Looking Back 1956!

Looking Back
Willowdale, Ontario, Canada
The Rear-View Mirror

Gary:”A new year, 1956 and I would turn 16 this year.  I still worked as an usher at the Willow Theatre.  I changed  in September and got a new job working for the Post Office (part-time after school). Yes, I sorted mail by hand. 

It was in this year, 1956 and through one of my class-mates Betty Mae Kalbfleisch, I would meet a person, one year older, who I would remain friends with until this day, Jack Beechey. 

I think Jack and I  met through a bowling team, but I am not sure.  We would remain friends for a long time, through starting of the Willow Y Club, we car pooled when I had my first Job, but he would marry in 1961.  I was then still single and he was married, so the relationship was not and could not be as close.  We met through business in the 70’s & 80’s and I just received an email from him today, so we still talk.  We had fun times, yes, we got into trouble together, but you know, good friends are hard to find so hang on to them.

In 1956 I still had trouble keeping girl friends, I was really into cars, music and girls, not necessarily in that order. 

I learned not to get so many detentions at school, or basically to keep my mouth shut.  I started to get more into High School life and also got into running dances. I was now a 16-year-old DJ, but in the coming year I would really be into it in a big way. 

I wanted to get my driver’s license, so through my dad and a driving school, that was accomplished.  I was still getting use to wearing a back brace to school. 

My back brace was similar to the one above, but it had two steel rods that ran from bottom of the brace up the spine to my neck and two straps that looped over each arm for support.  Yes, it was difficult to put up with it, but I was alive.  I wore the brace from late 1955 to the fall of 1956. 

I was making new friends and I hung out at a place called the Coffee Cup Restaurant. It had great Milk Shakes and a great Juke Box.

I cannot remember exactly what model it was, I know that it was not a Wurlitzer, but we were there every day feeding it 5 cents per song, or 6 songs for a Quarter. 

I have an uncle “Leo” who is 9 months older than I am and we kinda grew up together.  But in 1956 we had very different lives, even though we had been like brothers for the first 10 years of my life, things had changed drastically.  Here I was, kinda disabled, and had no sex appeal  with the back brace and Leo had quit school when he was just shy of his 16th Birthday, got a job sailing on the Great Lakes Shipping Vessels.

To make this story short, at 16, he had money and I had a part-time job and was going to school.  Now the key to this was, Leo made great money sailing and bought a 1955 Pontiac.

So, this is where the story gets interesting. Leo was a sailor, had a car, so when he sailed he left it at our house. I did not have a license but I did get one. I knew where his keys where and I put more miles on that car going up and down the driveway, to the end of the street, just to get gas, then back to the driveway and garage.

That’s one of the ways I learned to drive.  The other one was a driving school, my dad tried, but it just never worked out.  Leo always wondered where all the miles came from and just assumed that my dad used it and I did not correct anyone.

Pat Boone was still an influence so I bought and wore a pair of “White Bucks”.  They had to be kept very white.


Now what exactly do I remember about 1956, that was not related to Music, Cars and Girls? Well not much, but this I remember:

1.  The Swedish Liner “Stockholm” hits the Luxury Liner “Andrea Doria” off Nantucket.  Neither vessel sinks immediately, but the Andrea Doria sinks days later with the loss of 52 people.


2.  Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Rocky Marciano, retires undefeated.



I was starting to become more interested in Sports, including the High School Football Team.

1.  World Series/ NY Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers

2.  NFL/NY Giants beat the Chicago Bears 47-7

3.  The Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup, beating the Detroit Red Wings.


I was still a big Movie fan. Besides, that is where I took my dates.  This was the year that the major studios began movie productions that were like live performances, with an intermission half way through the movie.

1.  The Best Picture was “Around the World in 80 Days”


2.  Best Actress/ Ingrid Bergman/ Anastasia


3.  Best Actor/ Yul Brynner/ The King and I

4.  The Best Rock and Roll Movie of the Year was “The Girl Can’t Help It”


5.  The Screen Debut of Elvis in “Love Me Tender”


New on Television in 1956:

1. Alfred Hitchcock Presents /
2. General Electric Theatre /

3. Gunsmoke /

The Cars from 1956: (not all of them)

1.   1956 Chevrolet  (internet and mine)


Gary: This was mine, but I purchased it in 1959/60 same colour as above.

2.   1956 Ford Crown Victoria


3.   1956 Corvette


4.   1956 Ford Thunderbird


5.   1956 Plymouth Fury


6.   1956 Oldsmobile Rocket 88


7.   1956 Mercury Montclair


8.   1956 Desoto Adventurer


9.   1956 Cadillac Coupe De Ville


Debut Rock Artists of 1956

I think 1956 was the most explosive year for Rock and Roll.  If it was not the most, then it certainly would be tied as the biggest or most influential.
1.   James Brown
2.   Johnny Cash
  Johnny Cash at Big D Jamboree 1956
3.   The Coasters
4.   The Diamonds (from Toronto)  
5.   Bill Doggett
6.   The Five Satins (would record a classic in a church basement)
7.   The Four Preps (would reach # 2 in 2 years)  
8.   Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers 
9.   Roy Orbison (with the Teen Kings)  orbison
10. Carl Perkins 
It would just take too long to list all of the new artists, there were at least 25 new “Rock and Roll” artists in 1956 of significance.  There were a lot of other artists, like the Lennon Sisters, Harry Belafonte, Andy Williams and so on.  Not only was it a Huge year for Rock and Roll, but just a huge year for music in general.
Elvis Presley

Now to my way of thinking this would be “The Year” for Elvis.  He no longer could walk on the street.  He would become the biggest recording artist in the World.  Why the explosion?.., partly Col Tom Parker, but, in my opinion, TELEVISION. 

 I think his world would be changed forever just by being on TV.  I do remember “every” TV appearance and every teenager was glued to the Black and White TV.

1.   On January 28, 1956, what we had heard and read about, we finally got the opportunity to see  and the Genie was out of the bottle.  He would have Six Live TV appearances on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s “Stage Show”, produced by Jackie Gleason.  The show had a moderate rating.  Now I do not know what the ratings were after he appeared, but every teenager at school was talking about his appearance and it launched Elvis into stardom.
1. January 28, 1956/Elvis and Col Tom Parker got a Plane ticket; the rest of the band had to drive; that would change.
5. The Milton Berle Show last appearance June 5, 1956/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5JALwwaASg
6. Sunday July 1, he does the show he hated, the Steve Allen Show/ Tuxedo and the dog, just degrading/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtKcCIuemAk
7. Now the arrogant and powerful Ed Sullivan, who stated that Elvis would never appear, relented due to overwhelming popularity/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtKcCIuemAk/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywjFLr9Guyc
It had only taken less than one year, his hair was now black, The Jordinaires travelled with him, and they treated these Rock and Rollers with a little more respect.  I am not naive, they did it only for money.  Mitch Miller, head of Columbia, did not have a clue what Rock and Roll was all about and he did not care and he did not like it; neither did Steve Allen, but Steve had Elvis on TV just for the ratings – what hypocrites they were.
The Music of 1956
(the Genie was out of the Bottle)
Just and enormous amount of songs, too many to count.  These are just some of the great songs of 1956.  
1.   My absolute Favourite Platters Song ” The Great Pretender“.
2.   Why Do Fools Fall in Love/ Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers/
3.   Eddie My Love/ The Teen Queens/
4.   The Rock Island Line/ Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group/
5.   See You Later Alligator/ Bill Haley and the Comets
6.   Teenagers Anthem / “Blue Suede Shoes“/ Carl Perkins
7.   Long Tall Sally/Slippin’ and Slidin’/ Little Richard and the Upsetters
8.   The Treasure of Love/ Clyde McPhatter/
9.   Please, Please, Please / James Brown
10. Be-Bop-A-Lula / Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps
11. Ooby Dooby / Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings /
Roy Orbison
12. Roll Over Beethoven / Chuck Berry /
13.  In the Still of the Night / The Five Satins /
14. I walk the Line / Johnny Cash /
15. Let the Good Times Roll / Shirley and Lee /
16. Blueberry Hill, I’m in Love Again & My Blue
Heaven / Fats Domino /
17. Love is Strange / Mickey and Sylvia /
18. Singing the Blues / Marty Robbins /
19. Honky Tonk / Bill Doggett /
20. Since I met You Baby / Ivory Joe Hunter /


I am well aware that anyone who reads this from my era, will be very critical of the music I have omitted.  I really do understand your concern but there is just so much time and space.  I will do this for my critics. For the first time in history, the top three billboard songs of the year, were Elvis.  So here is a little bit of what I left out.

Elvis Hits of 1956:

  • March/ Heartbreak Hotel / I was the One
  • April / Blue Suede Shoes
  • May / I want you, I need you, I love you / My Baby Left Me
  • September / Blue Moon
  • October / Love Me Tender / Anyway You Want Me
  • December / Old Shep

Hits I just did not have the Room for: 

  • February:  Bo Weevil / Fats Domino
  • March:  Church Bells May Ring / The Willows / R-O-C-K Rock / Bill Haley / The Magic Touch / The Platters
  • April: I want you to be my Girl / Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers / The Wayward Wind / Gogi Grant
  • May: Church Bells May Ring / The Diamonds / I Almost Lost My Mine / Pat Boone / Ruby Baby / The Drifters
  • June: Boppin’ the Blues / Carl Perkins / Ka-Ding-Dong / The G-Clefs / My Prayer / The Platters / Transfusion / Nervous Norvus
  • July: Fever / Little Willie John / The Fool / Sanford Clark / Rip it Up & Reddy Teddy / Little Richard and the Upsetters / Stranded in the Jungle / The Cadets /
  • August:  Just Walkin’ in the Rain / Johnny Ray / Tonight You Belong to Me / Patience & Prudence
  • October:  The Green Door / Jim Lowe / Jamaica Farwell / Harry Belafonte / Too Much Monkey Business & Brown Eyed Handsome Man / Chuck Berry
  • November:  I Feel Good / Shirley and Lee / I put a spell on You / Screamin’ Jay Hawkins / A Rose and a Baby Ruth / George Hamilton the IV / Slow Walk / Sil Austin / Ain’t Got No Home / Clarence “Frogman” Henry /
Now this is about 15 % of the music that made the Top 40 in 1956, so in my opinion it was the big break-out year for Rock and Roll.


9 responses to “Looking Back 1956!

  1. Russ here i thought you were 45 or 47 and now youve given it all away!!!!lol Fantastic blog!!!! alex

  2. Great stuff, Russ ! Do you remember when Steve Allen did a Shakespearian recital of Be Bop A Lula ? The audience laughed but even as a kid, I thought he was rude and just didn’t get it. Never seen a pic of Sanford Clark before. Keep up the good work. By the way, Dad sold me his 56 Pontiac in 1965 for 650 bucks. I should have kept it. It was mint ! Oh well ! Cheers. Ron.

    • Hi Ron, this is the other half of the blog Gary. You do realize that Russ remembers none of this, he never saw nor does he remember that Steve Allen presentation of Be-Bop-A-Lula, but I do. I do all of the writing for the blog and even at 16, Steve Allen turned me off. I am glad that you enjoy our Blog, pass it along to your friends.

  3. Hi Ron
    Steve Allen had a very subtle sense of humour, some times, perhaps a little dry? I guess you’d call that satire.
    Here’s the skit you were recalling:

    The original video clip of this show included a bonus of 2 Fats Domino hits “When My Dreamboat Comes Home” and “Yes It’s Me And I’m In Love With You” – great performances! . I have been able to find only part of this.

    Herb Hardesty was great on his sax solos.
    Thanks for all your support, Ron.
    – Russ

  4. What memories! Was also at the Haig in ’56 and hung out at the Coffee Cup, in the a.m. coffe & toasted Danish. Love it! Tks Gary.

  5. Just about my favourite year in pop records. I still play some of my all-time favourites such as ‘The Fool’, ‘Since I Met You Baby’ ‘Gone’ etc. etc. I had just returned to civilian life after five years in the Royal Air Force, the music scene had really come to life in that time. I’m 83 now but I remember it like it was yesterday.

  6. Wishing you and Gary a Great New Year. Still following your marvellous site, into my 86th year now and still listening and loving the music of back then. Mike.

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