Anyone know more about a 1960-era rockabilly ban/protest?

I was performing recently in Arkansas and met a couple of local musicians who are minor historical figures in rockabilly.

In the course of our jam session and conversations, they told me that one reason rockabilly doesn’t have the nostalgia demand of, say, 1950’s rock, is that it was only big on the charts from about 1955 to 1960 or so.

A major reason, they claimed, was that there was a protest, or boycott, of rockabilly music by the mayor/governor of New York/New Jersey/some town in NJ around 1960, that killed demand for the music. They weren’t sure on the details.

I’m not a rockabilly expert. But I’m fairly well-versed in pop music history, and I had never heard this before.

Can anyone provide more information supporting or refuting this story?

I’d be curious, too. There’s the whole Rock died set of events in the late 50’s: Buddy Holly and the others dying in the plane crash; Eddie Cochran dying and Gene Vincent injured in the UK car crash; Elvis in the army; Little Richard quitting for God for a bit; Chuck Berry busted for violating the Mann Act (and being a general whack job - love ya Chuck!), etc…but I don’t recall a “ban” per se…

That’s what I was thinking: there was certainly a time from about 1960 to the Beatles breakthrough when there wasn’t really a single, ruling trend in American pop music.

All the things you mention definitely contributed to the decline of interest in rock and roll/rockabilly, so I think my friends were overstating the impact of the alleged ban/protest.

But the fact that I’d never heard of it piques my curiosity.

I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on rockabilly but I’ve read tons of rock history and an incident like this doesn’t ring a single bell. I’d agree completely with WordMan, that with all the major figures gone there were huge openings for other styles to break through. A quick search found nothing online that even hinted at a boycott or protest as a major event in rockabilly history. I’d certainly like to read about something forgotten, though, if anyone can dig it up.

Gotta go with Motown and the Beach Boys and Brill Building/ Wall of Sound singles as the “interim” music, but I hear ya…

I always thought rockabilly was so simple and basic it faded as rock, girl groups, doo wop and other forms of pop took over. There are like 3 rockabilly songs that have been made over and over.
In some ways rockabilly stayed more in the country music scene, but gets revived in the indie scene every so often (pub rock, psychobilly, etc.)

There was also the weird early 60’s folk craze that only seems to be remembered these days for the people who changed their sound and made it big once the 60’s got underway in earnest.

Reverend Horton Heat’s been playing since 85. Not arenas or anything, but a few guys have been carrying the torch.

It doesn’t ring a bell. Link Wray performed in the DC area, and I think some of his barroom shows got pretty violent. As in working class guys having a rumble. One of Link Wray’s big songs was titled “rumble.” This story is also told in George Pelecanos book Hard Revolution.

Here’s a link to an interesting blog post on Link Wray, the father of violence in rock n roll?

Here are the top 50 songs for station KQV in 1963. While lots of girl groups and sort-of Rock bands were enjoying their day in the sun, this was the year that the Singing Nun and the Elephant Walk dominated the airwaves, and not a proud moment for the music of youthful rebellion.

Some of the real old timers are still around too. Jerry Lee Lewis has been performing and recording more or less uninterrupted since the 50’s and though he veered more towards country during the 70’s and 80’s, he’s still playing mostly as a rockabilly act today. He just released a fairly well-received album of duets a couple of years ago. Little Richard had a brief gospel-only interlude, but is back performing the original rockabilly-type stuff. Rockabilly also stayed popular in Europe and Japan for some reason, and some of the old acts spent a lot of time there in the 60’s and 70’s. There’s even a some albums old American rock acts did in German during that period that are fun oddities if you can find them.

(Unfortunately Jerry Lee’s marriage with his underage cousin ended in the 70’s, so I can’t make a joke about the outrage subsiding now that she’s 67.)

Cute. True.

The first youthful rebellion was over (Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, white kids listening to black! :eek: music) and the second rebellion (The Doors, psychedelics, revolution) hadn’t started yet. We were listening to and liking pretty much anything in 1963, and if there was a theme, we didn’t know what it was.

Edited to remove erroneous info about Perry Como. I could have sworn Catch A Falling Star was a hit in the early 60’s, but it was 1957.

I can’t really imagine too many people who were personally less connected with Rock-a-billy during the early 60’s than Link Wray, but who knows. Someone who did record RAB at that time was Ronnie Haig who had a record called “Don’t You Hear Me Calling Baby” which I think you can hear on YouTube. This was recorded around 1959 or so and was very popular in my hometown, not so much for the musical artistry but for the slurring of the “f” word at the end of the song. Yes, that “f” word. Someone told a disc jockey somewhere else that you could clearly hear it at 33 &1/3 and rather than check that out off the air, he played it that way on the air and got fined. I have no idea if this has anything to do with what you are talking about, because I have no recollection of any protest as such. Porky Chedwick in Pittsburgh played that record until he went off the air, without a fine.

There was a 1950s music/documentary/then current oldies movie in the early 1970s called “Let the Good Times Roll”. In it they had a clip from a 1950sLong Island, NY high school showing boys and girls in “acceptable” and "Unacceptable"clothes. The unacceptable attire was the standard “rockabilly” look you see in things like “Grease” and “Fonzie” in "Happy Days’ (but then Henry Winkler wearing a leather jacket caused a big stink from the network people at first. they compromised by initially having him always near his motorcycle so they could say it was for safety while riding.
The governor of New York in 1960 was Nelson Rockefeller, the mayor of New York City was Robert Wagner. I would be shocked if either of them cared for rock and roll but I never heard of them having a boycott. They could have, but I haven’t heard of it. Some older cynics who remember Wagner better than I do say his standard answer for everything was “we have a committee looking into that”.
Around that time there were payola scandals that ended the career of Alan Freed, radio DJ who promoted R&B and rockabilly (and managed to get a songwriting credit on Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene”, much like Hesh in a Sopranos episode). Dick Clark managed to escape it by giving some statistics that he played fewer records than he paid for and by agreeing not to do it again.There were a lot of people back then who thought the only way kids could ever like rock and roll was to brain wash them and the exposure of payola was a godsend to them. Nobody was happy with Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 year old cousin and Elvis allowed Colonel Parker to neuter his music.
There were a lot of trends back then that came and quickly faded. Rockabilly, the girl groups, the British invasion (majority of them
like Dave Clark 5, Herman’s Hermits, Chad and Jeremy), the jazz-rock of Blood, Sweat and Tears and Electric Flag, psychedelic rock, folk music like the Kingston Trio, surf music (which Jimi Hendrix hoped you may never hear again), doo-wop. How long did the big band music really last as preferred entertainment? Pretty much faded away after the Second World War. Or the hair metal bands of the late 1980s.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some communities in the New York/New Jersey areas that had camera hungry politicians speak out and maybe try to prevent clubs from having music in if they attracted rowdy, noisy crowds that disturbed neighbors. But I also think your friends are misremembering or exaggerating things a half century later.

There was a more widespread ban on The Beatles in the South in 1966 and it didn’t harm them. I don’t see how it would be possible for an official in one Northeast city or state to have shut down rockabilly.

This falls into another of those “who belongs in this genre?” thread, but I don’t think that rockabilly was ever a big deal except in the Appalachian states. Could be completely wrong, but I’d have to have some names first. Most folks at that time were straddling the line between rock, country and r&b, I think rockabilly just got absorbed into the stew.

I recall reading in one of the Buddy Holly biographies that certain municipalities prohibited live rock and roll shows around about '59 or '60. I wish I had the book at hand to quote from.

Not quite related to this thread but for all you hear about how great the 1969 Woodstock rock festival was, a lot of communities moved quickly to keep them from happening in their backyard. Something like 30 out of 48 planned ones were cancelled in 1970, according the wiki article on the most famous cancelled one, Powder Ridge.

And then there was Interior secretary James Watt and his refusing to allow the Grass Roots and Beach Boys play on the National Mall in Washington DC

In a late-70s interview for Guitar Player magazine, Martin Mull referred to “the folk music scare, when G, C and D almost caught on”.

When I saw Greasy Jack’s post, I was going to reply that I saw Mull say that on TV, only I remember it as, “The folk music scare, when folk music almost became popular.”