1962: A Year to Remember

Mr. Acker Bilk playing Stranger on the Shore, the No. 1 hit of 1962.

I can remember the posters for American Graffiti, like the one pictured that asked the question Where Were You in 62′?

My memories of 1962 include walking the halls of Pineville High for the last times that summer, as I took English IV again in summer school so I could receive my diploma that September. It was my third and last encounter with summer school.

The class of 1962 will be celebrating our 50th reunion next April. Just the thought of 50 years passing since I walked out the door of Pineville High School for the last time as a student in 1962 tells me I am getting older much faster than I really wanted to.

It also reminds me that music has changed since then. Can you imagine a clarinet solo by Mr. Acker Bilk being No.1 on the Hot 100 chart today, like Stranger on the Shore was in 1962?

It even charted higher than the No.2 classic I Can’t Stop Loving You sung by the great Ray Charles.

Mashed Potato Time and The Loco-Motion charted No.3 and No.7, but No.9 The Twist by Chubby Checker is the song we will remember most from that year. Checker was 21 in 1962, but will be 70 next month.

Checker would also have the No.17 hit Slow Twistin’ in 1962.  Many songs released in 1962 had the word twist or a variation of twist in the title including these songs:

No.23 Twistin’ the Night Away – Sam Cooke

No.25 Peppermint Twist – Joey Dee and the Starliters

No. 32 Dear Lady Twist – Gary and the US Bonds

No. 38 Twist and Shout – Isley Brothers

No. 87 Percolator Twist – Billy Joe and the Checkmates

No. 88 Twist, Twist Senora – Gary and the US Bonds

No. 89 Twistin’ Matilda and the Channel – Jimmy Soul

No. 92 Soul Twist – King Curtis

Ten songs or ten percent of the Top 100 songs, had to do with the new Twist craze.

It was a great year for ballads too with such standouts as Roses Are Red, Break It To Me Gently, Ramblin’ Rose, Love Letters, You Don’t Know Me and Town Without Pity.

The Beach Boys had one song in the Top 100 list which was Surfin’ USA at No.100, but it apparently had just been released, because it topped out at No.3 the next year. Surprisingly, the Beach Boys only had four No.1 hits during their career.

Ahab the Arab was the best known novelty song of the year, having been released by Ray Stevens.

Green Onions which was recorded by Booker T. and the MG’s  to me was one of the best instrumentals ever to be released came out that year along with instrumentals, like Moon River by Henry Mancini and Walk on the Wild Side recorded by the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith.

The list below will take the readers down memory lane. It was a great year for music.



Basic Training and the Cuban Missile Crisis

It was October 12 of 1962, when I started basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. My first memory is of a soldier from Wardville a suburb of Pineville, Louisiana yelling out a second story window, to a sergeant below “Hey nutbrain”. The sergeant set a new record for climbing the stairs that day, telling the private in no uncertain terms, that that was not the proper way to address someone higher ranking than him. The infiltration course was the least fun of all, not to mention taking our gas masks off in a gas-filled room, so we would know what it was like to experience it.

If there was enough reason to take the basic training seriously before, there was even more now, because we were training during the middle of the Cuban missile crisis.

This is one of the songs we sang as we marched:

“I don’t know but I believe, I’ll be in Cuba by Christmas Eve”

The ten-mile hike and bivouac was not exactly a bed of roses either. It had been hot when we first arrived, but by the time the bivouac came around, it was brutally cold sleeping in a tent in December.

The best part about basic training was when the family visited one Sunday, having made the trip from Pineville to see me.

1962 had started with the final semester starting at Pineville High School in January, receiving my diploma in September, then  starting basic training in October, which ended in December.

The year ended with me visiting home, for Christmas and New Year’s Day. 1963 would bring being stationed in Indianapolis, Indiana to start the year, staying there till April at the Adjutant General’s postal school. Then in May my three-year enlistment started, after deciding to re-enlist rather than go to Army Reserve meetings for several years.

Early in June of 1963, I arrived in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, not knowing that I would board the troop ship the USNS General Walker on a 14 day trip, to another tropical paradise in Viet Nam two-and-a-half years later. The only problem was that the inhabitants of this tropical paradise, didn’t appreciate visitors with M-14’s and tanks.

By now it is way past 1962, so better stop now.






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.

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