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Rock & Roll Rewind: Where It All Began

Johnnie & Joe publicity photo
Chess Records

c d kaplan is a lifelong rock & roller. He’s got stories. Lots of ‘em. Here’s another.

I’ve always been fascinated with how passions germinate, evolve. Still have no clue.

I’ve got a couple, and despite all the contemplation do not understand where the depth of the obsessions came from. Though I’m grateful for them.

I do however know exactly when they started.

For U of L basketball, the date is December 8, 1952, at age 7 when my parents took me to an 89-85 Cardinal win at the Jefferson County Armory.

As for my rock & roll affliction, the moment came early summer of ’57 in Bernie and Bobby Rosenthal’s den.

I was 12 years old, and anxious to start junior high school in the fall. They were a few years older than me. Our mothers were best friends, so I spent a bunch of time at their house.

Though my memory is dim, I don’t recall being too conscious of the music scene then. WAKY 790, Louisville’s first real rock & roll station didn’t debut until the following year.

Bernie was a big music fan. Loved R&B.

He’d just received one of those seven record specials from Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee. The mail order store had become nationally known by advertising on clear channel WLAC out of nearby Nashville.

The records were 78 rpm. 45s were just becoming the new standard, given their smaller size and greater fidelity. The Rosenthals, like my parents, only had a system that played 78s, ( A year or two later, I bought my first 45 player for $19.95, with earned money, after lusting for it for weeks as it sat in Ben Snyder’s Department store window.)

Bernie started playing the new wax.

One was Billboard Top Ten hit by the doo wop duo of Johnnie & Joe.*

*Anecdotal aside. Johnnie Lee Richardson was the daughter of Zelma Sanders, who owned J&S Records. Johnnie was later a touring member of The Jaynettes, who had a hit with the mysterious “Sally, Go ‘Round the Roses.”

Anyway, something happened when I heard that song.

It cut through to a place inside I didn’t understand.

I asked him to play it again.

Then again. And several times more.

Not sure exactly why that particular song is the one that pulled me in, let me know music could make me feel things I’d never felt.

Maybe it was just that time of life, when I was on the cusp of pubescence.

Who knows?

What I do know, and what I’ve talked about many times over with my similarly addicted music obsessives, is how I’d never have made it this far along, more than six decades later, without rock & roll.

Since that day, it has been my constant companion, nurturer, energizer, therapeutic support mechanism.

Whenever I hear that Johnnie & Joe tune, I’m back in that den.

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

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