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Kentucky Football History: The Charlie Bradshaw Years Part One - Setting the context of the times

When Blanton Collier was the coach, Lexington and the whole country were going through cultural and social changes that has had an effect on our lives to this day. I want to paint the picture of Lexington before and after Charlie Bradshaw became the head coach at the University of Kentucky.


One of the cultural changes was the advent of Rock n' Roll. Here's what Wikipedia says about Rock ‘n' Roll:

Rock and roll arrived at a time of considerable technological change, soon after the development of the electric guitar, amplifier and microphone, and the 45 rpm record.[18] There were also changes in the record industry, with the rise of independent labels like Atlantic, Sun and Chess servicing niche audiences and a similar rise of radio stations that played their music.[18] It was the realization that relatively affluent white teenagers were listening to this music that led to the development of what was to be defined as rock and roll as a distinct genre. - Wikipedia

One of the first hits on the radio was "Shake Rattle and Roll" by Bill Turner in February 1954. "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets in April, 1954 got the teenagers listening to Rock ‘n' Roll on the radio. That was soon to be followed in July by the first 45 rpm record release by Elvis Presley, a new face on the scene. His first release was "That's All Right" on one side and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on the flip side.

The parents, including my own, hated the Rock 'n' Roll sound. Churches would hold events burning Rock ‘n' Roll records because they were considered the work of Satan (not Saban). When Elvis went on the Ed Sullivan show, the camera was always focused above the hips. Always. The gyrations that made teenage girls scream were considered taboo.

As rock became more popular, bands who made a living off of jazz and big band sounds attempted to play Rock ‘n' Roll, but could never get the beat right. From 1954 until 1962 when Charlie Bradshaw was hired, Rock ‘n' Roll had developed different genres such as Doo Wop, and Surf Rock. R&B had been around since the 1930s, but now it was combined with Rock 'n' Roll. Country Music singers like Conway Twitty made attempts at combing country and rock.

Lexington was changing from a sleepy college town surrounded by horse farms into a small industrial center. Companies such as IBM, Square D, and Dixie Cup came into town and the Big Top Peanut Butter plant was purchased by General Mills and re-branded from Big Top into Jiff. Ashland Oil and Jerrico, Inc. (parent of Jerry's Restaurant and Long John Silvers) were also headquartered in Lexington.

Grand Central Station on Main St. was torn down and the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek was covered over by Water Street and eventually became part of Vine St.. The Ben Ali Theater, Kentucky Theater and the Strand Theater still lined Main St. and the Golden Horseshoe was still considered to be THE place to eat to show you were wealthy and sophisticated. The First National Bank and the Security Trust Company were the two largest banks, but by 1963 they had merged to become First Security. Garvis Kincaid bought the Lafayette Hotel building and turned it into the Kentucky Central Life Insurance headquarters. Favorite dining spots were The Little Inn and Levas's.

Bryan Station High School was built in 1958 and Scotty Baesler was the first Bryan Station basketball player to play for Adolph Rupp. Tates Creek High School was built in 1965. Roy Walton was the coach at Lafayette High School but was fired in 1962 for tackling a Danville High School player who had intercepted a Lafayette pass and was headed for a sure touchdown. Walton had to serve as an assistant coach at Bryan Station before taking over as head coach at Tates Creek. He coached 26 years at Tates Creek. The coaching legend died in 2010.

The Lexington high schools had social clubs which resembled fraternities and sororities. All had spring formals. Some even had Christmas formals. The social scene at the high school level was much like UK's. Many a fraternity pledge at UK and the local high social clubs were required to paint General John Hunt Morgan's horse's testicles red as part of initiation. The statue is in front of the old Lexington courthouse.

Dancing was a favorite pastime. Places such as Joyland Amusement Park on Paris Pike and Danceland on Old Frankfort Pike were primary spots for the high school crowd because they didn't check IDs. Many of the high school kids went to fraternity and sorority parties during rush. I was recruited by four different fraternities during my junior and senior years at Henry Clay simply because the college girls liked to dance and I was a willing partner.

Garage bands also sprang up during this period. All the kids in Lexington listened to 790-WAKY radio in Louisville and the Louisville garage bands were Lexington favorites, especially the Tren-Dells, not to be confused with Lexington's Trendells led by Charlie Shuck. Their original song, "Nite Owl" was very, very popular. You can still hear it on YouTube. This was the song you wanted blasting from your radio in your '55 Chevy 2-door Post sedan (see the picture above) with the 283 or 327 engine rumbling as you cruised Jerry's and the Parkette in 1962. Everyone went to the Richmond Drag Strip for drag racing on Saturdays and Sundays.

During this period of time racial integration took place in Lexington. Before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, Lexington was segregated. The black community had their own retail areas, their own schools, pretty much a mirror of the white community. Black people were allowed in the third floor balcony at the Ben Ali Theatre.

Lexington was just as racist as anywhere in Mississippi and Alabama. The kids never took notice. I was raised by a black nanny/maid and I always considered her as a part of the family. She cooked the absolute best fried chicken I've ever put in my mouth and her fried apple turnovers were to die for. My friends and I, however, were ignorant of the racial discord. All we cared about was where the parties were going to be on the weekends.

When Paul Bryant came to Kentucky, he and Adolph Rupp had many players who had come home from World War II. Those kids were tough and nothing that Rupp or Bryant could do to them seemed to bother them. They were survivors of a long, difficult war. You've probably read about Bryant's first team and UK's Fall camp at Millersburg Military Institute. The Junction Boys at Texas A&M had nothing on the kids who went to that first camp at MMI.

Charlie Bradshaw was a protégé of Bryant's and he brought the same tactics to Kentucky that Bryant had. There was a difference, though. Society and culture had changed; Bryant had also changed at Alabama after he had been there a few years. Bradshaw hadn't changed. He played football under Bryant at Kentucky and was an assistant at Kentucky under Blanton Collier and an assistant under Bryant at Alabama. His first season was notable for cruel and unusual treatment of his players. I'll cover that in Part two.