Those of us born after WW11 between1946-1964 have been called the Baby Boomer generation. A staggering 76,000,000 children were born during these years. Top 40 music was emerging as a driving force in the daily lives of the young boomers. It seemed that every living room in America was graced with a black and white TV so pre-teens and teens could catch the top hits on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Transistor radios were a common fixture in the shirt pockets or purses of teenagers so they could listen and gyrate to rock and roll, Motown, or country music. My little white radio was my lifeline to the music that helped shaped our lives.
While America’s youth was being introduced to the Top 40, an amalgam of music combining old timey, country, rag time and jazz was being played in the hills of Kentucky. This non-electric music would be dubbed bluegrass. While Elvis was given the title “The King of Rock and Roll”, Bill Monroe was being knighted as the father of bluegrass music. Bluegrass music didn’t have the same national appeal as main stream Top 40, but its fans were legion in their loyalty. Bluegrass music would plod forward, and in a few years burst forward to a whole new generation of music lovers.
Our generation grew up in the victorious yet bloody aftermath of World War Two, lived in doubt and uncertainty during the Korean War, despaired over the utter hopelessness of the Berlin Wall, shivered in fear as the Cold War became icy, and lived in absolute dread of where and when the next atom bomb would fall. As naïve children we tried to make sense of what was happening as HUAC pointed fingers at Americans and labeled them “Reds.” We watched our TVs as Senator Joe McCarthy frantically waved a tattered piece of paper at the members of Congress bellowing, “I have a list of names!”.
A few years later on a bitterly cold January morning in 1961 young students watched from their classrooms as a young senator took the oath as president of the United States and asked young Americans to do something for our country instead of asking our country to do something for us. We were baby boomers, and well, the times they were a changing. America had a sea of singers in an ocean of talent. We had the Bobby’s; Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Darin, the Motown groups, the Shirells, Coasters, Drifters, Hank Williams, Ray Charles , Elvis and countless numbers of others.
Even though music defined our generation, baby boomers were instrumental in the struggle for civil rights in the 60’s, the feminist movement in the early 70’s, and gay rights and rights for the handicapped in the late 70’s and the early 80’s. Because of these accomplishments, Time magazine awarded its prestigious Man of the Year Award in 1967 to the Boomer Generation
Baby Boomers had a Fort Knox of music to enrich their lives. When I was in first grade I was listening to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke and the Penguins on my little white radio. When I was in junior high (60-62) the Do Wop sound and the Philadelphia singers were the rage. Everything changed in 1962, my freshman year at Hayward High. The remnants of Do Wop and the 4 Seasons were giving way to a revved up sound being created in Southern California about surfing and souped up cherry looking custom machines by the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, etc. Two short years later it would be Dylan, Simon and the British invasion. And once again the times were changing for the Baby Boomers.
Oh, one more thing. Several years later a movie was released and became a box office smash, “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?” featuring the best in Bluegrass music. And you know what? Bluegrass Music became an overnight sensation…. How bout that?