We have occasionally taken note here of various promotional gimmicks radio stations included in relation to their music surveys. There was the station that awarded food prizes from a burger joint to listeners who could predict the order of songs on the station survey the next week, and the one that encouraged its listeners to get acquainted with the metric system.
For a decade, WGH in Newport News, Virginia, adorned its music survey each week with the headshot of a local high-school girl. For a long time, she was known as the Platter Princess, although sometime around 1970, she became the Power Pixie. Based on the WGH surveys at ARSA, the first Platter Princess was crowned sometime in 1961; the last Power Pixie appeared at the end of 1970. Not sure how the winners were selected, but I’m guessing it was quite an honor. A Google search reveals at least one princess who listed it among her accomplishments in the high-school yearbook.
On the survey dated March 22, 1964, the Platter Princess was Janie Floyd, a senior at Great Bridge High. We don’t know anything about Janie, but we can guess that she liked the Beatles, because in the Tidewater that spring, as everywhere else in the observable universe, everyone did. The Beatles held the top three spots on the survey, with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There” sharing a position; “Twist and Shout” was down at #22. The Four Seasons, Beach Boys, and Dave Clark Five were also in the Top Ten. Apart from all that were five records we find interesting 48 years on.
9. “Penetration”/Pyramids. The British Invasion finished off a number of popular styles of the early 1960s, as we’re about to see, so “Penetration” was the last surf-rock instrumental to hit it big. The Pyramids knew what side of history they were on, sometimes showing up for gigs wearing Beatle wigs, only to remove them to show shaven heads underneath. Bandleader Will Glover had another claim to fame: He was probably the only African-American in the surf-rock genre.
15. “You Don’t Own Me”/Lesley Gore. “It’s My Party,” recorded when Gore was 16, is the deceptively happy-sounding tale of a girl who lost her world when she lost her boyfriend. That girl grew up in a hurry, however: the wiser and more forthright “You Don’t Own Me” came along just a few months later.
17. “442 Glenwood Avenue”/Pixies Three. The Pixies Three were from Philadelphia and appeared on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour (think American Idol, only in black and white). Both “442 Glenwood Avenue” and its B-side, “Cold Cold Winter,” made the Hot 100. The British Invasion mostly put an end to the era of girl groups not named the Supremes, although what killed the Pixies Three was more prosaic—they graduated from high school.
24. “I’ll Remember”/Santo & Johnny. These guys were nearly five years removed from “Sleepwalk,” the only hit for which they’re remembered now, and “I’ll Remember” was their last chart single. Nevertheless, they were set to headline a show on March 26, 1964, advertised on the WGH survey for this week. Also scheduled were Gore, Gary U.S. Bonds, Johnny Tillotson, and Freddy Cannon, and the bill featured a boatload of local and regional acts as well. Tickets cost $2.50 and $2.00—and you might as well come for both the concert at 7:30 and the dance to follow at 10:00, because it’s going to cost you $2.50 or $2.00 to get in either time.
29. “Suspicion”/Terry Stafford. “Suspicion” sounds like Elvis, which might have something to do with the fact that Elvis himself had recorded the song. It’s terrific, but it was also one of the last records of its kind, because in addition to icing surf rock and girl groups, the British Invasion helped cool Elvis-mania, too—or the mania for Elvis soundalikes, at least.
In cities and towns across this great land of ours, in the Tidewater region and far away, a few former WGH Platter Princesses have tucked away their surveys, maybe inside an old high-school yearbook or in a box of memorabilia, reminders of a moment in the sun a lifetime ago. Not a bad souvenir to have.