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Fabulous Fifties

Sharing my love for the first decade of rock and roll!

Bobby Darin:

Bobby Darin was a unique talent who performed in the genres of rock and roll, pop, jazz, swing, folk, and country. Not only a singer, he was an adept songwriter who wrote for Connie Francis. In addition, he was an actor and political activist who worked on Robert F. Kennedy’s Democratic presidential campaign. Darin was at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when RFK was assassinated.

Darin’s major hits were, “Splish Splash,” “Mack the Knife,” “Dream Lover,” and “Beyond the Sea.”

Darin spent most of his life in poor health and died in 1973 at the age of 37, posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Furthermore, he has a star in the Las Vegas Walk of Stars, as well as the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Darin-Mack the Knife

Ritchie Valens:

Ritchie Valens, the first Latino musician to cross over into the mainstream, was a pioneer of Chicano rock and Latin rock, inspiring numerous Latin musicians, such as Carlos Santana and Los Lobos. In addition to his heritage, Valens’ guitar skills influenced a plethora of six-stringers, including Jimi Hendrix and Chris Montez.

Valens’ major hits include, “La Bamba,” “Donna,” and “Come On Let’s Go.”

Valens was killed after a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, along with fellow artists Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, as well as pilot Roger Peterson in 1959.

Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Bill Haley and His Comets

Bill Haley and His Comets were one of the early pioneers of the new rock and roll genre of the 1950’s. The group was instrumental in combining elements of country swing, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly, and although they may not have been the first (some argue they were) to do so, their biggest hit, “Rock Around the Clock” was indeed the first rock and roll song to blow up the charts and be heard by millions of people.

The band’s other notable hits include a cover of Big Joe Turner’s, “Shake Rattle and Roll,” “See You Later Alligator,” “Crazy Man Crazy,” “Birth of the Boogie,” and “Dim Dim the Lights.”

“Rock Around the Clock” was re-released to more fanfare for the soundtrack to the movie “Blackboard Jungle.” Meanwhile the group performed on American Bandstand, as well as appeared in the movies, Rock Around the Clock and Don’t Knock the Rock.

Bill Haley himself was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Haley and His Comets-Rock Around the Clock

The Everly Brothers:

The Everly Brothers were a duo that consisted of siblings Phil and Don Everly. The group became famous for combining rock and roll, country, and pop music with acoustic guitar accompaniment, complete with sweet sounding vocal harmony.

The brothers hit the charts with a plethora of hits, including, “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” All I Have To Do IS Dream,” Bird Dog,” “Problems,” “(Till) I Kissed You,” “Let It Be Me,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “When Will I Be Loved,” and “That’s Old Fashioned (That’s The Way Love Should Be.” Brothers-Wake Up Little Susie

The Everly Brothers, known also for inspiring Paul McCartney and John Lennon, among many others, have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, as well as received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Brothers-Till I Kissed You

Carl Perkins:

Carl Perkins was a rock, country, and primarily a rockabilly artist that influenced countless musicians, notably Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton.

Perkins’ famous songs include the smash hit, “Blue Suede Shoes,” as well as, “Honey Don’t,” “Matchbox,” and “Everybody’s Trying to be My Baby.”

He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, as well as received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

Rolling Stone has listed Perkins as #99 on its list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. Perkins-Blue Suede Shoes

Jerry Lee Lewis:

Jerry Lee Lewis is widely considered rock and roll’s first wild entertainer, complete with jaw dropping on-stage antics. He is one of the genre’s pioneers and influential pianists known for his boogie-woogie style, pounding on the keys, standing up to play, and playing with his feet.

Lewis rose to fame on the strengths of hits such as “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Breathless,” and “High School Confidential.” He was also part of the famous Million Dollar Quartet recording session at Sun Studios in Memphis TN in 1956. Lee Lewis-Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Lewis’ career plunged in 1958 due to his marriage to his 13-year old cousin. That said, a cover of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” as well as his well-received live album, “Live at the Star Club, Hamburg” kept his career afloat before a transition to country music in 1968 saved it.

Lewis has won four Grammy Awards, along with Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, as well as recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Lee Lewis-Great Balls of Fire

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke was a pioneer and extremely influential in the sub-genre of soul, and is considered the “King of Soul” in many circles. His distinctive voice had a substantial effect on future artists such as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Stevie Wonder. He was also active in the Civil Rights movement with Muhammad Ali and Malcom X.

Among Cooke’s big hits include “You Send Me,” “Wonderful World,” “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “Bring it On Home to Me,” “Send Me Some Lovin’,” “Another Saturday Night,” and “A Change is Gonna Come.” Cooke-You Send Me

Cooke was shot and killed in a bizarre incident at a California hotel in 1963. The shooter, a hotel clerk, was acquitted after claiming self defense. The clerk was on the phone with the hotel owner at the time of the shooting and her story was corroborated by her boss that Cooke, intoxicated and naked, had attacked her.

The Coasters

The Coasters were an R&B vocal group that originated in the 1950’s.  While not considered a standard doo-wop group, their style influenced many of the doo-wop outfits that came along in the decade.  The band’s classic line-up consisted of Bobby Nunn, Leon Hughes, Cornell Gunter, and Will “Dub” Jones.

Teamed with the famous songwriting team of the day, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the Coaster exploded onto the scene with a plethora of hits, including, Searchin,’ Young Blood, Yakety Yak, Charlie Brown, Along Came Jones, and Poison Ivy.  Their tunes were often humorous and tongue in cheek. Coasters-Searchin’

The Coaster were the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.   

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry died 5 years ago today, March 18, 2017.  It is only fitting that this week’s post features him.

Berry was considered a pioneer in the emerging rock and roll scene of the 1950’s.  He was renowned for his exemplary guitar playing skills, bringing the instrument to the forefront of the genre.  Although borrowed from the black rhythm and blues players of the late forties and early fifties, Berry’s guitar solos became his own unique and undeniable sound.  In addition, his showmanship became a major influence on artists who came after him, namely his one-legged hop and duck walk.  Furthermore, Berry related to the record-buying youth of the day by writing songs about teen culture, high school, and fast cars. Berry-Maybellene

Berry is known for a plethora of rock and roll hits including, Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Maybellene, School Days, Sweet Little Sixteen, Rock and Roll Music, and No Particular Place to Go. Berry-Sweet Little Sixteen

Berry was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first inductee in 1986.

Fats Domino

Fats Domino was born in New Orleans in 1928.  His 1949 song The Fat Man is considered by many to be the first rock and roll single and is the first to sell over one million copies.  His rolling piano style influenced many and was copied but never quite duplicated.  Despite his influence on the rock and roll genre, Domino claimed he was simply playing the same rhythm and blues that was prevalent in his native Louisiana.  Whatever he was playing, given his popularity with black and white audiences, it was a factor in breaking down racial barriers in the United States.

Domino has several hits, starting with Ain’t That a Shame in 1955, followed by I’m In Love Again, Blueberry Hill, Blue Monday, I’m Walkin’, I Want to Walk You Home, and Walking to New Orleans.’t That a Shame

Fats Domino passed away in 2017 at the age of 89.

The Platters:

The Platters were formed in 1952.  They were arguably the most successful of the 50s vocal doo wop genre that exploded in the decade and continued through the early 1960’s.  The group has gone through a plethora of members, however, the “classic” or most successful line-up consisted of Tony Williams, David Lynch, Paul Robi, founder Herb Reed, and Zola Taylor.  As lead tenor, Williams possessed the voice of an angel.  The Platters charted with several hits, including, Only You (And You Alone), The Great Pretender, You’ve Got the Magic Touch, My Prayer, Twilight Time, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and Harbor Lights Platters-Twilight Time

The Platters routinely get the nod when I feel like slow dancing cheek to cheek with my girl, as well. Platters-Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Eddie Cochran: Cochran-C’mon Everybody

Although he didn’t have the number of big hits enjoyed by artists such as Buddy Holly and Little Richard, Eddie Cochran’s influence on the rock and roll and rockabilly scenes was an enormous one that is still felt today.  A rarity in that he wrote his own songs, Cochran played guitar, bass, drums, and piano, often overdubbing tracks for his recordings.  This method of overdubbing paled in comparison to the standard of playing “live” in the studio to record.

Cochran’s biggest US hit was Summertime Blues, while C’mon Everybody, Sittin’ in the Balcony, and Something Else enjoyed moderate success stateside.  Meanwhile, he was a massive success in the UK, with Mean When I’m Mad, Hallelujah I Love Her So, Weekend, and My Way charting.  In addition, his posthumous release, Three Steps to Heaven hit number one in the UK. Cochran-Something Else

Cochran was killed in the UK, travelling by taxi to the airport following his last scheduled live performance at the Bristol Hippodrome.  The driver lost control and hit a concrete lamppost, inflicting injuries on Cochran that he would succumb to the following afternoon.  Fellow rocker/rockabilly artist and tour mate Gene Vincent suffered serious injuries to his legs and collarbone.  Cochran’s fiancé, songwriter Sharon Sheely, and tour manager Patrick Tompkins survived their injuries, while the driver (George Martin) did not suffer any injuries.

Dozens of artists have covered Cochran’s songs, including rock heavyweights The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, Rush, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.  Cochran was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Cochran-Live

Top 5 Eddie Cochran Songs:

5. Skinny Jim

4. Summertime Blues

3. Nervous Breakdown

2. C’mon Everybody

  1. Something Else

Fabulous Fifties-Little Richard

Celebrating my love for rock and roll’s first decade:

Richard Wayne Penniman was born in 1932 and went by the stage name of Little Richard.  He was an influential singer, piano player, and songwriter whose work in rock and roll’s first decade earned him a forefather status in the new genre.  A charismatic and dynamic showman, Little Richard hammered on his piano keys, combining a distinguishable back beat with gravelly and abrasive vocals.  His list of hits is prolonged, and includes, “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Rip It Up,” “Lucille,” “Keep A-Knockin,” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” Richard-Rip It Up

Personally, if I were to recommend one performance that best personifies Little Richard, it would be this television special from the UK in 1964.  Richard gives a mind-blowing performance that at times, leaves his audience in a semi-possessed state. Richard-Live in the UK

Top 5 Little Richard Songs:

5. Lucille

4. Keep A Knockin’

3. Good Golly Miss Molly

2. Long Tall Sally

  1. Rip It Up

Buddy Holly:

Born in 1936; Died in 1959 at the age of 22 in a plane crash that also claimed the lives of fellow rock stars Ritchie Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

Holly was a musician ahead of his time, and just before his death had begun toying with overdubbing and effects while recording, such as adding orchestration into his songs. A man of many hits, including That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, Everyday, Oh Boy, It’s So Easy, and Rave On. Holly and the Crickets-That’ll Be the Day

Top 5 Buddy Holly Songs:

5. Maybe Baby

4. That’ll Be The Day

3. Brown Eyed Handsome Man

2. Peggy Sue

  1. Rave On
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