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”