Randy Wood, the founder of Dot Records, just died at the ripe old age of 94. I had Dot 45 rpm 7” singles as a kid, also knew his jazz pianist son John, who recorded some nice albums in the 80s. John later promoted the “Drum Machines Have No Soul” campaign with bumper stickers, license plate frames, and what not.
In 1955 Dot records signed a young, clean-cut guy, white bucks and all, named Pat Boone. Randy Wood brought him a couple of songs by Little Richard and Fats Domino, “race” records played on r&b stations and by the great dj Alan Freed. Dot’s formula was to make tamer versions of Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti”. Pat Boone, an English major at the time, wanted to sing it as “Isn’t That a Shame”, a pathetic substitution that would have ruined the song, trading a tasty musical gumbo for Wonder Bread. And Boone’s version of “Tutti Frutti” was like hospital food to the spicy and suggestive original.
But these remakes by young white artists sold millions of records. Music was much more polarized then: there was white music, and the more dangerous, in your face music of African American r&b artists. It was only in the 60s that
The two sides started coming together. The Beatles covered Chuck Berry songs, the Stones used r&b stylings to fuel their music. Ray Charles recorded Country and Western. And Motown put out music that appealed to all Americans, even though it was more produced and smoothed-out than the more edgy and soulful Memphis sounds of the Stax and Volt labels.