Fifty years ago the biggest summer radio record was Farmer John, a cover of the Don and Dewey R&B hit by The Premiers, a group of pochos from East Los suburb San Gabriel. [Editor’s note: If you cannot access the NPR audio, blame NPR which is still using an outmoded, incompatible Flash-based media player.]
In the summer of 1964, Beatlemania was sweeping the United States, young men were burning their draft cards and race riots were raging in cities across the country — and wrapped up in all of it was the biggest hit of the summer in Los Angeles.
The Premiers’ “Farmer John” was a jangly party pop hit, with a simple but classic three-chord progression and main riff. Two guys shouted out the lyrics over a rowdy crowd cheering and clapping and singing along. It hung on the Billboard charts for nearly the whole summer.