INSIGHTS ON IVOR
The year 1956 was also notable as the year when Britain faced another explosion on the music scene when a young man from Tupelo Mississippi with a most unusual name burst upon us and changed the face of pop music. Yes, I’m talking about Elvis Presley who entered the hit parade with a song called ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and later that year ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ ‘Hound Dog’ ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and ‘Love me Tender’ followed.
Teenagers in Britain were soon rushing out to buy his records. The gyrating somewhat sensual body movement’s this man gave whilst singing his songs onstage caused raised eyebrows, to say the least, amongst the older generations around the world. But as far as the young people were concerned he was fantastic and idolized. It wasn’t long before there were hundreds of young lads copying their hero. In an effort to attract the girls some of them changed their names to what they thought were more attractive ones. So Harry Webb became Cliff Richard (and later Sir Cliff Richard). Ronald Wycherley changed his name to Billy Fury which sounded more exciting, Terry Nelhams (later Terry Nelhams-Wright) morphed into Adam Faith and later in life became an actor and successful businessman. London cockney Tommy Hicks preferred to be known as Tommy Steele, who could not only sing and play the guitar but also became an actor appearing with the great Fred Astaire in a Hollywood musical called ‘Finians Rainbow’. Finally, there was plain old Reginald Smith who decided that he would stand more chance with the girls by changing his name to Marty Wilde, a wise move because he had a very long successful career in the world of Pop.
It is worth pointing out that whilst all of the above could sing and went on performing for many years afterward, there were many other Elvis worshippers who couldn’t sing a note, at least not in tune, or play the guitar but that was of no consequence. All they had to do was to follow Elvis’s dress code, which included blue suede shoes, and remember to carry a comb which they frequently used to comb their hair into a special style: known as having a ‘DA’. This was a code word for an abbreviation of a rude part of a Ducks anatomy!
Armed with this transformation the ‘poor man’s Elvis’ would gyrate around the stage like a whirling dervish causing the girls to swoon and scream their heads off.
Another performer who caused riots in Britain at this time was Bill Haley and His Comets who burst onto the scene with a record called ‘Rock around the Clock’ which topped the hit parade for many years afterward. Bill Haley was older than Elvis and with a ‘kiss curl’ haircut; he differed to Elvis’s thick black hair. There were many occasions when the Police were called out to cinemas to stop the youngsters rocking and rolling in the aisles and then in the streets after being evicted from the cinemas.
The hit parade records of this period could be heard from record players, ‘Dansette’ being one popular make, in many homes throughout the country. In complete contrast to rock and roll records we had crooner Pat Boone telling us in the song that ‘I’ll be Home’ and the peaches and cream girl, Doris Day, proclaiming that ‘Que Sera Sera’: whatever will be, will be.
In the cinemas, the music continued with the release of High Society, music by Cole Porter and staring Bing Crosby and the one and only, Louis Armstrong. But good as that was I have to say that my favorite choice as the best musical film from that time is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel starring Gordon McRae (a much-underrated singer in my opinion) and Shirley Jones.
Popular cars in Britain at this time included the Ford Anglia, Prefect, Consul and the Zephyr/Zodiac followed closely by the Hillman Minx, Standard 10, Morris Oxford and the much loved Morris Minor – which started production in 1948 and sold well over 1.3 million before production ceased in 1972. Another car which raised a few eyebrows was the arrival of the three wheels ‘Bubble’ cars. There were the Isetta and the Messerschmitt from BMW which, despite only having a 250 cc engine still, managed speeds of between 60-70 mph and the Heinkel. None of these cars were around for any length of time so I suppose you could say it didn’t take long before the ‘bubble’ burst.
Britain during the 1950’s was a golden time for motor cycles with sidecars. It was quite a common sight to see a couple or a family taking to the roads for a trip to the coast or into the countryside for a day out. A family would have Dad driving, suitably equipped with a pair of goggles and leather gloves, with mother sitting behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist whilst the face of excited child peered out from the window of the sidecar.
In November 1956 the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that time, Harold Macmillan, introduced to the country Premium Bonds which were scheduled to go on sale on June 1st 1957. This was Government-backed investment scheme whereby for £1 you could buy a Premium Bond which bore a personal unique number and was entered into a monthly draw with a top prize of £1,000 and prizes of a smaller value down to £10 if your numbered bond was drawn. The maximum number of bonds anyone could have was £250. The scheme took off far exceeding the government’s expectations (on the first day of an issue there was £5m worth of bonds sold) and, as I write this 60 years later in 2018, is still going strong.
The big differences now are that the maximum holding anyone can have has increased to £50,000. The lowest prize is now £25 and the jackpot is £1m. Every month there are two draws which give the chance for two lucky people to win the jackpot prize of £1 million each!
The beauty of Premium Bonds is that although they don’t accrue any interest on your investment they are always redeemable at face value at any time so you always get your original stake money back albeit it won’t be worth as much due to inflation. I have won a few smaller prizes over the years but am still awaiting the ‘Big’ one!
The year 1956 also produced some unforgettable sporting events. In the world of cricket Yorkshire’s brilliant batsmen Len Hutton was awarded a Knighthood and fellow Yorkshireman, spin bowler Jim Laker, made history when in a Test match against the Australians at Old Trafford he took a total of 19 wickets. He took 9 for 90 in their first innings and 10 for 53 in the second (becoming the first man to take all 10 wickets in a Test Match). I remember the sheer excitement as, along with some friends, watching this outstanding performance on the old black and white television screen as the wickets tumbled.
Sadly not all sporting events end in triumph and this was very evident when in the same year, at the Grand National, the Queen Mother’s horse Devon Loch who had jumped all the fences without any sign of trouble suddenly collapsed as it neared the winning post allowing another horse, E.S.B, to emerge as the winner. The reason for the fall was never really discovered.
-- End of Part Thirty-Three -- —