To hear the words record and museum used in the same sentence doesn't seem strange. Since long-playing record albums and singles were muscled out by compact discs in the Eighties, it's the rare aficionado who owns a turntable and a copious supply of vinyl that can send him back to the past at the drop of a needle. And now that songs can be swiped right off the Internet and stored in a computer or a tiny player, record albums seem mustier, dustier, and more ancient than ever. Appropriate then that John Miller, who runs an oldies music store called the Record Museum, has done his part to keep another anachronism, the musical style known as doo-wop, alive via the South Florida Doo-Wop Society.
Developed in the Forties and honed on inner-city street corners, doo-wop blended R&B, pop, and a smidgen of gospel, and boasted simple melodies and sweet harmonies from a full range of a cappella voices. Think "Earth Angel" by the Penguins or "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. By the mid-Fifties doo-wop was the hottest thing going -- that is until the early Sixties, when the Beatles invaded our shores and blared into teenage ears.
These days doo-wop radio shows can be heard all over the nation, and dozens of organizations and oldies concerts preserve the innocent sounds. Two years ago Miller revived a club that thrived here in the Eighties but eventually fell dormant. Every other month the group, consisting of about 100 doo-wop devotees, meets for a performance and an open-mike session. (This Tuesday they welcome Tony Alexander from local group the Bowery Boys, and Phyllis Allyn, one of the few female doo-wop singers.) Miller, who grew up down here, remembers hearing very little doo-wop on the South Florida airwaves during its heyday. In fact there's probably more going on currently. Will the style ever return full force? Probably not. Nostalgia only extends so far. Says Miller: "Things don't last forever."