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”

277 Jimmie Logsdon (1922-2001) “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket” 1957

“His career, which had never really much to write home about, seemed to be dead. His wife was divorcing him. He…was fast becoming a pill-degenerate and a drunk…Later in 1957, under the name of Jimmie Lloyd, he cut two singles for Roulette. One of these sides, ‘I Got a Rocket in My Pocket’…went on to become one of the most sought-after records in rockabilly history” (Unsung Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll). 

Jimmie Logsdon “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket”

276 Little Richard (1932- ) “Lucille” 1957

“Although [Richard Wayne Penniman] sang in a church choir from an early age, he also ‘hung out’ on the wild side…This complementing and conflicting mixing of the influence of gospel music and profane extravagance contributed towards the conflict which generated his excessive energy” (Clayton Goodwin, New African, 2005). 

Little Richard “Lucille”