show, starting in 1963. But in 1954 Jack was considered as having his finger on the pulse of Young America.
So here is a one-hour snippet of Jack Linkletter’s Teen Club, a weekly show on Sunday afternoon, broadcast over KNX in Los Angeles.
And 20 years from now, someone will be cringing at the music you loved today. That’s just the way it is.
Originally published at pastdaily.com on February 4, 2017.