25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
When I see today’s music systems with the powerful amplifiers, CD players or DVD players and the equalizers, the stereo surround systems, etc., I am amazed at how far technology has come in line of music. Twenty five years ago in the 1950’s we used to throw a dance at a girl’s birthday party using only a small 10 by 15 inch record player and that included the speaker on the cover.
The record players used in the 1950, were Wurlitzer, Phillips or Zenith. On the cover there was the speaker, which was plugged into the player. The typical player had a lever marked 15, 33, and 45. I never saw a record that played at 15 revolutions. The 45 revolutions were small records that had one song on each side. The 33 revolutions were large records, about twelve inches in diameter and had five or six songs on each side. We used to pay two dollars for a small record and about six to eight dollars for the long play.
Now are you wondering who were the “hit” recording artists at the time? The record labels in English included such artists as Nat King Cole, Jim Reeves, Andy Williams, James Brown, Elvis Presley, Eddie Gorme, Frank Sinatra, Engelbert Humperdick, Doris Day, Herb Alpert, The Beatles, Tijuana Brass, Arena Brass, Billy Vaughn, The Brass Ring, to mention a few. The Spanish artists included Nat King Cole, La Sonora Santanera, Celia Cruz, Los Angeles Negros, Los Pasteles Verdes, Los Yonics, Los Aragon, Los Dinners, Palito Ortega, Peñaranda y su Grupo, Alberto Vasquez, Enrique Guzman, Cesar Costa, Juan Salazar, and Leo Dan. Our favorite Mexican artists on the record labels were Antoño Aguilar, Cuco Sanchez, Vicente Fernandez, Lucha Villa, Amalia Mendoza, Lola Beltran, Flor Slvestre, Pedro Infante, Lucho Gatica, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, El Piporo,and Marco Antoño Muniz. Our Caribbean favorites were Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, Lord Laro, Calypso Rose, and the Merry Men.
Now back to the famous record players. The little arm that was placed manually on the record contained two sets of needles, one for the 45 revolutions and one for the 33. You had to carefully set the arm and needle on the record or you would scratch the record. There was a certain model, probably from the 1940’s in which at the end of the arm there was the speaker. I believe this was called a megaphone or was very similar to it. The record player was powered by four to six batteries, which lasted for a month or so. There were two controls- volume and stop, but no bass, treble or any other feature. I would say that at full volume this record player could fill a room but conversation was still possible so you could converse while you danced with a girl in your arms. I guess that is why dancing and music of the 1950’s and 60’s was more romantic. Everything changed after Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
A record player valued at some 50 to 75 dollars made a good gift for the family back then. A long play record made a perfect gift for a girl’s birthday or a gift to impress a young lady. On a trip to Belize City your daughter would say: “Bring me a single of Los Aragon with a cumbia or a bolero (Spanish soul). And dad would be very excited to try to locate that single album. Oh yes, CD’s are much higher quality today, but don’t those record albums have sentimental values? Wish I had kept my collection. Some people still have a few long plays from the 1960’s and would love the Reef Radio to have them for a special weekly evening of “Melodies of Yesterday”. These romantic ballads would certainly remind some folks of their boyfriends of twenty five years ago.