September 29, 2015

95 Jimmy Preston (1913-1984) and his Prestonians “Rock the Joint” 1949

Bill Haley turned Preston’s bluesy version into something conducive to white country kids. “The crowd, hillbilly fans, went crazy” (Bill Haley The Daddy of Rock and Roll).

Jimmy Preston "Rock the Joint"

94 “Wild Bill” Moore (1918-1983) “Rock and Roll” 1949

William Melvin Moore tried boxing during the Depression and then turned to playing tenor saxophone. He formed a rhythm and blues band, “Wild Bill Moore, his Groovy Sax and Orchestra,” in 1948. He successfully merged the improvisation of jazz with the enthusiasm of R&B (The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz).

93 Sticks McGhee (1918-1961) “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” 1949

McGhee wrote this drinking song during his stint in the army during World War II. A second recording in 1949 became his only hit and a popular R&B standard redone by Jerry Lee Lewis. His older brother, Brownie, was a noted folk song and blues artist (The Big Book of Blues).

92 Louis Jordan (1908-1975) and his Tympany Five “Saturday Night Fish Fry” 1949

Jordan was a college music major, songwriter, saxophonist, and lead singer whose charismatic stage presence was influenced by swing band leaders such as Chick Webb and Cab Calloway (The Big Book of Blues).

91 Fats Domino (1928-2017) “The Fat Man” 1949

Young Antoine picked up the New Orleans style of R&B piano while playing in New Orleans bars. The band director at the Hideaway Club gave him the nickname “Fats.” He recorded his first major hit, “The Fat Man,” with trumpeter Dave Bartholomew.

September 22, 2015

90 Goree Carter (1930-1990) “Rock Awhile” 1949

A self-taught guitarist from Houston, he resisted his manager’s insistence to imitate T-Bone Walker. He was drafted into the army during the Korean War; the war “and the strain of nursing his ailing mother effectively ended his short career” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

89 Muddy Waters (1915-1983) “Rollin' Stone” 1948

“I always felt like I could beat plowin’ mules, choppin’ cotton and drawin’ water. I did all that and I never did like none of it” (Rock The Rough Guide). Keith Richards and his friend Mick Jagger were listening to The Best of Muddy Waters album and decided to name their band after the song, “Rollin’ Stone” (Can’t Be Satisfied).

Muddy Waters "Rollin' Stone"

88 Muddy Waters (1915-1983) “I Can’t Be Satisfied” 1948

“[T]he patriarch of post-World War II Chicago blues” (The Big Book of Blues), Waters began a 28 year collaboration with Chess Records when he was invited to record for them in 1948, performing songs he had first recorded for folklorist Alan Lomax seven years earlier (Can’t Be Satisfied).

87 Dinah Washington (1924-1963) “Am I Asking Too Much” 1948

Ruth Lee Jones worked as a restroom attendant in a Chicago nightclub, auditioned for Louis Armstrong’s manager, Joe Glazer, and became successful recording artist Dinah Washington. She died from an overdose of alcohol and medical pills (The Big Book of Blues).

86 Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) and Marie Knight (1925-2009) “Up Above My Head” 1948

Tharpe heard Marie Knight’s “rich contralto” voice at a gospel program in Harlem and invited her to tour together. “There was magic in the combination of Rosetta and Marie.” Their recording of this song “captured people’s budding hope that the late 1940's and early 1950's would bring about sorely overdue change.” They separated soon after Marie’s mother and children died in a fire the following year (Shout, Sister, Shout!).

September 16, 2015

85 Memphis Slim (1915-1988) and the House Rockers “Rockin’ the House” 1948

Born John Chatman, he was given the moniker “Memphis Slim” by Bluebird record producer Lester Melrose. Memphis Slim had a successful 60 year career composing, performing, and recording. He moved to Paris in 1962; until his death he was “the most prominent expatriate blues artist” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).  

84 The Orioles “It’s Too Soon To Know” 1948

“Along with the Ravens, the Orioles were considered the pioneers of rhythm and blues vocal harmony.” Many of their hit songs (written by their manager, Deborah Chessler) featured the tenor voice of Sonny Til (1928-1981) and accompaniment “that was felt rather than heard” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

83 Amos Milburn (1927-1980) “Chicken Shack Boogie” 1948

“The straight rhythm, the harsh sounds of the tenor saxophones, and the musical flights at the piano announced the urban trend of rock-and-roll that the pale Bill Haley was to embody” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).

82 Lonnie Johnson (1889-1970) “Tomorrow Night” 1948

“Johnson was one of the first great single-string jazz guitarists.” After recording his hit “Tomorrow Night,” he ended up as a janitor in a Philadelphia hotel. He was rediscovered, playing in a reunion concert with Duke Ellington and “Gained a new, young audience during the ‘60s folk/blues revival” (The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz).

81 Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) “Move on Up a Little Higher” 1948

She left New Orleans as a teenager, moved to Chicago, worked as a laundress, and was discovered by a local gospel group singing at the Greater Salem Baptist Church. Recorded in 1947, “Move on Up” became a gospel best-seller (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. Her rendition of “How I Got Over” at the Washington Freedom March was one of the electric moments, second only to King's “I have a dream”speech (History of Gospel Music, YouTube). 

Mahalia Jackson "Move on Up a Little Higher"

September 9, 2015

80 John Lee Hooker (1917-2001) “Boogie Chillen” 1948

“John Lee Hooker was born in 1917 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta. He was the fifth son of Minnie and William Hooker, a sharecropper and devout Christian who forbade secular music in his home. When Hooker’s parents divorced, Minnie married William Moore, a blues singer and guitarist who had performed with Charley Patton…At fourteen, Hooker ran away to Memphis, where he became an usher in a movie theater before finding work with gospel groups who were partial to his deep, gravelly voice. After periods in Knoxville and Cincinnati, he moved to Detroit in the late 1930’s and worked as a factory janitor while playing his guitar in nightclubs” (Michael Adams, Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2016). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

79 Wynonie Harris (1915-1969) “Good Rockin' Tonight” 1948

The song was first recorded by Roy Brown in 1947 and later by Elvis Presley. Harris’ sex-charged stage presence and “hell-raising vocals” “paved the way for the flood of rock & roll artists who followed him” (The Big Book of Blues).

78 Hank Williams (1923-1953) “Move It On Over” 1947

The song “betrayed his debt to black music. It rocked. The melody was as old as blues itself; a variant had done business as ‘Your Red Wagon’ and another variant became ‘Rock Around the Clock’” (Hank Williams The Biography).

77 T-Bone Walker (1910-1975) “Call It Stormy Monday” 1947

Walker helped Blind Lemon Jefferson, who was a family friend, navigate the streets of Dallas in the early 1920’s. His influential electric guitar style was partly “derived from Jefferson’s acoustic picking” (The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

76 The Trumpeteers “Milky White Way” 1947

The theme song for this popular gospel quartet’s radio program, featured on Memphis radio stations WDIA and KWAM which “fed large doses of black gospel to the city” (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music).  

September 3, 2015

75 Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) with the Dependable Boys “A Wonderful Time Up There (Gospel Boogie)” 1947

“The song originated with a popular Atlanta-area group, the Homeland Harmony Quartet” in 1945. Lee Roy Abernathy published the song and said, “I felt it was one way of reaching distant places where no ministers go” (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music). Many artists recorded “Gospel Boogie” but none quite like Rosetta Tharpe. “With a Gibson SG in her hands, Sister Rosetta could raise the dead. And that was before she started to sing” (Richard Williams, 

74 The Ravens “Ol’ Man River” 1947

Founded by Jimmy Ricks and Warren “Birdland” Suttles, the Ravens were noteworthy for featuring a bass lead singer. They were key figures in developing ‘50s doo-wop (Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul).

The Ravens "Ol' Man River"

73 Bill Monroe (1911-1996) and the Blue Grass Boys “Blue Moon of Kentucky” 1947

A nervous young Elvis Presley met his idol at the Grand Ole Opry about his rocking remake of “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Monroe told him, “If it helps your career, I’m for it one hundred percent” (Can’t You Hear Me Callin’). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

72 Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup “That’s All Right, Mama” 1947

“Crudup first gained attention from black record buyers with his single, ‘If I Get Lucky,’ recorded in 1941…It was the first of many such singles hits during the ‘40s and early ‘50s” (Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul).

71 Bob Wills (1905-1975) and his Texas Playboys “New Spanish Two Step” 1946

“Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ 1945 visit to the Grand Ole Opry defied Nashville’s parochial proprieties. First, they arrived in a bus. They wore white, tailored western suits, white hats, and boots…People were also awestruck over his musical instrument display, which included electric guitars, amps, and a set of white pearl Slingerland drums…Ernest Tubb said, ‘Bob Wills is important because he put the beat in country music’” (Rosetta Wills, The King of Western Swing, 1998).