Rock and Roll Graffiti 50’s and 60’s: Memories of an Era

I found a five VHS tapes version of this rock and roll reunion in which 37 singers got together to reminisce and sing the songs they made famous.


I went to a garage sale a few months ago and found a set of five VHS tapes that had been unopened for only $3. Since we were off the internet for over a week lately I watched the videos and enjoyed hearing 37 rock and roll stars of the 50’s and 60’s talk about their experiences and sing the great songs many of us grew up with over those two decades.

One of the singers told about singing to an audience in the south with a rope dividing the blacks and whites into two sections. They returned a year later and the rope was gone and the blacks and whites were sitting side by side and high fivin’ each other.

Carl Gardner the only surviving member of the Coasters told about a friend of his who saw two water fountains with one labeled color and one was designated as being white. There was a policeman guarding the water fountains to make sure that no blacks drank from the fountain for whites. Carl’s friend was fascinated about the two kinds of water fountains and said ” I’m going to try this white water first” and then tried the colored water and said “They both taste the same to me.” The policeman saw the humor in the situation and didn’t arrest him.

Dee Dee Sharp of  “Mashed Potato Time” fame was headed to the front door of a hotel or a restaurant and was 15 at the time. She was told blacks weren’t allowed in the establishment but Len Barry who recorded “1-2-3” took her inside and made sure she was accepted and Dee Dee Sharp who is now a Ph.D said she would always remember his act of kindness.

Jimmy Clanton told he got out of show business when Alice Cooper was wringing the necks of chickens on stage saying this had nothing to do with singing.

Some of the singers told about the Dick Clark tours that traveled across the United States on busses and that Dick Clark roughed it like they did and slept on a cot and didn’t get any special treatment and how much they respected him for being like them.

Joanie Sommers told of dating Elvis Presley and how she wished she could have been with Elvis alone since he had four of his people along for the date and decided she didn’t want to date him again if it meant they would have chaperones.

Dennis Yost of the Classics IV sang Stormy and it reminded me of the time the Classics IV sang at Louisiana College a Baptist institution in Pineville, Louisiana. When the students started dancing to the music the president of the college had the Classics IV leave the stage since dancing was not allowed at Baptist colleges in that era.

Jimmie Rodgers who was famous for Honeycomb and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine was there and had been through several brain surgeries after a 1967 encounter with the Los Angeles police in which he says he was beaten by the police while the police maintained he fell while intoxicated and had fallen on his head.

The City of Los Angeles did settle out of court for $200,000 but that didn’t begin to compensate him for the inability to perform as he had in the past appearing only sporadically in concerts after the injuries.

Ketty Lester who sang Love Letters at the reunion told about her singing career ending when she returned from a tour and her son wouldn’t come to her but instead went to the babysitter and decided then to stop singing and hadn’t sung in 30 years before the reunion. She also told of Michael Landon offering a role on Little House on the Prairie which she accepted.

Jerry Naylor of the Crickets said he replaced Buddy Holly after the fatal plane crash in 1959 but that nobody could really replace Holly. He also said the Beatles chose their name of Beatles because they were fans of the Crickets.

D.J. Fontana the drummer for Elvis Presley in the early days of Elvis tells how Elvis and the band and all their instruments traveled in a car from city to city and how Elvis since he needed the rest slept under the bass belonging to Bill Black of the band.

Jim Ed Brown and his sisters Bonnie and Maxine also appeared on the program and told about how their dad went to Brinkley, Arkansas to pick up Elvis after his car had broken down on tour. Bonnie told about dating Elvis until she found out he was seeing someone else on the side.

Jackie Wilson stories were told at the reunion with one singer telling  that someone was giving Jackie a rough time and Jackie told him that he had been a fighter long before becoming a singer and on another occasion he had punched out a policeman during a show but wasn’t arrested because Jackie’s fans wouldn’t have allowed him to arrest him.

James Brown was also mentioned with the singers telling how hard a worker he was and that his band would even rehearse after doing the night’s show. If someone in the band messed up he would give them a signal that they would let them know they were in for it when the show ended.

Frankie Ford sang the Ferlin Husky hit Gone which could have been omitted from the tape since it wasn’t really sang in a serious vein but more for laughs but made up for it when he launched into his signature song Sea Cruise showing why it was one of the rockingest rock and roll songs ever.

The British invasion was a topic of conversation about how they took over the record charts and how things weren’t the same for the singers at the reunion after the invasion since few American singers charted Top 10 hits during this time.

Gene Hughes of the Casinos sings Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye at the reunion. Hughes died five years later in 2004 in a car accident.

The great Jimmy Clanton singing his first big hit Just a Dream which he wrote after being jilted by a girl.

Ray Peterson singing The Wonder of You one of the best songs ever written in my book and Elvis Presley also had an excellent version of the song.

Joe Terry of Danny and the Juniors singing their classic hit At the Hop.

Mary Wilson of the Supremes singing Stop in the Name of Love.

Ketty Lester singing Love Letters which was the highlight of the reunion for me singing this song the way only she can sing it. Sad she didn’t sing for 30 years before this reunion.

There are even more songs from this reunion that can be found at YouTube listed under Rock and Roll Graffiti 1999 for anyone wanting to hear more of the music from the reunion.

Tapes of this program are extremely rare with Amazon selling a three tape set of this reunion for $99. The program may or may not have been a commercial success and to my knowledge no program like it has been filmed since 1999 but for those fortunate enough to see the entire series of tapings from this reunion will not only hear some of the great music from the 1950’s and 1960’s  but also hear first person accounts of what it was like to travel on bus tours across the United States, how theatres included rock and roll shows along with the price of a movie on the popcorn circuit and how some of these songs came to be written and how prejudice prevented black singers from staying in the same hotels they sang in.

They also tell about how impostors are pretending to be members of the Coasters and Drifters while not including original members of those groups.

Long live rock and roll!!

Ray Peterson as he appeared early in his career
Ray Peterson looked like this at the reunion looking much different from his rock and roll days but still sang The Wonder of You as well as ever.

Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

46 thoughts on “Rock and Roll Graffiti 50’s and 60’s: Memories of an Era”


    1. Jimmy Clanton is one of my all time favorites since he was from Louisiana like me, plus when clowns like Ozzie Osbourne started eating animals on stage, since he knew that didn’t have anything to do with music, so walked away from music business for awhile. Just a Dream is one of the all time best songs ever.

      I was lucky to find the five videos at garage sale for $3. It might take a lot of searching to find it and it might be overpriced now.

  2. I enjoyed watching all these videos. Great find. I ahve a questions about one of the guys in the crowd. He is sitting on the back row with long blond hair. I can’t figure out who ghe is. I didn’t find any video where he was singing. Wondered if you know who it is. I searched for credits..but didn’t find any. Thanks. Emerald

    1. I think you were talking about Gary Paxton. Gary was 1/2 of “Skip & Flip” (Cherry Pie) and the voice and songwriter of the “Hollywood Argyles” (Alley-Oop). Gary was also a great record producer, producing the “Association” among others. You are right. He was there but did not perform. I’m glad you enjoyed the show! I was music director and it was my own band, “Steve Jarrell & the Sons Of The Beach” backing all the acts. A great memory in my life for sure!

  3. does anyone know who the guy is that david sommerville kissed his hand while singing little darlin? the guy didn’t sing on the show. he sat next to mary wilson and gave her a hankie when she heard the song “the wonder of you”.

  4. An hour long compilation was shown on RFD in December 2011 as part of the Country’s Family Reunion series. I have my DVR set to record all of those shows, but this is the only Rock and Roll Graffiti so far.
    It said it was originally shown on RFD in 2010, and the copywrite date on the credits was 2001. I love these type of shows and this was the first one of this series I have seen. It was extremely enjoyable and most of the artists were really good.
    The ones seen were: Jimmy Clanton, Jimmy Gilmer, The Browns, Dodie Stevens, Frankie Ford (great), Otis Williams, David Sommerville (great), Gene Hughes, Dee Dee Sharp (great), and Mary Wilson (beautiful and great).
    I wonder if Larry Black and RFD were an entity back in 1999 or 2001 and they were responsible for this? It’s very well done and I would love to have and see the whole show.

  5. Estraodinária apresentação dos cantores do Rock, Todos Magníficos. Aqui no Brasil estas músicas foram muita curtidas em nossas festinhas americanas nos anos 60. Principalmente da estraordinária cantora Dee Dee Sharp, minha predileta. Ela foi magnifica nesta apresentação, continua encantadora com seu charme carismático, com todo respeito esta linda. Menina, parabéns, e muito obrigado por este show, a todos voces que se apresentaram, meu muito obrigado

    Cezar C. da silva.

  6. Frankie Ford’s performance of Sea Cruise was great and his performance of Gone was utterly brilliant. His delivery is pitch perfect, powerful and dramatic. It was definitely sung in serious vein, Andrew, and the only reasons his peers chuckle at times are because of the surprising vocal power of the delivery and for a little wiggle or shimmy that Frankie throws in half way through the performance.

    Not really sure how you can pick on pick out Frankie’s performance as being done for laughs and not mention Dave Sommerville’s performance of Little Darlin as being in the same vein. Dave sweet talks in Maurice William’s ear at one point and then gets down on his knees to hold Larry Black’s hand at another point. As it happens I think Dave’s vocal performance is excellent too.

    There are several captivating performances including Ketty Lester’s. It really was a brilliant mix of artists.

    1. Paul, Thanks for posting your comments on the videos. The songs brought back a lot of memories, since I was a teenager, when most of the songs were recorded. It was great to see Jimmy Clanton, after all the years. He is from Louisiana, but about 150 miles from where we live.

      1. Hi Andrew. Greetings from England ! It must be even sweeter for you watching these performances then than it is for me. I am a child of the 60’s and live in the UK so most of these performers are new to me. What is evident from these performances is how supportive and appreciative these musical artists are of each others talents and abilities. There seems to be a genuine warmth for each other.

        You can be rightfully proud of Jimmy Clanton. His voice sounds superb and the ending of this performance of Venus in Blue Jeans is very sweet and touching. He comes across as being an absolute gent.

  7. Hi Paul, Thank you for your comments. It is good to hear from someone in England. The singers know what the other singers went through with traveling and for the black singers prejudice in the south, that made it difficult for them. I have always liked Jimmy Clanton since he is from Louisiana like us.

  8. Hi Andrew, I’ve seen some of the show and it’s fantastic, so good are these performers. Who were the backup singers? They added so much to the show as well as the band .

      1. From an earlier response about Vicky Carricco, she was also part of a female group called Kentucky Thunder. The other two backup singers look like they were from this group.

    1. The background singers were Kelli Bruce, Vickie Carrico, and Etta Britt. They are 3 of the top session singers in Nashville, TN. Each have their own careers and projects and stars in their own right. The best of the best!

  9. Hi Andrew, I am from Australia, love these songs i recognized from the 50s, 60s,70s. and to find out who originally wrote and sang them, their voices sound great live. I want to know who is the blond lady in the front row sitting between Pat Upton and Jerry Naylor, seem to recognize her face?, she did not get up and sing a song.

      1. I remember reading somewhere they just wanted to change the 3rd letter from an e to an a to reflect the word beat as in music so as to not have people think of crawly beetles.

  10. who were the back up band and the male singer in yellow sweater singing with Maurice Williams?
    One great job, they were great!

  11. The guy’s name in the yellow sweater is the leader of the band and his name is Steve Jarrell, the name of the band is; “Sons of the Beach”. (google it for more info)

  12. Enjoyed this “blog”. As of March 2018, I think you can still order the 7 CD set, with two extra CD Backstage videos. Jewel Akens, Jim Ed and Bonnie Brown, Clifford Curry, Frankie Ford, Gene Hughes, Gary Paxton, Ray Peterson, Billy Joe Royal, Troy Shondell, Dave Somerville, and Pat Upton have died. Most of the other songers are well into their late 70’s and early 80’s. RIP to all who gave us an all too brief timeframe of true rock ‘n roll!

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