The Day Charlie Brown Was Banned

(Gibson) On this day in 1959, The BBC banned "Charlie Brown" by The Coasters from their airwaves. Gibson takes a look back: On this date in 1959, the BBC struck a decisive blow in the battle against hooliganism by banning the song, "Charlie Brown," by The Coasters. With keen awareness, the Powers-That-Be saw that the song's protagonist is hailed for throwing "spitballs" and intuited that this song would send British classrooms into chaos should it ever make it onto the country's airwaves. And so, the United Kingdom was saved from that "clown," Charlie Brown. But despite the fatherly stewardship of the Beeb, The Coasters' reign of hi-jinks was hardly at an end.

The group was formed in October 1955 out of the ashes of the Los Angeles-based vocal group, The Robins (of "Smokey Joe's Café" and "Riot in Cell Block #9" fame). Atlantic Records made an offer to the songwriting duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two 22-year-olds with a full five years of hits under their belts, including "Kansas City," "Hound Dog" and "Hard Times." The duo had formed Spark Records in 1953, which prominently featured The Robins. When Atlantic bought out Spark, the label offered Leiber and Stoller the opportunity to produce their own records (and even offer them to other labels).

When Leiber and Stoller moved to Atlantic, the idea was that they would continue to record The Robins. Unfortunately, only two Robins were willing to fly to Atlantic: lead man Carl Gardner and R&B vet (and former Air Force boxing champion) Bobby Nunn. Leiber and Stoller paired them with comedy singer Billy Guy and doo-wop vocalist Leon Hughes. The group also featured a guitarist, Adoph Jacobs, who later made a name for himself as a jazz and blues player, working with Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Larry Williams, among others.

Out of the gates, The Coasters were a hit. Their spot-on comedic delivery—and deceptively tight harmonies—made them the kings of the malt-shop jukebox and high-risers on the pop and R&B charts. Beginning with the R&B hit, "Down in Mexico," the group picked up steam with steadily higher-performing singles, with the double-sided "Young Blood"/"Searchin'" reaching the Top 10 in 1957. more on this story

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