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Rock & Roll Doo-Wop

April 29, 2015
BY CHUCK CLEGG - Columnist , Wetzel Chronicle

On a Saturday night a short time ago, Mary and I traveled to Wheeling to attend a Rock & Roll Doo-Wop concert. Our good friends Connie and Earl accompanied us to listen to music from a time when we were a little younger, younger by at least fifty years.

If you were to attend a musical concert in the late sixties there may have been war protesters in the crowd. They may have carried signs against the war while others may burn their draft cards to protest the government's involvement in the war. When we attended a couple of weekends ago the only cards that may have been seen were rock and roller's comparing Medicare cards and I believe no one is going to burn that card.

As is usual with any oldies concert at the Capital Music Hall the theater was filled to capacity. Rock and Rollers many of which were from the fifties and sixties filled the seats in the grand old hall. Right off, I noticed that I was surrounding by older people, lots of them. Then, I remembered looking at my reflection in the glass display window as we came into the theater, oh my, I was one of those older people.

Not long ago, Mary heard on TV that the age of sixty is the new forty. I am guessing who ever came up with that bit of news most likely is carrying a laminated AARP card in their pocket and power walking inside a mall somewhere. There is no doubt over the last fifty years much has changed in the quality and length of time we can expect to live beyond 60.

Now, I don't mean to offend people by saying sixty is old. Before I make such a statement I wanted to know what the experts consider the word old means. To find a definitive answer to such questions I looked in my dictionary. According to their definition old is: having lived or existed for a relatively long time. Advance in age. Having or exhibiting the physical characteristics, having old wrinkled hands. Not sure why just the hands, but they are the experts in such matters. Having the wisdom and experience of age or belonging to a remote period in history. I'd tell you more, but each opinion in the definition become more depressing as I read each of them.

With this in mind, I remembered watching people who according to Webster; lived or existed a relatively long time, make their way up the steep steps to the top of theater. I guess by that definition and the difficulty they showed in climbing, they were advanced in age. And many did exhibit other physical characteristics of age, such as; wrinkled hands and faces. But, it's also worth saying that many of those faces wore big smiles with anticipation of the coming entertainment. It also goes without saying they did exhibit the wisdom and experience of age, why else would they be there to see the evening's entertainment. And finally belonging to a remote time in history, well I wouldn't call the fifties and sixties a remote time in history, but it was a great time for the music we were there to hear.

Doo-Wop began as mostly vocal harmonies for a style of music associated with R&B. Over time, it also came to be part of music's history that took in different styles in the late fifties and early sixties. Many of the groups associated with the style were made up by four members that are very similar to barbershop groups of that time. But, the music and its impact were anything but barbershop in sound. As the theater lights dimmed the opening entertainers took the stage. Within moments Medicare Card carrying seniors became teenagers once again. The musical group known as the Vogues sang their favorites as arthritic bodies swayed with the sound of the music. Hands that may have been wrinkled in the daylight now clapped to the sounds from long ago.

The voices of the groups may not have been as strong as they once were. Musical notes once held for twenty seconds now lasted only a few. But, yet in the darken hall the sounds carried the people back in time to a place when they were young and full of dreams for the future.

Years ago, when a rock group came on stage they may have reached for a cold beer to keep their throats wet as the belted out their songs. That Saturday night, the singers may have reached for a Boast or Ensure to keep up the energy to perform for the crowd.

As the evening progressed, the air in top of the theater had a hint of a familiar smell. Not a bad smell, just one of menthol. I soon realized it was the smell of Ben Gay permeating the air as the evening progressed along. If you think about it is kind of funny. Fifty years ago at a concert that sweet smell would have been contained in the blue haze that rose up from reefer smoke in the darken theater.

The evening passed quickly as each of five groups performed their music from the sixties. Finally the main entertainment of the evening took the stage. If you were a teenager in the sixties, it would be hard to believe you never danced the twist to the music of Chubby Checker. At age 73, the king of the twist never missed a beat. From the moment he came on stage, he never stopped entertaining those who came to see him.

When he began singing his famous song, "The Twist" hundreds in the crowds began twisting the night away. I would venture to say that many of those doing the twist woke up the next morning trying to work out the twist in their bodies. I enjoyed watching those baby boomers, who for a few short minutes were transported back to a time of youth and innocence. A time, when the most important thing in their lives may have been who Dick Clark was going to have on American Band Stand.

When Chubby first sang the Twist, young girls flung their lacy Fredrick's of Hollywood underwear onto the stage. That Saturday not long, I don't think granny's underwear would have flown as far onto the stage. Music, dance and underwear have come a long ways in fifty years. But, Chubby Checker still has that old magic in his voice and dance steps.

I somehow don't believe in fifty years, today's generation will be going to rap concerts remembering the words of the top rapper songs, "just my opinion." But, I do believe people will still be attending concerts at the Capital Music Hall where Do-Wopper's will sing, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". The audience will sing along to words they all know and understand. When the evening draws to a close they will remember and enjoy the last song of the night, "Good Night Sweetheart." Some may say it is only music. But, it's the music of my generation. It is music that is full of great sounds and special memories. I think when historian's look back at the Doo-Wop generation they will still be trying to figure out, what the heck does Rama Lama Ding Dong mean, Thru the Lens.



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