December 23, 2016

400 The Hollywood Argyles (Gary Paxton and Kim Fowley) “Alley Oop” 1960

Gary Paxton (1939-2016) “produced it and also sang lead vocals” of the song “recorded in 1960 by the Hollywood Argyles, a studio band that…had ‘some claim to being the ultimate reduction of rock’n’roll to a dumb, absurd, bad joke.’…By the late 1960s Paxton had succumbed to the temptations of drugs and alcohol. After moving to Nashville, however, he experienced a religious conversion and resumed his career -- this time as a gospel singer” (The Daily Telegraph (London), 7/30/2016).

The Hollywood Argyles “Alley Oop” 

399 The Gamblers “Moon Dawg” 1960

Canadian Derry Weaver (1940-2013) was involved in the burgeoning rock community of Los Angeles in the late fifties and was a friend of Eddie Cochran. Derry said, “I loved the basic Blues. I asked Eddie: ‘How do you play that?’…You wouldn’t believe how Eddie could play some of this stuff! He showed me. I still use some of those same licks to this very day. Eddie said: ‘Try not to sound white. You have to put your heart and soul into it’” (Paul Vidal, “Derry Weaver,” www.bigvjamboree.com).

The Gamblers “Moon Dawg”

398 Connie Francis (1938- ) “Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool” 1960

“With the arrival of the Beatles, in 1964, Francis’s star dimmed, her conversational, pseudo-rock and roll style yielding to different tastes. Still, she retained a large following and continued to perform and record well into the 1970s.” After a concert in 1974, she was brutally attacked and suffered a series of personal tragedies, including “several failed marriages, two miscarriages,” and mental illness (Nancy Pear, Contemporary Musicians, 1994).

Connie Francis “Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool”

397 Connie Francis (1938- ) “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” 1960

“Pop singer Connie Francis was America’s top-selling female recording artist during the late 1950s and early ’60s. Between 1958 and 1964 she recorded more than 50 chart singles…The diminutive young singer with the big, clear voice became a teenage idol, lending her name to sweaters, charm bracelets, diaries, and other adolescent essentials; by the time she was 22 her appeal had extended to films, where she starred in such young-adult favorites as Where the Boys Are and When the Boys Meet the Girls” (Nancy Pear, Contemporary Musicians, 1994).

Connie Francis “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own”

396 The Fendermen “Mule Skinner Blues” 1960

“Jim Sundquist (1937-2013), who joined with Phil Humphrey (1937-2016) to form the Fendermen in 1958, had a brief but spectacular career built on their one hit: ‘Mule Skinner Blues,’ a rockabilly remake of an old Jimmy Rodgers song…Sundquist was an art student at UW-Madison when he joined forces with Humphrey, then a bread truck driver in Stoughton. The duo shared a birthday -- Nov. 26, 1937 -- and a fondness for Fender guitars. They got their start playing small clubs in the area, getting paid $5 plus free beer” (Dennis Punzel, Wisconsin State Journal, 6/9/2013).

Fendermen “Mule Skinner Blues”

December 16, 2016

395 Percy Faith (1908-1976) “Theme from A Summer Place” 1960

Faith played piano “regularly in silent movie houses and gave his first concert, at the Toronto Conservatory, when he was eighteen. His pianist career was abruptly handicapped after he burned his hands while trying to save his sister from a house fire.…The ‘Theme from A Summer Place’ shocked a lot of older Faith enthusiasts who saw alien signs of Fats Domino in its pounding triplets. This propensity to easy-rock explains why the Ventures later adapted it to their repetitive guitar licks with ease and how Faith helped assemble a disco version called ‘Summer Place ’76,’ recorded just before he succumbed to cancer” (Joseph Lanza, Elevator Music, 2004). 

Percy Faith “Theme from A Summer Place”

394 The Everly Brothers “Cathy’s Clown” 1960

“Cathy’s Clown was about an old high school girlfriend of Don’s…” He said, “The Grand Canyon Suite was my inspiration for the melody. The record had that walking thing with the drums which hadn’t been used in pop music before. That came from the old Philip Morris commercial here in the States and I always liked it” (Roger White, The Everly Brothers: Walk Right Back, 1998). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

The Everly Brothers “Cathy’s Clown”

393 The Drifters “Save the Last Dance for Me” 1960

The group’s new instrumentation and lead singing of Ben Nelson moved the Drifters towards a more popular pop sound and “less R&B” (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups, 2007). 

The Drifters “Save the Last Dance for Me”

392 Fats Domino (1928- ) “Walkin’ To New Orleans” 1960

“With a string of astoundingly catchy and danceable hits like 'Ain't That a Shame,' 'I'm in Love Again,' 'Blueberry Hill' and 'Whole Lotta Loving,' Fats influenced Little Richard (who was a speeded-up and straightened-out Fats), Phil Spector, the Beatles, early reggae artists like Bob Marley and Toots Hibbert, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and every garage band south of the Mason-Dixon Line that was pretty much obligated to play Fats Domino songs at every senior prom for decades to come” (Charles Young, Rolling Stone, 12/13/2007). 

Fats Domino “Walkin’ To New Orleans”

391 Sam Cooke (1931-1964) “Wonderful World” 1960

The idea of the song started with Herb Alpert and Lou Adler. Cooke developed it into “a perfect pop confection…It had become, as Lou said, a kind of conversation with the listener…Sam always said, ‘You got to be talking to somebody’” (Peter Guralnick, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, 2005).

Sam Cooke “Wonderful World”

December 9, 2016

390 Sam Cooke (1931-1964) “Chain Gang” 1960

Sam’s brother Charles said, “We was driving along the highway, man, and we saw these people working on a chin gang on the side of the road. They asked us, “you got any cigarettes?’ So we gave them the cigarettes we had…And Sam said, ‘Man, that’s a good song. Right there’” (Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke). 

Sam Cooke “Chain Gang”

389 Chubby Checker (1941- ) “The Twist” 1960

“’The Twist’ had originally been recorded by the Detroit rhythm-and-blues singer Hank Ballard, but had been released with little success. Clark’s wife re-christened Evans ‘Chubby Checker,’ deriving the name from that of Fats Domino and alluding to Checker’s own portly build and, in October of 1960, Checker appeared in American Bandstand. Although his recording of ‘The Twist’ was almost a note-for-note replica of Ballard’s, it was Checker’s version that topped the charts nationwide” (Contemporary Black Biography, 2001). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Chubby Checker “The Twist”

388 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “Georgia on My Mind” 1960

“In March 1979, the Georgia House of Representatives proclaimed 'Georgia on My Mind' the state song and invited Ray to sing it at the capitol in Atlanta. Recognition from the state where he had been born unnoticed fifty years before moved Ray deeply” (Ray Charles Man and Music). 

Ray Charles “Georgia on My Mind”

387 Johnny Burnette (1934-1964) “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful (and You’re Mine)” 1960

“An acclaimed songwriter—in partnership with older brother Dorsey…if he hadn’t been killed in a boating accident in 1964, he would have followed Jerry Lee Lewis and Conway Twitty into a full-fledged country career” (Alan Cackett, Maverick, 2011). 

Johnny Burnette “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful (and You’re Mine)”

386 Billy Bland (1932- ) “Let the Little Girl Dance” 1960

“’I didn’t like the TV shows because you didn’t get paid. You do a show, you sign a check, and they keep it…I said, ‘But I signed a check for eight hundred dollars.’ They said, ‘…You got a choice: eight hundred dollars or play the record’” (John Broven, Record Makers and Breakers, 2009). 

Billy Bland “Let the Little Girl Dance”

December 2, 2016

385 Joan Baez (1941- ) “East Virginia” and “Mary Hamilton” 1960

“In the East, I gave concerts with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, at the time the best-known bluegrass performers to come up from the South. Our collaboration was unprecedented, and caused a slightly humorous reaction among the urban hillbillies and college intellectuals who made up the audience…One reporter said that I sang to ‘troubled intellectuals.’ I saw the review and said…, ‘But I’m not an intellectual’” (Joan Baez, And a Voice to Sing With, 1987). The album Joan Baez is listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Joan Baez “East Virginia”

Joan Baez “Mary Hamilton”

384 Link Wray (1929-2005) “Rawhide” 1959

“Wray's reputation was built on a series of menacing, potently chorded instrumentals…Boasting a sound in marked contrast to the cleaner, country-bred picking style of such '50s guitarists as Scotty Moore and Cliff Gollup, Wray became the model for the heavier approach of later hard rock, metal and punk guitarists” (Chris Morris, Hollywood Reporter, 11/22/2005).

Link Wray “Rawhide”

383 The Tempos “See You in September” 1959

“Pop vocal group from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Mike Lazo, Gene Schachter, Jim Drake and Tom Minoto.” They recorded their top hit with guitarist, Billy Mure. A more upbeat version of the song was #3 on the Billboard charts in 1966, performed by the Happenings, known for their rock versions of jazz classics such as “I Got Rhythm” and “My Mammy” (Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 2004).

The Tempos “See You in September”

382 The Shirelles "Dedicated to the One I Love" 1959

“The Shirelles owed much of their early success to [Florence] Greenberg’s creativity and business savvy. She was a remarkable entrepreneur whose life story has been developed into a Hollywood film… Unsatisfied with her life as a housewife during the 1950s, she entered the music industry with a strong love of music but no formal background (Taylor, Contemporary Musicians, 1994). Originally released in 1959, the song became a hit two years later. 

The Shirelles "Dedicated to the One I Love"

381 Johnny Preston (1939-2011) “Running Bear” 1959

“Preston was born in Port Arthur, south-east Texas, of German and Cajun stock. While at high school he sang in the choir and, after graduation, entered Lamar state college, where he formed a rock'n'roll group, the Shades. The group was soon in demand at local dances and hops. Playing at the Twilight Club in the nearby town of Beaumont, they were seen by [JP] Richardson [aka the Big Bopper], who took the 19-year-old Preston to the Gold Star studios in Houston to record Running Bear.” Richardson “said he was inspired to compose the song by a Dove-soap television commercial” (Dave Laing, The Guardian, 3/7/2011). 

Johnny Preston “Running Bear”

November 25, 2016

380 Neil Sedaka (1939- ) “Oh Carol” 1959

When Neil Sedaka first toured Britain, in 1958, visiting American rock and-rollers were not held in high regard. His immediate predecessor had been Jerry Lee Lewis, a wild man from Louisiana…Imagine the relief, then, as the 19-year-old Sedaka walked onto the London Palladium stage immaculately dressed and barbered, with a beaming smile in place of Jerry Lee’s superciliously curled lip. Before pitching into his pop repertoire, the Juilliard-trained pianist gave a virtuoso performance of Chopin's Fantaisie impromptu. A chambermaid at the Dorchester hotel, where he was staying, expressed the general feeling. ‘Nice to see a bit of class,’ she told him, ‘after all the rubbish they’ve been sending over’” (Philip Norman, The Sunday Times (London), 10/7/2012). 

Neil Sedaka “Oh Carol”

379 Santo (1937- ) and Johnny (1941- ) “Sleep Walk” 1959

Santo and Johnny Farina’s father, “a serviceman, had found the steel guitar on C&W records very soothing when he was overseas. He encouraged his children to learn the instrument and was impressed when they wrote an instrumental, ‘Sleep Walk’…The record label and the publicity referred to a third composer, Ann Farina, who was supposedly a sister. This was a mistake—they did not even have a sister” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006).

Santo and Johnny “Sleep Walk”

378 Chan Romero (1941- ) “Hippy Hippy Shake” 1959

“After the tragic death of Valens, producer and Del-Fi Records owner Bob Keane sought to release music of artists that he believed could capitalize on Valens’ success and perhaps become the next Valens. Refocused with a new studio and capital, Keane released Chan Romero…” (Roberto Avant-Mier, Rock the Nation, 2010). 

Chan Romero “Hippy Hippy Shake”

377 Lloyd Price (1933- ) “Personality” 1959

“‘I was accused of integrating; they called it ‘mixing,’ Price says. Concerts, of course, were segregated: When Price played in the South, at black dances in civic centers, whites were permitted to attend in a separate section as ‘spectators.’ ‘Wherever I went, they couldn't keep them out, these [white] kids that would come to see me. There were more spectators than those at the real dance,’ he says. ‘I was happy to see them in the dance hall. But when we got to Raleigh, N.C., I started getting the message about segregation. More white kids came to see me because of the colleges -- it was a black dance, but you couldn't tell. The security man stopped the show because these kids were dancing together’” (Wayne Robins, Billboard, 2013).

Lloyd Price “Personality”

376 Lloyd Price (1933- ) “Stagger Lee” 1959

“Price found himself on the wrong side of a real life Stagger Lee situation when he opened Lloyd Price's Turntable nightclub on the former site of Birdland at 52nd Street and Broadway in the late 60s. He and longtime partner Harold Logan would get threatening calls for a year: There are bullets with your names on it. Price ignored the calls, until Logan was found shot to death in 1969 in their office at the club. He says that after representatives of both the Harlem mob and the Italian mafia visited Price shortly after the killing to offer their ‘support’ if he decided to join their team, he got out of the nightclub business, and New York” (Wayne Robins, Billboard, 2013). 

Lloyd Price “Stagger Lee”

November 18, 2016

375 Sandy Nelson (1938- ) “Teen Beat” 1959

“I was into instrumental rock, the ‘macho’ music of guitar and drums. Duane Eddy was my guitar hero and Sandy Nelson could hit a mean drum solo. With my birthday money and a well-paid paper round, I would be able to buy my own discs - and my first vinyl would have to be special. My sisters pleaded with me to buy the latest release by Elvis or Cliff but I resisted. No girlie lyrics for me…For me this was the music of teenage youth . . . loud, angry and out of control” (John Bookless, The Guardian, 11/20/2010).

Sandy Nelson (1938- ) “Teen Beat”

374 The Mystics “Hushabye” 1959

Formed in Brooklyn, the “Mystics helped popularize the Italian American doo-wop sound that came out of New York City in the early 60s, but like many such groups they did it with only one hit, ‘Hushabye’…Failing to get another hit record, the Mystics broke up in the early 60s. They reunited in the 80s to perform at oldies shows…” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006).

The Mystics “Hushabye”

373 The Midnighters with Hank Ballard (1927-2003) “The Twist” 1959

“Born John Kendricks in Detroit, Hank Ballard (1927-2003 sang gospel as a youth and formed a doo-wop group as a teen…the Midnighters issued a Ballard-penned dance tune, “The Twist,” as a B-side.” Author Jim Dawson said “He could rock out. As a songwriter, he was great at taking expressions and turning them into song hooks” (Billboard, 2003).

The Midnighters with Hank Ballard “The Twist”

372 The (Fabulous) Wailers “Tall Cool One” 1959

“This was no ordinary four-chord, teenage rock ‘n’ roll aggregation. Over time, the Wailers have become recognized as the pioneers of the hard-edged Northwest Sound (and in a way, surf music)…The Wailers, proficient young musicians all (especially guitarist Rich Gangel and drummer Mike Burk), soaked up a range of musical styles from the wild R&B of Little Richard to the sophisticated cool of Henry Mancini and Chet Baker” (John Broven, Record Makers and Breakers, 2009). 

The (Fabulous) Wailers “Tall Cool One”

371 Henry Mancini (1924-1994) “Peter Gunn Theme” 1959

“It was the time of so-called cool West Coast jazz…And that was the sound that came to me, the walking bass and drums. The ‘Peter Gunn’ title theme actually derives more from rock and roll than from jazz…It has been played through the years by school marching bands as well as rock bands throughout the world. The synth group The Art of Noise had a major hit with it in 1987. Never has so much been made of so little” (Henry Mancini, Did They Mention the Music?, 1989). 

Henry Mancini “Peter Gunn Theme”

November 11, 2016

370 Marv Johnson (1938-1993) “You Got What It Takes” 1959

“While working in a Detroit record store, Mr. Johnson met Berry Gordy Jr., the man behind the Motown sound…Mr. Gordy paired Mr. Johnson’s gospel background with a churchy female chorus and a male bass. The result was a new sound with black roots that also appealed to white listeners” (The New York Times, 5/17/93). 

Marv Johnson “You Got What It Takes”

369 Johnny and the Hurricanes “Red River Rock” 1959

Johnny Paris (1940-2006) “became interested in music while still at school, and took up the saxophone after hearing the R&B honker Sil Austin and Rudy Pompilli, the energetic sax player with Bill Haley and His Comets…The band enjoyed more success in Britain than in the US…they performed in Hamburg with the Beatles—then unknown—and toured the UK” (“Johnny Paris,” The Times (UK), 5/13/2006). 

Johnny and the Hurricanes “Red River Rock”

368 The Isley Brothers “Shout (Parts 1 and 2)” 1959

“The first incarnation of this family band sprouted as a gospel group in their native Cincinnati in the mid-‘50s, but in 1957, the singing brothers Ronnie, Rudi and O’Kelly (later just Kelly) Isley relocated to New York to be a part of the burgeoning East Coast doo-wop and R&B scene…Though not exactly a smash, ‘Shout’ and revenues from the group’s exhausting touring regimen allowed the brothers to move the entire Isley clan to Teaneck in northern New Jersey” (Blair Jackon, Mix, 2003). 

The Isley Brothers “Shout (Parts 1 and 2)”

367 Johnny Horton (1925-1960) “The Battle of New Orleans” 1959

“The longtime Tyler [Texas] resident's best-known saga song was ‘Battle of New Orleans,’ which was written by a folklorist who put lyrics about the final battle of the War of 1812 to the melody of the traditional fiddle tune The Eighth of January… He sang with pop music clarity and diction, with a hard twang, or with a threatening rumble. Before saga songs, he specialized in rockabilly- and boogie-tinged country but was just as comfortable with honky-tonk ballads” (John Morthland, Texas Monthly, 2000). 

Johnny Horton “The Battle of New Orleans”

366 Wilbert Harrison (1929-1994) “Kansas City” 1959

Harrison was born in North Carolina, was a mostly unsuccessful singer in Florida, then moved to Newark and recorded “Kansas City,” written by the songwriting duo, Jerome Leiber and Mike Stoller, in 1952. He “found his single competing on the charts with five other versions,” but his “quickly beat out the rest…’Kansas City’ instantly became a blues standard and was recorded by the Beatles in 1964” (Steve Futterman, Rolling Stone, 12/15/94). 

Wilbert Harrison “Kansas City”

November 4, 2016

365 Connie Francis (1938- ) “Lipstick on Your Collar” 1959

“born Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero in 1938, the only daughter of an Italian-American working-class couple. Her father was a natural entertainer who loved playing his concertina at gatherings; he consigned his unfulfilled career ambitions to his daughter early, sending her to music school for accordion lessons by the time she was three years old. Concetta’s strong, tuneful voice showed even more promise, and her father sought out every opportunity—lodge celebrations, community events, church socials—for his daughter to perform” (Nancy Pear, Contemporary Musicians, 1994).

Connie Francis “Lipstick on Your Collar”

364 Frankie Ford (1939-2015) “Sea Cruise” 1959

A Louisiana native, Ford moved to San Francisco for a few years during the British Invasion. “He returned home eventually and became a fixture on Bourbon Street for nearly two decades. His piano bar sets at Lucky Pierre’s were memorable, if not for the music, then the between-song banter” (Jeff Hannusch, Offbeat, Nov. 2015). 

Frankie Ford “Sea Cruise”

363 Emile Ford (1937-2016) and the Checkmates “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For” 1959

“Having arrived in Britain (from the West Indies) to study at technical college, Ford later began singing professionally in London’s dancehalls and coffee bars. In 1958 he formed the Checkmates…and the following year secured a recording contract as first prize in a Soho talent contest” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Emile Ford and the Checkmates “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For”

362 The Fleetwoods “Come Softly To Me” 1959

“The Fleetwoods’ song, written by group members Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, and Barbara Ellis, was shot through with nonsense syllables, a sort of baby talk set in counterpoint to the come-hither lyrics. Male and female voices took turns at the lead, each with a passionless, inscrutable cool” (Albin Zak, I Don’t Sound Like Nobody, 2010). 

The Fleetwoods “Come Softly To Me”

361 The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes For You” 1959

“On records such as the Flamingos’ curiously modernist adaptation of ‘I Only Have Eyes for You,’ a song from the 1934 Busby Berkeley musical Dames…the creative revisions of the old songs were so thorough that they were absorbed into a new existence…As it developed it own distinct language, rock and roll steadily reinterpreted the expanse of American popular music for all to hear” (Albin Zak, I Don’t Sound Like Nobody, 2010).  

The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes For You”

October 28, 2016

360 Fabian (1943- ) “Tiger” 1959

“The son of a Philadelphia policeman, Fabian - known then as Tony (Forte) – was ‘discovered’ at the age of 14 by manager Bob Marcucci. Mr. Marcucci, who had already launched the career of Frankie Avalon, spotted the young Fabian weeping on the front stoop as an ambulance carried away his father, who had just had a heart attack. At first reluctant, Fabian relented when he learned that the family would have to live without his father's income for eight months. ‘I didn't have any burning desire to be a rock and roll star…But I had two younger brothers and my main thought at the time was, how could I help the family?’” (Chris Dafoe, The Globe and Mail (Canada), 3/10/1989).

Fabian “Tiger”

359 Duane Eddy (1938- ) “Forty Miles of Bad Road” 1959

“Duane revealed he spent quite a bit of time with Elvis... ‘around 1971…we’d had a lovely conversation and talked about many subjects; everything from how to get rid of Colonel Tom [Parker] to the difference between stereo and mono’” (Vicky Martin, Maverick, Aug. 2011). 

Duane Eddy “Forty Miles of Bad Road”

358 The Drifters “There Goes My Baby” 1959

Drifters manager, George Treadwell, was “aware of an incipient drinking problem” within the group, and impressed with another group, The Crowns, performing at the Apollo Theater, signed them up to be the new Drifters. “Their first release was ‘There Goes My Baby,’ which was totally different from anything the Drifters had ever done before” (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups).

The Drifters “There Goes My Baby”

357 Dion (1939- ) and the Belmonts “A Teenager in Love” 1959

“The backing trio’s name came from Belmont Avenue in the Bronx…Dion was getting restless and by late 1960 had begun a solo career” (Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul).

Dion and the Belmonts “A Teenager in Love”

356 Mark Dinning (1933-1986) “Teen Angel” 1959

“Jean Dinning (1924-2011)…performed in a popular 1940s vocal trio with her sisters and achieved more enduring fame as the author of the definitive high school tragedy song, ‘Teen Angel’… Ms. Dinning said she was inspired to write the song after reading a newspaper article about juvenile delinquency. The story proposed that good teens needed a name and suggested calling them "teen angels."  As recorded by Ms. Dinning’s younger brother Mark Dinning, ‘Teen Angel’ reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 1960—despite the initial reluctance of many disc jockeys to play the morbid tune” (Terence McArdle, Washington Post, 3/11/2011).    

Mark Dinning “Teen Angel”

October 21, 2016

355 Bo Diddley (1928-2008) “Say Man” 1959

“He became one of the rare musicians to have performed at both a Republican and Democratic presidential inauguration—those of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Diddley earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation” (Contemporary Black Biography).

Bo Diddley “Say Man”

354 Bobby Darin (1936-1973) “Mack the Knife” and “Beyond the Sea” 1959

“It was probably the most surprising switch that any popular singer on the rise ever made…Just as he was beginning to achieve great success in rock and roll, Bobby was ready to take his chances on eroding his image with his public to keep growing as an artist…In reality, Bobby would become the last of an era of nightclub performers” (David Evanier, Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, 2004). Darin’s and Louis Armstrong’s 1956 recordings of “Mack the Knife” are listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife”

Bobby Darin “Beyond the Sea”

Louis Armstrong “Mack the Knife” 1956

353 Bobby Darin (1936-1973) “Dream Lover” 1959

Darin canceled a rock tour in England in order to perform with George Burns in Las Vegas. “Bobby gained not only major entry into show business with this engagement, but a mentor and a cherished friend. ‘He is to me the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father. George Burns taught me more in six weeks in Vegas than 20 others could have done in ten years’” (David Evanier, Roman Candle: The Life of Bobby Darin, 2004). 

Bobby Darin “Dream Lover”

352 The Coasters “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy” 1959

“The illustrious career of the Coasters, the pre-eminent vocal group of the early rock ‘n’ roll era, was built on a remarkable body of cleverly comic R&B songs for Atco Records fashioned by their producers, Lieber and Stoller…they were generally regarded as one of the wittiest exponents of teenage growing problems” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

The Coasters “Charlie Brown”

The Coasters “Poison Ivy”

351 The Clovers “Love Potion No. 9” 1959

“The Clovers, founded in Washington in 1946, were one of the most popular and influential doo-wop groups, with more than a dozen hits from 1951 to 1959…Like most of the R & B vocal groups of its era, the Clovers specialized in sweet harmonies and sentimental themes. But their songs stood out for their bluesy edge…After ‘Love Potion,’ the hits dried up for the Clovers” (New York Times, 11/14/2002). 

The Clovers “Love Potion No. 9”

October 14, 2016

350 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “What’d I Say” 1959

“’What’d I Say’ didn’t feel like a big deal at the time…three or for takes, and it was done. Next! When the team reviewed the tapes, however, they knew they had something unusual on their hands” (Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music, 1998). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Ray Charles “What’d I Say”

349 Freddy Cannon (1940- ) “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” 1959

Born Frederick Picariello. “A frantic and enthusiastic vocalist, known as the ‘last rock ‘n’ roll star’, Cannon was the link between wild rock ‘n’ roll and the softer Philadelphia-based sounds that succeeded it…His only successful album was The Explosive! Freddy Cannon in 1960, which made history as the first rock album to top the UK charts” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Freddy Cannon “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” 

348 Buster Brown (1911-1976) “Fannie Mae” 1959

“known for his one and only hit, ‘Fannie Mae’…Before signing with Fire, Brown was a little-known blues singer and harmonica player from Georgia who worked clubs and dances in his home state and Florida. Sometime in the mid-‘50s Brown moved to New York, where he performed occasionally in Harlem clubs” (Santelli, The Big Book of Blues, 1993). 

Buster Brown “Fannie Mae” 

347 Bill Black’s Combo “Smokie Part 2” 1959

Black (1926-1965) “Played stand-up bass in C&W bands; neighbor of guitarist Scotty Moore; they played with Elvis Presley from the beginning…Moore and Black quit c.’57 because of low pay for arduous touring while Presley was getting rich…” His “instrumental work linked pre-rock country music with later bass-heavy Southern soul sounds of the Mar-Keys, then Booker T and the MGs.” He died of a brain tumor (The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 1989). 

Bill Black’s Combo “Smokie Part 2”

346 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “Almost Grown” 1959

“After he fired a hat-check girl, Janice Escalanti, in 1959, Escalanti went to the police claiming that Berry had taken her across state lines for immoral purposes…In October of 1961, after appealing his original sentence of ten years, Berry was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $10, 000. After serving 20 months, he was released on his birthday in 1963” (Contemporary Musicians). 

Chuck Berry “Almost Grown”

October 7, 2016

345 Brooke Benton (1931-1988) “It’s Just a Matter of Time” 1959

“Mercury Records signed the young singer, and It’s Just A Matter Of Time skyrocketed up the charts. Suddenly, Benton, who had come to New York as a 17-year-old kid from a gospel-singing family of eight in Camden, S. C., and supported himself as a truck driver and dishwasher, was a major star” (Ebony, May 1978). 

Brooke Benton “It’s Just a Matter of Time”

344 Frankie Avalon (1940- ) “Venus” 1959

“When Frankie Avalon first hit it big as a teen singing idol in the ‘50s, some made the mistake of dismissing him as a flash in the pan…Avalon had the talent and tenacity to overcome such obstacles. He was a trumpet virtuoso before reaching his teens and, at 16, launched a singing career…Then came movie stardom opposite Annette Funicello in the popular ‘Beach Party’ Flicks” (Biography, 9/2002). 

Frankie Avalon  “Venus” 

Frankie Avalon “Why”

343 Link Wray (1929-2005) “Rumble” 1958

“Wray cultivated a filthy sound — produced by a Gibson Les Paul guitar and a tiny amp with holes knocked into it — and a greasy look at D.C. sock hops. He cut the instrumental ‘Rumble’ for Archie Bleyer's Cadence label. The song was banned in some cities because of its alleged potential to incite teen violence, but it established Wray's rep [as a] rock guitar hero for all rime” (Chris Morris, Hollywood Reporter, 11/22/2005). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Link Wray “Rumble”

342 Jackie Wilson (1934-1984) “Lonely Teardrops” 1958

"Wilson began associating with the Shakers, a local gang. He would entertain them by singing and they would protect him from other gangs. He rarely attended school and had numerous brushes with the law. He was twice sent to Lansing Correctional Institute, where he took up boxing. He entered the Golden Gloves program, but his mother made him quit and promise never to box again because it was too dangerous. Wilson dropped out of school at the age of sixteen, never having passed the ninth grade. In 1951, Wilson married his pregnant girlfriend, Freda Hood. With a new family to support, he pursued his singing career more seriously" (Leslie Neilan, Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2015).

Jackie Wilson “Lonely Teardrops”

341 Marion Williams (1927-1994) with the Clara Ward Singers “Packing Up” 1958

“’Packing Up’ became Williams' second-biggest hit with the Ward Singers. When performing the song in concert, she exuberantly pretended to pack her things in preparation for heaven. Striding down the aisles, she grabbed purses and briefcases from delighted members of the audience. Yet the song seems to have foreshadowed a more imminent leave-taking. After more than a decade as a salaried member of the Ward Singers, Williams astonished the gospel music world by leaving Gertrude and Clara Ward, who controlled the hefty profits of the group's concerts and recording.” Marion said, "In spite of your prayers, if it is time to go through your disappointment, trials and tribulations, you have to go through them…For God you live, and for God you die” (Sharon Fitzgerald, American Visions, Dec. 1993). 

Marion Williams with the Clara Ward Singers “Packing Up”

September 30, 2016

340 The Weavers “House of the Rising Sun” 1958

The Weavers (Ronnie Gilbert, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman) were “Like-minded musicians with progressive political views…Their voices, especially Ms. Gilbert's, were powerful, their harmonies were distinctive and their attitude was an enthusiastic embrace of the listener. Together those elements created a singalong populism that laid the groundwork for a folk-music boom in the 1950s and 1960s and its concomitant earnest strain of 1960s counterculture” (Bruce Weber, “Ronnie Gilbert,” New York Times, 6/8/15). 

The Weavers “House of the Rising Sun”

339 Ritchie Valens (1941-1959) “La Bamba” and "Donna" 1958

“on the eve of his departure for the Winter Dance Party tour, Valens went to Guardian Angels church with his mother, fan club president Gail Smith, and Smith’s mother. ‘Ritchie and I knelt down and prayed for a safe trip,’ Gail Smith told Beverly Menheim…Just before boarding the Chicago-bound plane, Valens walked up to his brother and put his arms around him. ‘I want you to take care of my mother,’ he said” (Larry Lehmer, The Day the Music Died, 1997). 

Ritchie Valens “La Bamba”

Ritchie Valens “Donna”

338 Conway Twitty (1933-1993) “It’s Only Make Believe” 1958

Born Harold Jenkins, he made up his stage name from towns in Texas and Arkansas. “I went to Canada. None of the southern-style rock singers had ever been up there…That’s where I wrote ‘It’s Only Make Believe’… So after I’d been with MGM for about eight years, I felt like I had lived long enough and had experienced enough of the things that a country song is all about to compete with the different country singers that I thought were great” (The Country Music Encyclopedia, 1974). 

Conway Twitty “It’s Only Make Believe”

337 The Teddy Bears “To Know Him Is to Love Him” 1958

The not-yet legendary producer, Phil Spector (1939- ), formed the group named after Elvis Presley’s hit, “Teddy Bear” and wrote the song to feature Annette Kleinbard’s voice. Record producer Lew Bedell asked Dick Clark to listen to the song. “‘He heard it, thought it over, then put it on ‘American Bandstand’ and boom—we wound up selling 1.4 million copies,’ Bedell said” (Ribowsky, He’s a Rebel, 1989). 

The Teddy Bears “To Know Him Is to Love Him”

336 The Swan Silvertones “(Oh) Mary Don’t You Weep” 1958

The group “changed their name to Swan Silvertones to advertise the Swan Bakery that sponsored their broadcasts…The audiences during the golden era of gospel (1945-1955) and into the 1960s wanted guitars, drums, shouting, moans, and breathtaking blends known as ‘first class house-wreckin’ gospel.’ The Swans gave them this excitement…” A line from the song “inspired Paul Simon to compose ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’” (McNeil, Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music, 2005). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

The Swan Silvertones “(Oh) Mary Don’t You Weep”

September 22, 2016

335 Huey “Piano” Smith (1934- ) and his Clowns “Don’t You Just Know It” 1958

“Just as they’d done at Princeton, Huey and the Clowns stole shows in theaters, too…And when it became obvious that the Clowns had stolen a show, Huey said, ‘somebody had to talk to whoever was supposed to be the star, because we had to close the show” (Wirt, Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues). 

Huey “Piano” Smith and his Clowns “Don’t You Just Know It”

334 The Skyliners “Since I Don’t Have You” 1958

The group’s manager, Joe Rock, “wrote the lyrics after his girlfriend had left for L.A. to become a flight attendant. He was so depressed over that on the way to our rehearsal when he was stopped at red lights he started jotting down lines.” Lead singer Jimmy Beaumont “wrote the music the next day” (Tady, Beaver County Times, 3/5/2009). 

The Skyliners “Since I Don’t Have You”

333 The Shirelles “I Met Him on a Sunday” 1958

“The four original Shirelles were from Passaic, New Jersey. They began singing together as the Poquellos, and their first live performances took place at high school talent shows. A fellow classmate, Mary Jane Greenberg, heard the group at one of these shows and convinced them to audition for her mother, Florence, who had recently launched a career in the music business. The quartet auditioned in Florence Greenberg’s living room, after which she signed them to a five-year contract with her fledgling Tiara label and took over as their manager” (Taylor, Contemporary Musicians, 1994).

The Shirelles “I Met Him on a Sunday”

332 Smokey Robinson (1940- ) and the Miracles “Got a Job” 1958

Robinson "was born and raised in Detroit, in the rough Brewster ghetto, where, as he recalled in People, 'you were either in a [music] group or a gang or both'"..."Robinson would not consider a professional career until he graduated from high school, and even then he tried barber school and courses in dentistry before giving his full attention to music. In 1954 he formed a rhythm and blues group called the Matadors; the name was changed to the Miracles three years later to accommodate a female singer, Claudette Rogers, who married Robinson in 1959" (Contemporary Black Biography, 2005). 

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles “Got a Job”

331 Cliff Richard (1940- ) and the Shadows “Move It” 1958

Drummer “Brian Bennett first met Cliff Richard in Soho's 2i's coffee bar, the birthplace of British pop, in the late 1950s. Cliff - then plain Harry Webb - would just turn up for a cup of espresso (price one shilling, or 5p), and hang around with all the other aspiring rockers, taking turns to play on the 18in-wide stage in the hope of being discovered.” The Drifters were renamed the Shadows, who “kick-started the British rock'n'roll revolution - George Harrison famously said of the band, 'No Shadows, no Beatles' - but they were clean-cut and well-behaved” (Spencer Bright, Daily Mail, 4/9/2016). 

Cliff Richard and the Shadows “Move It”

September 16, 2016

330 Louis Prima (1910-1978) and Keely Smith (1932- ) “That Old Black Magic” 1958

Prima “mastered a singing style the likes of which the world had never heard. It was, like his music itself, jazz-influenced, yet it struck one’s ears as decidedly strange.” He and his fourth wife, Keely Smith, “were one of the most popular acts in Las Vegas” in the 50’s. A decade later, he was “reduced to supplying the voice for King Louis, the cartoon orangutan in Walt Disney’s 1969 Jungle Book” (Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll). 

Louis Prima and Keely Smith “That Old Black Magic”

329 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Wear My Ring (Around Your Neck)” 1958

Despite its juvenile lyrics, “the R&B crowd loved ‘Wear My Ring’”…By the late fifties, “white artists found it difficult to compete with real R&B music.” Presley was “one of the few white singers who could do justice to the genre created by African Americans” (Collins, Untold Gold).  

Elvis Presley “Wear My Ring (Around Your Neck)”

328 The Platters “Twilight Time” 1958

Eddie Stovall of the contemporary remake group, the World Famous Platters, said: "The songs of The Platters and of decades past have substance, and that's the reason why they are timeless…I'm sad to say that today's music don't have as much of a chance to stand the test of time because they don't really make much sense” (The Manilla Times, 2012). 

The Platters “Twilight Time”

327 The Platters “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” 1958

“The Platters emerged from the Watts high schools in Los Angeles and the amateur nights at Club Alabam on Central Avenue, a scene that produced dozens of vocal groups. It was a ‘close-knit community of singers’…a hotbed of musical interaction among amateur musicians who were only one record away from being pros” (Albin Zak, I Don’t Sound Like Nobody, 2010). 

The Platters “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”

326 Johnny Otis (1921-2012) “Willie and the Hand Jive” 1958

“born John Alexander Veliotis to Greek American parents” and “raised in a predominantly African American suburb of West Berkely, California…Otis composed ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ in response to British skiffle, a rhythmically driven, folk-inspired precursor of rock and roll. The hand jive is a dance that couples intricate hand gestures with percussive claps and slaps on the arms, legs, or torso” (Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia). 

Johnny Otis “Willie and the Hand Jive”

September 9, 2016

325 Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) “Poor Little Fool” 1958

With “Elvis getting drafted earlier in 1958, Ricky Nelson stood alone as the leading teen idol in the country, and Rio Bravo director Howard Hawks later estimated that Ricky’s presence alone meant an additional million dollars at the box office for his western,” Rio Bravo. John Wayne and Dean Martin tossed the teenager into a pile of manure on his birthday (Ricky Nelson Idol for a Generation). 

Ricky Nelson “Poor Little Fool”

324 Little Richard (1932- ) “Good Golly, Miss Molly” 1958

“Suddenly he quit…Richard was shaken by an airplane scare and quit the music industry to train as a minister in the Seventh Day Adventist Church” (Clayton Goodwin, New African, 2005). 

Little Richard “Good Golly, Miss Molly”

323 Little Anthony (1941- ) and the Imperials “Tears on My Pillow” 1958

“Tears was an instant hit for the Imperials, who became Little Anthony [Gourdine] & The Imperials when famed DJ Alan Freed called them that on the radio because of Anthony’s high falsetto” (Steve Jones, USA Today, 3/31/2009). “As a radio announcer, Freed coined the term ‘rock-and-roll’ [and] played a key role in expanding its appeal and in doing so earned the nickname ‘Father of Rock and Roll’” (Historical Dictionary of the 1950’s). 

Little Anthony and the Imperials “Tears on My Pillow”

322 Jerry Lee Lewis (1935- ) “Breathless” 1958

To increase sales of the record and Beechnut gum, the “Dick Clark Show” told its viewers it’d mail them a copy if they sent in fifty cents and five gum wrappers. The promotion worked so well that the post office made the show stop. “this was the only time Beechnut ever outsold Wrigley’s” (Hellfire The Jerry Lee Lewis Story). 

Jerry Lee Lewis “Breathless”

321 Connie Francis (1938- ) “Who’s Sorry Now” 1958

“she recorded ten singles that went nowhere; these, along with her failed auditions for radio and television shows and stage musicals, convinced the teenager to abandon performing and accept a scholarship in radio and television production offered by New York University.” In 1958, “With one disc left on her MGM agreement, Francis recorded ‘Who’s Sorry Now,’ a 1923 favorite of her father’s—backed, this time, with a gentle rock and roll beat. The single was a blockbuster hit” (Nancy Pear, Contemporary Musicians, 1994).

Connie Francis “Who’s Sorry Now”

September 2, 2016

320 Brenda Lee (1944- ) “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” 1958

“Lee’s impact can be summarized with a few statistics. She has sold more than 100 million records worldwide and charted in more categories – including pop, rhythm & blues, rock, easy listening and country – than any other women in the history of recorded music” (“Brenda Lee Biography,” rockhall.com). 

Brenda Lee “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”

319 The Kingston Trio “Tom Dooley” 1958

The song is based on the 1867 murder trial of Tom Dula. “Frank Proffitt, of Pick Britches Valley, had his rendition collected by Frank Warner in 1938.” However, “The public erroneously connected ‘Tom Dooley’ with Thomas A. Dooley, the Navy doctor recently in the news for his missionary and medical roles in Vietnam and Laos…Thus accidentally the trio reaped the fruits of anticommunism while they drew inspiration and songs from the Weavers and Gateway Singers” (Ronald Cohen, Rainbow Quest). Both versions of the song are listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

The Kingston Trio “Tom Dooley”

Frank Proffitt (1913-1965) “Tom Dooley” 1940

318 Buddy Holly (1936-1959) “Rave On” 1958

Written by Sonny West and Bill Tilghman, “Rave On’ is for many the ultimate Buddy Holly vocal, combining as it does a mood of total rock ‘n’ roll abandon…with a delivery of relaxed economy and elegance” (Norman, Rave On). 

Buddy Holly “Rave On”

317 The Crickets with Buddy Holly (1936-1959) “Maybe Baby” 1958

“Though Buddy usually had the original idea for the melody and the themes of the lyrics, the songs were often finished in the company of the other Crickets.” Joe Mauldin said, “We’d say, ‘Well, let’s put so-an-so’s name on that one.’ And I don’t think Buddy cared that he might be giving away money this way” (Goldrosen and Beecher, Remembering Buddy). 

The Crickets with Buddy Holly “Maybe Baby”

316 Bobby Freeman (1940- ) “Do You Wanna Dance” 1958

Born in San Francisco, “Freeman is generally recognized as his home city’s first rock ‘n’ roll star by virtue of ‘Do You want to Dance’…later immortalized by the Beach Boys and Cliff Richard…Freeman later elected to pursue his singing career at a local topless club” (Encyclopedia of Popular Music). 

Bobby Freeman “Do You Wanna Dance”

August 26, 2016

315 The Flamingos “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” 1958

Formed in 1952 by cousins Zeke and Jake Carey, the group’s first Billboard hit was “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” when they changed records to End. They first signed with Chance, but “they received no money for any of their Chance recordings! The label was young, operated on a small budget, was understaffed, and kept no records of sales…The Careys went on to say that they were in it to impress the girls. They knew nothing about the business and just loved being in front of an audience” (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups, 2000). 

The Flamingos “Lovers Never Say Goodbye”

314 The Everly Brothers “All I Have to Do Is Dream” 1958

“It was an important record for us because its success gave our career longevity and changed people’s attitudes towards us so that when people think of the Everly Brothers they think of us harmonically,” said Phil Everly. “The record was to be the Everlys’ biggest seller in America and is regarded by many as the most distinctive of all their hits” (The Everly Brothers: Walk Right Back). 

The Everly Brothers “All I Have to Do Is Dream”

313 Tommy Edwards (1922-1969) “It’s All in the Game” 1958

“This jazz/pop/R&B singer-songwriter began his professional career in 1931.” His 1958 hit song is “a tune based on a 1912 melody by future US Vice President Charles Gates Dawes” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music). 

Tommy Edwards “It’s All in the Game” 

312 Duane Eddy (1938- ) “Rebel Rouser” 1958

“I knew in the beginning, when I was starting out—I was about seventeen or eighteen and did a few session in Phoenix—I discovered the bass strings were more powerful in a recording than the high strings…on Rebel Rouser I kept it all on the low strings and that became pretty much my style” (“Duane Eddy,” Maverick, Aug. 2011). 

Duane Eddy “Rebel Rouser”

311 Dion (1939- ) and the Belmonts “I Wonder Why” 1958

I remember the night that they first put “I Wonder Why”on the radio,’ Dion said, referring to the first big hit he had with the Belmonts. ‘Everybody on the block turned their radios up loud and stuck them out the window. The Belmonts and I, when that song first came on, we were silent, completely silent. We were saying to each other, you make a sound and I'll punch your face in. When it ended, we went absolutely crazy. The whole neighborhood did’” (Sam Verhovek, “A Wanderer, Dion Returns to His Roots,” The New York Times, 6/19/1987). 

Dion and the Belmonts “I Wonder Why”

August 19, 2016

310 Bobby Day (1930-1990) “Rockin’ Robin” 1958

Born Robert Byrd in Fort Worth, Texas. After his hits in 1958, “this distinctive singer-songwriter never returned to the Top 40…Although his songs were no longer selling, his songs were often revived…Michael Jackson taking ‘Rockin’ Robin’ to number 2 in 1972” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

309 Bobby Darin (1936-1973) “Splish Splash” 1958

“The sense of humor is implanted in it from the beginning, thanks to the contribution of Tom Dowd. ‘When the recording date was over, I…filled a paper cup with some water, and jostled my fingers in the cup, making a splashing sound. I recorded this onto a piece of tape’… ‘Splish Splash’ was one of the few records by a white artist that sold well in the black community for the simple reason that most listeners assumed Bobby was black” (Roman Candle The Life of Bobby Darin).

Bobby Darin (1936-1973) “Splish Splash”

308 The Danleers “One Summer Night” 1958

The song “captured perfectly the teen angst of the rock ‘n’ roll era, and went to number 4 R&B and number 7 pop…Despite some equally evocative follow-ups on Mercury, the Danleers failed to have another hit, breaking up in 1959” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music).

307 The Crests “Sixteen Candles” 1958

“In 1955, some junior high school students decided to form a vocal group and sang at schools, hospitals, and other local functions…After about a year, Johnny [Mastroangelo] joined the group, which in 1956 adopted the name ‘Crests.’” A wife of a record producer heard them in a subway, “and just weeks later, they were signed to record” (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups).

306 Eddie Cochran (1938-1960) “C’mon Everybody” 1958

“Eddie Cochran would later be forever associated with a handful of deceptively simple three-chord acoustic guitar-led songs...” As a session player with other musicians, he was known as “a highly skilled, forward-thinking and innovative guitarist” (Don’t Forget Me: The Eddie Cochran Story).

August 4, 2016

305 Eddie Cochran (1938-1960) “Summertime Blues” 1958

The hit song would “elevate Eddie’s status to that of a credible rock’n’roll singer.” Despite his fame, “he lived at home with his parents where he was still fondly regarded as the Cochran family’s youngest son” (Don’t Forget Me: The Eddie Cochran Story, 2001). 

Eddie Cochran “Summertime Blues”

304 The Coasters “Yakety Yak” 1958

“A good many of the early black rock acts were vocal groups with the sounds more imitative of the Ink Spots’ ballads than the brassy rhythms of R&B. Nonetheless, such stars as the Coasters provided a base for the eventual move of blues and R&B artists to major status…For the balance of the ‘50s, the Coasters remained among the most important influences on popular music” (Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul). 

The Coasters “Yakety Yak”

303 Jimmy Clanton (1938- ) and his Rockets “Just a Dream” 1958

Clanton formed his band while in a Baton Rouge high school and performed “on ‘Teen Town Rally,’ a local radio show.” He “continued to release hits after he was drafted into the U.S. Army”…and “starred in the rock n roll movie, ‘Go Johnny Go’” (“Jimmy Clanton,” www.museumofthegulfcoast.org). 

Jimmy Clanton and his Rockets “Just a Dream”

302 The Chordettes “Lollipop” 1958

The Chordettes signed with Archie Bleyer’s label, Cadence Records. Their song, “Lollipop,” “climbed to number two on the popular music charts. It represented Bleyer’s attempt to give the group the rock ‘n’ roll sound they had not previously had.” Though their songs “may seem simple and even sappy to contemporary pop music fans…it is impossible to imagine American music of the 1950s without [their] unique sounds” (Contemporary Musicians). 

The Chordettes “Lollipop”

301 The Capris “There’s a Moon Out Tonight” 1958

Based in Queens, N.Y., not to be confused with same-named groups formed in the mid and early fifties from Philadelphia and San Diego. “’There’s a Moon Out Tonight’ was released in 1958 on Planet, but the group disbanded shortly thereafter as a result of poor sales. Mike (Mincelli) got married, Nick (Santamaria) enlisted in the service, and the Capris were gone.” The song was rereleased in 1960 and 1961 and became a hit (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups, 2000). 

The Capris “There’s a Moon Out Tonight”

July 29, 2016

300 The Champs “Tequila” 1958

Danny Flores (1929-2006), stage name Chuck Rio, “struck rock ‘n’ roll gold in 1958 when he wrote ‘Tequila.’…Though the song sold millions of copies, it was never even supposed to be a single. It was recorded as a last-minute B-side, but one night a DJ in Cleveland flipped the record, the phones lit up and ‘Tequila’ was on fire. The song was No. 1 for five weeks and went on to receive a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Performance, making Flores the first Latino to win the music industry's top honor” (The Orange County Register, 9/22/2006). 

The Champs “Tequila”

299 Jerry Butler (1939- ) and the Impressions “For Your Precious Love” 1958

Known as the Iceman “because he’s so cool,” “His first challenge was song battles against local groups who were dancers as well as singers. The battles were held in gymnasiums and the winners were gauged by the loudest audience response… ‘What they tried to do with footwork, we tried to do with harmony,’ Jerry said” (Ebony, Dec. 1969). 

Jerry Butler and the Impressions “For Your Precious Love”

298 James Brown (1933-2006) and the Famous Flames “Try Me” 1958

“it was a song in the familiar James Brown style: on one level a love song; on another a plea filled  with courtesy, respect, and a bit of a request for the audience to try out my wares by sampling my music. Give me a shot, please!” (Brown, I Feel Good, 2005). 

James Brown and the Famous Flames “Try Me”

297 The Big Bopper “Chantilly Lace” 1958

J.P. Richardson (1930-1959) “was a radio guy, a disc jockey from Texas who hosted ‘The Dishwasher’s Serenade’ on KTRM after he got out of the army. When he was offered the afternoon shift, he decided to call himself the Big Bopper, and the show took off. One publicity stunt involved breaking the record for continuous broadcasting. He stayed on the air for five days, two hours and eight minutes” (“Talk of the Nation,” NPR, 2/3/2009). 

The Big Bopper “Chantilly Lace”

The Big Bopper “Little Red Riding Hood”

296 Pat Boone (1934- ) “A Wonderful Time Up There (Gospel Boogie)” 1958

“Although he had started recording Christian music as early as 1957, his concentration on that form was near-total by the late 70s.” Despite his conservative religious image, he encouraged musical innovation; “In 1997, Boone recorded with Ritchie Blackmore and Guns N’Roses’ Slash for his heavy metal tribute album” (Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006).

Pat Boone “A Wonderful Time Up There”

July 22, 2016

295 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “Johnny B. Goode” 1958

“Berry…gained a reputation in the St. Louis music scene, and in 1952 he formed the Sir John Trio with pianist and band leader Johnnie Johnson and drummer Eddie Hardy. The connection with Johnson would be a lasting one, and the influence of the pianist’s boogie style would become evident in Berry’s guitar playing. Berry had a knack for pleasing the crowd, and the band eventually changed its name to The Chuck Berry Trio. The band’s repertoire included the blues, ballads, and a number of ‘black hillbilly’ songs that jokingly parodied the country music popular to the city’s white audiences” (Contemporary Musicians, 2002).

Chuck Berry “Johnny B. Goode”

294 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “Sweet Little Sixteen” 1958

As a performer, Berry enraptured audiences with his trademark guitar licks and his bent-kneed, rhythmic ‘duck walk,’ which he is said to have created during a performance one night to hide the wrinkles in his pants… the Beach Boys came out with a thinly veiled replica of ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ called ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ Recognizing that the Beach Boys had lifted his melody, Berry sued the band and won a songwriting credit” (Contemporary Musicians, 2002).

Chuck Berry “Sweet Little Sixteen”

293 Chuck Willis (1928-1958) “C.C. Rider” 1957

“Because of its stuttering Latin tempo, ‘C.C. Rider” helped popularize a dance called the stroll that was built around a similar rhythm. Willis then began calling himself King of the Stroll…a year after its release, Willis, age thirty, was killed in an auto crash” (Robert Santelli, The Big Book of Blues, 1993). 

Chuck Willis “C.C. Rider”

292 Larry Williams (1935-1980) “Bony Maronie” 1957

“died violently in L.A. 1980. Little Richard-style Screaming Blues songwriter bedazzled the Beatles, who lifted his super-fast ‘Slow Down’…Biggest hit is PG-13 ‘Short Fat Fannie,’ but ‘Bony’ is unforgettable via simile rhyme” (Maury Dean, Rock and Roll: Gold Rush, 2003). 

Larry Williams “Bony Maronie”

Larry Williams “Short Fat Fannie” 

291 Tab Hunter (1931- ) “Young Love” 1956

Jazz critic Ted Gioia noted that in 1957, “the closeted gay crooner Tab Hunter was bigger than Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, ‘but critics and music historians hate sentimental love songs. They’ve constructed a perspective that emphasizes the rise of rock and pushes everything else into the background’” (Klosterman, The New York Times Magazine, 5/29/16). 

Tab Hunter “Young Love”

July 15, 2016

290 Warren Smith (1932-1980) “Miss Froggie” and “So Long, I'm Gone” 1957

A talented singer from Mississippi who was envious of the success of rivals and who never quite lived up to his potential. Sam Phillips said “He was probably the best pure singer for country music I’ve ever heard.” Smith had a minor hit with “So Long, I’m Gone” (by Roy Orbison ), “But it was the flipside, ‘Miss Froggie,’ that has won the enduring love of rockabilly fans” (Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll). 

Warren Smith “Miss Froggie”

Warren Smith “So Long, I’m Gone”

289 Huey “Piano” Smith (1934- ) and his Clowns “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu” 1957

“Huey ‘Piano’ Smith is a lost legend from [New Orlean’s] golden age of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm-an-blues…His epic accounts of unpaid royalties for his songwriting and recordings and of his recent bankruptcy filing illuminated the dark flipside of the music business” (Wirt, Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues). 

Huey “Piano” Smith and his Clowns “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie-Woogie Flu”

288 The Silhouettes “Get a Job” 1957

“This group started as the Gospel Tornadoes…On Sundays they would sing gopel; during the week they changed hats and sang secular tunes. They ultimately concluded that they could not earn a living performing religious music.” They had little success after “Get a Job,” and after personnel turnover, disbanded in 1964 (Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo-Wop Vocal Groups). 

The Silhouettes “Get a Job”

287 Tommy Sands (1937- ) “Teen-Age Crush” 1957

“the people who managed me did a whole lot to take almost all of Elvis out of me, because they were much more conscious of it then me. They took away the guitar from early on…They had me cut my sideburns, cut my hair. It was a conscious attempt on their part to make me totally different. If I would've had my own way, I would have been even more identifiable as an imitator because I liked him so much” (“Tommy Sands Interview,” www.famousinterview.com). 

Tommy Sands “Teen-Age Crush”

286 Billy Lee Riley (1933-2009) & his Little Green Men “Red Hot” 1957

When Riley recorded “Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the “timing was perfect, riding the crest of the rock'n'roll explosion and the growing fascination with UFOs and on the crest of the Soviet launch of the first Sputnik. The record's spectacular success led Riley to rename his band the Little Green Men and to dress them in green baize suits. With his film-star good looks and Presley-like stage moves, stardom seemed guaranteed. Yet the follow-up single, Red Hot, featuring Jerry Lee Lewis accompanying Riley on pounding piano, fared less well. In later years Riley claimed the reason was that Phillips and Sun failed to promote it properly because they were too busy pushing Lewis's own Great Balls of Fire” (“Billy Lee Riley,” The Times (London), 8/6/2009). 

Billy Lee Riley & His Little Green Men “Red Hot”

July 8, 2016

285 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Jailhouse Rock” 1957

Noted R&B songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller thought “Elvis was little more than a backwoods hick who had gotten lucky…When they met the singer for the first time and began to discuss music with him, they were shocked. Within minutes the songwriters discovered that Elvis was not only talented, but that he was humble and bright, too. He was familiar with almost all of their compositions.” They “fell in love with” him (Collins, Untold Gold, 2005).

Elvis Presley “Jailhouse Rock”

284 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “All Shook Up” 1957

A Shalimar music executive dared their talented songwriter, Otis Blackwell, to write a song based on a shaken bottle of Pepsi-Cola placed on his desk. The result was a potential hit that Presley liked when he heard the demo (Collins, Untold Gold).

Elvis Presley “All Shook Up”

283 Carl Perkins (1932-1998) “Matchbox” 1957

“In March 1956, just as Perkins's celebrity seemed to be overtaking Presley's, Carl and his brothers were seriously injured in a car accident while driving to New York to perform on ‘The Perry Como Show,’ which would have been the band's first nationally televised appearance…Perkins's career never recaptured its energy and momentum” (American National Biography). Earlier versions of “Matchbox” had been recorded by Ma Rainey and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

Carl Perkins “Matchbox”

282 Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) “Stood Up” 1957

“As a teen, Rick grew to hate shooting the TV show through which the nation came to know him…But Ricky couldn’t openly express any resentment, so rebellion took subtle forms, like long hair, smoking cigarettes, or fast cars. And rock & roll” (Ricky Nelson Idol for a Generation). 

Ricky Nelson “Stood Up”

281 Muddy Waters (1913-1983) “Got My Mojo Working” 1957

Muddy Waters learned the song from R&B and gospel singer, Ann Cole. He modified the rhythm and a few words and listed himself as the songwriter, leading to a lawsuit between Chess records and the original author, Preston Foster. 

Muddy Waters “Got My Mojo Working”

Ann Cole (1934-1986) “Got My Mojo Working” 1957

July 1, 2016

280 The Monotones “The Book of Love” 1957

The sextet “had sung in the same church choir as Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston before forming their own group…Inspired by a television commercial for toothpaste (‘You’ll wonder where the yellow went when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent’), Patrick, Malone and Davis wrote ‘Book of Love to a similar melody” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music). 

The Monotones “The Book of Love”

279 Amos Milburn (1927-1980) “Let’s Have a Party” 1957

Born in Houston, Milburn started an R&B band after leaving the Navy. He was “voted Top R&B Artist” in 1949 and 1950” and was known for a string of “romping boogies about drinking and partying.” His career ebbed in the sixties as he played his old hits in clubs before retiring to his hometown (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music). 

Amos Milburn “Let’s Have a Party”

278 Frankie Lymon (1942-1968) and the Teenagers “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent” 1957

“Robbed of his childhood even before fame (he told Ebony that he had been a pimp at age 10), Lymon got trapped in his childlike image… ‘I had been smoking marijuana when I was in grade school,’ Lymon told Ebony in 1967. ‘But I didn't start using [heroin] until I got into show business.’ A year after that interview, Lymon died at age 25 of a heroin overdose in the same apartment in which he'd grown up. He was broke and all but forgotten” (People, 9/14/1998). 

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent”