Sunday, June 25, 2017

Danny and the Juniors, "Pony Express"

Lately I've fallen down into a bit of a musical rabbit hole when it comes to the R&B and rock and roll of the early 1960s. For a long time there was this narrative that both genres were moribund at the time, until Stax, Motown, and the Beatles kicked things back into gear in the mid-1960s. That interpretation, of course, only reflects the fact that those things came to dominate soul and rock. It was different than what came before, but not necessarily better.

I have especially been digging the music on Philadelphia independent labels of the time like Cameo-Parkway and Swan. It tends to be up-tempo, good time dancing music. The world being the way it is, I could use a dose of that. "Pony Express" by Danny and the Juniors is a representative example. The band is best known for the exuberant "At The Hop," but they had plenty of other hot wax singles in their prime. The song isn't about the old west, but dances where girls' ponytails (highly fashionable at the time) are swaying too and fro. There's a swinging, stomping beat and a yakety sax solo and lines like "saddle up buttercup." This year when everyone is touting the fiftieth anniversary of Sgt Pepper it's good to also remember when rock and roll was just dumb good time music, rather than trying to make an artistic statement.

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