Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

I’ve been at this project for several years during which I’ve amassed debts to many individuals and institutions. Early ‹nancial support came in the form of grants from the University...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

The story of American popular music in the 1950s has about it the feel of absurdist fiction. Even the bare outline is strange to recount: how the nation drifted away from...

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1. Records on the Radio

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pp. 9-42

In the cultural churning of postwar America, radio, the nation’s great public medium, was in the midst of big changes. When wartime restrictions were lifted in 1946, applications...

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2. Shifting Currents in the Mainstream

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pp. 43-75

By 1955, it was clear that a new musical trend centered in the social worlds of teenagers had taken solid shape. The signs were many. Through radio and jukebox exposure...

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3. Hustlers and Amateurs

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pp. 76-109

Wayne “Buddy” Knox was twenty-three years old when he recorded “Party Doll” in 1956. He later told an interviewer that he had written the song years earlier when he was “just a kid...

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4. Crossing Over

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pp. 110-142

As a young man, the sociologist Philip Ennis joined a team of researchers at Columbia University’s Bureau of Applied Social Research charged with mapping the decision-making process...

Photographs

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5. Surface Noise

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pp. 143-169

In the fall of 1948 a small, short-lived Los Angeles record company released a record called “A Little Bird Told Me” by singer and pianist Paula Watson, her ‹rst for the company...

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6. “Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll”

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pp. 170-203

Kay Starr’s “Rock and Roll Waltz” (RCA Victor), a novelty record whose central irony is a mismatch between its playful narrative and its supporting musical arrangement...

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7. New Traditions

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pp. 204-237

On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly boarded a plane at Mason City Municipal Airport near Clear Lake, Iowa, bound for Fargo, North Dakota, the closest airport to the next night’s show...

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Epilogue

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pp. 238-242

At the dawn of the 1950s, Billboard ran a piece paraphrasing Sinatra’s “pioneering thoughts on LP pop tune production.” The singer was “thinking in terms of the 10-inch 15-minute record,” rather than the 78 rpm single, a move that called for...

Notes

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pp. 243-264

Bibliography

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pp. 265-274

Records Cited

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pp. 275-286

Index

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pp. 287-325