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”