Music of the Fifties

Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock

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Music of the Fifties

Those of us who grew up with the music of the fifties know what an important part this music played in the music industry. It was the beginning of Rock n Roll in a conservative time. When Elvis Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show he was only shown from the waist up, he wiggled his hips too much for television. That's a bit hard to imagine now. Songs like the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Suzie" was banned in many cities, another implausability in this day and age.

As kids or teenagers we were just concerned with wearing "A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation" or "Tan Shoes With Pink Shoe Laces" as we did "The Hop" or "The Mashed Potato". We weren't at all worried about provocative lyrics or gyrating hips, unless of course they were our own!

A few other dance and clothing songs:

  • The Pony
  • The Stroll
  • The Tennessee Waltz
  • The Locomotion
  • Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
  • Blue Suede Shoes
  • Chantilly Lace
  • Bobby Sox to Stockings

The Five Satins - In The Still of The Night

Doo Wop

You must've heard the term "Doo Wop". Rock 'n Roll or Rhythm and Blues music with harmony vocalizing. Oh, let's not forget the terms like "doo wop" or other nonsense syllables that made up the lyrics. The Doo Wop of the fifties included harmonies of falsetto voices, bass, tenor baritone bass, a true harmony of sounds, vocal harmony.

Most of the Doo Wop songs were about innocent love. You may not remember the Capris but I'll bet you remember "There's a Moon Out Tonight". How about the Drifters, did you know Ben E. King was originally with the Drifters? They sang songs like, "Magic Moment' and "Lucille".

Of course not everything stays true, "Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes was a double-entendre song, I will leave the rest up to you. This song used a bass singer as the lead which was not conventional at the time. "Sixty Minute Man" was featured in the movies "Bill Durham" and "Shag".

Back to Doo Wop. "Get A Job" by the Silhouettes was the perfect Doo Wop song. The "shana na na na shana na na na na, ba doom" chorus fit right in the Doo Wop genre. It reached number one in 1958 and was performed on The Dick Clark Show several times. The theme of this song is endless, looking for a job while your wife is naggin' you.

I bet you've got some Doo Wop rolling around in your head right now. Who could forget "Sh Boom" by the Chords or "When You Dance" by The Turbans, that's Doo Wop! Now that you're thinking about Doo Wop, let's move on to some other great fifties music.

Girls Names Songs - Just a few

  • Donna - Richie Valens
  • Take a Message to Mary - Everly Brothers
  • Peggy Sue - Buddy Holly
  • Lorraine - The Preludes
  • Linda - The Four Gents
  • Gloria - Steve Colt and the Four Knights
  • Valerie - Jackie and the Starlights
  • Wake Up Little Suzie - Everly Brothers
  • Suzie Q - Dale Hawkins
  • Ruby - Richard Hayman and His Orchestra
  • Mary Lou - Ronnie Hawkins
  • Good Golly Miss Molly - Little Richard
  • Nola - The Morgan Band
  • Corinna, Corinna - Big Joe Turner
  • Midnite Mary - Joey Powers
  • What Will My Mary Say - Johnny Mathis
  • Hello Marylou - Ricky Nelson

And much, much more!


Fifties Songs With Girls Names

There's certainly no lack of girls names in fifties songs. When you look at the list it would seem every artist had at least one song with a girl's name in it. I guess if you're going to be romantic and/or personal what better way than to sing a song to your girl?

Paul Anka wrote and sang "Diana", but though it is a romantic song he didn't write it out of love for Diana. It was just a girl he knew but I guess he liked the name. The song made it to number one on the US Billboard, US Billboard R&B Singles, Canadian Singles Chart, UK Singles Chart, Australia Singles Chart, and has sold over 9 million copies! Not a bad deal for a song written about a girl he met at church! I've mentioned in the past that Roy Orbison actually wrote the song "Claudette". He wrote it for his first wife but it was made popular by the Everly Brothers.

"Long Tall Sally" was written from an idea by a little girl. She had penned a few lines, thinking that was enough for a song. Little Richard liked the lines she wrote and added to it to make the song we know today. He must have liked singing songs with girl's names, he did "Lucille", "Good Golly Miss Molly", "Tutti Frutti", and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy". Of course he has many other songs to his credit and isn't just a star of the fifties, but he fits in here very nicely.

Some of these 'name' songs were Doo Wop too! Songs like "Mary Lee" by the Rainbows (lots of doo wop in this one) and "Deserie" by the Charts a true, classic Doo Wop. There is certainly no lack of songs with girl's names in the fifties. The more you dig, the more you find. I searched fifties sites, girl's name songs, and Wikipedia and knew if I kept it up this section would be too long to print.

The Poni Tails - Born Too Late

One Hit Wonders of the Fifties

Every decade has one hit wonders. Songs that are so popular but the artist only has that one hit and then disappears. "Since I Met You Baby" recorded in 1956 is the only hit for Ivory Joe Hunter. The song itself remains popular and was re-recorded by Sonny James in 1969. Another of similar fate was "MaryAnne" by Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders. The song was later recorded by Harry Belafonte and became a well known song and big hit for Harry Belafonte.

One that might be more familiar to you is "Mr. Lee" sung by the Bobbettes. "Mmmmmmmm, mmmmmmmm, Little bitty pretty one, come and talk to me, Lovey, Dovey, Lovely one, Come sit down on my knee, he, he......" Remember that one? "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Thurston Harris? Bet you didn't remember the name Thurston Harris though. Did you know he was once part of The Lamplighters? After his unsuccessful career he got a job as a bus driver subsequently driving a tour bus for Universal Studios.

I know you've heard "At the Hop" by Danny and the Juniors but did you hear the original version by Nick Todd? It sounds about the same but Danny and the Juniors version took off and made the really big hit. By the way, Nick Todd was Pat Boone's younger brother...just a little extra trivia. Ronald and Ruby met the same fate with their song "Lollipop", the Chordettes made it a BIG hit!

The Monotones were an all male group from New Jersey. Their one hit wonder? "Who Wrote the Book of Love". Jody Reynolds wrote and sang "Endless Sleep". Hank Williams later had a big hit with it. Speaking of Hank Williams, lets move over to cross-over songs of the fifties.

Patsy Cline

Cross Over Hits

A "cross over hit" is one that was first a hit in another genre or one that is a hit in more than one genre. In the fifties we see lots of cross over songs, some from rhythm and blues, others from country music. The fifties music was the music that brought about so much change in music, so why not cross over hits? Lets not forget there was also a "cross music type", that would be Rockabilly. Rockabilly is a combination of country, rhythm and blues with a hint of rock thrown in.

I think you might be surprised by some of the names in Rockabilly. According to thepeoplehistory.com, some of those names include; Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison to name a few.

Back to the cross over hits. Johnny Cash is probably the biggest name in cross over hits. His Country Western Songs made it as country western, rockabilly and yes, rock 'n roll. Songs like "Folsom Prison", "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line" are perfect examples. Others like Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and George Jones.

Conclusion

I hope you've enjoyed this little look at music of the fifties. There's so much more; girl groups, teenage stars, boy groups, duos ... it was a decade full of surprises and talent. We've looked at a few things here and I hope they've brought back memories for those of you who were around then, and for those who were not, maybe this has piqued your interest to learn more. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about this journey to the fifties.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

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Comments 53 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I was twelve when the 50's came to an end, and not that interested in popular music. I knew Elvis of course, but the rest of the artists did not hit my radar screen for another ten years or so, when I developed an appreciation for the beginnings of rock n roll. Great list, Mary!


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

Loved it...What a fabulous job...Brought back a memory or two. all those girls name I never realized how many....Voting up, sharing and pinning...


xstatic profile image

xstatic 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Absolutely outstanding! You combined your love and knowledge of the music with some excellent research and came up with a great piece of work. "There's A Moon Out Tonight" is one of my all time favorites, along with Earth Angel by the Penguins, covered by a white group called the Crewcuts. You really hit the highlights here Mary. I think I'll go lsiten to some doo wop!


Laurinzo Scott profile image

Laurinzo Scott 3 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

This is a wonderful tribute tillsontitan... when music didn't have to be totally vulgar to appeal to anyone... Nice


wetnosedogs profile image

wetnosedogs 3 years ago from Alabama

It is no wonder I prefer to listen to the old songs. They are all fantastic singers.

My brother loved Elvis Presley. So I grew up with Elvis. Elvis. Elvis. Elvis. It's all I heard. But at that time, I wasn't about to let my brother know I liked Elvis too.


bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

A great Hub Mary. A little before my time, born in 1959, but I do have a great appreciation for the music of the 50's. My wife absolutely loves Elvis and I love the music of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash. It was a great decade for music. Great job. Voting up, sharing, etc....


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Being about the same age Bill (I was 12 in 59) I understand what you mean, its now that we appreciate that music so much. Glad you enjoyed.

Carol, it isn't until later that we realize...there were some great songs. Thanks for votes and all the sharing.

Xstatic, thank you. It was a joy to research these songs and the past. My husband loves Earth Angel too. Enjoy your doo wop!

Laurinzo you are so right and the best part is this music lives on.

WND, I was a big Elvis fan, my brother was older so I heard a lot of this music through him.

Thanks BD, it was a great decade for music and I think that's why so many 'younger' folk are familiar with it!


xstatic profile image

xstatic 3 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Speaking of "vulgar," I recall one called "Work With Me Annie" in the early 50s. I wasn't quite old enough to understand, but then I was told.


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

Awesome list Mary and even though I was born in the 70's I love when you talk about the music of the 50s and 60s, because I grew up with so much of this music, who my parents loved and still listened to. Many great memories as a kid by the way, so thanks for sharing!!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

My name made the list! That's exciting. Who doesn't love Elvis? The first time I saw Elvis on TV is was a full shot, none of that "waist up only" silliness. Rocking hub Tills!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Well, Xstatic, think about the words to "Sixty Minute Man"!

Janine, I love it when I talk about the music of the 50s and 60s too ;)

SS you're on everybody's list :) Thanks, I'll try to keep on rockin.


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 3 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

"he wiggled his hips too much for television", yep that is kinda hard to imagine nowadays lol. I grew up with Elvis and I think it was Shaking Stevens ... or something like that. Anyway, my dad was a fan and I liked it too. Through his strong interest, I got to see many of the movies too. Fond memories :-).

Shared, pinned, tweeted, up and awesome.


hawaiianodysseus profile image

hawaiianodysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

An A+ Shout Out for Baby Boomers, Mary!

I remember some of these songs, but what I found really interesting about your hub are the "behind the scenes" tidbits that you painstakingly researched. Thanks for the beautiful memories, Mary!


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Ah memories. I was a late bloomer. My college had a real popular radio station which played the 50's. Thank you for this.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK

Mary, great job. I used to listen to a lot of 50s (and 60s) music growing up and I loved it, the rock and roll and the more orchestral laid back stuff as well. The 50s was like a threshold for music really, it was all change with young people branching out more with creating music - a magical time.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 3 years ago from Escondido, CA

Thank you for sharing these. Though a lad, those song are closer to heart and remembered with spontaneous recovery. I remember the 78's as much as the LP's. And, those 45's. I remember mom dancing while waiting for dad to get home.

As I grew older my sister and I would sneak out those round things when dad and mom played pinnacle elsewhere. What fun we did have imitating those weaving knees and bouncing bunny hops.

The research is amazing and well shared

tim


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

It seems Brett, many here in Hubville have fond memories of that time. Elvis was a BIG part of it for sure. Thanks so much for all the sharing!

HawaiiO so glad you appreciated this. It was work but fun too! You are most welcome for the memories.

MH, everyone knew the fifties songs. You're welcome.

Jools, some of the music from that time was beautiful. It had real 'soul'.

Tim yes the 78s and 45s were the sign of the times back then. Glad your Mom & Dad kept you hopping!


KT Banks profile image

KT Banks 3 years ago from Texas

Oh this is a fun read. I've always thought the 50's looked like so much fun. Maybe because I grew up watching "Happy Days" and old Elvis movies. I even remember some old black and white movies with, Frankie and Annette. And then of course, "Back to the Future." I know I'm naming movies, but it seems like when anyone talks about the 50's - it's all about the music.

It is funny to realize that some of the lyrics I memorized and sang along to when I was little, were filled with implications that I had no idea of at the time.

Thank you, tillsontitan, for sharing this with us. Great job!


byshea profile image

byshea 3 years ago

Though I was born in the early 60's, I love the music of the 50's. I remember as a kid in school I couldn't wait for "50's day" with a dance after school. My Mom would comb and grease my hair into a duck tail and taught me how to do the twist, jitterbug and all those other dances from back then. I had a line of girls waiting to dance with me.

I loved Happy Days when it first came out, though watching it now is a little difficult, and to this day American Graffiti is still my most favorite movie because of the constant backdrop of music. Sometimes I think I was born a little too late..... Great lens again!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Those shows did bring the 50s to a new generation KT because they had the music in them. Of course "Back to the Future" is in there too. Thank you for the compliment.

Byshea, girls lining up, interesting ;) Some called that hair cut a duck tail but the real name was a duck's a**, that's showing my age :) So glad you stopped by and enjoyed!


wabash annie profile image

wabash annie 3 years ago from Colorado Front Range

Your hub was really a trip down memory lane for me. I was a teen in the 1950s and when I first heard Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock, it was such an experience. Then, "Hound Dog" by Elvis had an even greater musical rhythm and beat. You named many singers and songs that I enjoyed! Another one of numerous favorites was Guy Mitchell's "My Heart Cries for You". Thanks so much!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

You are welcome so much Annie. I so appreciate your taking the time out to read my hub. I'm also glad you enjoyed it.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

OK I have done considerable amount of research and am convinced that Mary, our very own tillsontitan, is actually from the future. She comes from the age when 'Time Tunnel' has been invented. She is using this device to travel back in the past, attending those real life musical events, and reporting them back to us in a vivid manner. Read her hubs carefully. You will notice it.

Although I like her hubs for they are very informative and lively and I also vote them up, but if you ask me, it is cheating.

Mary should go back to the future and wait for us to catch up with her or something. She has no business travelling back in time and reporting music of the decades in such a lively and addicting fashion. She must understand that a teeny weeny interference in time continuum from her could have disastrous impact on our lives.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Suhail you have found out my secret! I have a time machine modeled after Orson Wells' time machine and I use it now and then to return to what was....seriously, thank you so much for the amusing, original, and very complimentary compliment. It certainly does my heart good to think that my hubs are that interesting! Thank you again for reading, commenting and enjoying my efforts.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Good music is good music and shall always last the test of time - and obviously by a lot of music on this page they surely don't make music like this anymore and people too.

Sending you most sincerely a Happy Valentine's Day from Colin and his cats - lake erie time canada 9:17am


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

A Happy Valentine's Day to you too Colin. Hope you and your cats, have a wonderful day!

You are right, good music will stand the test of time, just as this music has and will.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 3 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

" What will my Mary say...?"

Who cares...it will be wonderful, as always!

Love this music of the 50 s as it was all through the house in the 1960 s for me... And love "In the Still of the Night" probably best of all, that 45 was skipping from re-play.

Voted UP and UABI. Happy Valentine's Day! Hugs, Maria


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

I always love your comments Maria. You make them so personal as well as relevant. We used to harmonize to "In the Still of the Night" all over the place! Thanks for the votes and hope your Valentine's Day was super.


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

I enjoyed reading this highly entertaining hub. I had no idea about music scenario in the west during the 50s. In the early 50s, my country had just entered in radio transmission, and artists began to record their voice for the first time.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Thank you for sharing that Vinaya. We are so wrapped up in our world, we forget things are different in other places.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

A wonderful hub my friend and I vote up,across and share. Enjoy your day.

Eddy.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

I am always so glad to see you here and appreciate your votes and share. Hope you enjoy your day as well.


Suzie HQ profile image

Suzie HQ 3 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

Hi Mary,

What a great compilation of research you have done on a great music era. I was a child born in the 60's and have often wished I had been a teenager then as the 50's and 60's are my favorite music decades. Oh I would have loved to see "Elvis the pelvis" live!! How cool you included Suzie Q (my dads pet name for me) and Wake up little Suzie! Awesome work, Voted up, useful, interesting, shared!!!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

It was a great time and a lot of fun Suzie, or should I say Suzie Q? The music, the artists, the songs...but each decade has their own brand to speak of. I think the difference is the music of the fifties is truly legend and some others might not be. Thanks so much for the votes and share!


Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

While I was not born in the fifties, my parents always listened to this music so this was a fun hub and took me down memory lane. Nice layout and love the list of hubs with girls names.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Glimmer. Always nice to visit memory lane. So glad you liked my layout and list of girls' names' songs.


Suhail and my dog profile image

Suhail and my dog 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

Mary,

I hope you remember that you had promised writing a hub on 80s music (after I wrote that 80s was my decade). Have you posted one? I was curious. I couldn't find it on your intro page.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Not yet...have to get it approved in the apprentice program or wait till May...I have't forgotten you!


Made profile image

Made 3 years ago from Finland

I grew up with some of the music from the 50's and 60's even if I'm born 30 years later. My mother always put on an Elvis LP when she was hoovering, lol!

In the music videos today they hardly wear any clothes, and Elvis couldn't even show his hips to people! It's a huge difference between 50's music and music today. This hub was very interesting. Voting up!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Elvis was my favorite too Made. Music and how its presented has certainly changed. As you can tell, I'm still fond of the 50's and 60's too! Thanks for reading and voting, its always good to have you here.


Joanne M Olivieri 3 years ago

I was a young one during the fifties but I have such great memories. My cousin and I loved the Everly brothers and their songs. Whatever happened with them? Most of the songs you mentioned were favorites. Of course Elvis, well he was just one of a kind. Thanks for the memories.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

I think Phil Everly is dead. Don is 76. Glad you enjoyed Joanne, it is music that I love.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

As an a capella choirist, I have to say I love do wop.....the harmony is rich, though quite thick and not for all. Thanks for sharing this, and not to mention that you've mention a favorite...Elvis! He always rocks!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

I think the a capella harmony is what makes doo wop so great Michelle. Of course Elvis rocks...in his early days he was the best!


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 3 years ago from Sunny Florida

Wow, memories have come flooding back. I remember many of the songs and artist you mentioned. They don't make music they way they used to.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment KoffeeKlatchGals, it was a fun time for music.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

Mary,

Thanks for this awesome hub and trip down memory lane. I remember listening to my first rock and roll in either late 1955 or early 1956. How I loved Elvis Presley and his first blues songs like "Love me." Back then there was a competition between Pat Boone, the clean-cut conservative guy and Elvis. I also remember tuning into a Bandstand type program out of Chicago hosted by ?"Jim Lounsberry?" Kids used to dance and I remember when they were dancing to a tune by Fats Domino, "I'm Walking", a comment was made that the boy was dancing like he had a hotplate tied to his rear! Voted up and sharing . Also Pinning and Tweeting.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Yes, Paul, it was a time that will never be rivaled, the birth of rock and roll. I am a huge Elvis fan but admit I liked Pat Boone's songs too, even though, as you say, they were on entirely different ends of the spectrum.

Thanks so very much for the votes and shares they are truly appreciated.


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

tillsontitan,

I may not have been alive during the 50's but my parents dragged the music into my life, I grew up on records and 8-tracks. You named so many awesome songs... I loved this era. I love the boppy feeling, I loved the dreamy love songs; music will never be the same. I can't sing my way out of a paperbag, but once at a banquet and a few drinks in my system... I found myself belting out some Patsy Cline in dedication to my father, who was present... and happens to love him some Patsy. Needless to say, I'm NO Patsy, but who doesn't love her?

Awesome hub!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

Well Cantohearmescream you may not be Patsy Cline and you may have had a few drinks but anyone who can sing Patsy Cline, drunk or sober, deserves a standing ovation (hands clapping). It was certainly great music with feeling and stories and will never be replaced so we keep listening to it.


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

tillsontitan,

Aw, thanks... I think I'm going to print out your comment to convince the bleeding ears that they could've been a little less harsh on me :-)

You're right, that music was something else, all of it... I always say, they don't make music like they used to! Thanks again!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Oh definitely yes, Mary, these songs were the backdrop for so many of us growing up. We had only the radio to listen to popular music back then except for great shows, like Ed Sullivan, which featured the new and upcoming groups. As kids, we weren't allowed to watch the episode with Elvis. I remember calling in to the radio station to vote on my favorite Pat Boone songs of the era. We lived in Manhattan in the late 50s and he attended our church.

Later on, we had music shows like American Band Stand and others which allowed us to see the latest dance craze and hear our favorite tunes. You really got me rocking with your recap of these classics. And I learned something new too, about Nick Todd. Wow.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York Author

How interesting Peg, I was in Queens in the 50s...small world. Did you see Pat Boone? He was such a clean cut guy with a smooth voice.

You've captured that decade very well...radio, Ed Sullivan, and American Bandstand...no ipod, DVD, music video...and we not only survived but cherished the time!

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