WHAT WAS HAPPENING IN MAY 1949
 
 

Riders In The Sky tops the Pop Charts for two months.

One of the first cinematic themed songs which attempts to create a striking visual image – even going so far as to be billed “A Cowboy Legend” – it was written and first recorded in 1948 by Stan Jones who was working in Death Valley for the National Parks Service at the time, which no doubt influenced the setting.

But Jones also worked in films, most notably with legendary director John Ford, which also provides insight into the unique perspective used as the song elevates western ethos to mythic stature with visions of the Devil riding a herd across the skies.

Vaughn Monroe cut the most popular version of Riders In The Sky as his stentorian baritone was perfect for the song’s dramatic lyrics but his was just one of many to come out at the time with Burl Ives, Bing Crosby and even Peggy Lee all getting hits out of it.

In future years Johnny Cash would score big on the country charts with the song in 1979, and instrumental versions proved popular with rock acts drawn to the haunting melody as The Ventures, Dick Dale and Davie Allan and The Arrows all cut notable renditions of it in the 1960’s. But the biggest rock version (as Ghost Riders In The Sky) was done by The Ramrods in 1961 with a heavy dose of sound effects to heighten the dramatic impact.
 


 
 
 
 
 
 

After eleven months the Soviet blockade of Berlin is finally lifted re-opening all roads, rails and waterways into the city.

The post-war breakdown of the victorious Allied powers had resulted in the United States, Great Britain and France aligned against the communist forces of the Soviet Union for ideological control of Europe. The Soviet Union pulled out of the treaty talks in March 1948 over the resistance of the others in regards to subjecting Germany to Soviet control, culminating in the formation of an independent West Germany.

The allies pooled their territory within Berlin, the German capital located in the Soviet controlled eastern sector, as West Berlin and announced a new currency (the Deutsche mark) which the Soviets viewed as an attack on the monetary stability of their territorial claims and instigated the blockade designed to starve out the capital. The allies responded with a massive airlift to bring vital supplies, particularly coal for heating, into the besieged city. Flights were arriving each minute of the day by April 1949 with their success the Soviets finally relented, lifting the blockade and allowing transport in and out of the city by normal means. West Germany became a country unto itself two weeks later on May 23rd with communist controlled East Germany following suit in October.

Eventually this political chess game resulted in the Soviets constructing the Berlin Wall in 1961, sealing off the city until 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down leading to the reunification of Germany – and the (temporary) end of the Cold War – the following year.

 
 
 
 
Television’s growing presence in American life is further shown as the first telethon is aired to solicit donations for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund.

The event is hosted by Milton Berle, the star of the #1 rated television show The Texaco Star Theater.

With his manic energy and ad-libbing talents Berle was a natural to emcee the fast moving unscripted plea for funds held in honor of writer Damon Runyon who had died of throat cancer in December 1946.

Runyon’s colorful, quirky and humorous stories on the New York crime and Broadway scenes had made him known the world over, with his fictional characters ending up on Broadway themselves with the long-running Guys & Dolls.

Within twenty four hours of his death powerful gossip columnist Walter Winchell went on his radio show to appeal for donations in Runyon’s name to fight the disease which immediately led to the non-profit Damon Runyon Cancer Fund. The foundation quickly became cause celebre in the entertainment field with dozens of actors, comedians, athletes and radio personalities donating their time and talents to the drive.

Television’s arrival provided a new opportunity for reaching people in ways a traditional fundraiser could not and Berle’s participation ensured it’d be widely viewed. The non-stop televised appeal was dubbed a telethon and in sixteen hours on the air Berle helped to raise $1.1 million for research further proving television’s unprecedented power at reaching the masses.

Now known as the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation the continuous operations over more than seven decades have raised over $250 million dollars while attaining the highest ratings for transparency and accountability amongst charitable organizations, using all of the money donated for research.

 
 
 
 
 
 
The computer age is upon us as Great Britain starts running the electronic delay storage automatic calculator (EDSAC), a giant machine capable of adding, subtracting, multiplying… you know, the things you were supposed to learn to do for yourself using paper and pen by the time you were about ten or twelve years old. Though like most kids who balked at such forced mental labor this early computer was unable to divide.

While the electronic digital stored-program computer’s actual abilities were rather basic, the formative methods used for arriving at the desired results were what laid the groundwork for the development of most modern software and operating system techniques.

All this because the world’s foremost mathematician, John von Neumman, was either running out of paper to write out complex calculations or more likely figured he could let a machine do his work for him so he could take long weekends at the beach in an effort to solve an even greater problem which had been confronting scientists such as himself for centuries – how to get laid.

As a result after working on the Manhattan Project which brought the world the atom bomb he conceived of the basics of computing by devising the merge-sort algorithm and presented his plans in 1945 leading to the construction of the mammoth room sized EDSAC.

 
 
 
 
 
Spring is in full bloom meaning your six weeks of rest after shoveling the last of the snow in mid-March is now over. With the grass sprouting ever higher as the weather warms up it’s time to take the old lawnmower out of the garage, or better yet buy a new one to keep the yard looking presentable.

You’re in luck however. Toro’s new power lawnmower means you won’t have to use too many of your muscles to get the job done, allowing the advances in mechanical know-how do it for you.

Far more efficient than your old push-mower these can be yours for just $99.95 and will get your grass cut quick enough for you to spend the rest of your Saturday afternoon lounging in your hammock enjoying the type of tranquil silence your neighbors weren’t fortunate enough to have while you disturbed their peaceful morning with your new mower’s earsplitting roar.
 
 
 
 
 
 

RECORDS REVIEWED FOR MAY 1949:
 
 
BIG JOHN GREER: Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
BIG JOHN GREER: Long Tall Gal
IVORY JOE HUNTER: Waiting In Vain
IVORY JOE HUNTER: That’s The Gal For Me
THE FOUR TUNES: Careless Love
FLOYD DIXON: That’ll Get It
WYNONIE HARRIS: Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee
WYNONIE HARRIS: She Just Won’t Sell No More
TINY WEBB: Billboard Special
BIG JAY McNEELY: Road House Boogie
BIG JAY McNEELY: Willie The Cool Cat
EDDIE “SUGARMAN” PENIGAR (ft. LAVERN BAKER): Easy Baby
LONNIE LYONS: Flychick Bounce
LONNIE LYONS: Far Away Blues
THE RAVENS: Ricky’s Blues
JOE LUTCHER: Mardi Gras
T.J. FOWLER: T.J. Boogie
THE ROBINS: You Sure Look Good To Me
THE ROBINS: Around About Midnight
WILD BILL MOORE: Rock And Roll
 
 
 
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NEXT: JUNE 1949