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Rock & Roll Rewind: Bo Diddley and the Greatest Teenage Dance Party Ever

Chess Records

Rock & Roll lifer c d kaplan is chock full of memories. Here are today’s:

No reason to bury the lede.

This is about the Greatest Teenage Dance Party ever.

Rock & Roll Radio — soon enough commercialized as Top 40, News, Weather & Sports — ascended on Louisville in the summer of ’58 when WAKY took over a stale has been at 790 AM. The station announced its arrival by playing “The Purple People Eater” in tape loop for, I dunno, a couple of days, a week.

Long enough to get our undivided attention.

Early in ’62 the station hired a noon-3:00 jock named Greg Mason. An entrepreneurial sort, he started producing Friday night concerts late that summer. I remember Del Shannon was one. The Marvelettes, or maybe it was Martha & the Vandellas, was another.

And, on the last Friday night of August, before the start of school, the Greatest Teenage Dance Party ever.

This I swear is true.

Highland American Legion Post, in that concrete block building across from Assumption HS on Bardstown Road. There used to be a log cabin in front of it, but it was torn down to build a parking lot for the school.

Bo Diddley.

With the Duchess.

And Jerome Green with a couple maracas in each hand.

It was teenage rock & roll heaven. The most primal of the Founding Fathers playing in my neighborhood.

It seemed like every HS kid within a hundred miles was there.

Fire Marshalls were obviously off duty that night. Or promoter Mason had taken care of
them. There were girls perched on their dates’ shoulders. Many of those guys were standing on chairs that had been set on top of tables.

It was rock rock rock Rock & Roll High School.

It was — cue the Jerry Lee — High School Confidential.

They're boppin' at the high school hop/ Shakin' at the high school hop/ Hoppin' at the high school rock/ Rockin' at the high school hop/ Well, everybody hoppin’/Everybody's boppin’/ Boppin' at the high school hop

You’ve seen dance party scenes in movies, where it's just too too crowded, seems too cinematic, done just for effect.

Bo Diddley show was all that. Magnified. Like through the Web Telescope.

More than 60 years on, I still get chills.

Don’t remember whom I was with.

Don’t remember what songs Bo Diddley played other than maybe “Road Runner.”

What I recall is it was fantastical.

And knowing, “Here in the middle of this is where I want to be from now on.”

Observer of the Passing Scene: Pop Culture and Sports. Writer. Film Critic. Curmudgeon. Rock & Roll and Louisville Cardinal fan.

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