CRUISIN' 1961



Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg
WMEX, Boston
Increase Records INCM 2007
Released June, 1970

Arnie 'Woo Woo' Ginsberg then...
Resume/Where is he now?
WBOS [Boston] 1957
WMEX [Boston] 1959
WRKO [Boston] 1967
WBCN [Boston] 1970 - GM
WWEL [Boston] 1972 - GM
WXKS [Boston] 1979 - partner
WVJV-TV [Boston] 1985 - owner
Pyramid Broadcasting [Boston] 1987 (WXKS +12 others)
Arnie 'Woo Woo' Ginsberg today
Now: Shel Swartz of The Big 68 WRKO Remembered reports that Arnie retired to his home on the coast of Maine in 1996. Shel says, "In 1997, Arnie was one of just 25 American disk jockeys saluted in a special event at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Arnie is considered personally responsible for the breaking out of dozens of rock 'n' roll records in New England."
- from 440: Satisfaction

Side One (20:48): Arnie Ginsburg Theme -- The 3D's Blue Moon -- The Marcels (2:15) WMEX Tower of Talent My True Story -- The Jive Five (2:30) Adventure Car Hop commercial Nadine -- Chuck Berry (2:25) WMEX jingle Wooden Heart -- Joe Dowell (2:00) WMEX Mystery City Contest But I Do -- Clarence "Frogman" Henry (2:15) 1961 Ford Commercial Beep Beep -- The Playmates (3:04) WMEX station ID Side Two (20:26): Arnie Ginsburg Theme -- Freddie Cannon Tossin' & Turnin' -- Bobby Lewis (2:10) WMEX Teacher of the Day contest Daddy's Home -- Shep and The Limelights (2:47) Pal Mal Rock Commercial -- Mal, The 3D's, and Arnie Runaway -- Del Shannon (2:17) WMEX jingle Barbara Ann -- The Regents (2:12) Fenway DJ promo Ya Ya -- Lee Dorsey (2:17) 1961 Pontiac commercial Hideaway -- Freddie King (2:34)

The year is 1961 and CRUISIN' presents radio, just as it was then. Like the other volumes in the CRUISIN' series, this record consists of hit songs, radio commercials, jingles, disc jockey chatter and other audio memorabilia from the year. Our host for '61 is Boston's own Arnie "Woo Woo" Ginsburg, the city's number-one disc jockey from 1956 to 1967. Arnie's WMEX show was called Night Train and, through a curious chain of associations with the sounds of trains going "Woo Woo" in the night, Mr. Ginsburg gained his nickname. He was virtually a household word in the New England area thanks to a promotion by the Adventure Car Hop which offered two-for-one specials to any customer who mentioned "Woo Woo" Ginsburg. Adventure also named a special dish after him, the Ginsburger. Arnie's Friday night record hops at the giant Surf Ballroom in Nantasket Beach were a year-round tradition for a decade and every name artist and group eventually played there with Arnie. He was on the air continuously for twelve years and his youthful following was fantastic in its devotion, possibly because he transformed adolescent insecurities into a triumph. His voice - a continual teenage crack - combined with the constant clatter of kazoo, cowbell, buzzer, bermuda bell, car horn, oogah and train whistle, epitomized the noisy awkwardness of teenagery, but Arnie managed to bring it all off with humorous grace.

A glance at the titles from this volume of the CRUISIN' series will confirm that 1961 was a musically nondescript year. There were, as there are in any year, some outstanding rock and roll records, but there were no exciting trends; there was no sense of growth. In some ways, the musical doldrums of the year could be credited to the aftermath of the Payola hearings of 1959 and 1960. Some of radio's most influential and colorful figures had their wings singed by the Washington investigation. The exposure of their loss of real or imagined innocence turned things grey for a while.

Inevitably, with the erosion of the power of some of radio's key rock and roll figures, Top 40 radio was on the rise. With its limited number of playable records, chosen on a relatively conservative basis, and its de-emphasis of the radio personality, Top 40 programming tended to homogenize popular music. 1961 was one of the most homogenized years.

Historically, it was also a bland time. Despite the dynamism which John F. Kennedy projected from the White House, the tide of human affairs seemed to be running against the United States. We severed diplomatic relations with Cuba and shortly afterwards fell on our faces in the Bay of Pigs. The East Germans constructed a wall between East and West Berlin, creating fears o war. Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first man to orbit the earth.

From the vantage point of 1961, it seemed as if the country were doomed to normalcy. Russia remained the huge vague threat she always seemed to be. Political activism was at a low ebb on campus. Joe College didn't listen to rock and roll. That was for high school. He also didn't grow his hair long. That was for Beatniks. College was an ivory tower with few ties to the surrounding terrain. Surfing was becoming a huge youth cult on the West Coast and it had become identified with a simple brand of twangy guitar music, but no one had yet thought to set words to it.

A lot of musical - and attendant social - excitement had happened in the Fifties and there was a lot to come in the Sixties, but the early part of this new decade was its least exciting portion. Rock and roll seemed to be setting into a paunchy middle age and it was fitting that, as Billboard (the music trade magazine) reported in March of 1961, Chuck Berry had closed his St. Louis night club and was opening a 30-acre amusement park in Wentville, Mo. Thus did one of the founding fathers of rock and roll join the landed gentry.

The fledgling amusement park enterpreneur was still the total master of the rock and roll song, though, as he demonstrated with Nadine, an ultra-syncopated serio-comic tale of lost love and a gallant pursuit. Nadine borrows its plot from Chuck Berry's first hit - from 1955 - Maybellene, but the intervening years sharpened his lyric skill and richened his imagery. On January 15, 1961, Chuck Berry was 30 years old.

Contrasting with the sounds of Chuck Berry, who lived in St. Louis and recorded in Chicago, is the New Orleans-style rhythm and blues of Clarence "Frogman" Henry's But I Do, a record which also shares kinship with traditional Dixieland jazz and straight pop music. The song marked a surprising comeback for a singer who seemed trapped as a novelty artists by his 1956 record of Ain't Got No Home, featuring Clarence singing in three vocal ranges, the most striking of which was his creaky Frogman voice, which earned him the "Frogman" nickname.

Another beautiful sample of New Orleans R & B is Lee Dorsey's Ya Ya, which substitutes some nice piano work for the ornate horn arrangements of Clarence Henry's record. Not all of 1961's instrumental work was behind singers. Freddie King brought his guitar out front for Hideaway, a pure instrumental and a good example of his fast but melodic guitar style (we didn't think in those terms back then, though; the end of the Sixties made us music critics). And, still in an introguing instrumental vein, '61 brought us the haunting sound of Runaway, the work of (then) 22-year-old Del Shannon, whose voice comfortably covered two ranges. The piping organ sound behind Shannon's voice belies the fact that he is a guitarist. A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Del Shannon served in the Army as a radioman. After his discharge, he was discovered by a disc jockey, who helped him get his first recording session.

On the other end of the spectrum is Blue Moon by the Marcels, whose vocal sound could stand without instrumentation, and Barbara Ann by the Regents, who were similarly instrumentally emancipated. The Marcels were a quintet consisting of Cornelius Hart, Fred and Allen Johnson (brothers), Ronald Mundy and Walter maddox, all from Pittsburgh and all between 18 and 20 years old. The Marcels appeared in "Twist Around the Clock," one of 1961's bigger rock and roll movies. Just as Chuck Berry's Nadine reflected Maybellene, Shep and the Limelites created an unexpected answer record to a four-years-earlier hit, A Thousand Miles Away. The first record was done by the Heartbeats, whose lead singer, "Shep" Sheppard, wrote both hits. Daddy's Home concluded the lengthy separation of lovers on a happy note.

One of the biggest hits of '61 was Bobby Lewis' Tossin' and Turnin', the reward for a singer who had been trying to make it for a long time. Born February 17, 1933, in Indianapolis, Bobby spent most of his life in an orphanage, where he began taking paino lessons at the age of five. He was adopted when he was twelve and moved to Detroit, the starting point for his career. First as an early morning disc jockey and later as a night club singer, Bobby Lewis spent years trying to succeed in show business. His dream was fulfilled in 1961.

Somebody probably knows a lot about Joe Dowell, but I don't, other than that he had the perfect name for a hit called Wooden Heart and that he was probably fluent in German.

In a standard rock and roll ballad vein is My True Story by the Jive Five, a group whose name recalls the hipster vocabulary which enriched rock and roll in the mid and late Fifties. Their harmonies were akin to a lot of other good R&B groups and their "trick" ending is a perfect example of a school of pop and rock and roll songs structured like O. Henry short stories. Other examples of this genre are The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane, by the Ames Brothers, Silhouettes by the Rays and Memphis by Chuck Berry (and, later, Johnny Rivers.)

Even history has its own history, and our gravel-throated host, Arnie Ginsburg, chose to play a "Blast From The Past" during his reconstructed 1961 show. The flashback is to 1958 and the Playmates. What else could a man with the nickname "Woo Woo" play than Beep Beep?
- Pete Johnson

CRUISIN' THE FIFTIES & SIXTIES: A History of Rock and Roll Radio. Conceived and recreated by: Ron Jacobs/Production and Research: Ellen Johnson and Jere Alan Brian/Engineering: John Horton/Art Direction: Paul Gruwell/Cover Art: Mike Royer/All selections are the original performances as released on the following labels: Beltone: Jive Five, Bobby Lewis/Big Top: Del Shannon/Cadet: Clarence Henry/Chess: Chuck Berry/Colpix: The Marcels/Hull: Shep & the Limelites/King: Freddie King/Roulette: Lee Dorsey, Regents, Playmates/Smash: Joe Dowell/United: Jimmy Forest (Night Train)/Special thanks to: M. Evans Richmond, WMEX Radio. Produced by Increase Records, a division of Watermark, Inc., Los Angeles, California. 1970 Increase Records.

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