Tucson 1960s – Rock & Standards Endure

This page is from the book, “Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades,” in volume one of a three volume set available on Amazon.com.

A look back on Tucson’s past – the 1960s

By Michael Hamilton
January 1989 – Entertainment Magazine. Page18 and September 1989 – Entertainment Magazine. Page 19.

As we enter the new decade with high aspirations, let’s think back once again to the time when pop music played such an important part in the lives of baby boomers, when they first became teenagers. In Tucson, the local scene was taking hold.

This reporter played tenor sax for The Vibrations. Our lead guitar struck rapid-fire notes, like traces of flamenco …. Buddy Holly had a tremendous influence upon our style of playing in this ‘61 through ‘65 era. In Sierra Vista, we once played off an early remote desert generator…our volume covered its noisemaking! Now that’s entertainment!
Cruising Speedway (let’s make that speeding Cruiseway) was just as popular then as nowadays. We had our car radios pegged to KTKT-99 AM and KFIF-1550 AM, rocking all the way.

The gang made the big circuitous route around town which included: Frank Kalil’s Teen Town on the north side, the HIHO Club on the east, and Sunset Rollerama on the south central side, near the Cactus Drive-In Theatre. They were all non-alcoholic clubs for teens back then.

We were proud of our “cool cars” then, too! We noted that many of the singing groups were automotive namesakes: The Larks, The Edsels, The Continentals, Little Anthony and the Imperials… We cruised the four Johnnie’s Burger Shoppes and, when inside, pumped nickels in the mini-table juke boxes.

We dug the barbershop harmony of the rock group Pendletones, who later became the Beach Boys. Rock chords and rhythms were somewhat simplistic compared to today’s tunes, but we had just as much fun. Brushing aside the glossy gossamers off mind’s memory, one recalls rising for high school to the rad alarm clock and the Guy Williams program of the city flagship rocker station KTKT. His shifty mercurial shenanigans were so symbolic of the late 1950s-early ‘60s era.

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 Robbins’ eerie alto wail, was on the Top 40 for 14 months. There were several crossover country songs back then, to KMOP and KHOS were favorite footpattin’ frequencies of those days.

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