This page is from the 3-volume set of "Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades," Download a free, 100 page, special edition digital PDF sample of selections from all three volumes, including the full Table of Contents, Indexes and a samples of historical articles and photographs. "Entertaining Tucson Highlights.
Let's hearken back once again to when today's baby boomers those born between 1946 and 1964 (baby boomers) were assembling their first mini-crystal sets and searching for their first station with 'rock and roll' rhythms. It was a chance to dig the world of cars, cliques and class, with this new mod music in the background. This was the 1950s in Tucson, Arizona.
The newest fad customizing cars in California set the pace for a few local car clubs. Tucson's "Banshees" beamed proudly with vehicles sporting fender skirts, flipper hubcaps and continental kits. The twin aerials brought in radio signals from a society of high fidelity, both fraternal and familial. Yah, man, Ike smiled, Khrushchev rattled his rockets, but all else was well!
From '53 to '63, the nation cruised as smooth as a finely tuned engine. Life was lived for the daily fun of it like an adventure rather than a venture as it is today. Young lads had fun pegging the five local stations on their brother's car radio before he went on the "big date" that evening. She looked neat with his class ring hung on a chain around her neck, as they smooched (in front of people). He looked cagey in his flashy car club jacket as they roared down the lane with the open pipes purring.
Kids sure wanted to be 16 in a hurry to cruise about even in an Edsel! Vroom! But, kids just rode their bikes and settled for a "transistor" sister radio hanging from the handlebars listening to KTKT-990 AM Tucson's top rock and roll radio station. This reporter reminisces each time he sees a '50s logo, be it cars, soda pop, or petrol! Like wow man!
Pop art Americana comes to Tucson in the '50s. The sweet, colorful echoes of heartfelt "Fabulous Fifties" music sprung to life in the form of the Sonic Drive-in restaurant, on West Grant Road east of the Interstate. Baby boomers, who once cruised the four Johnnie's Drive-In's, then Ritchie's on 22nd Street, with great pride, will reminisce with much fervor once again here, as the spontaneity of youthful life whiles on and idles by ...
This classy red arid white striped burger eatery by day becomes a "Sea of Neon," "Jewel of Illumination," "In the "Still of the Night" and under "A Thousand Stars in the Sky." Golden oldies ooze through the atmosphere from radios of a line of parked cars nosed into nostalgia. One needs merely to push the menu button and order from the past... Elvis, Fabian, Dionne, Bobby Rydell. Sadly, there are no skating carhops.
Lighthearted frolic has given way to liability, Still "Only You" can watch the sprightly lasses disperse the fast food, as they display their darling derring-do, while the drive-thru lane "rumbles" on with "busyness." Even today's teens and preteens will "dig" the "bob-shoobob" tunes of yesteryear, in this super Sonic place of fun. Look for the classic car out front.
As the "Nifty Fifties" came to a close, lazy contemplative weekends in our amiable, affable town were celebrated by folks in myriad ways. Some viewers watched "Dean Armstrong's Country Music Store" on KOPO-TV, Channel 13.
Dean occasionally featured the perennial national craze for square dancing. Dancers also promenaded at Old Tucson each Sunday, or at nearby ranches. There were a dozen colorful clubs and even more callers. KTKT, the Old Pueblo's mainstay station, highlighted its "Swinging Seven" rock and roll DJs. One recalls Jerry Stowgram and Dave Nelson "swinging through,"among others.
Yes, we even had fun high-jinx crafted by mobile transmitter announcers at shopping centers then, too! Radio 99 (KTKT) also sanctioned The Miss Tucson Trailer Court contest in the late '50s.
Then, they really revved things up by sponsoring the Speed Sport dragster at the Tucson Strip. This was located on what is now Golf Links Rd. on the Davis-Monthan AFB. City folk also reveled in PhD RichardsonÕs radio-editorials. Noted, too, were daily ditties, such as "Sleep well tonight, your Air National Guard is awake."
Ah, Tucson in the '50s.
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Brushing aside the glossy gossamers off one's memory, one recalls rising for high school to the radio alarm clock and the Guy Williams program of the city's flagship rocker station KTKT. Williams' shifty mercurial shenanigans were so symbolic of the late 1950s-early '60s era.
The "wild one" of the Swingin' Seven played a variety of tunes typical of the times. Listeners sometimes cringed as groups cut songs like "Did Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavor On the Bedpost Over Night" and "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny, Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and the like! Thank your lucky airwaves that these melodies we interspersed among better ballads like "The Battle of New Orleans" or "Big John" by Jimmy Dean. "El Paso" with Marl RobbinsÕ eerie alto wail was on the Top 40 for 14 months.
There were several crossover country songs back then. KMOP and KHOS were favorite footpattin' frequencies of those days. This reporter walked to school and played sax in a "before classes" combo that belted "big band" sounds like "In the Mood," etc. Understandably, it was not too popular with the student rockers of the day.
One thing, though, almost any student could make music during voluntary study halls. Ample students were allowed to leave the campus, head for burgervilles, thinking that was just neat, choice, and boss ... !