This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #314: Wake Up, Little Susie! by The Everly Brothers.
The Everly Brothers were a pair of brothers named Don and Phil Everly. As children, they sang with their parents as a group called The Everly Family Singers. But, their singing talent and future marketability came to the attention of fellow musicians, such as Chet Baker and soon, Phil and Don were signed as a duo to a recording contract of their own and began releasing singles. Their first Gold record came in 1957 as a result of a song called, “Bye Bye Love”. “Wake Up Little Susie” quickly followed and became the duo’s first #1 hit. In 1958, “The Everly Brothers” released “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, which holds the distinction of being the only song, by any artist or band, in any genre, in any era, to simultaneously hold the #1 position on every Billboard Singles chart in America. “The Everly Brothers'” ability to sing in such close, sweet harmony with each other helped influence scores of musicians that followed such as The Beach Boys, The BeeGees, The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the inaugural year, as well as, The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress, too.
The Everly Brothers had a sweet, wholesome image that was very popular in 1950s America. For this reason, you may be surprised to know that their song, “Wake Up, Little Susie!” holds the unfortunate distinction of being one of the very first Rock n’ Roll songs ever to be banned by public radio. It is true! The lyrics to this song describe a scene in which a young boyfriend and girlfriend go to see a movie at their local drive-in, only to fall asleep. They wake up well after midnight and quickly realize the trouble that they will be in with their parents and how their reputations may suffer in the eyes of the community. We may view this as being incredibly innocent but, back in the day, the mere suggestion that they may have slept together or engaged in hanky-panky was enough to bring down the wrath of the radio network censors. As a result, “Wake Up, Little Susie!” was banned in many smaller, button-down communities but, also, in some bigger centres such as Boston, too. None of this managed to hurt the record sales and/or the popularity of The Everly Brothers but, it does give us a sneak peak into the conservative nature of white America in the 1950s.
I know that this next part means more to me than it probably does to you but, just the same, I have previously made mention of a TV series that we watched a lot in our home called “Full House/Fuller House” and how that show, although it was a children’s show, was a treasure trove for music lovers. The characters on the show were always singing legendary rock n’ roll songs or playing them or else, the show’s writers were concocting whole storylines based upon the storylines of famous songs. In the past, I wrote about how the band, Cheap Trick became legends by playing in Japan and, sure enough, Uncle Jesse and the Rippers, from “Full House” became legends in Japan, too. Uncle Joey (Dave Coullier) is the scorned ex-lover in the song, “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette. As well, the writers of the show built a whole episode around “Wake Up, Little Susie!” by having the oldest teenage daughter, D.J., fall asleep at her boyfriend’s new apartment…..while watching a movie….and not waking up until well past midnight! Oh my! That episode resulted in D.J. and her father having a huge falling out, only to have it all resolved by talking it out and having Dad realize that he just has to trust his daughter more when she says that it was all an innocent mistake and that her boyfriend remains an honourable guy. I imagine that, back in the 1950s, if this song was a tv show, that the conversation would have been a little more one-sided and, not in the daughter’s favour.
In all seriousness, I highly encourage all of you who love Rock n’ Roll (especially, the roots of it) to check out the “Full House” playlist on Spotify. It is encyclopedic in nature and is something you would expect The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame playlist to be like. It is truly amazing. In the meantime, check out “The Everly Brothers” and their controversial hit, “Wake Up, Little Susie!”. Enjoy….if the shock of it all doesn’t overwhelm you. 🙂
The link to the video for the song, “Wake up, Little Susie!” by The Everly Brothers, can be found here.
The link to the official website for The Everly Brothers, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting all types of music; even the songs deemed to be “controversial”. The link to their website can be found here.