October 27, 2015

115 Les Paul (1915-2009) and Mary Ford (1924-1977) “How High the Moon” 1951

Les Paul built a homemade recording studio so he could accompany himself at night. He combined an “absolutely unheard of” twelve overdubs of an old jazz standard, “How High the Moon,” and eventually convinced a reluctant Capital Records to release it, even though the company already had 23 other versions (Les Paul An American Original). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

114 B. B. King (1925-2015) “Three O’Clock Blues” 1951

Riley King lucked into a short radio gig for WDIA in Memphis. “People would start to write me quite a bit…sometimes they would say, B. B.—the Beale Street Blues Boy…” His recording of “Three O’Clock Blues” made him a national star (‘Blues Boy’ The Life and Music of B. B. King).

113 Elmore James (1918-1963) “Dust My Broom” 1951

James revived Robert Johnson’s standard. His “originality lay in his powerful style with the bottleneck” to create “one of the most exciting sounds in blues history.” He was apparently unaware of his tremendous influence on British rock bands when he died of a heart attack (Encyclopedia of the Blues). Fleetwood Mac recorded the song in 1968. Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

112 Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976) “How Many More Years” 1951

B. B. King and Howlin’ Wolf were double-booked at a Memphis nightclub. King said, “He sang so well till I almost cried…I told Wolf I didn’t want the gig—he could have it…Like all great bluesmen, he sang for the sinners, which meant he sang for everyone” (Moanin’ at Midnight The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf).

111 The Five Keys “Glory of Love” 1951

Formed in 1945 and originally called the Sentimental Four (based in Newport News, VA). In 1951 they won a lawsuit against the Four Keys who wanted to add another member to their group to become a second Five Keys (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups).

October 20, 2015

110 Billy Ward (1921-2002) and his Dominoes “Sixty Minute Man” 1951

Billy Ward was a boxer, sports journalist, and a Juilliard trained vocal instructor who formed a group with his own students, the Dominoes. Their risqué “Sixty Minute Man” featuring lead singer Clyde McPhatter (1932-1972) was possibly the “first R&B record by a black group to make the pop chart” (The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll). 

109 Jackie Brenston (1930-1979) and his Delta Cats “Rocket 88” 1951

Brenston was a saxophonist for Ike Turner and his Kings Of Rhythm band. The band recorded “Rocket 88” (about the Oldsmobile 88) under Brenston’s name. The song “became a hit, due in part to the distorted sound of Willie Kizart’s guitar” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

108 Howlin’ Wolf “Moanin’ at Midnight” 1950

Record producer Sam Phillips recorded “Moanin’ at Midnight and said it “is a classic thing that nobody can improve upon” (Moanin’ at Midnight).

107 The Weavers “Goodnight Irene” 1950

The song was first recorded by Leadbelly in 1933. The original Weavers—Pete Seeger (1919-2014), Fred Hellerman (1927-), Lee Hays (1914-1981), Ronnie Gilbert (1926-2015)—“profited by being everything pop singers were not; they had spontaneous arrangements and untrained voices, and they downplayed vocal effects in favor of content…communication, not hype.” Seeger left the Weavers in 1958 to protest the group’s decision to perform for a cigarette commercial (How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger).

106 The Dominoes “Do Something for Me” 1950

They were part of the “golden age of R&B with its excitement and innocence.” A 1952 picture shows the Dominoes outside the Apollo, surrounded by adoring fans (Record Makers and Breakers).

October 13, 2015

105 The Soul Stirrers “By and By” 1950

The Soul Stirrers had its roots at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Trinity, Texas in the mid 1920’s, founded by Silas Roy Crain (1911-1996). The group moved from Houston to Chicago in 1937 and later cofounded the National Quartet Convention. Rebert H. Harris (1916-2000) joined the group and sang tenor in “By and By.” He was replaced in 1950 by Sam Cooke. Crain became Cooke’s manager in 1957 when Cooke left the group to record popular music (Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music). 

104 Arkie Shibley (1914-1975) and his Mountain Dew Boys “Hot Rod Race” 1950

“the hot rod subgenre…is generally considered to have been spawned by Hot Rod Race” (Record Makers and Breakers).

103 The Ravens “Count Every Star” 1950

“Formed in 1945, the Ravens are considered the first of the ‘bird groups.’” After considerable turnover, the group “faded from the scene” by the late 1950’s (The Encyclopedia of Popular Culture). 

102 Pinetop Perkins (1913-2011) “Pinetop's Boogie Woogie” 1950

Perkins took his name from boogie-woogie pianist Pine Top Smith (1904-1929). Perkins recorded his own version of Smith’s 1928 “Pine Top Boogie Woogie” (The Big Book of Blues).

101 Joe Hill Louis (1921-1957) “Boogie in the Park” 1950

The one-man band who played guitar, drums, and harmonica simultaneously. “In 1957 he died of tetanus because he did not have money to pay for the vaccine” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).

October 6, 2015

100 Cecil Gant (1915-1951) “We’re Gonna Rock” 1950

A popular performer in California nightclubs, Gant was famous for his army hit “I wonder” and noted for his “furious boogie-woogie” piano playing (Encyclopedia of the Blues).

99 Ruth Brown (1928-2006) “Teardrops from My Eyes” 1950

In the early 1960’s, she “left the music business, driving a school bus to support her children despite the millions of dollars she had made for her record company.” Brown “was the single most important and influential female artist in the development of modern R&B” (Encyclopedia of the Blues).

98 Hank Williams (1923-1953) “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” 1949

The “greatest songwriter in country music...a light and a darkness, a dream and a nightmare” (Hank Williams The Complete Lyrics).

97 Hank Williams (1923-1953) “Lovesick Blues” 1949

Producer Fred Rose thought it was a terrible song but let Williams record it anyway. “Lovesick Blues” made Williams a star (Hank Williams The Biography). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

96 The Weavers “Rock Island Line” 1949

The song was recorded for folklorist Alan Lomax in the 1930’s. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee considered it communist propaganda. “The Weavers may have been the first musicians in American history formally investigated for sedition” (How Can I Keep From Singing).