“If a Miss wants to be kissed instead of cuddled,
And to this you are in doubt as what to say,
When a girl changes from bobby sox to stockings,
Then she’s old enough to give her heart away.”
Bobby Sox to Stockings
Rock and Roll was born of Rhythm and Blues. The early artists, people like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Fats Domino, all had an edge to their music. A vitality. And, they were all originals.
The white, traditional music establishment wasn’t thrilled with this trend. Fearful that their kids would be corrupted and that record sales would fall (I gave them the benefit of the doubt in the order of their worries), they instituted the practice of having more established artists “cover” or rerecord Rock tunes.
These “cover” versions at first out sold the originals. Believe it or not, Pat Boone’sAin’t that a Shame sold more copies than Fats Domino’s. And, best of all, Pat was so wholesome. Unfortunately for them and for Mr. Boone – it just wasn’t Rock and Roll. The teens wanted their music more cool, Daddy-O.
Turn Me Loose
Plus, these early Rock and Roll stars weren’t exactly parent pleasers, not the kind of guys you would bring home to meet the folks. “Daddy, this is Jerry Lee. Jerry Lee, Daddy.” Nooo, I don’t think so. Besides, we were nice girls trying to get good grades, so we could go to a good college and meet a nice boy with good prospects and graduate with our M.R.S. degree. The last thing our parents wanted us thinking about was a rebel.
An unspoken compromise between the teen desire for an energetic rock beat and the establishment’s need for convention was achieved. Enter the Teen Idols. Primarily imitators, these fellows weren’t on the cutting edge musically. There’s a reason why Little Richard, and not Paul Anka, performed at the Closing Olympic Ceremony in Atlanta. Little Richard’s originality is time honored.
Of course, truth be told, back then, I couldn’t have cared less about musical integrity. I didn’t even notice these artistic nuances. I was crazy about Frankie Avalon and wouldn’t have minded even if he couldn’t carry a tune.
The faces which adorn this page belong to six guys who share a unique piece of Americana. They were our “dreamboats.” Ricky Nelson, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Darin, Paul Anka and my beloved Frankie Avalon were the Teen Idols of the late Fifties and early Sixties.
“Some people call me a Teenage Idol,
Some people say they envy me.
I guess they got no way of knowing
How lonesome I can be.”
Teen Age Idol
They were enormously popular. Attracting huge crowds wherever they went, their records proceeded to climb to the top of the Rock charts. Naturally, since armies of teenage girls wanted to touch them, legions of teenage boys tried to imitate them.
Frankie Avalon was my very favorite of the Teen Idols. Frankie had a prime position among the pictures on my bedroom door (nudged out Troy Donahue and that’s saying something.) The best part came in the early Sixties when he teamed up with Annette Funicello of Mickey Mouse Club fame. See, I wanted to be Annette and besides, they did those beach movies, and I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and well, you can see how a girl could get breathless.
I’ll never forget him. My old, scratchy 45 RPM of Frankie Avalon singing Beach Party currently occupies an honored place in my jukebox.
Regrettably, Frankie’s picture is gone. I wish I had held on to it. Back in the Fifties, it provided for some lovely daydreaming and today, for some sweet memories.
Thanks, Frankie, wherever you are…