Saturday, 22 July 2017

Louis Serrano - rock seen by Hollywood conservatives

Louis Serrano was a Brazilian journalist that made most of his career out of Hollywood sending articles about local celebrities to fortnightly Cinelandia, daily O Globo and Radio Globo. Serrano had landed a place in Hollywood almost by chance. 

He had been sent by his father to finished his education in Montreal, Canada. Finding the place too cold, he managed to transfer to San Francisco, Northern California where he graduated and soon after moved to Los Angeles, where a cousin of his was the Brazilian Consul and arranged for him to stick around and do his journalist job out of the Capital of the Movies.

Serrano had been living in and around Los Angeles since the early 1940s. He made a lot of friends among people working in the show-business industry like radio DJs. Serrano had a record-page at Cinelandia and wrote about cinema & records at O Globo. He had to keep up-to-date about the Hit Parade and musical trends. If one follows Serrano's 'Discos Novos' in Cinelandia, one can clearly see when rock'n'roll becomes the main-stream

It happened overnight with 'Rock around the clock' in 1955, and soon after the charts were literally taken over by Elvis Presley who was at Number One most of the weeks of 1956 starting with 'Heartbreak Hotel' and going on with 'I want you, I need you, I love you', 'Don't be cruel', 'Hound dog', 'Too much' and more. 

Serrano knew there was something new in the air but he didn't know exactly what. By 1957, after the first rock barrage, conservative business people prayed that rock'n'roll would go away and started inventing stories that people were fed-up with the fascinating rhythm but that was really far the the truth. Rock records kept on topping the charts everywhere in the USA.

When Serrano was asked what he thought about about rock he sort of sided with those conservative American DJs who he had canvassed in Los Angeles. Serrano actually made a mistake when he wrote at Cinelandia that 'Elvis Presley is not a great singer'. He was dead wrong there. Elvis Presley was a great singer by anyone's standards. No one could deny that. 

Louis paid dearly for this mistake for he had to keep on excusing himself trying to convince people that rock was on its way out and rock singers like Tab Hunter and Tommy Sands were not good enough. Tab Hunter was actually a teenage actor who made a novelty record to cash in on his good looks but no rock'n'roller. Serrrano tried to mistify his audience. Tommy Sands on the other hand was a fairly good actor was an excellent singer to boot... and showed it in various musicals he shot in Hollywood. 

Louis Serrano claims that a 'great name' like Frank Sinatra had attacked rock'n'roll as 'degenerate', 'dirty' and 'imbecile'. That ain't no proof rock'n'roll is all of that. 

In other words Serrano decided to side himself with those 'old farts' against rock'n'roll. He goes as far as to state that most rock singers 'do not have good voices' (falta de voz do cantor); most of the lyrics are obscene and the 'rhythm is intentionally revved up to excite a statue'. It's hard to actually see a statue dancing in its pedestal. 

Serrano quoted a Los Angeles' KMPC DJ Dick Whittinghill as saying he used to review rock records when they first came out but he stopped now due to their overtly sexual overtones. Dick said his record operator sometimes blushed listening to those lyrics. 

Bill Stewart, another L.A. DJ said he didn't play rock records because those young crooners sound as if they were sick. Bill Balance from KFWB confessed he had to play rock records because that was what young people wanted to listen to. The young set make or break a radio station. 

Earl McDaniel went a step further and told Louis that rock was popular not only with the very young but also with adults who had already graduated from universities. Even song-writer Jimmy McHugh told him Serrano that Presley would eventually turn out to be more than a rock'n'roller just like Frank Sinatra had done in the 1940s.

It looked like Louis Serrano was not exactly dead against rock'n'roll. He kept a half-open mind on the subject. But he provedo to be a total 'square' when he ends his article paraphrasing Elvis: 'I am not but a hound dog'. He should have said: 'I ain't nothing but a hound dog'. 

Look at the left sheet: 'All shook up' by The Pelvis, 'Little darling' by the Diamonds, 'School day' by Chuck Berry, 'Come go with me' with Del-Vikings and only at #5 a sedate Perry Como doing his routine. Fats Domino was #9 with 'I'm walking to New Orleans'. 

Louis Serrano followed the US Hit Parade since the 1940s and reported at Cinelândia. He saw the introduction of rock'n'roll in the American mainstream. Now the Parade was dominated by the new generation: 16 year-old Dodie Stevens was at #1 with 'Pink shoe laces' that Celly Campello took to #1 in Brazil a couple of years later as 'Lacinhos cor-de-rosa'; Elvis came second with 'All shook up'; The Fleetwoods with 'Come softly to me'; Frankie Avalon came at #6 with 'Venus'; The Impalas were # 10 with 'Sorry, I ran all the way home'; Elvis with 'I need your love tonight' and the Everly Brothers with 'Poor Jennie' at #20.

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