march 2011

jean‘Teen Angel, Can You Hear Me?’
The First ‘Dead Girl Song’ & The Birth of a New Rock ‘n’ Roll Sub-genre

As part of the singing Dinning Sisters from the late ‘30s through 1954, JEAN DINNING experienced show business success of the highest order, selling a million copies of their single “Buttons and Bows” and racking up an unbroken string of hits for Capitol Records in the late ‘40s, and even joining their friend and labelmate Tennessee Ernie Ford on one of his early rockin’ country numbers, ‘Rock City Boogie,’ in 1951. But a song she wrote and gave to her brother Mark in 1959 earned her a permanent place in rock ‘n’ roll history as the progenitor of a treasured subculture, variously called ‘Dead Girl Songs,’ ‘Teen Coffin Songs’ and ‘Teenage Tragedy Songs.’ Regardless, the basic formula was for a teenage girl to meet some unfortunate end, usually by her own hand. Dinning’s song was ‘Teen Angel,’ and after her brother had a million selling single with it, the floodgates opened to further musical mayhem. Ms. Dinning passed away on February 22 at the age of 86. This story chronicles her productive life in song, and surveys the landmarks of the genre she unwittingly created with ‘Teen Angel.’ Ray Peterson, Jody Reynolds, Pat Boone, Dickie Lee, J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers, Jan & Dean, even the inspired parodist Jimmy Cross are all present and honored for their indelible contributions to teen tragedy. In a related story, we salute JOHNNY PRESTON, whose big 1959 hit ‘Running Bear,’ penned and produced by J.P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson shortly before he died in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, offers a Native American twist on the tried and true teen coffin song formula. Mr. Preston died on March 4 at age 71.

Ferlin Husky, ‘Make Me Live Again’ (1957)
We pay tribute to country giants FERLIN HUSKY and RALPH MOONEY.
Thanks for the memories.

meet‘He Truly Was The Boy Next Door’
Remembering songwriter HUGH MARTIN
, who wrote classics for Judy Garland, Yuletide and all time. A tribute to the composer of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,’ ‘The Trolley Song’ and ‘The Boy Next Door.’


Recent Issues

(For all back issues go to the Archive)

Video File





Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024