After the first flash of Rock N’ Roll it became apparent, at least to the older generations, that nobody, not even teenagers, would listen to or buy Rock records unless something was up. Turns out, they were about half-right, which was pretty good for that group. Long before the corporate takeover of the airways, disc-jockeys (called that because they actually played discs or vinyl records) decided what records got played on their shows. Merciless underpaid, DJs were perfect targets for bribes. But what kept them from playing one piece of garbage after another was the fact that if the teens went elsewhere (another station) the DJ would lose his job. So it was a delicate balance to keep the money following and still get ratings.
So Congress, in its infinite wisdom took time off from the budget, the economy, defense and God knows what else, to investigate payola – paying for radio airplay. Even Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand was under the microscope. Though he escaped relatively unscathed, it was revealed that Clark had a financial interest (in one form or another) on over fifty-percent of the acts that appeared on his daily show. His network, ABC, gave him an ultimatum. Either quit the show or divest his music holdings. Kids were a finicky audience, better to try to appeal to the adults. Clark dumped the music business and built a T.V. empire of games shows and New year’s Eve specials. DJ/promoter Alan Freed wasn’t so lucky. He got nailed for tax evasion and served time. It ruined his career and left him destitute.
Next up, the Kingsmen scored with their incredibly reckless version of “Louie, Louie.” This time Congress and the FBI investigated the song, convinced the sea shanty’s slurred lyrics were obscene. Oddly, there were more important matters at hand but you’d hardly know it.