A slice of Vancouver rock ’n’ roll history

Image by Flickr user Dwartwhig

Let’s go back in time to 1956. Elvis has just made his pelvis gyrating TV appearance. And Vancouver disc jockeys were just starting to play that berserk “music” known as rock ’n’ roll.

But a few Vancouverites like Brian Tarling were ahead of the curve. In 1956, 11-year-old Tarling was already searching for 45 rpm rock singles at Woodward’s, displaying an early yen for what would become the just-published, 654-page paperback Vancouver’s Charted Songs ’56 to ’78.

Tarling’s new book offers a detailed look at the top hits and the shake-up, when rock ’n’ roll made an appearance on Vancouver radio waves. More about Vancouver rock ’n’ roll history and Tarling’s book after the jump. 

Rock ’n’ roll history and Vancouver radio

While rock ’n’ roll was on a variety of radio stations by 1956, Red Robinson – a boy wonder DJ who was spinning hits on Vancouver’s CJOR while still in high school in 1954 – was the first to play the first DJ to play rock ’n’ roll music on a regular basis in Canada.

According to this recent Globe & Mail feature, local newspapers knew rock ’n’ roll was a smash hit among youth and began canvassing Vancouver disc jockeys for their top weekly picks. Robinson was the most influential DJ, becoming a local legend. Robinson’s top-10 picks were published and joined shortly thereafter by charts produced by rival stations.

More about Vancouver’s Charted Songs ’56 to ’78

Brian Tarling’s new book Vancouver’s Charted Songs ’56 to ’78 is a biblical compilation of  every song charted by Vancouver radio stations 1956 to 1978. That’s 7,700 hits by 2,400 artists including big names like the Beatles and Elvis alongside one hit wonders that only a hobbyist or a mother could love. With the level of detail available (when the tune entered the charts, peak position, how long it held the peak position etc.) it’s impossible to imagine Tarling left anything out.

The book also includes listings for 1,700 songs that charted in Vancouver but did not make Billboard’s Hot 100. Only about 5% of charted songs were Canadian before the 1971 introduction of mandatory Canadian content.

More about legendary Vancouver DJ Red Robinson

Let’s catch up with Vancouver-DJ great Red Robinson as Tarling was growing up and eventually writing his gargantuan text. In 1957, Red jumped to Vancouver Top 40 giant CKWX, where he met Buddy Holly and Elvis and was MC for Elvis’ appearance.

Since then, after holding several more radio and advertising roles, Robinson was elected into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2008, the Vancouver Music Industry presented Red with the Bruce Allen/Sam Feldman Legend Award for his support of the local music industry. Red is back on the radio on Sundays from 12pm – 4pm (Pacific) on All Time Favourites, AM650.

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