In that song, John Sebastian sings of a radio station that captivated him when he was 13:
And the record man said every one is a yellow SunAnd so the boy from the north fell in love with country music. Me, back in the mid-1960s, I liked some college radio station that came in from Fort Wayne, Indiana. I heard songs they didn't play on WABC in New York City. Indiana seemed like a cooler place than NYC. (Oddly, I still think that sometimes.)
Record from Nashville
And up north there ain't nobody buys them
And I said, but I will
I used to write down the names of the artists they played that I'd never heard before. I remember, listening that way, late at night, hearing "I Got You Babe" for the first time and wrote down "Sonny and Cher."
That was my little experience. Did you have anything like that?
Dewey Phillips was on the air in Memphis around 1950. He was an anomaly at the time: a white DJ spinning regional rhythm and blues hits for black audiences. Rick Wright says Phillips and his African American contemporaries up the dial on Memphis' WDIA helped elevate disc jockeying to an art form.
People like Nat Turner, a young B.B. King, and, one of Wright's favorites, Rufus Thomas. "Now, Rufus comes in, 'Hey baby, this is Rufus Thomas, WDIA Memphis, Tennessee, where you can cop a smile about a quarter mile provided you've got time and don't mind this drive time line we're gonna try.'
Wright says that one Nashville station, WLAC Nashville was owned by the Life and Casualty Insurance Company - L-A-C. He says that that station would take this music and this DJ style to places it had never been. He says the course of American cultural history was changed one Saturday.
"And they were playing, basically, records by Guy Lombardo or whatever and it was that era of a 50,000-watter trying to find itself with no audience," says Wright. "And there were some African American students from Fiske University who had gotten past the security and got up to the station and brought a bunch of 78s with them."
And they walked into the studio and started talking to the DJ. "Mr. Nobles, can you play some of our folks' records on your radio show?"
And Nobles said sure, hand them over. Records of Fats Domino and Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Etta James, Laverne Baker.
And he played them.
"All of sudden," says Wright, "the phone started to ring, and the letters and cards were coming from all over the place. And they established that night, one of the real, first, mainstream R&B formats on a major powerhouse radio station. WLAC 1510 Blues Radio Nashville, Tennessee. The only full time R&Ber at night with 50,000 watts."
At night, 50,000 watts get you very far. Bob Dylan has said he owes much of his musical inspiration to listening to WLAC as young teenager all the way up in Minnesota.
It was the "Moonstruck" clip that I blogged last night that set me off thinking about Cher and the first time I ever heard her sing. It was observed that I love Cher, and I confessed to my longstanding affection for the durable diva. I loved Cher since the first time I heard 'I Got You Babe' on a radio station from Fort Wayne, Indiana, I said.
I remembered answering some questionnaire at the time about what famous person I would like to be. It was 1965, so I was 14. I said Cher. And it wasn't just that I wanted to be a female pop star. I was entranced by the strong affection that Sonny and Cher showed each other when I saw them on TV.
I searched YouTube for an early appearance — perhaps their first national TV appearance — when the two were singing IGYB while sitting at a little table. They were petting and kissing — a real public display of affection. There are, of course, a lot of clips of them doing that song, but I couldn't find that one or any other where they were transgressively pawing at each other, the PDA I'd seen when I was just 14.
So let me go in a completely different direction and show you this instead:
I GOT YOU BABE