Sunday, January 12, 2014

Non-Fiction in 56

Picked up this title at the Los Angeles Branch library on Gaffey in San Pedro. L.A. '56 A DEVIL IN THE CITY OF ANGELES by JOEL ENGEL. The story is about Detective Danny Galindo one suave Latino in the department. The inside cover mentions Ellroy's L.A. Confidential and Walter Mosely's Easy Rawlings which I hav  recently read. 1956 was the year I got my learners permit and started driving around in my yellow Ford coupe. My 39 didn't have any back seat or opera seats. Ellroy has the LAPD using forty Ford coupes as patrol cars and they  put the passengers in the back seat but that is in another crime noir.

At page 37 Hunter Hancock arrives via the radio station KPOP. That radio station is no longer on the air. Not quite certain how old the author Engel is and I can't find his year of birth using Google so I am not sure if he was around when Hunter was on the radio. "We're gonna be goin' strong till two o'clock this morning." I started listening to"Hunting with Hunter" when I was in junior high in Santa Monica at John Adams. Hunter was on the air in the afternoon and on Sundays he would play his top ten list. In 1954 Sh-Boom by the Chords was on the list for a long time as number one. The Chords were Negroes or colored then not black and the music was Rhythm and Blues (Race Music) not Rock and Roll. Seeing the mention of Hunter in the book activated unused neurons in me poor brain.

KPOP was in the middle of the AM dial and couldn't be on the air late at night or after sunset for that matter. AM radio signals start to skip and travel greater distances at night so many small local station were required to stop transmitting when the sun went down.

On Page 38 Hunter reads off a list of sponsors and Dolphin's of Hollywood. Then Willie Fields who is in Hollywood heads over there. "He heads south on Highland....east on Wilshire to Crenshaw, south to Olympic,  and east again the five mile or so to Central." Legendary Los Angeles R&B producer John Dolphin was one of the first and most well respected and successful black businessman and independent record label owner. His contributions to the formative years of rock & roll are often overlooked. A mini-mogul who had nearly every facet of the record business covered. A former car salesman, Dolphin first entered the music business as a retailer — sometime during the Korean War. In 1948 he opened Dolphin’s on Hollywood, a record store on Vernon Avenue that remained open 24 hours a day to cater to the late-shift workforces necessitated by the conflict overseas. Dolphin’s of Hollywood record store even featured a DJ broadcasting over local station KRKD from inside the store’s walls, beginning with Ray Robinson and most famously including Hunter Hancock and Dick “Huggy Boy” Hugg. His marketing genius would serve Dolphin well in the years to follow, through his radio show he could instruct the DJs to play the records his labels produced. (His motto: “We’ll record you today and have you a hit tonight.”)

In Santa Monica I lived at 988 Olympic Blvd and there wasn't any Santa Monica Freeway then and if I wanted to drive from Hollywood where we did drive to or to Watts where I didn't go often I would not take the crazy route given by the author in this book. Olympic does go to downtown Los Angeles but it stops at San Julian Street then starts again replacing 9th Street as East Olympic Blvd..  Taking Central south will get you to Dolphin but if use Western Ave south to Vernon then east to Central that would be the best way but gas was very cheap then at about 30 cents a gallon.

Page 65, "Fields is sitting alone...scarfing down a combo plate with a cold Colt 45." Colt 45 malt liquor is an iconic beverage. National Brewing Company introduced the drink in 1963 and since the story line in this book takes place in 1956 Fields must have been one hip dude to score this. The popular malt liquor in 1956 was Country Club and the a six pack of the short cans would set you back $1.35.

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