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Music of the Fifties
Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock
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
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.
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.
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.
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