UP NOLAN CREEK: Old platter chatter
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 by Wayne Carpenter
I took a long road trip last weekend while many of my Belton High School classmates, the Seniors of '67, Straight from Heaven, gathered for a class reunion.
I hated to miss it but looking at the photos it is obvious the group had, what we used to call back in the day, "a blast."
It is quite amazing how quickly 45 years can pass by when you are having fun. Viewing these photos, I couldn't understand how those other "kids" got so old until I looked in the mirror this morning.
Not being there to celebrate with them, I spent a thousand miles driving down the highway listening to good old rock and roll music on the way home. One of many small miracles of modern technology I appreciate is satellite radio.
I was not only able to listen to sixties music for hours without commercials, the screen on the radio even told me who sang the song and when it was released, obviously the next best thing to a time travel machine! It is probably hard for you youngsters out there to imagine, but in a time not so long ago, music usually came through tiny sounding little machines called a transistor radios or on a little round pieces of vinyl wax called records.
If a teenager wanted to see a rock and roll band, they had to tune in to Ed Sullivan's show on Sunday night on CBS or do without.
We didn't even have FM radio, and none of us dreamed of satellite radio, iPods or streaming music on our iPhones. We listened to Belton's own KTON radio and heard the local disk jockeys like the late Carl Knelly, Gaylon "Corncob" Christi, or Bill Elliot spinning 45 wax records. They broadcasted a program on KTON radio called "Big Red Blast" where BHS students were allowed to play a few records and share a bit of school news on the weekends. A few of us stayed up late to listen to faraway radio stations such as WLS in Chicago to hear the latest Beatle tunes before they made it to local airplay.
I fell asleep many times in those days with a little transistor radio tucked discretely under my pillow, listening to rock and roll music. I recall buying a large number of nine-volt batteries to feed my teenage music addiction.
About this time I discovered Wolfman Jack. The Wolfman, whose real name was Bob Smith, was a disc jockey on XERF in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, who blasted out rock and roll and "platter chatter" on a 250,000 watt radio station more powerful than any American station.
XERF was so strong it's signal could be heard over most of the Unites States. He played the latest, greatest, and grooviest rock and roll music available, shared dedications of songs to young lovers, and kept up a running conversation which made his listeners feel connected in a positive way. His love of music and life came through loud and clear on the airwaves, and his exuberance while exclaiming "Have mercy!" and his trademark Wolfman howl, made him a memorable part of many teenagers lives in the early sixties.
A few years later, the Wolfman hosted a popular television music program titled "The Midnight Special" on NBC. A young George Lucas, also spellbound by the Wolfman, made him an integral part of his classic movie American Graffiti set in Southern California in 1962. The movie provides a great slice of social history and a glimpse into the lives of many American teenagers during the time period. It also made Mr. Lucas enough money to finance the Star Wars series of movies, making him one of the most successful movie producers of all time.
Wolfman Jack passed away 17 years ago, but old sixties rock and roll will be alive forever, or at least until the last baby boomer is history. If you are one of those fortunate ones to have experienced the era, and you are cruising down the road late some Saturday night with the windows rolled down and the oldies music cranked up, just place one hand on the radio and listen carefully. You might just hear the Wolfman howl!