Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rant #725: 1960s Kitsch

Yesterday, I spoke about the 1960s continuing to be hot in the 2000s, related to the Beatles' concert film opening next month.

Well, not everything was good in the 1960s.

Let's be honest about it. For every good thing, like the Beatles, there were bad things, like the assassinations I touched on yesterday, the Vietnam War and ...

The Doodletown Pipers.

With all of its creativity, the 1960s also was a time of sameness. Sure, you had the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and all the long-haired groups dominating the airwaves and the charts, but you also had plenty of acts that your mom and dad--and your grandparents--could love too, like Petula Clark and Tom Jones ...

And Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Ed Ames and others seemingly from a different time were having hit records.

Vocal groups were still popular,and larger consortiums coming out of the folk movement, such as the New Christy Minstrels, were selling tons of records.

Muzak was still popular, and sure, your grandma might not listen to the latest hits on WABC, but she might listen to a muzak version on her easy listening station.

And that's where the Doodletown Pipers come in. Covering the most popular easy listening songs of the day in their muzak style, the Pipers--with more than a dozen members--became a way for the oldsters to know the songs without being completely hip.

With the presentation that didn't veer too far away from the Lawrence Welk/Mitch Miller school, the Pipers featured fresh-faced kids, both black and white, wearing basically the same outfits and singing pop tunes nicely.

And they all had nice teeth.

The Pipers were extremely popular in the late 1960s, with their own summer replacement show--did CBS really thing kids would watch this?--and constant appearances on shows like The Dean Martin Show and other variety shows.

They also played Las Vegas, and actually stayed together for about five or six years into the early 1970s. Their popularity never transferred over to records, and, thus, their LPs and singles aren't easily found.

On my Yahoo Group site Albumania! (, I have put up the first five songs from the only LP that I have from them, the absolutely unlistenable "Sing-Along '67, and next week, I will put up the rest.

The first five songs off this LP--I believe that this was the second of their three albums--pretty much tell you right there, what this group was all about. As lively as lint, they turn easy listening tunes like "Music to Watch Girls By" and "Born Free" into some of the most "muzakian" tunes that could be imagined. Whatever oomph they have pretty much falls flat, as do the arrangements.

Certainly, music to put you to sleep ... with a thud.

When the Pipers went their separate ways, several of them went into various areas of show business, as background singers, producers and the like.

But such as what happened with the New Christy Minstrels--with Barry McGuire being among the standouts--there was one member of the Pipers that clearly stood out from the rest, and while her fame was short-lived, she certainly made a name for herself in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Teresa Graves, pictured near the center in the group photo on the cover of the LP, moved on to "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," where she displyed her comedic, singin and "other" talents on TV's No. 1 show. She became so popular that she starred in the short-lived "Get Christy Love," then became a Jehovah's Witness and pretty much dropped out of show business. She died in a house fire some
years ago.

But for that brief moment, she--and the other Doodletown Pipers--was one of the hotter, and safer acts around.

Why do I have this LP in my collection?

The kitsch factor is certainly there--could you imagine rap hits done in this style today?--and I do have that love for anything from my youth.

And yes, I was a big fan of Teresa Graves.

So take a listen, come back next week for the second side of this atrocity, and let me know what you think.

And as a bonus, I have given you one of their later singles. 

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