While riding around town on your daily commute, have you ever wondered what the local radio stations are playing? More and more people are turning to their smartphones to get their music fix, creating a huge demand for online song libraries that hold hundreds of thousands of songs. That’s where Pandora and iTunes come in; they’re like the radio stations of the internet. They play music that their users have curated for them based on their listening habits. So if you ever wondered what songs the DJs played on the radio, this is the best opportunity to find out! Let’s explore what bands performed at Riverside Speedway West Memphis in the years following World War II.
The Biggest Gaines/Griffiths Hit
While the hit single was still fairly new in the late 1940s, many bands were already using it in their sets. One of the first big band songs to utilize the phrase ‘big bang’ was performed by Les Brown and his Orchestra. The song was called ‘Big Bang (When The Music’s Over)’. This was followed by an even more sensual version by Nat King Cole and His Orchestra. The first song to use ‘big wham’ was, fittingly, ‘Big Jack Hammer’ by The Big Jack & the Dynamite Crew. This phrase would later be used by The Rolling Stones in their song ‘Wild Horses’. The biggest gaines and greatest griffs that were played at Riverside Speedway West Memphis during this time frame were as follows:
Les Brown and his Orchestra became an overnight sensation after the band played ‘YMCA’ by The Young Morlocks (now known as The Monkees) at the New York premiere of that year’s film Your Favorite Martian. The band would also perform the song at the end of one of its live albums. This song, which would later become Brown’s signature tune, was first performed by his Orchestra at the premiere of the 1942 movie Cabin in the Sky. Cabin in the Sky was one of four movies that featured Brown and his Orchestra. The ensemble scored several minor hits during the 1940s including ‘Sleepy Lagoon’, ‘Reach for the Sky’, and ‘Cabin in the Sky’.
One of the first popular rock and roll bands to achieve mainstream success was The Varsity Drag. The group, which consisted of Eddie Cochran, was one of the most successful acts of the early 1950s. In fact, ‘Crazy Little Thing’ became one of the the group’s most popular songs. The ensemble also scored quite a few #1 hits including ‘Three Cool Cats’ (nominated for a Grammy Award), ‘Kitty Cats’ (which spent five weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1950), and ‘Candy Kisses’ (which spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart in 1951). It was during this time frame that Cochran started performing with his nose painted red, which was later appropriated as the group’s trademark. Cochran would pass away in 1959 at the age of 30. The Varsity Drag were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
One of the most iconic singing groups of all time was The Platters. The group, which consisted of Dale Evans, Eddy Arnold, and Vivian Bell, scored a string of hit singles in the 1950s. Some of the group’s most popular songs include ‘It’S My Religion’, ‘Twist and Shout’, and ‘Only You’.
Another one of the most successful vocal groups of all time was The Miracles. The group, which consisted of Marvin Gaye, Robert Petway, and Wally Wilson, scored several hits during the 1960s. In fact, the group was so popular during this time frame that it was later credited with helping to usher in the ‘Singing Revolution’. This was a time when popular music became more ‘accepting’ of different singing styles and when artists expressed themselves through their songs instead of just their guitars. Petway and Wilson were the group’s chief songwriters, creating such classics as ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’, ‘Love Child’, and ‘I’m Different’. The Miracles were also among the first artists to be signed to a major record label, Motown, in its infancy. The group became Motown’s first million-selling act and were later given the key to the city of Detroit in recognition of their services to the community.
While The Platters and The Miracles are certainly noteworthy, it is perhaps the most successful and iconic artist of all time, Elvis Presley, who made the greatest impression at Riverside Speedway West Memphis. Elvis would perform at least three shows a day, five days a week for most of the year. His concert schedule was so packed that he rarely had time to eat or take a break. It was a life-changing experience for the aspiring singer-songwriter. ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, and ‘Hound Dog’ were just a few of the classic songs that the artist performed during his time at the venue. Many of his performances at the speedway were recorded and released on film. A four-part documentary series that focuses on Elvis’s life and career was released in the year 2000, aptly titled ‘Elvis Presley: The Complete DVD Set’.
Even more impressively, the members of The Marvelettes kept pace with Elvis’s superhuman output. The group, which consisted of Bonnie Ferguson, Evelyn King, and Marie Osmond, scored several minor hits during the 1960s. Like many girl groups at the time, the group was often imitated but never duplicated. Unfortunately, Ferguson and Osmond would soon part ways with King, a move that would ultimately lead to the group’s downfall. Evelyn would die of a heart attack in 1969, just three days after releasing her final album. It had been an incredible run, but it was also arguably the height of the group’s popularity that would prove to be their last.
While The Platters, The Miracles, and Elvis Presley all scored huge audiences during the peak of their popularity, it was perhaps the Supersisters that made the greatest impression. This was the first all-female group to have a Top 40 hit in America when ‘Twist and Shout’ became a number one song in 1962. The following year, the group would score a second number one hit with ‘You’re Going to Love Tomorrow’ (a cover of the classic Rosemary Clooney song). This song, which was originally recorded by Mitch Miller and His Orchestra (which also featured Gloria Jean), would become one of the group’s most popular tracks. Despite their huge success, the Supersisters would disband in 1966. It was during this time frame that the members of the group began to explore their Christian faith, which became a focal point of their songwriting. They would eventually form a quintet called The Supersisters V and would record several albums of praise and worship music. In 2010, the group was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.