He rides through the jungle, tearin’ limbs off of trees Knockin’ great big monsters dead on their knees The cats don’t bug him ’cause they know better ‘Cause he’s a mean motor scooter and a bad go-getter He’s the toughest man there is alive Wears clothes from a wildcat’s hide He’s the king of the jungle jive Look at that cave man go!
Way back in May 1960, the ABC network purchased a Chicago-based rural-oriented radio station from the Prairie Farmer magazine, not because they wanted to aid corn-growers but because it was a 50,000 watt “class A” radio station. That meant it was received by listeners in about 33 states, much of Canada, and, if you lived next to their transmission towers, probably your dental fillings as well.
In other words, they wanted a money machine. Pursuant to this, WLS changed format from “music to milk cows by” to that nasty-ol’ rock’n’roll. ABC thought the farmers wouldn’t appreciate the musical musings of Chuck Berry, Brenda Lee, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and the ever-frightening Elvis Presley. So, in order to clear the field, they chose one song to play over and over and over for a few days. Their disc jockeys were a talented group of kids including the legendary Dick Biondi and Bob Hale, who a year previous had emceed the Iowa concert where Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens performed their last. Those jocks were the heart and soul of the station. They announced that song under various contrived titles. The farmers quickly found something else to listen to, and the kids were brought in through word-of-mouth generated by their redundancy programming.
That song was Alley Oop, performed by The Hollywood Argyles and written by Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus, two of rock’s most important writers. For the record, it debuted on WLS a month before official release. The song was based upon the brilliant newspaper comic strip of the same name – which, unless I’m mistaken (it happens), was not published in any of the five major Chicago newspapers at the time.
Oh, wait. This isn’t about rock’n’roll radio. It’s about an obituary. Well, maybe not. Hopefully not. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #011: Death of A Super-Hero?”