Eighinger: A bus driver named Paul, a good friend named Marianne and a dog named Bernadette

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My love affair with music dates to the late summer/early fall of 1966. That means I am currently celebrating my 55th anniversary of appreciating the finer points of what it has meant to have enjoyed the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel and hundreds of other groups and individual artists for more than half a century.

I recently saw that anniversary No. 55 represents the emerald anniversary. That has a nice ring to it, and I’m overjoyed I’ve lasted long enough to still be able to regularly relive that incredible era of music — and write a column about it.

When I think back to early autumn in ’66, what immediately comes to mind is music by Paul Revere and the Raiders, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Four Tops and many others. I was just starting seventh grade, and each morning while riding the school bus to junior high our driver, an older gentleman named Paul, would turn up the local AM radio station playing “the hits.” I heard quite a bit of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Four Tops during those early morning rides, not to mention the return trips in the afternoons.

At times, I remember the music on the school bus was incredibly loud. Either Paul was borderline deaf or he didn’t want to have to deal with about 40 smart-aleck junior high kids, so he simply muffled their non-stop chatter with some extra-loud Aretha Franklin, Temptations and Tommy James and the Shondells. At home, my transistor radio was on almost non-stop in the evenings.

I especially enjoyed Fridays, because that was when the new music survey was counted down. What would be No. 1? Where would my favorite song be that week? Such things were extremely important to a soon-to-be 13-year-old. One of my best friends at that time was a girl named Marianne. We became pals after sitting beside one another in a seventh-grade study hall. We used to spend hours on the phone talking about what songs we liked and what songs we didn’t. How good of a friend was Marianne, you ask? When I had to miss a Friday countdown for some reason, Marianne would listen to the radio, copy down the entire survey and give it to me the following Monday morning. That was a true friend. (Fifty-five years later, Marianne and I are still friends on Facebook, even though we live 600 miles apart.)

I was curious to see if I could find what the top songs were 55 years ago today. Thanks to the Billboard magazine website that wish was granted. These were top songs on this day in 1966:

1. “Cherish,” Association.

2. “You Can’t Hurry Love,” Diana Ross and the Supremes.

3. “Sunshine Superman,” Donovan.

4. “Yellow Submarine,” Beatles.

5. “Bus Stop,” Hollies.

6. “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” Temptations.

7. “Black Is Black,” Los Bravos.

8. “96 Tears,” Question Mark and the Mysterions.

9. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” Beach Boys.

10. “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” Four Tops.

Speaking of the Four Tops, the Motown group had a hit called “Bernadette” later in my seventh-grade school year. About that time, I got my first dog and named it “Bernadette.” My runner-up choice was “Penny Lane,” a song at the time by the Beatles. My next musical milestone anniversary is No. 60. That comes in 2026 and I simply hope I’m still here to write another column reminiscing about that great, great period of music. 

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