If you’re interested in D.C. music before the era of go-go and hardcore, you need to tune into Sunday’s edition of Hometown Special on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country.
Show host Jay Bruder—a human encyclopedia of D.C. music history—will spin nothing but pre-1970 D.C. music for two hours starting at 7 p.m. The show is also a celebration of sorts: It kicks off Bruder’s third year on Bluegrass Country’s airwaves. “I always dedicate the anniversary show to Washington-area artists,” Bruder writes in an email. Accordingly, he plans to crisscross the region Sunday night, focusing on local music of all genres recorded in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
Here’s a sampling of the songs Bruder plans to play this weekend:
Terry and the Pirates, “What Did He Say”
“This is one of the hottest rock and roll records ever cut in Washington,” Bruder says. “It features a kicking back beat, honking sax and a screaming guitar break. The suburban Maryland band from the late 1950s was a prototype for hundreds of local garage bands that followed in their footsteps.”
The Rainbows, “Mary Lee”
Recorded for the Harlem-based label Red Robin in late 1954, “Mary Lee” by The Rainbows was “one of those records that never charted at the time of release, but in the ensuing decades has become a standard among vocal-group fans,” Bruder says. He adds that the song was meant to taunt a member of the ensemble, whose girlfriend was named Marion Lee. Over the decades, The Rainbows drew in a number of talented locals, including Don Covay and John Berry—but rumors that Marvin Gaye sang with them don’t hold water.
Sunday, Bruder also pledges to feature some rarely heard a capella gospel by The Silvertones, a group that recorded for Lloyd’s Novelty and Curio Shop on Massachusetts Avenue NW during the 1940s. (Bruder’s website, dcrecords.org, has more background on the record-cutting variety store.) Don’t look to the Internet to find Silvertones recordings: As Bruder says, “You’ll need to tune in to hear this one, because it is not on YouTube.”
Hometown Special airs Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, 105.5 FM. Image by Flickr user Martin Thomas used under a Creative Commons license.