April 29, 2016

235 Gene Vincent (1935-1971) and his Blue Caps “Be-Bop-A-Lula” 1956

A disabling motorcycle accident ended his career in the navy. Five years later, he was in a car wreck that killed Eddie Cochran, “his mentor and best friend at a point when his career and personal life had begun to look up again” (American National Biography).

Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps “Be-Bop-A-Lula”

234 The Teen Queens “Eddie, My Love” 1956

According to Ebony magazine in 1956, the Teen Queens (Betty and Rosie Collins) were one of “over two hundred teen rock ‘n’ roll groups.” “Every rock ‘n’ roll concert was an occasion for affirming and celebrating teenage collective identity and solidarity” (Glenn Altschuler, All Shook Up, 2003).

The Teen Queens “Eddie, My Love”

233 The Staple Singers “Uncloudy Day” 1956

“The song was known to almost anyone who had attended a Christian church service. It was written in 1879 by Josiah K. Alwood, an itinerant preacher from the Midwest, after riding through a midnight rainstorm and catching a glimpse of what he said was a rainbow…the Staples found themselves transformed from a novelty to hometown stars who still carried themselves like everybody’s next-door neighbor” (Greg Kot, I’ll Take You There).

The Staple Singers “Uncloudy Day”

232 Otis Rush (1935- ) “I Can’t Quit You Baby” 1956

“In capturing the Chicago sound, Otis Rush’s severely under-recorded career…moved blues from its country origins and discovered an almost painful intensity, which was firmly of the city” (Music Week 3/27/04).

Otis Rush “I Can’t Quit You Baby”

231 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Love Me Tender” 1956

The song was arranged by noted songwriter and conductor, Ken Darby, for the movie originally titled The Reno Brothers. The title song “was based on the old American folk song ‘Aura Lee,’ which had been written in the days just before the Civil War” (Collins, Untold Gold).

Elvis Presley “Love Me Tender”

April 22, 2016

230 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Hound Dog” 1956

Music executive Steve Sholes “loved” Presley’s recording of “Hound Dog.” “But what impress him more than the perfect final take was the focus and determination that Elvis had exhibited as he toiled to get the number just right…it was obvious that the singer would settle for nothing less than perfection.” The song “probably had more to do with making Elvis the ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ than anything he recorded before or after” (Collins, Untold Gold).

Elvis Presley “Hound Dog”

229 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Don’t Be Cruel” 1956

Otis Blackwell was an impoverished, starving song writer when he was rescued by the Shalimar music company. He wrote and cut a demo designed for Presley about “teenage psychology and the way that teens maximized each of life’s small emotional dramas” (Collins, Untold Gold).

Elvis Presley “Don’t Be Cruel”

228 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Blue Suede Shoes” 1956

It was the first number of Presley’s first TV appearance, on a struggling variety show called Stage Show. The producer, Jack Philbin, invited Presley because he looked like “a guitar-playing Marlon Brando.” The audience’s reaction was lukewarm (Goldman, Elvis).

Elvis Presley “Blue Suede Shoes”

227 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Heartbreak Hotel” 1956

“The song, inspired by a hopeless man’s suicide note and penned by a schoolteacher and a forgotten country music wannabe, launched Elvis Presley as a mainstream force in American entertainment” (Collins, Untold Gold).

Elvis Presley “Heartbreak Hotel”

226 Carl Perkins (1932-1998) “Blue Suede Shoes” 1956

“Johnny Cash…suggested that Perkins ‘write … a song about blue suede shoes.’ Some time later, while playing a show at a supper club, he heard a young man admonish his date not to ‘step on my suedes!’ Later that evening, in the small apartment he shared with Valda [Crider] in the Jackson housing project, Perkins scrawled on a potato sack the lyrics that would secure his place in rock-and-roll history.…’Blue Suede Shoes’ became Sun Records' first million-selling record” (American National Biography). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

Carl Perkins “Blue Suede Shoes”

April 15, 2016

225 Roy Orbison (1936-1988) “Ooby Dooby” and “(Cat Called) Domino” 1956

Envying the success of his fellow Odessa student Pat Boone and that of Elvis Presley, both at that time riding the crest of early rock ’n’ roll popularity, Orbison transformed his group into the Teen Kings, a rockabilly-oriented rock ’n’ roll band. With the assistance of Norman Petty, a frequent collaborator of fellow Texan Buddy Holly who later also composed with Orbison, he recorded “Ooby Dooby,” a song composed by two upperclassmen at North Texas State” (American National Biography).

224 Moon Mullican (1909-1967) with Boyd Bennett and his Rockets “Seven Nights to Rock” 1956

“Though in the wake of Presley’s success, some country singers made attempts to try to play rock and had trouble making the adjustment, Moon had no such problems. After all, his earlier music helped lay the groundwork for rock” (Rich Kienzle on cover of Moon Mullican Seven Nights to Rock album). He has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (The Handbook of Texas Music).

Moon Mullican “Seven Nights to Rock”

223 Mickey (1925-2012) and Sylvia (1936-2011) “Love is Strange” 1956

“Mickey Baker might have remained comparatively unknown as a backroom session man but for his partnership with Sylvia Vanderpool. To make ends meet, Baker had started offering guitar tuition, and when she went to him for a course of lessons, the pair formed an act called Mickey and Sylvia…their second recording for Groove, ‘Love is Strange,’ … became a smash hit and propelled them to national stardom” (The Daily Telegraph (London), 12/5/12).

222 Skeets McDonald (1915-1968) "Heart Breakin' Mama" 1956

Enos William McDonald “got his nickname as a youngster after he was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes…After active service in World War II he returned to Detroit and made his first recordings for Fortune Records in 1950” (The Encyclopedia of Country Music).

221 Janis Martin (1940-2007) “Will You Willyum” 1956

“when Elvis is really coming into his own…she had already been honing her craft since she was about 6, so she was already being kind of a hillbilly-bop, rockabilly girl before the term was actually even there. And when she came along and she had this jump, bop, wiggle and shake stage presence...and a great voice - she was already doing it before she ever met [Presley]” (Weekend Edition Sunday NPR, 9/30/12).  

April 8, 2016

220 Janis Martin (1940-2007) “Drugstore Rock ‘n Roll” 1956

The singer was a teenager from Virginia who had been christened by RCA music producers as a female Elvis. Her name was Janis Martin and she went on to appear at the Grand Ole Opry, American Bandstand and the Tonight Show. But Martin's fame was short lived. The teenager got married and had a baby, which didn't sit so well with the people managing her career” (Weekend Edition Sunday NPR, 9/30/12).

Janis Martin “Drugstore Rock ‘n Roll”

219 Frankie Lymon (1942-1968) and the Teenagers “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” 1956

“Before Michael Jackson could walk--much less moonwalk--there was Frankie Lymon, rock's original pint-size sensation. Backed by his fellow doo-woppers, the Teenagers, Lymon was barely a teen himself (14, to be exact) when his first record, 1956's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?," catapulted him from Manhattan street corners to global fame… "'He was the first black teenage star,’ recalls his cousin Phil Harris” (Karlin Campbell, People, 1998). 

218 Little Richard (1932- ) “Long Tall Sally” 1956

His hit “Tutti Frutti” was recorded by Pat Boone, “the exact opposite of the homo/ambi-sexual twilight world from which the song orginated….Richard raised his tempo for his next release, Long Tall Sally. ‘Let’s see Pat Boone get his mouth together to do this song,’ he quipped and developed the ‘Ooooooh’ vocalizing which became his trademark” (Clayton Goodwin, New African, 2005).

217 Brenda Lee (1944- ) “Bigelow 6-200” 1956

This musical prodigy was singing professionally at 7, recording for Decca at 11. Unlike most child performers, Lee relied neither on cuteness nor a wispy, little-girl voice. Listeners were amazed to hear a tiny child (who hit only four nine an adult) belt out a song with a full-throated, booming tone. According to one writer, Lee was blessed with the power of Mahalia Jackson and the hillbilly heart of Hank Williams” (Kirkus Reviews, 2002).

216 Little Willie John (1937-1968) “Fever” 1956

Born William Edward John, “His muscular, full-throated tenor belied his short stature.” He performed with jazz greats, and his “signature number,” “Fever,” “became a pop-soul standard.” He died of a heart attack while in prison on a manslaughter charge (“Little Willie John Biography,” rockhall.com).

April 1, 2016

215 Wanda Jackson (1937- ) “I Gotta Know” 1956

“I began working with Elvis in '55 after I graduated from high school. We were boyfriend and girlfriend… He thought I should start doing this new music because he was just starting to really get big. I said, ‘I don't think I can do that because I'm just a country singer.’ He said, ‘Well, I am too basically, but I think … it's going to be the next really big music.’ Well, how right he was… It was through his encouragement that I got into rock ‘n’ roll music and daddy agreed with him thoroughly” (Brutarian Quarterly, 2002).

214 Wanda Jackson (1937- ) “Hot Dog, That Made Him Mad” 1956

“A groundbreaking performer in two genres, Wanda Jackson's early rockabilly style burned with hot-tempered sexuality…When the market for southern-fried rock and roll dried up during the twist era, she forged a substantial career in country music long before rock contemporaries Conway Twitty or Jerry Lee Lewis made a similar switch” (Contemporary Musicians).

213 Ivory Joe Hunter (1914-1974) “Since I Met You Baby” 1956

both of Hunter's parents died when he was eleven years old. Subsequently, he quit school and helped support his family with his music…pop stars such as Eddie Fisher and Pat Boone scrambled to record cover versions of his songs. R&B's smoothest innovator, Hunter could pound bawdy boogie like Fats Waller, create intimate swing like Duke Ellington, and bring out the best in simple, tender ballads Nat King Cole-style” (Contemporary Musicians).

212 Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976) “Smokestack Lightning” 1956

“Saying ‘Smokestack Lightning’ is about a train is like saying Citizen Kane is about a sled. It was Wolf’s single greatest recording, distilling into one unforgettable performance everything that made him unique” (Moanin’ at Midnight). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

211 Eddie Heywood (1915-1989) with Hugo Winterhalter (1909-1973) and his Orchestra “Canadian Sunset” 1956

Heywood was a jazz pianist and composer who recorded with “Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and the Andrews Sisters.” Winterhalter also composed and directed bands for celebrity singers (such as Dinah Shore) as well as for film and Broadway. Their R & B collaboration became a major hit (Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians).