Today we ventured out to find a particular store. On the way home I asked Dennis how far from home we were. He said, “Sixteen miles.” Then he started to sing the chorus of the song “Sixteen Tons,” and I joined in with the singing. Yes, I am showing how old we are. The recording we knew was sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1955, when Dennis was 9 and I was not quite 7 years old. It was a catchy song, and we marveled how the lyrics just came to our minds as soon as we started the chorus.
It got me thinking about songs I listened to on the radio as a kid. As we completed singing the chorus to “Sixteen Tons,” the song, “The Battle of New Orleans” popped into my head, sung by Johnny Horton which was the #1 song on the charts in 1959. My cousin, Patti, and I choreographed that song. I remember we worked out the whole dance in my parents’ living room. Why that song? I guess because it was a #1 song of the day. Neither Patti and I were (or are) dancers, but we made up our own moves, and we thought we were pretty talented.
My repertoire of music as a kid included such hits as “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” “The Purple People Eater,” and “Que Sera Sera”—you know, “Whatever will be will be, The future’s not ours to see . . . .”
My sisters used to purchase a magazine called “Hit Parade.” it would have articles about the current music and performers, but the best part was it had the lyrics of the hit songs so we could learn to sing along.
When I was a teenager, my sister, cousin, and I went on a road trip across the country with my mom. Peggy and I sat in the back seat and entertained ourselves singing car crash songs! Rather morbid, but we were teens! Do you remember the huge number of car crash songs, such as “Teen Angel,” “Last Kiss,” Tell Laura I Love Her,” among others? Between 1959 and 1964, several car and motorcycle crash songs were recorded, all about the lost love upon dying in the crash. I think we thought it was funny to sing these songs on a road trip across the country.
I learned the “old” songs of the 40’s from my mom buying the Mitch Miller Sing-Along albums. What fun they were. We had several of the albums, and I can still sing for you, “Yes We Have No Bananas,” or “Sweet Violets.” We also had the album, The Norman Luboff Choir “Songs of the West.” When we are on a road trip out west, the songs, “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed,” just popped out of my mouth.
Music seems so much simpler back then. The songs told a story about aliens, swim suits, and lost loves. The music was catchy, and we sang along on our clock radios in our bedrooms that played the music as we went to sleep, and the music was the alarm when we woke up in the morning. We didn’t need a big stereo system or a small electronic device with ear buds—just a nice plastic radio with an alarm clock attached.
It is just funny that 60 years later I can recall lyrics of songs of my youth. It brings back many sweet memories. Not only do I remember the songs, I remember the dancing with Patti, and the singing with Peggy. I remember events around the music.
I hope your childhood music brings you as much joy as it has brought me.