A Resurgence of Oldies

45 records


Three days after stopping at this tiny Kern County crossroads on our way north, we find ourselves overnighting in the same motel on our way south.  It’s all about convenience; this place is about halfway.

It would be hard to do much driving on the interstate highway system without experiencing a ubiquitous piece of Americana:  The truck stop.  Large or small, they’re all pretty much the same.  There are the showers, the convenience store, the video games and the restaurant.

Characteristic of the truck stop restaurant is uniformly bad food, good coffee and questionable taste in piped-in music.  In regard to the latter, it seems that every truck stop we visit is playing an endless loop of recorded “oldies.”  So whether we stop at Wheeler Ridge on the Grapevine, Coachella in the desert, Santa Nella in Merced County or here in Buttonwillow, we can guarantee that we will be regaled by the hits of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Platters.  Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  Dion. The Chiffons.  From doo-wop to The Beatles and The Beach Boys.  At one truck stop we will hear The Shirelles performing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”; at the next truck stop two hours down the road, they will be doing “Soldier Boy.”  In the rest room, it will be Rosie and the Originals on “Angel Baby”; at the coffee station, The Silhouettes will be kip-kip-kipping and boom-boom-booming their way through “Get a Job.”

Could it be that the aging baby boomer crowd, of which I am most assuredly a member, has taken up a nostalgic fondness for the kitschy pop music of days gone by?  I hadn’t heard of such a movement, so I initially wrote off this phenomenon to cheap canned music track loops, the truck stop equivalent of the strained mush we call “elevator music.”

So, hanging out with my niece and nephews (ages 16 to 21), I was shocked to find them singing along to the same crap I was hearing at the truck stops along the interstate!

Here I was thinking that those of my generation were harking back to the halcyon days of our youths, when my 16 year old niece walks into the room belting out the lyrics to “Runaround Sue.”  When the three of them started putting You Tube music videos up on their big screen TV, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at “Mr. Lonely.”  And when they put on Bobby Vinton singing “My Melody of Love,” you could have knocked me over with a feather.  I recommended The Duprees’ cover of “You Belong to Me,” which they dutifully brought up on the screen.  What I didn’t tell them is that, long after their lead singer had died, I used to follow the rest of the crew around to their gigs all over New Jersey.  I’m not sure I’m quite ready to confess all the sins of my misspent youth to them.

Could it be that the younger generation is discovering the music that we once “made out” to?  My niece started singing “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” and my eyes turned misty.  She’d discovered Paul Anka!

i’d better not tell her about “Diana.”  Because then I might have to fess up about a certain girl who, despite my best efforts, I never could seem to get, and a certain 45 rpm record that I would play over and over. . .

I won’t tell if you won’t, okay?


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