A bug bit me when I was twelve years old, and never let go. I turned on the radio one day, and I liked what I heard. Neil Diamond was singing “Sweet Caroline.” Next up was “Oh Happy Day” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers. A few minutes later, Johnny Cash was talking about “A Boy Named Sue.” Not long after that, I heard a golden oldie by Simon and Garfunkel. And then “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” with Marvin Gaye.

No two songs sounded the same, but I loved them every one. The soft rock, hard rock, pop, country, soul, gospel and more, all part of the train wreck format of Top-40 radio.

As a result of numerous biographies and “Behind the Music” specials, we now know that a big chunk of Baby Boomer music was fueled by various pharmaceutical substances, few of them legal.

Whatever the rock ‘n rollers were ingesting, the music they created has stayed in my head for the past half-century. There is no cure for this malady. I don’t think those catchy tunes could be surgically removed.

During most of the intervening decades, radio stations around the nation have kept that music alive. It was a noticeable shift from the music preferences of my youth. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was little to no demand for stations to play music from the 1920s. I mean, my gosh, that’s when the world was in black and white, and movies were largely silent. Now and then, a “grown-up” station would play 1940s big band era hits, and to my generation those 30-year-old songs sounded like they were from an alternate universe.

Contrast that with the experience of my children, now in their 30s. They grew up on a steady diet of James Taylor, Three Dog Night, and Carole King. Those songs already had a few decades and a lot of mileage on them, but they held up well. My kids still know all the words, and they appreciate them as much as the hits that were released last month.

But, the time has come. With few exceptions, my music is disappearing from the airwaves. WAKY in Louisville, Kentucky is keeping the 60s and 70s alive with great success, ranking number one in their market. 

If you’re willing to pay for radio, the satellite service Sirius XM still plays hits dating back more than half a century, and their 1960s and 1970s channels are among their most popular.

Many radio stations around the nation are gradually dropping the older rock and roll hits from their playlists. The pre-British invasion hits (1955-1963) vanished long ago. Gradually, the later 1960s hits, and most of those from the 1970s have begun to fade away. Many of today’s “classic hits” stations boast of playing hits dating back to the 1980s, as they target the coveted demographic that tops out at 54 years old. Their ideal listener was born in 1968 or later, and the experts say that listener only recognizes hits from the 1980s forward.

I have two problems with this. First, if there’s no market for pre-1980s hits, why do Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, the various incarnations of the Beach Boys, Frankie Valli, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and a few other rockin’ geezers still sell out large arenas? For that matter, why do so many TV commercials feature a recognizable song from the olden days?

And, now that I’m a good bit north of 54, why don’t advertisers want my money any more? I may be ancient, but I still make purchases. Just ask my kids, who recently saw me spend too much cash on a remodeling project in our house, including new appliances, electronics, and furniture. They didn’t say it out loud, but I know they were wondering, “Why are Mom and Dad blowing our inheritance on new TV’s and recliners? They shouldn’t even be buying green bananas!”

In the interest of full disclosure, for the past six years, I have hosted a weekend radio show (details below) featuring the hits of the vinyl 45 rpm era. So I’m doing my part. My music is too good to disappear, even when I won’t be around to hear it.

(David Carroll is a Chattanooga news anchor, and his “Vinyl Express” radio show can be heard Saturdays and Sundays from 12-2 p.m. Eastern time at big106.9.com. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405, or at RadioTV2020@yahoo.com).

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