March 18, 2016

210 Screaming Jay Hawkins (1929-2000) “I Put a Spell on You” 1956

Hawkins was adopted by a Blackfoot tribe family. He was a musical prodigy, teaching himself how to read music and play multiple instruments at a young age and attending the Ohio Conservatory of Music to learn opera. He returned to music after a boxing career and stint in the army; he became the “precursor to some of the more exotic rock and roll acts of the later part of the century…with his special combination of what critics unanimously called ‘shock and schlock’” (Contemporary Musicians).

Screaming Jay Hawkins “I Put a Spell on You”

209 The Five Satins “In the Still of the Night” 1956

“While on guard duty one night during his tour in the army, Freddie Parris wrote one of the all-time vocal group classics, ‘In the Still of the Nite.’ …After writing this tune, Paris returned to New Haven on leave, assembled several singers and a band. He arranged for space in the basement of St. Bernadette’s church and cut the tune… The song’s nonsense syllable backing track is often credited with giving the doo-wop genre its name” (Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians).

The Five Satins “In the Still of the Night”

208 Fats Domino (1928-2017) “Blueberry Hill” 1956

“Fats went on to sell an estimated 110 million records, second only to Elvis in sales among rock's pioneers, and second to none in talent” (Charles Young, Rolling Stone). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

Fats Domino “Blueberry Hill”

207 Bill Doggett (1916-1996) “Honky Tonk” 1956

“In 1938 he formed his own band with several of his colleagues; Lucky Millinder fronted the band for a 1938 tour (Doggett reputedly traded the entire outfit to Millinder for a soda)… From 1951 he specialized on organ, leading his own small combo with great success throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His R&B combo signed with King in Cincinnati around 1953, churning out a slew of sizzling instrumentals” (Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians).

Bill Doggett “Honky Tonk”

206 The Del-Vikings “Come Go with Me” 1956

“Perhaps the most memorable doo wop songsters, the Del Vikings…epitomized the sweet, carefree sound of the 1950s with their phrase ‘Dom, dom, dom, dom, dom-dee-doobie, dom.’… The group “joined the Meadowlarks and the Mariners as one of the first singing doo wop groups to mix races” (Contemporary Musicians).

The Del-Vikings “Come Go with Me”

March 11, 2016

205 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “Hallelujah I Love Her So” 1956

By 1955, his producers “realized they had nothing more to teach Ray about making hit records; now he was teaching them” (Ray Charles Man and Music).

Ray Charles “Hallelujah I Love Her So”

204 Johnny Cash (1932-2003) “I Walk the Line” 1956

The song derived from Cash listening to a tape of the Landsberg Barbarians in reverse and talking with Carl Perkins about performers’ lack of marital fidelity. Cash said, “Not me buddy, I walk the line” (Stephen Miller, Johnny Cash The Life of an American Icon).

203 Johnny Cash (1932-2003) “Folsom Prison Blues” 1956

Even though the song plagiarized “Crescent City Blues” by Gordon Jenkins, this “in no way detracts from Johnny’s undoubted gifts as an original songwriter…he is the only musician to have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame” (Stephen Miller, Johnny Cash The Life of an American Icon).

Johnny Cash “Folsom Prison Blues”

202 Johnny Burnette (1934-1964) and the Rock and Roll Trio “Train Kept A-Rollin’” 1956

“One of the most distinctive of the late 1950s teen-beat idols, Johnny Burnette began his career with brother Dorsey in the wild Rock’n’Roll Trio…there was always this edginess, a wild and reckless man just waiting to unleash his rockier side” (Alan Cackett, Maverick, 2011).

201 James Brown (1933-2006) and the Famous Flames “Please, Please, Please” 1956

“’Please Please Please’ was always my most popular song, and it never failed to drive the audiences crazy! I’d come out at the top of the show, politely introduce myself…Then I’d explode into a thirty-five, forty-minute rendition of it, with Danny Ray serving as my ‘Cape Man,’ a job he performs to this day” (I Feel Good).

March 4, 2016

200 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “Roll Over Beethoven” 1956

“At age 17, he and two friends were arrested for attempted robbery; Berry was sentenced to ten years in the Intermediate Reformatory for Young Men in Algoa, Missouri. In the reformatory Berry sang with a gospel group; he was released in 1947, on his twenty-first birthday. Marriage and an upright life immediately followed his reformatory stint: Berry married Themetta ‘Toddy’ Suggs in 1948 and took a job in an auto assembly plant. After completing night courses in cosmetology, he worked as a hairdresser, moonlighting as a guitarist for various bands to bring in extra money” (Contemporary Musicians). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Chuck Berry “Roll Over Beethoven”

199 Chuck Berry (1926-2017) “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” 1956

“It was in the Ville, one of the few neighborhoods in St. Louis where African Americans could own property, that Berry spent his formative years, honing his musical skills as a choir boy in his Baptist church, and as a bass singer in his high school glee club. At the urging of a music teacher, he bought a four-string tenor guitar (graduating later to a six-string guitar) and taught himself how to play” (Contemporary Musicians).

198 LaVern Baker (1929-1997) “Jim Dandy” 1956

“Born Delores Williams on Chicago's South Side, she began performing in her hometown at the age of 17. The niece of blues singer Memphis Minnie, Baker began her career by using the stage name Little Miss Sharecropper…When her career slowed down in the late '60s, she visited Vietnam to entertain the troops. Later, she relocated to the Philippines where she spent most of the next two decades managing a club near the U.S. military base and performing weekends” (Jet, 1997).

197 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Mystery Train” 1955

A few months after recording the song, Colonel Tom Parker convinced Elvis and his parents to sign a contract with far-reaching consequences. “This put the Colonel in what amounted to an all-powerful position: He had the exclusive right to steer Elvis Presley’s career” (Elvis Presley A Life In Music). Presley's 1954-1955 Sun sessions are listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

196 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) and the Blue Moon Boys “Milkcow Blues Boogie” 1955

“what Elvis is doing in his Sun records is repeating instinctively that process of making music new by recharging its rhythm in a way that has characterized every stylistic revolution in the history of twentieth-century pops,” which “gives the Sun sides an archetypal quality” (Goldman, Elvis). His 1954-1955 Sun sessions are listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.