A lot of folks didn’t know what to do with the new “rock and roll” music in the mid-1950s.
Some folks in Santa Cruz, California, thought they darn sure did know what to do about it.
On June 3, 1956, city officials decreed a complete ban on “rock-and-roll and other forms of frenzied music” at all public gatherings, and justified it because the music was “detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community.”
Seems that a couple hundred teens in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium had been swingin’ and swayin’ to the music of Chuck Higgins and His Orchestra. Santa Cruz police arrived about midnight to check things out, and Lt. Richard Overton reported the crowd was “engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.” Of course, the cops shut the gig down and sent everyone home.
What started out as a great reason to get snarky—about the older generation that just didn’t get it—quickly turned into an ugly example of completely transparent racism.
The cops and the city fathers must have been choking on their Cheerios 10 years later when Santa Cruz was a high-profile nexus of the West Coast counterculture scene. For goodness sakes, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters hung out there.
And I guess a few more all-negro bands showed up, too.
Like, drug-infused hootenanny, y’know?
I’m guessing that Lt. Overton figured out that change is hard.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.