What The Deuce Is "Tales From The Haunted Jukebox"?

To put it simply: this blog is devoted to developing a pseudo-historical, musical horror fantasy version of 1950s American youth culture as a setting for horror role-playing games.  I focus on "OSR" & "retroclone" versions of the world's original RPG, but try to write as many system-neutral posts as possible.  Unless noted otherwise, I default to James E. Raggi IV's excellent rules-set, Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying.

American youth culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s was invaded simultaneously by two massive "crazes": rock & roll/doo wop music; and monster movies.  When the Universal horror picture Frankenstein was first syndicated on American television in 1957, it set off a youth "Monster Craze" that lasted (by most estimations) until 1972.  America was nuts about monsters, especially the classics from Universal Pictures' archive of the previous two decades.  Huge numbers of adolescent and teenaged "Monster Kids" collected toys, models, posters, comic books, and any other memorabilia they could get their mitts on that featured Count Dracula, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, The Mummy, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon, to name just a few.

By 1964, monster fever had gone mainstream by invading both primetime and daytime television (The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Dark Shadows retain fiercely dedicated fan bases to this day), and becoming a staple of teenage pastime at the drive-in theater.

It wasn't long before the Monster Craze merged with rock-n-roll music to start birthing a steady stream of monster songs ("The Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & The Cryptkickers being perhaps the most famous example).  Today, we think of these tunes as "novelties," and can find them mostly only on "rockin' Halloween" compilations.  But at the time, there was little "novel" about them.  Several monster songs charted -- a few even reaching No. 1 -- during this period, and even big name performers like The Big Bopper and Bo Diddley got in on the action with monster tunes of their own.

Taken together, the lyrics of these monster tunes (100 of which can be heard on my Haunted Jukebox playlist, though there are many more than these) contain an implied setting, where vampires, demons, aliens, and other terrors are drawn to -- and participate in! -- rock-n-roll music, hot-rod culture, drive-in theaters, sock hops, surf parties, and other landmarks of American teen society.

Thus, it stands to reason that if such a world were real, then characters from those same teen social realms would be the ones mostly likely to encounter the creatures of the night... and to fight them.

Tales from the Haunted Jukebox, then, takes this implied setting as its inspiration.  I call this implied setting "Transylvania, USA," because it superficially resembles 1950s/early 60s America with a generous dollop of old-country superstition and horror.  In Transylvania, USA, there's always a haunted mansion or dreary old castle just outside of town, where unspeakable experiments produce rockin' and hot-roddin' creatures from our darkest nightmares.  But these forces of darkness can be opposed on their own turf, not just with crosses and holy water, but with faster, flashier cars, superior dancing skills, and the power of rock-n-roll.

The heroes of Tales from the Haunted Jukebox are ideally teenagers, kids, or young adults heavily involved in rock music, doo wop, greaser gangs, surf gangs, and/or the hot-rod circuit.  They use their skills from these areas to confront, or perhaps join, the creatures of darkness who are trying to take over and corrupt youth culture -- and America itself -- for nefarious purposes.

And maybe along the way, the heroes will develop a fan club of their very own.

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