My song today is ‘A White Sports Coat’. This is a song with words and music that was written by Marty Robbins in 1957. It was recorded on January 25, 1957, and released on the ‘Columbia Records’ label, over a month later, on March 4.
Robbins recalled writing the song in approximately twenty minutes while being transported in a standard automobile. He is said to have had the inspiration for the song while driving from a motel to a venue in Ohio where he was due to perform that evening. During the course of the journey, he passed a local high school, where its students were dressed ready for their prom.
The song reached Number 1 on the ‘U.S. Country Chart’ becoming Marty Robbins' third Number 1 record. The song reached Number 2 on the ‘Billboard Pop Chart’ in the U.S. and Number 1 in the Australian music charts in 1957.
A version by Johnny Desmond received some play also, peaking at Number 62 on the U.S. pop charts. In the UK the song was a notable hit for the English Rock' n 'Roll singer Terry Dene, which reached Number 18 in the UK Charts. A recording by The King Brothers’ peaked at Number 6. Both of these versions hit the charts in early summer 1957.
I was 15 years old when this song first came out and was part of the Rock & Roll scene then. There were only two groups of males on the British scene at the time. Any male was either a Mod or a Rocker. I was a Rocker and we became colloquially known as Teddy Boys. We wore long hair and grew sideburns and the Mods had short hair. We drove around on motorbikes and sang Elvis songs the Mods drove around on Lambretta Scooters humming Cliff Richard songs.
When it came to fashion neither a Teddy Boy or a Mod would be seen dead in ‘a white sport’s coat and a pink carnation’. While the Mods looked like they were little models of their clean-cut fathers with their short-back-and-sides haircuts, the Teddy boys strutted their stuff as they walked about in their Edwardian draped long coats and drainpipe trousers and Rockabilly Brothel-Creepers footwear, with a comb in one hand and swinging a bicycle chain from his other knuckle-duster adorned hand.
The only place anyone in Great Britain might have seen a white sport’s coat with a pink carnation in its top pocket being worn by a male would have been in some back-street night-club down in Brighton. The only place in Brighton where the Mods and Rockers assembled in their thousands every summer was on the front, where these 1960 gladiators fought for blood and glory on the sands of Brighton Beach.
At the end of another glorious victory on the sands, the Teddy Boy gladiators would mount their motorbikes and after placing their Judies on the back seat to caress them tightly all the way back home, the girlfriends of the Mods would spend the next half hour watching their boyfriend attempt to turn his ignition key to get their machine started. It was little wonder that their Lambretta contraptions never had kick-starts like the motorcyclist counterparts had, as the Mods would never have had enough energy to kick-start their machines. They struggled to find the energy required to even 'turn the ignition key'.
By the time the Mods had left the Brighton boundary on their scooters, we’d usually have arrived back home, eaten, washed, changed and gone out again for the evening. By the time the Mods got to the local dance hall, we would have been drinking, dancing and wenching for a few hours, as the Lambrettas of the Mods spluttered, spat and crawled their way back into West Yorkshire from Brighton.
Those were the days. I did wear a white sports coat in my sixtieth year of life, but never with a pink carnation in its buttonhole; not even on my wedding day to my wife, Sheila on my 70th birthday.
Love and peace Bill xxx