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August 4, 2021 9:30 am  #1

The Amazing Story You Never Knew Behind An Early Cdn. Hitmaker

It may be the only song ever recorded in 1954 that still gets played on oldies stations today. 

And it's really their only remembered hit. 

But boy, was it huge in its time and to many, it was the first rock and roll record.

It's Toronto's own Crew-Cuts, who scored a million-selling smash with "Sh-Boom," way back in the mid-50s. 

Maclean's has been issuing some classic stories from the magazine's storied past and I stumbled on this one about the now somewhat obscure quartet, who were on a rocket ride to the top at the time. It was written by a journalist who was to become famous in her own right (or should that be write?), June Callwood. 

The story details how the group started at St. Michael's School in T.O. and their slow, often painful climb to fame, and includes the fascinating revelation that the members absolutely hated their most famous hit and were forced to put it on disc at the insistence of their record company. Who knew?

And it was two radio DJs that helped them along the way - one was Barry Nesbitt, who worked at CKFH and christened them "The Canadaires." The other was influential Cleveland jock Bill Randle, who renamed them The Crew-Cuts and changed their hairstyles to reflect the image. 

But they weren't very good at the beginning.

"Some of the night clubs in Toronto and Montreal where the Canadaires were booked that summer were filled with outspoken music critics. Dozens of times the Canadaires sang above shouts of “Shuddup” and “Sit down.” Once Rudi stepped to the microphone, put his hands on his hips and cursed the fattest oath in his vocabulary. The crowd looked at him with new respect and the boys resumed their program unmolested. That week a Toronto tabloid newspaper printed the simple line: “Why don’t the Canadaires learn to sing?” "

Their booking agent, a guy named Fred Strauss, predicted they'd be around forever. And while he was wrong, he did manage to accidentally come up with a new name for their future selves that turned out to have an entirely different connotation many decades later. 

"This outfit will go on forever,” he said contentedly. “When we all get older we’ll just change the name. We’ll call ourselves the Skin-Heads.”

Overall, the small print makes for a great read about a pioneering group of guys that have faded - but thanks to one record, aren't gone - from history.

SH-BOOM! The crazy career of The Crew-Cuts