WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN MARCH 1949
 
 

Far Away Places tops Your Hit Parade while hitting #3 on Billboard’s Pop Charts.

The song was first recorded in late 1948 by Bing Crosby who hit #2 with it. This led to a rash of cover versions by artists such as Perry Como and Dinah Shore, but the most successful cover was by Margaret Whiting. It was her ninth Top Ten hit in a career that lasted until 1991.

Though the epitome of the pre-rock pop style, a song that everyone from Frank Sinatra to Lawrence Welk recorded over the years, there were two notable – though non-hit – rock versions to come out in the early 60’s, as Sam Cooke, in one of his frequent stabs at traditional pop acceptance, laid down a rather stirring rendition that seemed to dig deeper into the lyrical sentiments than most ever had, while surf-rock group Eddie & The Showmen turned in a surprising uptempo instrumental version that took the song to places far away from the dreamy setting of Margaret Whiting’s hit.
 


 
 
 
 
The first 45 RPM record is released on the last day of March by RCA Victor leading to one of the most revolutionary shifts in the history of music.

For the first fifty years of recorded music 78 RPM records were the universal standard for commercial recordings but the bulky ten inch singles made of shellac were easily breakable, fairly heavy and larger collections took up a lot of space in the home. An alternative was long sought and RCA first experimented with the more durable vinyl in the early 1930’s before shelving the idea as new technology was unlikely to be purchased by consumers during the depression.

After World War Two however they poured money into the development of a vinyl records in a new smaller size and played at a different speed, the 7 inch 45 RPM. Because RCA was also the leading manufacturer of record players it was in their financial interest to entice consumers into buying new record players capable of handling this new product. Less than a year earlier Columbia Records had introduced the vinyl 33 1/3rd RPM long playing record album which like the 45 RPM utilized microgroove technology allowing them both to be played using the same stylus.

A thriving post-war economy and a rapid population shift to more expansive suburban housing all but ensured the success of the new formats and the old bulky floor model stereos that had remained fixed in a living room for the family’s collective use were now replaced with smaller, cheaper record players that each individual family member could have in their own room. The ability to stack smaller 45s on these players allowed for an uninterrupted string of different songs to be heard without stopping to change the record which made it seem even more convenient.

Music listening was transformed as it ceased to be strictly an activity in which the entire household took part in simultaneously and instead became a more secluded form of self-expression. In the years to come this would provide the teenaged rock fan with unlimited access to hearing the music they desired, their buying power now harnessed which would propel rock ‘n’ roll to unforeseen heights.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
At the 21st Annual Academy Awards ceremony Johnny Belinda leads the field with twelve nominations including for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and all four acting categories, yet wins only one award, that for Best Actress, Jane Wyman.

The controversial drama about the rape of a deaf-mute woman who later kills the rapist when he attempts to take the child away from her and finds herself put on trial for murder, may have been too risqué for the Academy to feel comfortable honoring in spite of the broad acclaim.

The Motion Picture Production Code had long prohibited depiciting rape in films but perhaps because it had been a successful play on Broadway and the story it was based on was true the rules were relaxed to allow for the subject to be dealt with directly, one of the first signs that the rigid moral restrictions movies had long faced were loosening.
 


 
 
 
 

President Truman’s ambitious Civil Rights legislation dies in Congress when Southern Senators refuse to change the Senate’s filibuster rules to allow the bill to even be voted on, thereby ensuring that government sponsored racism is protected for another generation.

In a related story eighteen cars bearing Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia parade through the streets of downtown Gadsden, Alabama. When a picture was taken of the event one of the cars pursued the photographer in a failed attempt to confiscate the camera. Apparently while boldly flaunting their racist convictions in public was deemed okay they were worried that their hoods were not enough to conceal their identities should the pictures taken be made public to the nation at large.

That’s the brave and proud constituency the southern Senators were pandering to.
 
 
 
 

The heyday of the railroad for long-distance passenger transportation was tailing off with the rise of airplanes which promised to get you where you were going faster, but it certainly wasn’t going to do so in more style than the California Zephyr, the newest train that took passengers on a leisurely two and a half day scenic journey from Chicago to San Francisco.

The train debuted March 20th to widespread acclaim, featuring luxuries like Zephyrettes, female hostesses who took care of your every need including making dinner reservations in the dining care and even baby sitting when you went to eat.

To take advantage of the ultra scenic route through the Rocky Mountains the cars were equipped with Vista-Domes, raised observation cars allowing you to get a clear view of the surrounding mountains, rivers and deserts and the train schedule ensured it’d be daylight as you passed through the most popular landscapes.

The California Zephyr in its original incarnation ended service in 1970 by which time the airplane had made such things as breathtaking scenery and luxury service obsolete in favor of cramped seating, bad food, turbulence and a litany of airport hassles. But as long as you could make it to your destination in under three hours who would possibly complain?

 
 
 
 
 
 

Tired of all that peace and quiet when you try and go to sleep at night? Try the new General-Electric clock radio with Slumber Switch. This revolutionary new technology allows you to go to sleep listening to music and the radio will shut off automatically at a prescribed time. In the morning it will turn back on automatically and wake you to music without any harsh alarms.

No longer do you have to hire an orchestra and clear out half your bedroom for late night music to send you off to dreamland. No more trying to bribe songbirds with seed and nuts outside your window to chirp a song when it’s time to rise. Now for the low price of $36.95 you can enjoy music as it puts you to sleep… provided you enjoy the kind of music that is capable of putting you to sleep.
 
 
 
 
 
 
RECORDS REVIEWED FOR MARCH 1949
 

STICK McGHEE: Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
JIMMY LIGGINS: Lookin’ For My Baby
THE FIVE SCAMPS: Chicken Shack Boogie
THE FIVE SCAMPS: Red Hot
L. C. WILLIAMS (CONNEY’S COMBO): I Don’t Want Your Baby
TODD RHODES: Pot Likker
TODD RHODES: Red Boy At The Mardi Gras
JOE SWIFT: Alligator Meat
FRANK CULLEY: Cole Slaw
ROY BROWN: Rockin’ At Midnight
ROY BROWN: Judgment Day Blues
SMILIN’ SMOKEY LYNN (DON JOHNSON & HIS BAND): State Street Boogie
DON JOHNSON & HIS BAND: Jackson’s Blues
LITTLE WILLIE LITTLEFIELD: Littlefield Boogie
BIG JAY McNEELY: Blow Big Jay
JIMMY PRESTON: Hucklebuck Daddy
JIMMY PRESTON: Sugar Baby
WILD BILL MOORE: South Parkway Hop
ALBENNIE JONES: Hole In The Wall
ALBENNIE JONES: Song Man
EDDIE “SUGARMAN” PENIGAR (ft. LAVERN BAKER): I Wonder Baby
 
 

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