- Hardcover: 300 pages
- Publisher: Longstreet Press, Inc.; 1st edition (January 1, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 092926469X
- ISBN-13: 978-0929264691
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Pied Pipers of Rock 'N' Roll: Radio Deejays of the 50s and 60s Hardcover – January 1, 1989
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From Library Journal
More than a collective biography of famous radio disc jockeys, this occupational history traces the influence of the profession on the origins of popular music, the rise of the advertising industry, and the governmental and social regulation of broadcasting. DJs were instrumental in lauching the rock 'n' roll movement by acting as middlemen between record company execs and a bourgeois post-World War II record-buying public. They also played a role in the integration of U.S. society by attracting white teens to black rhythm and blues. Smith's narrative is as anecdotal as the patter of the profession he documents. His book will be a hit with both popular music and popular history fans.
- Donald W. Maxwell, Carmel Clay P.L., Ind.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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As one reviewer has already mentioned there are some passages that seem redundant, repetitious, or inaccurate, but they didn't spoil my experience reading the book.
To start with, Wes Smith can not write, either intelligently or entertainingly. This work is amateurish, sanctimonious and flippant. He did negligible research and apparently found he did not not have enough material to compile a book 15 pages long, double spaced, and to compensate he filled each page with so much insipid wordplay between the two quotes he managed to procure that reading it may cause a loss of IQ.
Even someone with only a passing knowledge of the subject can see he clearly has no concept of the times and continually attempts to bluff his way past that lack of basic understanding. Furthermore, his knowledge of rock 'n' roll history is so slight it would not be surprising to find out his record collection consisted solely of a water-stained copy of a Martin Denny album. For example, in referencing the first rock 'n' roll show staged by Alan Freed in 1952 he calls the Dominoes (the most popular group of the day, led by Clyde McPhatter, perhaps the most dynamic vocalist of the 50's) among the "rather dim headliners". He obviously has no idea who they even ARE! Hardly the credentials necessary for writing about this subject. Perhaps his most glaring self-inflicted wound is when he refers to the Crew-Cuts, who were among the most notorious white pop cover acts of the time, by saying "their record... 'Sh-Boom' became a rock 'n' roll classic". Their version of "Sh-Boom" is NOT rock 'n' roll, NOT a classic and is perhaps the most despised record by rock 'n' roll enthusiasts in history. He clearly wouldn't know the difference between it and the Chords original (which IS a classic) if he listened to them both a thousand times.
He goes on to make dozens of factual errors regarding songs (Elvis Presley's first Sun recording, "That's All Right Mama" was not a "Number One country hit", as he states, nor a hit of any kind in fact) and of singers themselves (Chuck Willis did not die in a car crash, nor was he ever in a crash, he died of bleeding ulcers). Maybe worst of all he cites Sam Cooke's first secular record, "You Send Me" as the "first record to top both the Pop and R&B charts". In reality a full 17 OTHERS (!!!) had done so before Cooke, including the three previous #1 hits on the charts. This information is not exactly hard to find yet Smith is such an incompetent reporter he can not open a Billboard book to check?
He constantly misspells song titles (adding an extra "e" to "Be Bop A Lula", an extra "p" to "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and refers to John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" as "Boogie Children"), names (adding an "e" to the end of LaVern, as in Baker, and an extra "m" in Big Mama Thornton), and he claims legendary guitar instrumentalist Duane Eddy was a singer (he never uttered a vocal on record). Those examples only scrape the surface I'm afraid.
Truthfully it seems that Smith never left his Chicago Tribune cubicle (where he was employed - apparently he held incriminating photos of the Trib's editors) as he wrote this on his lunch breaks. At one point, in attempting to link rock 'n' roll with movies, he actually says "James Dean came out in black leather with a motorcycle and a knife in 'Rebel Without A Cause'". For the record, Dean wore a red windbreaker and drove a Mercury in the film - only one of the most indelible images in film history. These repeated and blatant factual errors are utterly incomprehensible and yet they pop up on virtually every page throughout the book. Are basic FACTS not a qualification for writing where he comes from?
Now there ARE some good stories to be found amongst the ruins, but they all have quotation marks around them, meaning they came directly from the sources themselves. Smith's contributions were simply to reprint them. He actually does the disc jockeys he writes about a disservice because he is incapable of framing their stories in the proper context, or adding any valuable insight into what made these men so vital in advancing the popularity of rock 'n' roll in those early days. After getting through it I feel better that I got this book used, as no additional proceeds went to the now hopefully out of work author. This is a rinky dink effort in every way, evidenced by the fact all but one of the pictures in the book came from the Chicago Tribune's files to which he had easy access, most showing the subjects in their later years from the 70's or 80's long after the focus of this book. Even the book's jacket has the appearance of a cheap product that bookstores put on "drastically reduced price" tables outside the store, hoping that shoplifters walk off with as many copies as they can carry.
This is a subject that has an abundance of interesting stories and fascinating tales waiting to be told. Smith reveals little of them. For well researched and written books about early rock 'n' roll DJs get "Have Mercy" by Wolfman Jack and Byron Laursen, "Big Beat Heat" about Alan Freed by John A. Jackson or "Sound Of The City" by Charlie Gillett and leave this gathering dust.
The one star I'm forced to give this by Amazon's rating policy is one star more than it deserves.