My best friend in 5th grade was Dixie. As you can guess, she had moved to Portland from Georgia when her father was transferred. She lived within easy walking distance from me, and her house was on the walk to and from school. I often stopped for a while at her home after school . They had a “nigra” maid(this provoked a long discussion with my parents who explained that while Dixie’s family thought this was more polite than its alternative, it was still a very rude thing to call someone)who had a snack and a glass of milk for us waiting when we arrived.
After snacking, we settled ourselves in front of the television for our two favorite shows–American Bandstand and the Mickey Mouse Club. In those days, Dick Clark was famous not for New Year’s Eve, but for his hosting of this wonderful show of singers, top ten songs of the week and real people dancing to the music. It wasn’t until I looked up the video for “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” yesterday that I realized that they were all lip syncing. (And how creepy that it’s a kid in the bikini!)We didn’t have a clue and were totally in awe of all these “famous” stars appearing “in person” “live” for our entertainment. Neither of us knew anything about dancing, but we studied the participants carefully, imagining one day we might get to be on American Bandstand.
With only one radio station playing hits and one television show playing songs, we all knew exactly the same music. I am being delighted to realize that some of my followers memorized the same songs. Unlike later, when musical tastes really diverged, for white middle class kids across America in the late 1950’s, there was only one sound. And we heard it on American Bandstand.