Lost Songs from the Radio – 1953 and 1954

Gary: ‘While driving to the golf course the other day, we were listening to Sirius Radio’s “50’s on 5” and they played “It’s almost tomorrow” by the Dreamweavers.  My wife said it had been years since she had heard that song and that it was never played anymore. 

Well she was correct. The only reason we heard it because I pay for Sirius Radio and they play nothing but 50’s music, 24 x 7, which means they have to go way beyond the top 40 or 50 or even the top 100 for a specific year. 

It is not that difficult to think back to when you were a teenager, going to parties and what songs you danced to.  Well in Toronto we were deluged by Cover Records on the radio so the originals were difficult to listen to.  We never had a true Rock and Roll Station until on my 17th Birthday, May 27, 1957 “CHUM Radio” played Top 50 Rock and Roll records 7 x 24. 

Now before that we had to pick up the American Stations.  For most of you who do not know where Toronto is situated, we are only 90 miles from the US Border, but only 40 miles straight across Lake Ontario.  We picked up George Lorenz, “The Hound” who loved R&B; yes the REAL R&B, and all of the recordings that we had such a huge problem in purchasing.  Example:  Instead of Sh-Boom by the Chords, we got the Toronto Group “The Crew Cuts” (yuck). 

I placed a call to my partner Russ Strathdee and asked him to think about the parties he went to and the music “That the Teenagers” played not just the hit parade of the day. 

I remember the first time I heard “Annie had a baby” by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, it was banned so we wanted it more, great times. 

Now Russ is one year my senior, but he skipped a grade, so he was in High School (Earl Haig Collegiate), but I was still in grade 7,  So the 1953/54 period he would be much more familiar with.

I have already written 1954, but I realize now just how important some of the music from 1953 was.  I was only 13 in Public School, so I am not doing 1953 from memory and I will make it short and just add the songs I think are important. 

The main example is “Gee” by the Crows –  my first introduction to Rock and Roll was that song.  Some of my influence in 1954 actually came from 1953.  I will do my best.

Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters would record a song, that would later be recorded by just about everyone .
Money Honey is one of the most recorded songs from the Rock and Roll era
Big Joe Turner recorded a song in 1947 called “Rock this Joint” and uses the phrase “Rock and Roll” over and over.  You can actually go back to 1938 and still here the phrase, but Alan Freed was the first one to use it to describe Rock and Roll.  Big Joe Turner had a song in 1953 that I still enjoy today.
Honey Hush, was way ahead of it’s time.
Fats Domino / The Fat Man / Antoine Domino would start to get my attention.  He recorded “the Fat Man” in late 1948 which I did not hear until many years later.  In my opinion he would record over the next 2 1/2 or 3 years some of his best songs.  No, I am not talking about “Blueberry Hill” or “Ain’t that a Shame”, but the real New Orleans rolling rhythm and flavour of the Fat Man.
Please Don’t Leave Me is one of my all time Fats Favourites, and in the same year Going to the River
Little Junior with the fabulous Blue Flames just rocked the year
with “Feelin’ Good” and “Mystery Train
And of course the soon to be very famous Ray Charles would write and record a song in 1953
Mess Around“- how come nobody plays these songs?
The first song that I remember 59 years ago, that made an impression and that I just had to have was “Gee”, by the Crows.  I went horse back riding and there was a juke box at the stable and this was the only song I would play.
Gee by the Crows, recorded in Feb/53 charted in April 1954
This song, for me, would be one of the greatest slow-dancing or “Grinding” songs ever written and recorded.
It spent 3 weeks at #1 on the R&B Charts and #8 on the Pop Charts, recorded in October 1954 by the Penguins, it was still popular going into 1955 – Earth Angel
It was 1954 and this “Hillbilly Cat”, as some called him, was just getting started.  He had beside him Scotty Moore and Bill Black with D J Fontana joining a year later.  In my opinion, 1954 and 1955 at Sun Records saw him record some of the best music of his career.  Other than the Elvis Channel on Sirius Radio, these early songs are not played.
He would record “My Baby Left Me”, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and of course “That’s All Right Mama”.  He would also record “Good Rockin’ Tonight” which would be re-released in 1955.  The song that is never played is “Good Rockin’ Tonight“.

Long before “The Twist” would be recorded (written by Hank Ballard) The Midnighters were getting a new generation’s attention.  In Canada we had just the “Hit Parade” featuring mainly white boring music; but out of the US we found these more exciting songs that were even banned by some radio stations. This meant, at 14, we just wanted to hear them all the more. 

These records were hard to find, but I remember the first time I heard, “Work with me Annie” and “Annie had a baby“.  For 1954 this was forbidden, but as teenagers we just loved it.
Originally called the Royals, this group would become popular, but only with us, the teenagers.  The Adult generation (not my Mom & Dad) would try and have them banned, but great sound, great dancing music, that’s what we wanted.  I first heard “Work with me Annie”, in the basement of a house with a banned 78 rpm record –  it was great and something you don’t forget.
My favourite Elvis Song was recorded one year earlier by Arthur Gunter.  I will be honest, I really did not hear the original for a few years, I really loved the Elvis version.  But here is the man who recorded it first in 1954
I really do enjoy the original in 1954 from the man who wrote it.  To me it sounds a little Delta Blues, which I really enjoy, “Baby Let’s Play House“.

We had “Your Hit Parade” on Television – very controlled programming with white singers who just could not sing, nor were they interested in the new Music called Rock and Roll.


There was a very catchy tune called “Tweedlee Dee” by Georgia Gibbs.  Not bad but kinda boring until you found the original by Lavern Baker.


I was only 14, and I was really loving the new music, but it was so hard to find.  If you listened to the radio stations (in Toronto) in 1954, not much was happening.  But the movement was growing and music with Rhythm, Soul and very danceable, were starting to make it to the airways.

1954 J B Lenoir

Now I purchased this song in the late 90’s by Ray Sharpe, but in 1954 J B Lenoir was just rockin’.  He was a great blues guitarist that would leave us in 1967.  I found the original “Mama Talk to your Daughter” from 1954.

Three years before Fats Domino would take this song to #5 on BB, it’s writer and creator Smiley Lewis was singing it in 1954,
but no one remembers him doing Blue Monday.
Real true Blues and R&B artists were never given a chance in the early days, but the teenagers, dug out their great songs and loved them.1954ElmorJames
For example, there was Chicago Elmore James and his classic “Standing at the Crossroads“.  
I know that the people who read the blog are well versed in Music and are not naive and they realize the reason all of these songs were hard to find was that the came out of the US and the obvious, were sung by Black Artists, a real No-No in 1954.
Six years before Elvis would record it,
Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters recorded “Such a Night” in 1954.

There was so much starting to happen in 1954, it’s very difficult to talk about the songs that nobody ever plays anymore, because I was 14 and I am stretching it to admit to hearing all of this music in that particular year.

We had only AM Radio – Records were 78 rpm and people like Mitch Miller at Columbia controlled the distribution system; it was very difficult for us to find, listen to and actually purchase a lot of these records.  But as teenagers always do, we found a way. 

I’m sure in this age of Downloading from the Internet, our system of music acquisition was archaic, in today’s younger eyes, but I think it was so much more exciting than today’s system in 2013, yet I’m sure kids of today would vehemently disagree. 

I will leave 1954 here and if you have songs that I agree should be added, send them to me.  The songs I will talk about, will not be top 20, maybe not top 100, but songs that have value and were important


3 responses to “Lost Songs from the Radio – 1953 and 1954

  1. Nicely done Gary!

  2. Now your cooking Gary, great stuff. Some of this selection are indeed the lost songs of the early fifties. Lets have more of these.

  3. Musical tastes are strange things. I was born in 1953 still I got records with both the drifters, Big Joe Turner Fats Domino and Ray Charles 😉

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