August 18, 2017

560 The Blossoms “He’s a Rebel” 1962

“Darlene Love’s was the unmistakable voice cutting through Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, although she was uncredited on her biggest hit, ‘He’s a Rebel,’ by the Crystals. A vocalist with the Blossoms and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Love also released some solo recordings, including one that would become her signature, ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),’ in 1963.” Love said, “I know we were the first black background group. Because mostly, the people that were doing sessions, they weren’t groups. They just hired a soprano, alto and tenor or whatever. But we were literally a group doing background…We worked for Dionne Warwick for 10 years. That was where we had most of our growing up—learning what you do and what you don’t do, how you take care of business, how you talk to people, how you deal with people” (Roger Catlin, The Washington Post, 12/15/2016). 

The Blossoms “He’s a Rebel”

559 The Beatles “Love Me Do” 1962

Little Richard: “Nobody knew [The Beatles] but their mothers. I thought they were a very good group when they performed with me at the Star-Club in Hamburg, but I never thought they were a hit group…They were singing my music and Chuck Berry’s and some of Elvis’s. They would sing ‘Love Me Do’ every night, ‘cause it was going to be their first record. It was really something else when they shook the world” (David Pritchard, Alan Lysaght, The Beatles: An Oral History, 1998). 

The Beatles “Love Me Do”

558 The Beatles “(P.S.) I Love You” 1962

When American rock & roll appeared in England in the mid 50s, “All the Beatles, like millions of lads of the same age, were affected. They all have the same sort of memories, of groups springing up in every class at school and in every street at home. There were overnight about a hundred dances in Liverpool with skiffle groups queuing up to perform. It was the first time for generations that music wasn’t the property of musicians. Anyone could get up and have a go. It was like giving painting sets to monkeys. Some of them were bound to produce something good sometime” (Hunter Davies, The Beatles, 1978). 

The Beatles “(P.S.) I Love You”

557 The Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari” 1962

“The first song on the first side of their first album didn’t tell a literal truth about the lives of the young men singing it—no one save the drummer was ever likely to go surfing with anyone at any time under any circumstances—but there’s truth in the voices. It crackled through the guitars and drums, and in 1962 it spoke not just to kids in Los Angeles, but also in hundreds of far-flung, landlocked cities” (Peter Carlin, Catch a Wave, 2006).  

The Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari”

556 John Barry (1933-2011) and his orchestra “James Bond Theme” 1962

“Before Dr. No, the most significant musical hit to have originated in a spy film was Doris Day’s ‘Que Ser Sera’ for the 1957 Alfred Hitchcock The Man Who Knew Too Much. But the use of the electric guitar connected a new generation of movie goers to the films they often saw in drive-in theatres on weekends, a generation defining itself by the sounds of rock and roll. As a result, the Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe, the guitar Vick Flick played for the original ‘James Bond Theme,’ is now appropriately on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” (Jack Becker, et al, James Bond in World and Popular Culture, 2011).

John Barry and his orchestra “James Bond Theme”

August 4, 2017

555 Joan Baez (1941- ) “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” 1962

“I had an affair with a girl when I was twenty-two. It was wonderful. It happened, I assume, after an overdose of unhappiness at the end of an affair with a man, when I had a need for softness and understanding. I assume that the homosexuality within me…saved me from becoming cold and bitter toward everyone” (Joan Baez, And a Voice to Sing With, 1987). 

Joan Baez “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”

554 Herb Alpert (1935- ) and the Tijuana “The Lonely Bull” 1962

Alpert “was working in the makeshift recording studio in his garage one day in 1962 when he happened on something interesting; he discovered that he could add a new dimension to his sound by recording a second trumpet part directly on top of the original…When the two parts were combined slightly out of synchronization, another effect was produced, which he called a ‘Spanish flair.’” Inspired by a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico, he added the “flair” and bullfight atmosphere to “a friend’s instrumental composition called ‘Twinkle Star,’ which he then retitled ‘The Lonely Bull’”(Ben Edmonds, Linda Paulson, Contemporary Musicians, 2005).

Herb Alpert (1935- ) and the Tijuana Brass “The Lonely Bull”

553 Bobby Vee (1943-2016) “Take Good Care of My Baby” 1961

“Born Robert Thomas Velline on April 30, 1943, and raised in Fargo, Vee famously got his big break under tragic circumstances at the age of 15 in 1959. He and his band, the Shadows, were recruited to fill in for Buddy Holly at the Moorhead stop of the Winter Dance Party Tour the night after Holly died in a plane crash outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Vee’s career soon rocketed after that as he earned teen idol fame and landed 38 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 between 1959-1970…he famously remained a humble, hard-working Midwesterner who settled into a quiet life in St. Joseph, Minn., with his wife of more than 50 years, Karen…Bob Dylan said that Vee was “the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with” (Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune—Minneapolis, October 24, 2016). 

Bobby Vee “Take Good Care of My Baby”

552 The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” 1961, The Weavers “Wimoweh” 1952, Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds “Mbube” 1939

Solomon Linda (1909-1962) “and his boys were given a one-off chance to record a song on the only recording equipment in all of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1939…Linda was paid ten shillings, and the song became a hit in Africa, though it was beyond unlikely that it would someday become known in every corner of the world.” Ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax shared the record with Pete Seeger, whose mistranslated “Wimoweh” was recorded by the Weavers in 1952. Because of Seeger’s leftist politics, “the song disappeared from the airwaves, as did Seeger for years to come. A decade later, four Jewish teenagers from Brooklyn calling themselves the Tokens discovered a dusty copy of the Weavers’ near-hit record in the collection of a group member’s older brother” (Robert Zieger, OAH Magazine of History, April 2010). 

The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

The Weavers and Gordon Jenkins & his Orchestra “Wimoweh”

Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds “Mbube”

551 The Shirelles "Mama Said" 1961

Susan Douglas wrote: “The most important thing about this music, the reason it spoke to us so powerfully, was that it gave voice to all of the warring selves inside us struggling, blindly and with a crushing sense of insecurity, to forge something resembling a coherent identity…In the early 1960s, pop music became the one area of popular culture in which adolescent female voices could be clearly heard” (O’Brien, She Bop II, 2002).

The Shirelles "Mama Said"

July 28, 2017

550 Del Shannon (1934-1990) “Runaway” 1961

“He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up in the nearby small town of Coopersville. He learnt to play the ukulele and guitar and listened to country music, citing Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Snow as particular favourites. During the late 1950s, before he became an international pop star, Del played in various bands around Battle Creek, Michigan. Adopting the name Charlie Johnson and fronting the Big Little Show Band, he would play a mix of country, pop, and rock’n’roll songs” (Maverick, April 2010). 

Del Shannon (1934-1990) “Runaway”

549 The Revels “Comanche” 1961

“While The Sentinals and The Impacts were probably the best-known surf bands from the [San Luis Obispo] county, local surf music began with The Revels…The Revels started out of San Loui Obispo High School in the mid-1950s. And while they are often considered a ‘pre-surf’ band, decades later, they would gain surf music notoriety when their song ‘Commanche’ appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s movie ‘Pulp Fiction’” (Patrick Pemberton, The Tribune,, 3/1/2012). 

The Revels “Comanche”

548 The Regents “Barbara Ann” 1961

“A rock ‘n’ roll vocal group from the Bronx, New York, USA. The Regents were part of the explosion of Italian-American vocal groups from the New York area who made their impact during the early 60s, before the British invasion and the rise of self-contained bands made them passé…They first recorded a demo of ‘Barbara-Ann’, but when no company showed interest in the song they broke up” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

The Regents “Barbara Ann”

547 Jimmy Reed (1925-1976) “Bright Lights, Big City” 1961

“Dazzled by the streetlights of many a Southern city while he was on a brief tour, Reed was struck with lyrics; words and images just seemed to manifest. He could hardly see in front of him as he sped down the road in his car, saying ‘these lights sure is bright.’ And the basis of a song emerged…The fascination with Wolf, Muddy, and even John Lee Hooker is their mannishness, the inherent meanness in their delivery. In short, they presented themselves as badasses, whether this was true or not. Conversely…Reed could have been the guy who sidled up to the bar and drank a couple of beers with you—and often was” (Will Romano, Big Boss Man: The Life and Music of Jimmy Reed, 2006). 

Jimmy Reed “Bright Lights, Big City”

546 Jimmy Reed (1925-1976) “Big Boss Man” 1961

“Because Reed’s epilepsy medicine was a depressant, when combined with alcohol it made the poor man dazed at times. Many Reed fans had no knowledge of his medical problem; they thought some of his whacky behavior could be chalked up to alcohol abuse, or worse. The truth is, Reed preferred to stay drunk most of the time because he thought it would keep his epileptic seizures at bay” (Will Romano, Big Boss Man: The Life and Music of Jimmy Reed, 2006). 

Jimmy Reed “Big Boss Man”

July 21, 2017

545 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Can’t Help Falling in Love” 1961

“After seeing Blue Hawaii, moviegoers left theaters talking about ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’ The number immediately became the favorite of hundreds of thousands of fans. Most were unaware that it had been designated the lesser of the two songs on Elvis’s latest record” (Ace Collins, Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis's #1 Hits, 2005). 

Elvis Presley “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

544 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Little Sister” 1961

Presley’s RCA recording engineer, Bill Porter, said the song was a classic even before they finished the final take. Competition from Presley’s films and from the other side of the song’s record (“His Latest Flame”) lowered projected sales (by Presley’s standards) (Ernst Jorgesen, Elvis Presley: A Life in Music, 1998). 

Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Little Sister”

543 The Paris Sisters “I Love How You Love Me” 1961

The song was recorded by Phil Spector, who along with the Paris Sisters expected generous royalty checks when the song became a hit. However, record owner Lester Sill told them that the production costs were too high. When the Sisters vehemently objected, Sill said “the Paris Sisters destroyed themselves, because they got very salty with me and no one else wanted to record ‘em. I loved the Paris Sisters but I don’t think anyone could’ve made hits with ‘em but Phil” (Mark Ribowsky, He’s a Rebel, 1989). 

The Paris Sisters “I Love How You Love Me”

542 Roy Orbison (1936-1988) “Crying” and “Running Scared” 1961

“Lacking the charismatic good looks of Elvis Presley or the other teen idols of the early 1960s, he increasingly adopted a solitary and mysterious posture, often dressing in black outfits on stage and wearing dark glasses for most public appearances. In the mid-1960s, he had a featured role in the film The Fastest Guitar Alive but made no further attempts to pursue a film career” (American National Biography, 2010). 

Roy Orbison “Crying”

Roy Orbison “Running Scared”

541 Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) “Travelin’ Man” 1961

Father Ozzie Nelson “unconsciously invented the conceptual music video…Instead of having Rick and the band simply stand up and sing the song on the TV program, Ozzie went to work in the editing room and superimposed some stock travelogue footage over Rick’s face as he sang ‘Travelin’ Man,’ a rudimentary model of music videos twenty years before they exploded on the music scene” (Joel Selvin, Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation, 1990). 

Ricky Nelson “Travelin’ Man”

July 14, 2017

540 Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) “Hello Mary Lou” 1961

“His guitarist, James Burton, wrote himself into the vocabulary of his instrument…The musicianship of Rick’s early band was renowned among other musicians. When Bob Dylan first looked for a band to back his electric folk rock, he sought out Rick’s old musicians” (Joel Selvin, Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation, 1990). 

Ricky Nelson “Hello Mary Lou”

539 The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” 1961

“When The Marvelettes appeared on American Bandstand, all of Inkster, Michigan was watching. Inkster High School even cancelled its football game, for once shining a light on the girls instead of the boys. Nervous to be talking to Dick Clark, Wyanetta [Cowart], when asked about the group’s origins, told him that ‘Detroit is 30 miles outside of Inskster’” (Gayle Wald, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Sept. 2012). 

The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman”

538 The Mar-Keys “Last Night” 1961

The band, originally called the Royal Spades, was formed by a group of students at Messick High School in Memphis, Tennessee. After their hit, “Last Night,” debuted, the name was changed to Mar-Keys, a modification of “Marquis” when a band member pointed out that “People around here don’t read French.” The record became the basis for “what became known as the Stax sound” (Rob Bowman, Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records, 1997).

The Mar-Keys “Last Night”

537 The Marcels “Blue Moon” 1961

Tenor “Bingo” Munday “and his friends formed the Marcels, named after a stylist haircut, in 1959 while students at Allegheny High School on the North Side, inspired by groups like the Harptones, the Cadillacs and the Spaniels…As legend has it, the day he heard it, New York DJ Murray the K played ‘Blue Moon’ 26 times in a four-hour show. In March 1961, the song knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the Billboard chart, becoming the first No. 1 rock n’roll hit out of Pittsburgh” (Scot Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/24/2017). 

The Marcels “Blue Moon”

536 Bobby Lewis (1933- ) “Tossin’ and Turnin” 1961

“One of the realities of the emergence of the rock and roll genre in 1955 or 1956 was the pace of rise to stardom and fall to nonentity was much more frenetic than in the Big Band era of the forties and the adult pop sound of much of the fifties…The much more adolescent-based rock audience was far more fickle, and even top stars who did not die in plane crashes or car wrecks saw their popularity diminish in an amazingly brief time frame. Thus many of the most successful artists during the summer of 1961 had almost totally disappeared by the summer of 1963” (Victor Brooks, Last Season of Innocence: The Teen Experience in the 1960s, 2012). 

Bobby Lewis “Tossin’ and Turnin”

July 7, 2017

535 Curtis Lee (1939-2015) “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” 1961

“Handsome and photogenic, Lee had a vocal approach close to the teen idols of the period.” His top hit was a result of producer Phil Spector’s “deft handling of the instrumental support” and incorporating “strong doo-wop riffing from an R&B vocal group, the Halos.” Lee never had another hit after Spector was dropped from Dune Records (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Curtis Lee (1939-2015) “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”

534 Gladys Knight (1944- ) and the Pips “Every Beat of My Heart” 1961

“Her parents were singers in the Wings Over Jordan gospel choir. She began singing gospel music at the Mount Moriah Baptist Church and had her first recital in 1948...In 1952, Gladys entertained her family by singing with ten-year-old brother Merald (known as ‘Bubba’), sister Brenda, and cousins William and Elenor Guest at Bubba's 10th birthday party. Another cousin, James ‘Pip’ Wood later suggested that they turn professional. He lent the group his nickname to The Pips” (Marilyn Williams, Linda Paulson, Contemporary Musicians, 2005). 

Gladys Knight and the Pips “Every Beat of My Heart”

533 The Kingston Trio “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” 1961

Pete Seeger’s song was inspired by a Ukrainian folk song in the novel And Quiet Flows the Don. He “sang it once in a medley of short tunes (released on a fascinating though obscure disc, ‘Rainbow Quest’) and forgot about it. But a song is like a child; once it gets out into the world on its own, it often surprises the parent” (David Dunaway, How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger, 1981).  

The Kingston Trio “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

532 The Kingston Trio “Pastures of Plenty” 1961

“They had the perfect combination of charm, wealth, security, and modesty…professionals yet with youthful zest; a refreshing alternative to the scruffy, rebellious, lewd rock and roll singers, according to the mass media. Thrilled by their style and songs, teenage fans consumed their records and packed the auditoriums” (Ronald Cohen, Rainbow Quest, 2002). 

The Kingston Trio “Pastures of Plenty”

531 Freddie King (1934-1976) “Hide Away” 1961

“As far as he’s concerned, he’s just a straight blues singer and liked nothing better than reminiscing about the good old Chicago days when there was a blues joint on every corner…He once liked nothing better than the chance for a guitar battle, but became notorious for the speed with which he dispatched opponents. This caused lesser men to hurriedly leave the stage as soon as they saw his bulk heave into sight” (Mike Leadbitter, Blues Unlimited, 1974). 

Freddie King “Hide Away”

June 30, 2017

530 Ben E. King (1938-2015) “Stand By Me” 1961

“‘He was one of the greatest singers of all time,’ says Steve Van Zandt. ‘He carried on the gospel soulfulness of Sam Cooke and had a really unique sound’...the Beatles and the British Invasion squeezed singers like King down the charts. ‘He wasn't the least bit bitter about that,’ says Van Zandt. ‘He was literally the nicest guy in the world’ (Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 6/4/2015). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Ben E. King “Stand By Me”

529 Chris Kenner (1929-1976) “I Like It Like That” 1961

“‘I always wondered why Chris had them hits,’ said Kenner’s booking agent in 1982. ‘He couldn’t sing, he couldn’t dance, he dressed raggedy, he didn’t have any showmanship.’…Kenner’s career suffered when [recording partner Allen] Toussaint was drafted into the army in 1963…He squandered a great deal of money and wound up doing prison time in Angola after being sent up on a statutory rape charge” (Jeff Hannusch, Offbeat, 2006). 

Chris Kenner “I Like It Like That”

528 Ernie K-Doe (1933-2001) “Mother-in-Law” 1961

“Born Ernest Kador Jr. in the city's Charity Hospital, K-Doe authored his hit single and other lively R&B tracks for local Minit Records, but a follow-up smash proved elusive. While he maintained a hometown profile as a hardworking performer in the James Brown/Joe Tex mold, K-Doe was best known for years as a DJ on New Orleans' WWOZ. There, his lunatic manner, unique lexicon and stream-of-consciousness raps cemented his status as a NoLa institution. Megalomania, alcoholism and a propensity for professional bridge-burning left him virtually homeless by the late '80s” (Ben Sandmel, Kirkus Reviews, 2012). 

Ernie K-Doe “Mother-in-Law”

527 Elmore James (1918-1963) “Shake Your Moneymaker” 1961

“Elmore James is one of the foremost architects of the electric blues and rhythm-and-blues music emerging from postwar Chicago, and he may well be the most influential electric slide guitarist in blues history. He played with great virtuosity, embellished by his fierce, heartfelt vocals…He was also an accomplished bandleader. His Broomdusters band was perhaps second only to the Muddy Waters bands among Chicago electric blues groups” (Howard Bromberg, Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, 2009). 

Elmore James “Shake Your Moneymaker”

526 Howlin’ Wolf (1910-1976) “The Red Rooster” 1961

He was named after President Chester Alan Arthur who “had helped desegregate New York’s streetcars and railroads. The child’s maternal grandfather gave him the nickname ‘Wolf’—as part of a recurring family jest, derived from the Little Red Riding Hood story”  (Ted Gioia, Delta Blues, 2008).

Howlin’ Wolf “The Red Rooster”

June 23, 2017

525 The Highwaymen “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” 1961

Lead singer “David Louis Fisher was born in 1940 in New Haven, Connecticut. He formed the Academics, a vocal group in the doo-wop style of the mid-1950s, while still at school. Drawn to folk music after hearing Pete Seeger and the Weavers, he formed the Highwaymen in 1958…The group was initially called the Clansmen, and Fisher later confessed that in their naivety, they had been unaware of the racist connotations the name had in the South. Once this was pointed out, they turned for inspiration to Alfred Noyes's 1906 poem The Highwayman” (The Times London, May 15, 2010). 

The Highwaymen “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”

524 Carolyn Hester (1937- ) “She Moves Through the Fair” 1961

Born in Waco, Texas, Hester learned her craft from musicians such as Johnny Giles and folk recordings at public libraries. She was a friend of Buddy Holly, who helped arrange some of her music and surprised her in a 1958 London concert by bringing her onstage to play piano. “By the age 21, Hester was the leading lady of the folk circuit” (C. Ross Burns, East Texas Historical Journal, Fall 2013). 

Carolyn Hester “She Moves Through the Fair”

523 Slim Harpo (1924-1970) “Rainin’ in My Heart” 1961

“On top of being a musician and business owner, Harpo strived to be a good father and family man, even through the lean times. Often Harpo was forced to work straight jobs, including operating a trucking business. ‘He worked hard,’ says [Harpo’s stepson, William Gambler]. ‘He was always looking for a way to make things better for us.’ Still, despite the financial hardships, day jobs and grueling gig schedule, Harpo loved what he did—playing the swamp blues and representing his hometown—and that enthusiasm rubbed off on those around him” (Ryan Whirty, Louisiana Life, Jan/Feb 2010).

Slim Harpo “Rainin’ in My Heart”

522 Johnny Hallyday (1943- ) “Souvenirs, Souvenirs” 1960 and “Viens Danser Le Twist (Let’s Twist Again)” 1961

Born Jean-Philippe Smet in Paris. “What first catapulted Johnny to fame was homegrown fare—Souvenirs, Souvenirs and the romantic Pourquoi Cet Amour, released in in June 1960 and making Hallyday a hot item. His French rock worked, he fell on the ground, banked his guitar, sang with urgent vibrato, was handsome, blond, tall… He always tipped his cap to Elvis, Chuck Berry, and other ‘sources’; but he also emulated with original verve. As in seventeenth-century France, M. Hallyday made an art of it!” (Barnett Singer, Contemporary Review, Sept. 2004). 

Johnny Hallyday “Souvenirs, Souvenirs”

Johnny Hallyday “Viens Danser Le Twist” 

521 The Fleetwoods “(He's) The Great Imposter” 1961

The group formed in Olympia, Washington. “Their first moniker, Two Girls And A Guy, was changed by a Seattle record distributor, Bob Reisdorff, who became their manager…In the midst of their success [Gary Troxell] was drafted into the navy, his place being taken when necessary by subsequent solo star Vic Dana” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

The Fleetwoods “The Great Imposter” 

June 16, 2017

520 Lee Dorsey (1926-1986) “Ya Ya” 1961

Dorsey’s family moved from New Orleans to Portland, Oregon, where he was “a successful fighter, one who could floor many a man in a single wallup.” He quit boxing in 1955, “then moved back to his native New Orleans, where he became a popular auto body and fender repairman before hitting the musical big time” (Ryan Whirty, Offbeat, Mar 2013). 

Lee Dorsey “Ya Ya”

519 Dion (DiMucci) (1939- ) “The Wanderer” 1961

“with his transcendent, flexible tenor, and with honest, often confessional lyrics that would give Jim Carroll chills…, Mr. DiMucci showed there was a Cassavetes-like brain throbbing beneath his Fabian-style pompadour. His work was some of the most emotionally conflicted of the era” (D. Strauss, “Dion: He Got Around,” New York Observer, 1/22/2001). 

Dion “The Wanderer”

518 Dion (DiMucci) (1939- ) “Runaround Sue” 1961

“His early hits…adapted Sinatra's streetlight existentialism for the sock-hop crowd. But Mr. DiMucci also had a well-developed taste for the poetry of the dark” (D. Strauss, “Dion: He Got Around,” New York Observer, 1/22/2001). 

Dion “Runaround Sue”

517 Joey Dee (1940- ) and the Starliters “Peppermint Twist” 1961

Dee’s band “took up residency at New York’s famed Peppermint Lounge club in 1960. In late 1961, a year after Chubby Checker’s ‘The Twist’ topped the US chart, the wealthy socialites who frequented the club belatedly discovered the dance. Dee incorporated it into his act and even wrote a special club son, ‘Peppermint Twist’ (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Joey Dee and the Starliters “Peppermint Twist”

516 Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) “Big Bad John” 1961

“He was raised in what he called dirt-poor surroundings in the small west Texas of Seth Ward, near Plainview. After leaving the armed forces in 1948, Dean began to make his name as a country singer around Washington DC, then a nexus of country music activity…But Dean’s career did not depend on recordings. He was one of country music’s earliest television stars” (Tony Russell, The Guardian, 6/17/2010). 

Jimmy Dean “Big Bad John”

June 9, 2017

515 Dick Dale (1937- ) and the Del-Tones “Let’s Go Trippin’” 1961

“I met a man called Leo Fender, who was the Einstein of the guitar and the amplifiers. And he says, I just made this guitar. It was a Stratocaster. He says, beat it to death and tell me what you think. So when I started playing on that thing, I wanted to get it to be as loud as I could…And at the same time, I was raising 40 different exotic animals—from elephants to lions and tigers and cheetahs and hawks and eagles…So when my mountain lion would scream to me…I would imitate that on my guitar” (Liane Hansen, Weekend Edition Sunday (NPR), Sept. 26, 2010).

Dick Dale and the Del-Tones “Let’s Go Trippin’”

514 Sam Cooke (1931-1964) “Cupid” 1961

“What was most extraordinary about Sam Cooke was his capacity for learning, his capacity for imagination and intellectual growth…he started his own record label and publishing company, probably the first such enterprise fully controlled by a black artist” (Peter Guralnick, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, 2005). 

Sam Cooke “Cupid”

513 Patsy Cline (1932-1963) “Crazy” 1961

“She would tell the audience,” said Barbara Mandrell, “I recorded a song called “I Fall to Pieces,” and I was in a car wreck. Now I’m really worried because I have a brand-new record and it’s called “Crazy”’” (Mary Bufwack, Robert Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000, 2003). Listed on the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. 

Patsy Cline “Crazy”

512 Patsy Cline (1932-1963) “I Fall to Pieces” 1961

Cline didn’t want to record the song because it didn’t appeal to her honky-tonk preferences, but it became a #1 hit. “For the second time in her career, Patsy was cast as a crossover act, mixing country stops with pop. One day it might be an appearance on ‘Jubilee U.S.A.’, the next day, a sock hop” (Margaret Jones, Patsy: The Life and Times of Patsy Cline,1994). 

Patsy Cline “I Fall to Pieces”

511 The Cleftones “Heart and Soul” 1961

“I [Herbie Cox (1939- )] was a student in Jamaica, Queens, when the group got started. We were all young, 16- and 17-year-old students. Some kids who never won an election thought it would be a good idea if we wrote a campaign song for them. In those days, it was against the rules in our school to play rock 'n' roll music. So we took a rock song and disguised it as the campaign song. It went over big and won the election for the students who had engaged us… In the early stages of our career back in the 1950s, we did get our education, that was important, but the Cleftones spent several years criss-crossing the country working with folks like Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and La-verne Baker, who used to watch over us like a mother. As kids, we were just happy to have our records played on the radio” (Deardra Shuler, New York Amsterdam News, Jan. 17, 2013).  

The Cleftones “Heart and Soul”

June 2, 2017

510 Dee Clark (1938-1990) “Raindrops” 1961

“Born Delecta Clark in Blytheville, Arkansas, in 1938, Dee Clark grew up in Chicago and enjoyed some minor chart successes with the Chicago group the Goldentones.” He left the group and then “returned to Chicago and began to come into his own as a solo artist…After the massive success of ‘Raindrops,’ a number-two hit on the Billboard chart in 1961, Clark was never able to recapture the success of his earlier hits, but he continued to perform into the 1980s. He died of a heart attack at age fifty-two” (Grady Gaines, I’ve Been Out There, 2015). 

Dee Clark “Raindrops”

509 Chubby Checker (1941- ) “Pony Time” 1961

“As a boy he shined shoes, and in high school he worked in a butcher shop plucking chickens. An early indication of his talent came when customers noticed his skill at impersonating the leading vocalists of the early rock and roll era—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, above all, a wildly successful New Orleans singer Checker admired, Fats Domino. Soon Checker was interested in music and performing with a street corner-harmony group, the Quantrells” (Contemporary Black Biography, 2001). 

Chubby Checker “Pony Time”

508 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “One Mint Julip” 1961

“On this album [Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz], like so many others I’d soon record, I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to reconstruct bits and pieces from my childhood—from all those years spent listening to the jukebox at Mr. Pit’s and listening to the radio at school…in many ways the record became a continuation of what we had begun on the big-band side of the Genius album for Atlantic” (Ray Charles, Brother Ray, 1978). 

Ray Charles “One Mint Julip”

507 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “Hit the Road Jack” 1961

“Ray refused to play to a segregated house, so black promoter Sunbeam Mitchell took the risk, and for the first time ever in Memphis, whites and blacks in equal numbers sat peaceably together and the ‘For Colored Only’ signs came down over the rest rooms” (Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music, 1998). 

Ray Charles “Hit the Road Jack”

506 Bruce Channel (1940- ) “Hey Baby” 1961

Channel “was eighteen, living in Grapevine, and singing with the Light Crust Doughboys when he began writing songs with veteran songwriter Margaret Cobb; ‘Hey! Baby’ was one of their first. He recorded it in a Fort Worth studio, backed by the Straitjackets, who featured Delbert McClinton on harmonica. Channel’s smooth voice and McClinton’s bluesy harmonica riff carried the song to number one and the two young men to England, where an unknown group called the Beatles opened for them. Backstage one night, John Lennon buttonholed McClinton and asked him to play the harmonica. A few months later, the lads released their first single, ‘Love Me Do,’ the opening notes of which—Lennon’s memorable harmonica part—draw a direct line from a little Fort Worth studio to the dawning of a new age” (Michael Hall, Texas Monthly, Mar 2007). 

Bruce Channel “Hey Baby”

May 26, 2017

505 Gary U. S. Bonds (1939- ) “Quarter to Three” 1961

Bonds “was barely in his 20s when his performances of rollicking tunes like "New Orleans" (1960) and "Quarter to Three" (1961) allowed him to break into the upper echelons of rock 'n' roll music. Just five years later, however, Bonds' shooting star had already begun to fade. Despite widespread critical acclaim, the Norfolk, Va., resident would spend the next four decades trying to scrape by on the golden-oldies circuit, playing in hotel lounges and even shopping malls” (Kirkus Reviews, 2013).

Gary U. S. Bonds “Quarter to Three”

504 Bobby “Blue” Bland (1930-2013) “Turn On Your Love Light” and “I Pity the Fool” 1961

Born in Rosemark, Tennessee, Bland “moved with his mother to Memphis so that her worries about her son’s dismal employment prospects might be allayed, as she was thoroughly convinced of Bobby’s musical talent. Bland soon found a musical home in Memphis. In the early 1950s he joined gospel groups, won singing contests and began associating with a group of fellow blues performers known informally as the Beal Streeters” (Michael Cala, Sing Out!, 2011).

Bobby “Blue” Bland “Turn On Your Love Light”

Bobby “Blue” Bland “I Pity the Fool”

503 The Beach Boys “Surfin’” 1961

L.A. producer Doris Morgan advised the Pendletones, “You’ve got to have an angle. Something to set you apart from the others.” Dennis Wilson suggested surfer music over the objections of the other group members, though they admitted to working on a song titled “Surfin’.” Morgan “told the boys to write down all the surfing phrases they knew, add them to the lyrics, and polish the melody…If she liked what she heard when they came back, they could record it” (Steven Gaines, Heroes and Villians: The True Story of the Beach Boys, 1986).

The Beach Boys “Surfin’” 1961

502 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “Deed I Do” and “Let the Good Times Roll” 1959

The Genius of Ray Charles album was one of the last he recorded for Atlantic, the company the produced his first LP. “He’d never forget their help, and he’d always be proud of the work they had done together. They might collaborate again someday, who could tell? But making records was a business, and in business everybody made the best deal they could make at the time. ‘Seventy-five cents out of a dollar and owning my own masters, that’s why I left Atlantic,’ Ray recalled years later. Friendship and sentiment had nothing to do with it” (Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music, 1998).

Ray Charles “Deed I Do”

Ray Charles “Let the Good Times Roll”

501 Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) Quartet “Take Five” 1959

Brubeck’s father wanted him to work on a ranch. Instead, Brubeck said, “I went through the College of the Pacific as a music major [1938-42] without being able to read music, until a little bit at the end. Strangely enough, I could write music down, and that helped me to read gradually” (Len Lyons, The Great Jazz Pianists, 1983). “’Take Five’” was so well received that it even made the popular music charts, peaking at number 25 in 1961—unheard of for an instrumental jazz recording. Time Out went on to become the first instrumental jazz album certified gold” (Rob Nagel, Ken Burke, Contemporary Musicians, 2010).

Dave Brubeck Quartet “Take Five”

May 19, 2017

500 Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” 1958

“Dinah Shore, one of the top TV personalities of the day, was the first white star to insist that her network, CBS, enter into a contact with Mahalia for an appearance on the ‘Dinah Shore Show.’ It was to be an historic alliance—the blond talk-show hostess, TV’s darling, and the sable-skinned empress of gospel—that would make a big dent in the rigid Jim Crow hiring practices of the entertainment industry…Jackson explained the difference between blues and gospel on the show: “The blues, baby, is when you’re feelin’ low…when you’re down in the mouth. But gospel is always happy a joyful sound. You know when you’re up an’ feelin’ good!” (Jules Schwerin, Got To Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, 1992). 

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)  “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”

499 Joao Gilberto (1931- ) “Chega de Saudade” 1958

“The Gilberto name is utterly synonymous with bossa nova: the light, melodic, samba-based musical hybrid that swept America and the rest of the world in the mid-60s. Guitarist/vocalist/composer Joao Gilberto grew up interested in Brazilian samba, absorbing the traditional rhthyms and melodies, but became seduced by jazz—the other ingredient in the bossa recipe—listening to radio stations playing American music. During the early 50s he settled in Rio De Janeiro, where the colourful cultural mix was already inspiring the brilliant guitarist/composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, with whom he soon began to collaborate” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Joao Gilberto “Chega de Saudade”

498 Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981) and his Pals “Star Dust” 1928; Billy Ward (1921-2002) and his Dominoes “Stardust” 1957

“Beyond argument, he’s the key precursor of that phenomenon of our own times, the singer-songwriter. Whether Billy Joel or Elton John, Dave Frishberg or Bob Dorough, or the countless others who have made an industry of devising and performing their own material, all share a common ancestor in the wiry little guy at the piano, hat back on his head, often bathed in cigarette smoke” (Richard Sudhalter, Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, 2002). 

“‘Star Dust’ was recognized as the most played staple of the swing era, a perfect vehicle for a large jazz ensemble that wanted to play something a little more introspective than ‘Bugle Call Rag.’…Perhaps inspired by the 1957 hit single of the tune by Billy Ward and the Dominoes, the expression was also briefly embraced by cinematic rock-and-rollers in the 1975 Stardust (about a fictitious but Beatle-esque pop band) and the 1983 Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (David Bowie in concert)” (Will Friedwald, Stardust Melodies, 2002). 

Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals “Star Dust”

Billy Ward and his Dominoes “Stardust”

497 Slim Harpo (1924-1970) “I’m a King Bee” 1957

“Born James Moore in 1924 in Lobdell, West Baton Rough Parish, Harpo, an orphan, spent his early years as a physical laborer in Baton Rouge. A musical late bloomer influenced by blues harmonica legends such as Little Walter, Harpo began moonlighting as Harmonica Slim in the mid-1950s, gigging with singer-guitarist Otis Hicks, aka Lightnin’ Slim, who was the region’s most established bluesman.” Harpo “became one of the most commercially successfully blues artists of his day, a fact borne out by the number of white blues and rock ‘n’ roll bands who absorbed his music. None other than the Roiling Stones covered Harpo's ‘I'm a King Bee" on their debut album, leading Stones frontman Mick Jagger to famously say, ‘What's the point in listening to us do “I’m a King Bee” when you can hear Slim Harpo do it?’” (Ryan Whirty, Louisiana Life, Jan/Feb 2010).

Slim Harpo “I’m a King Bee”

496 The Crickets with Buddy Holly (1936-1959) “Oh Boy” 1957

John Lennon: “The name Beatles was directly inspired by the Crickets.” George Harrison: “Buddy Holly was my very first favorite and my inspiration to go into the music business.” Jerry Allison: “Buddy Holly would have loved the Beatles and the Stones and the whole English invasion. He would have kept coming out with stuff because he was always coming up with something new. Just before he died, he was talking about making a gospel album with Ray Charles” (Jim Dawson, Spencer Leigh, Memories of Buddy Holly, 1996). 

The Crickets with Buddy “Oh Boy”

May 12, 2017

495 Louis Prima (1910-1978) and Keely Smith (1932- ) “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”, “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail” 1956

“Louis and Keely’s single source of power came from their Casbar Lounge shows, those late-night, uninhibited forays into musical madness…In the summer of 1956, Life magazine attempted to provide its readers with a glimpse of what a daily routine must be like for the couple, showing Louis and Keely filling in for a sick nightclub performer as the main floor attraction from 10 p.m. to midnight, then, said the publication ‘they worked from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the lounge where their unusual act competed with the chant of the gambling casino’s croupiers. It was 8 in the morning before they had breakfast at home with their 18-month old daughter’” (Garry Boulard, Louis Prima, 2002).

Louis Prima and Keely Smith “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”

Louis Prima and Keely Smith “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail”

494 Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” 1956

Though Jackson appreciated the accolades of white audiences, she “felt like saying, ‘How big does a person have to grow, down in this part of the country, before he’s going to stand up and say—Let us stop treating other men and women and children with such cruelty just ‘cause they are born colored!” In 1956, she was invited to sing at a conference honoring Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama. Jackson agreed: “Yes, but I ain’t comin’ to Mongomery to make no money off them walkin’ folks!” (Jules Schwerin, Got To Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, 1992).

Mahalia Jackson “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

493 Harry Belafonte (1927- ) “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” 1956

Calypso would be the best selling album in 1957, outselling even Elvis Presley. Former Weavers manager Pete Kameron suggested that Belafonte start his own publishing company. “[T]here was no reason some stodgy publishing company had to get that money just for doing the paperwork…I liked being responsible for rising or falling by my own decisions. I also liked working with black professionals who understood where I came from and what I was trying to do. When I started out, there were no black agents or managers, no major black club owners. There were still hardly any, and certainly none in the movie business. No black movie executives, no black entertainment lawyers, no black screenwriters” (Harry Belafonte, My Song, 2011).

Harry Belafonte “Banana Boat (Day-O)”

492 Perez “Prez” Prado (1916-1989) “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” 1955

Influenced by African and Cuban music, “In 1942 Prado moved to Havana, where he arranged music for musical groups and orchestras, including the famous Sonora Matancera and Orquesta Casino de la Playa. He experimented with traditional Cuban rhythms, combining jazz and traditional music, and thus he angered musical purists. In 1948 he moved to Mexico City to form his own orchestra” (Alfred Cramer, Musicians & Composers of the 20th Century, 2009).

“Prez” Prado “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”

491 B.B. King (1925-2015); Count Basie (1904-1984) with Joe Williams (1918-1999) “Every Day I Have the Blues” 1955

“It’s undeniable that B. B. King’s success was the climax of his development as an interpreter, rather than the triumph of an originator…Early in 1955, ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’ was an example of this. Composed by the Sparks Brothers, Aaron and Milton, who recorded it for Bluebird in 1935, “Every Day” was a big hit for Memphis Slim in 1948 as ‘Nobody Loves Me.’ Two years later, Lowell Fulson gave the song a definitive reading, and restored its original title, before King made it one of his warhorses. Although he mainly drew on Fulson’s version for inspiration, King was equally well aware of vocalist Joe Williams’s reading of the song, recorded with Kin Kolax’s Orchestra. Later, Williams would remake a hit version of it with Count Basie” (Sebastian Danchin, Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King, 1998).

B.B. King “Every Day I Have the Blues” 

Count Basie and his Orchestra with Joe Williams “Every Day I Have the Blues”

May 5, 2017

490 Kitty Kallen (1921-2016) “Little Things Mean a Lot” 1954

“A onetime child radio star in Philadelphia, Ms. Kallen grew into a singer who evinced an expressive style on both sweet and bluesy numbers. Her rise was also propelled by a comely appearance, and she was often introduced as ‘Pretty Kitty Kallen’…The ascendance of rock-and-roll and her struggles with a vocal-cord problem largely sidelined her by the late 1950s” (Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2016). 

Kitty Kallen “Little Things Mean a Lot”

489 Les Paul (1915-2009) and Mary Ford (1924-1977) “Vaya Con Dios” 1953

“One day in the spring of 1953 the couple stumbled across the song that would eventually become the biggest seller of their entire career…Settling into their hotel room for the night, Mary pulled out a sewing kit and sat on the bed to mend one of her stage dresses, while Les turned on the radio and began to pack. Suddenly he heard Anita O’Day charging through an up-tempo arrangement of ‘Vaya con Dios.’” They liked the song and convinced their reluctant record producer to release and disk jockeys to play “their version much slower and simpler than Anita’s” (Mary Shaugnessy, Les Paul: An American Original, 1993). 

“A Capitol engineer said of Les Paul in 1954: ‘He gets an impossible musical idea, and then invents the mechanical means for carrying it out.’ The kind of manipulated sound which he was exploring, which depended so much on the electric guitar, was not fully exploited until the rock era” (Tom and Mary Anne Evans, Guitars, 1977). 

Les Paul and Mary Ford “Vaya Con Dios”

488 Percy Faith (1908-1976) “Song from Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)” 1953

“From the 1950s the recorded music industry, which had a distant relationship to muzak and pre-programmed music in general, began to adopt the rhetoric, if not the format, of these types of music. Whereas a long standing assumption had not surprisingly been that consumers bought recordings to actively listen to them, many records were released that were specifically designed to create particular home environments: ‘music as wallpaper’ played in the background to add a mood, create a particular atmosphere, or convey sounds of exotic, otherworldly places that consumers might dream of visiting” (Chris Gibson, John Connell, Music and Tourism: On the Road Again, 2005)

Percy Faith “Song from Moulin Rouge”

487 Big Maybelle (1924-1972) “Candy” 1953

“Some of her staunchest devotees stridently claim that she is the greatest natural blues singer since the late great Bessie Smith died in 1937…Born Mabel Smith in Jackson, Tenn., 30 years ago, she has been shouting the blues ever since childhood, swears that she’ll sing them until the day she dies. Although her repertoire is mainly blues numbers, Big Maybelle sings jump tunes with great dynamic drive. ‘I’m a blues singer to my heart,’ she says, ‘but I got a lot of other stuff too.’ To prove it she sings in Jewish, Italian and Russian” (“Big Maybelle,” Ebony, Feb. 1955). 

Big Maybelle “Candy”

486 Jimmy Forrest (1920-1980) and the All Star Combo “Night Train” 1952

“In March 1952, the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, a thirty-two-year-old son of St. Louis, broke the R&B charts wide open with a brooding, tough-rhythmed evocation called ‘Night Train.’ Duke Ellington had written and recorded a song called ‘Happy-Go-Lucky Local’ in 1946. Forrest had played in Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1949 and 1950, and he had stolen ‘Night Train’ directly from the Ellington composition…How fine and fitting it was that this act of inspired robbery should become the favorite record of Sonny Liston, who at the time was in the joint for a lower form of robbery. It was the record that he would play, again and again, at every workout, until it echoed within him, the soundtrack of blow and heartbeat, until the end” (Nick Tosches, The Devil and Sonny Liston, 2000). 

Jimmy Forrest “Night Train”

485 Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) “Blue Tango” 1952

“Written while he was still in the Army, Blue Tango showcased Anderson’s facility for combining various musical elements in one piece…The danceable song became a favorite on radio and on jukeboxes, and it reportedly was the first instrumental record to sell a million copies. No one was more surprised at the success of Blue Tango than its unassuming composer…Film composer John Williams, who conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra for several years, said that Anderson’s music ‘remains forever as young and fresh as the very day on which it was composed’” (Alfred Cramer, Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century, 2009). 

Leroy Anderson “Blue Tango”

484 Hank Williams (1923-1953) “Hey, Good Lookin’” 1951

“Typically, Hank would offer a song around, and if enough artists seemed interested, he would record it himself…The humility that all country performers were, and are, supposed to wear like a crown of thorns often drops in private, but Hank’s hubris alienated many of his peers” (Colin Escott, Hank Williams, the Biography, 2004). 

Hank Williams “Hey, Good Lookin’”

483 Nat King Cole (1919-1965) “Too Young” 1951

Jack Benny said in his eulogy of Nat Cole: “In accepting the belief ‘Thy will be done,’ many times we are prompted to question the justice of events such as the one that brings us here today. Nat Cole was a man who gave so much and still had so much to give…Sometimes death isn’t as tragic as not knowing how to live. This nice man knew how to live and how to make others glad they were living” (Daniel Epstein, Nat King Cole, 1999). 

Nat King Cole “Too Young”

482 Percy Mayfield (1920-1984) “Please Send Me Someone to Love” 1950

“There are very few R&B singers who haven’t recorded at least one of Percy Mayfield’s songs. The handsome Louisianan had a unique vocal slant as well, with his warm Creole phrasing and urbane delivery (a la Billy Eckstine) leading to a string of Top Ten hits in the early 1950s for Specialty Records.” He was “known as the Poet Laureate of the Blues…a disfiguring auto wreck ended his performing career in 1952” (Gary Von Tersch, Sing Out!, Summer 2008). 

Percy Mayfield “Please Send Me Someone to Love”

481 Joe Glazer (1918-2006) “We Will Overcome” 1950

The song is based on a 1900 hymn by Charles Tindley, “I’ll Overcome Some Day.” Glazer learned the song from a friend, Agnes Douty, who learned it at Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, “a pioneer in efforts to improve racial relations in the South.” Glazer said, “I was teaching what later became the anthem of the civil rights movement to white textile workers all over the South. Remember, these workers were from small mill towns and probably strict segregationists, following the likes of George Wallace and Jesse Helms.” Glazer’s 1950 version of “We Shall Overcome” “was the first time a modern version of the song had been recorded” (Joe Glazer, Labor’s Troubadour, 2001).

Joe Glazer “We Will Overcome”

April 21, 2017

480 Earl Scruggs (1924-2012), Lester Flatt (1914-1979), and the Foggy Mountain Boys “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” 1949

“The rockabillies were drawn to the rough-edged, rural-sounding performances in both black and white music, to the older styles closer to folk origins than to those of pop music—Bill Monroe, not Eddy Arnold; Big Boy Crudup, not Nat King Cole. Elvis Presley…grew up listening to the Opry. Elvis could sing a number of Monroe’s songs, particularly those performed and recorded with Monroe by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs back in the mid-forties” (Neil Rosenberg, Bluegrass: A History, 2005). 

479 Muddy Waters (1913-1983) “I Feel Like Going Home” 1947

“‘Muddy was playing when I was plowing,’ B. B. King remembered, ‘mules that is. When I first heard of Muddy Waters, I had never left Mississippi. Then finally we started to get records on him—“I Feel Like Going Home.” He had something that no one else had, and I loved to hear him play’” (Robert Gordon, Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters, 2002). 

Muddy Waters “I Feel Like Going Home”

478 Louis Jordan (1908-1975) and his Tympany Five “Let the Good Times Roll” 1946

After a seemingly successful show, Jordan told his band, “There were too many goofs tonight. I want to have a rehearsal at midnight when the theatre’s empty.” When the young tenor sax complained, the trumpet player told him Jordan was “’a perfectionist; everyone in the business knows that. He won’t stand for any horseplay or sloppy musicianship’. The saxist bristled. ‘Perfectionist? God damn it, I’ll show him what wrong notes are.’ The trumpeter sighed. He knew then that the band and the young man would soon be parting company” (John Chilton, Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan and His Music, 1994). 

477 Louis Jordan (1908-1975) and his Tympany Five “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” 1946

The song “was one of many songs Louis devoted to domestic fowl, but its lyrics were a shade sharper and more humorous than his other salutes to the feathered world. The record was often played on the American Forces’ Network and became a great favorite with US troops stationed abroad” (John Chilton, Let the Good Times Roll: The Story of Louis Jordan and His Music, 1994). 

476 The Dixie Hummingbirds “Amazing Grace” 1946

“generosity, devotion to family, loyalty, perseverance, sacrifice, mentoring, and a wealth of immeasurable talent. Of all the groups that traveled the gospel highway, none succeeded better than the Dixie Hummingbirds at living up to these latter qualities.” Isaac Hayes said: “In the beginning, after the word, before rock ‘n’ roll, and before there was rap, hip-hop, disco, punk, funk, metal, soul, Motown, rock-a-billy, before bebop, doo-wop, and the big band swing, there was the Dixie Hummingbirds. The mighty Dixie Hummingbirds. They sang through the Great Depression, the terms of thirteen presidents, four major wars, five generations of Americans, and seven decades of the twentieth century” (Jerry Zolten, Great God A’mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds, 2003).

The Dixie Hummingbirds “Amazing Grace”

475 Big Maceo Merriweather (1905-1953) “Worried Life Blues” 1946

“Big Maceo (Major Merriweather) was simply the most important blues pianist of the ‘40s and the greatest influence on Chicago’s postwar blues.” His wife, Rossell, said of him, “Everybody like him—all the policemens—he was a good condition person. He was very nice—he wasn’t a person to raise sand, fight, or nothing…I think he’d have been well, but he didn’t stop drinking.” A stroke in 1946 partially paralyzed him, ending his piano playing. He died of a heart attack (Mike Rowe, Blues Unlimited: Essential Interviews, 2015). 

Big Maceo Merriweather “Worried Life Blues

474 The Duke Ellington (1899-1974) Orchestra “Take the ‘A’ Train” 1941

When composer Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) and “Ellington first met at Pittsburgh’s Stanley Theater back in 1939, Strayhorn had inquired of Duke what was the best way to get to Harlem when he got back to New York. He was told ‘Take the A train,’ a route of the recently opened Eight Avenue subway line. This inspired him to use this line as the title of his composition.” Ellington made it his signature theme (A. H. Lawrence, Duke Ellington and His World, 2001). 

473 Big Bill Broonzy (1893/1898?-1958) “Key to the Highway” 1941

“Broonzy was drafted into the army during the First World War and shipped to France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces. He returned to Arkansas with a different outlook on life’s possibilities, seeing little opportunity in working as a field hand as farmwork became increasingly mechanized. Broonzy joined the trek of sharecroppers to the smokestack cities of the North—in his case, Chicago. Over time, he adjusted to urban life as a laborer and part-time musician, gaining a reputation as a blues singer who articulated the new outlook of the black working class. Broonzy later had the opportunity to introduce the blues of the black urban folk to white youths in the United States and Europe” (Roger House, Blue Smoke: The Recorded Journey of Big Bill Broonzy, 2010). 

472 The Andrews Sisters “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “(I'll Be with You in) Apple Blossom Time” 1941

“As Universal Studios cranked out movies featuring the sisters”—LaVerne Sophia (1911-1967), Maxene Angelyn (1916-1995), “Patty” Marie (1918-2013)—“happily singing the boys off to battle or camping it up in comedy escapist fare, the faces of the Andrews Sisters became increasingly familiar to the nation. Their upbeat songs filled the jukeboxes and distanced their listeners from the tragedies of the war. Live performances at military bases and appearances on the Armed Forces Radio Service personalized them to thousands of enlisted men at home and overseas…They are still the most successful female singing group in history, and until the Beatles came along they were the top-selling music group ever” (Arlo Nimmo, The Andrews Sisters, 2004). 

471 Bukka White (1909-1977) “Fixin’ to Die Blues” 1940

“Two years in prison could have left ruinous scars on a less powerful personality than Bukka’s. The loneliness and brutality could have embittered him to a point where further creative work would have been impossible. Instead it matured him. His ideas became deeper and more complex. Bukka emerged from prison with a head full of some of the finest classic bleus songs ever written…” “Fixin’ to Die Blues” “was inspired  by a friend and fellow guitarist who went into a coma and died in 1938, evidently in Parchman [prison]” (F. Jack Hurley and David Evans, Tom Ashley, Sam McGee, Bukka White, Tennessee Traditional Singers, 1981). 

April 7, 2017

470 The Cats and the Fiddle “I Miss You So” 1940

“The mid-tempo shuffle, with high tenor harmonies carried through the entire recording, included a tipple-led instrumental (a tipple is a long-forgotten 10-stringed instrument that looks like a small acoustic guitar and sounds like a ukulele). The song, later slowed down and recorded by the Orioles, is now a standard, but in early 1940 it was just another excellent black vocal-group recording unknown to the mass market. Still it was popular in black communities and enabled [lead singer] Austin Powell and company to continue their whirlwind schedule of national one-nighters, from the Apollo Theatre to elegant supper clubs” (Jay Warner, American Singing Groups: A History from 1940 to Today, 2006). 

The Cats and the Fiddle “I Miss You So”

469 Glenn Miller (1904-1944) and his Orchestra “In the Mood” 1939

“No Glenn Miller recording illustrates more dramatically Glenn’s remarkable ability  to take an arrangement, cut out all the extraneous parts, and reduce it to a beautifully constructed, workable gem…How those kids loved to jitterbug to ‘In the Mood’!” (George Simon, Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, 1974). 

Glenn Miller and his Orchestra “In the Mood”

468 Gene Autry (1907-1998) “Back in the Saddle Again” 1939

“As children, each of the Highwaymen”—Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson—“like so many others, had gone to Gene Autry movies on Saturday afternoons, listened to his music on the radio, and learned to play guitar on a Gene Autry Roundup Guitar ordered from the Sears catalogue…Serving as a road map out of rural poverty for Cash—and for so many other future artists—Gene Autry shone as the singing cowboy star whose radio programs, recordings, and movies in the 1930s and ‘40s made him one of America’s most celebrated entertainers” (Holly George Warren, Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, 2007). 

Gene Autry “Back in the Saddle Again”

467 Benny Goodman (1909-1986) and his Orchestra “Sing, Sing, Sing” 1938

At this historic first performance of swing music in Carnegie Hall, “the kids in the audience were jitterbugging in their seats, and even some of the gentry in the boxes and dress circle had gotten up on their feet and were shagging in the aisles.” The 1950 recording release of the 1938 concert energized Goodman’s flagging career and reputation (Ross Firestone, Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life & Times of Benny Goodman, 1993).  

Benny Goodman and his Orchestra “Sing, Sing, Sing”

466 Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter 1889-1949) “Rock Island Line” 1937

Leadbelly learned the song while visiting prisoners at the Cummins Prison Farm in Arkansas and made it a staple of his performing repertoire. “So eager were they to hear and see Leadbelly that at times some stood on the shoulders of others. When the twanging of his guitar strings rang out, supporting his rich booming voice, silence fell in the rows of cells suddenly and completely…For the moment Leadbelly’s ‘sinful songs’ became more powerful than the ‘spirituals’” (Charles Wolfe, Kip Lornell, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly, 1992). 

Leadbelly “Rock Island Line”

March 31, 2017

465 Bob Wills (1905-1975) and his Texas Playboys “Steel Guitar Rag” 1936

“Bob is a genuine father to his boys.” Wills said, “if you’ve got some mules that ain’t fed enough or well taken care of and treated right, and you try to make ‘em plough cotton, why, they’ll get about five or six acres a day done. But you take those same mules and feed em and treat ‘em fine and then switch a harness on ‘em  and put ‘em to a plow and they’ll step out and plow 10 or 12 acres a day. Musicians are just the same way as them cattle and mules” (Ruth Sheldon, Hubbin’ It: The Life of Bob Wills, 1938).

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys “Steel Guitar Rag”

464 Roy Acuff (1903-1992) and the Crazy Tennesseans “The Great Speckled Bird” 1936

“Roy Acuff states that ‘The Great Speckled Bird’ is the Bible and the Church. The interpretation of the song’s meaning, which probably concerns some fundamentalist allegorical symbol, is certainly up to the individual person and has been the subject of great discussion, especially in the South, for a long, long time…Of course ‘The Bird’ as the Acuff group has nicknamed the song, became Roy’s most requested number and his second biggest record seller. Its name graced his DC-3 airplane” (Elizabeth Schlappi, Roy Acuff: The Smoky Mountain Boy, 1978).

Roy Acuff and the Crazy Tennesseans “The Great Speckled Bird”

463 The Carter Family “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye)” 1935

“A.P. (1893-1960), as he was best known to his listening audience, provided an inexhaustible supply of songs, many of which he collected from Appalachia’s remote mountain homesteads…and then ‘worked up’ with his wife, Sara (1899-1979), and sister-in-law Maybelle (1909-1978). It was Sara’s rich, expressive alto that had first attracted a producer from Victor records. At forty, she was still a riveting, dark-eyed beauty. Maybelle, the twenty-nine-year-old guitar player, was the virtuoso of the group, a fact which astonished many listeners of the 1930s, who would not believe that the agile licks and infectious rhythms were conjured by a woman” (Mark Zwonitzer, Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone, 2002).

The Carter Family “Can the Circle Be Unbroken”

462 Ethel Waters (1896-1977) “Stormy Weather” 1933 & Lena Horne (1917-2010) “Stormy Weather” 1943

The Cotton Club management signed Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, “and for the first time the club landed Ethel Waters as the headline entertainer. Waters was apparently on the fence about whether or not to do the Cotton Club show until she heard ‘Stormy Weather’…She wanted to put everything she had into it, but she knew she could handle doing that only once a night. Therefore, even though it was the club’s policy to give multiple shows, Waters stipulated that she would sing ‘Stormy Weather’ only once per evening….But finally it was the 1943 film, titled Stormy Weather, that made the song into an all-time classic, and also firmly established it as the property of Lena Horne” (Will Friedwald, Stardust Melodies, 2002).

Ethel Waters “Stormy Weather”

Lena Horne “Stormy Weather”

461 Fred Astaire (1899-1987) “Night and Day” 1932

Cole Porter (1891-1964) wrote “Night and Day” for Fred Astaire to perform in the 1932 Broadway musical, The Gay Divorce. “Astaire was first skeptical about its being a song for him and undecided about accepting a role in the show...” The tune was allegedly inspired by a friend who said “That drip, drip, drip is driving me mad” during a rainstorm. “Cole leapt up with a shot of elation on finding the perfect start for his lyric” (William McBrien, Cole Porter, 1998). The song has been recorded by Dionne Warwick, Rod Stewart, and Shirley Bassey among many pop luminaries.

Fred Astaire “Night and Day”

460 Paul Whiteman (1890-1967) Orchestra “Body and Soul” 1930

“It is incontrovertibly true that the Whiteman outfit lacked the rhythmic power and complexity of the King Oliver, Fletcher Henderson, or Count Basie bands, just as the Beatles lacked the rhythmic power and complexity of Motown, Stax, and James Brown. On the other hand, both the Whiteman orchestra and the Beatles pioneered a melodic and harmonic richness that was considered revolutionary for their genres, most dramatically in works arranged by Ferde Grofe, Whiteman’s main arranger, and by the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, who considered Grofe one of his musical heroes” (Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll, 2009).

“We have a racy, idiomatic, flexible American language all our own, suited to expressing the American character...Every human being has his own value, his own character. It is when this variety is released into music that music strives and grows” (Paul Whiteman, Popular Culture in America, 1926).

Paul Whiteman Orchestra “Body and Soul”

459 Mississippi Sheiks “Sitting on Top of the World” 1930

“sometimes the artists resisted what they perceived as paternalism form company men who knew little about the music. Bo Carter recalled: ‘Tell ya, we was the Mississippi Sheiks and when we went to make records in Jackson, Mississippi, the feller wanted to show us how to stop and start the records. Try to tell us when we got to begin and how we got to end. And you know…I started not to make ‘em cause he wasn’t no musicianer, so how could he tell me how to stop and start the song? We was the Sheiks, Mississippi Sheiks and you know we was famous’” (Jeff Titon, Early Downhome Blues, 1977).

Mississippi Sheiks “Sitting on Top of the World”

458 Eddie James “Son” House (1902-1988) “My Black Mama” (parts 1 & 2) 1930

“Son” House and Charley Patton “made an unlikely pair: while Patton was an incorrigible kidder who ‘didn’t believe in what he’s sayin’ his-self,’ House was a relatively gloomy man who was guilt-ridden about singing blues. They passed considerable time as drinking companions, and their friendship on House’s part was (he stated) solely due to Patton’s generosity with a liquor bottle” (Stephen Calt, Gayle Wardlow, King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton, 1988).

“Son” House “My Black Mama” (part 1)

“Son” House “My Black Mama” (part 2)

457 Charley Patton (1891?-1934) “Pony Blues” 1929

“Patton’s uncanny liveliness as a performer gave his music an intangible and inimitable dimension that elevated it above ‘house’ entertainment and probably made him the singular attraction he was…Jazz guitarist Woody Mann terms Pony Blues ‘the most perfect blues recording ever made’…It was obviously a song that was very dear to Patton, for he played it with sheer love” (Stephen Calt, Gayle Wardlow, King of the Delta Blues: The Life and Music of Charlie Patton, 1988).

Charley Patton (1891?-1934) “Pony Blues”

456 Gus Cannon’s (1883/4?-1979) Jug Stompers “Walk Right In” 1929

“The strength of the Jug Stompers was the variety of their material.” They “produced a stunning set of records that covers nearly the whole gamut of black American music of the time.” Gus “Banjo Joe” Cannon “was the son of a slave and some of his records retain archaic overtones from the years before the blues.” His song, “Walk Right In,” became “an international pop hit in 1963 for the Rooftop Singers” (Encyclopedia of the Blues, 2006).

Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers “Walk Right In”

March 24, 2017

455 Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) “St. Louis Blues” 1929

“With his 1929 version, Armstrong has moved to a very different universe from the one he inhabited some four years earlier…Certainly ‘St. Louis Blues’ has now become an ebullient dance number fusing a Latin quality with a gutsy, funky blues sound, to the point of anticipating what was to come more than twenty years later with early rock ‘n’ roll” (Joshua Berrett, Louis Armstrong and Paul Whiteman: Two Kings of Jazz, 2004). 

Louis Armstrong “St. Louis Blues”

454 Clarence “Pine Top” Smith (1904-1929) “Pine-Top’s Boogie Woogie” 1928

“Although he was far from the first to play in this style, Smith’s record firmly associated the word [boogie] in the public’s mind with the insistent eight-to-the-bar bass…Smith was on the brink of an illustrious career when he was shot, depriving the world of an exceptional talent” (Encyclopedia of the Blues, 2006). 

Clarence “Pine Top” Smith “Pine-Top’s Boogie Woogie”

453 Memphis Jug Band “Stealin’ Stealin’” 1928

A number of jug bands performed in Memphis and other cities. The Memphis Jug Band was “the firs of the bands” in Memphis, “organized by a man named Will [“Son”] Shade and his wife, Jennie Mae Clayton Shade, who sang with the band.” They once traveled to Chicago with an act featuring jungle costumes and a defanged rattlesnake, but the show closed soon after the snake tried to escape, scattering the audience. The “heart of the band was the musicianship and the enthusiasm of Son and Charlie Burse. They drank hard together , played hard together, and created a new musical style” (Samuel Charters, The Country Blues, 1975). 

Memphis Jug Band “Stealin’ Stealin’”

452 Furry Lewis (1893/9?-1981) “Kassie Jones” 1928

“seldom has Lewis’s occupation as both sanitation worker and musician informed understandings of his music. Yet, when Lewis recorded ‘Kassie Jones’—perhaps his most legendary performance—he gave personal voice to a collective black masculine experience at the hands of the white economy...Lewis transformed a traditional folk song into a subtle political expression of black laborers’ struggles to maintain their identities as workers and men” (Robert Hawkins, Callaloo, 2008). 

Furry Lewis “Kassie Jones”

451 Arthur Collins (1864-1933) and Byron Harlan (1861-1936) “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” 1911

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was at first astonished at the song’s popularity. “The trick, unconsciously played, was in capturing a nervous restlessness that was in the air, a dancing virus…It was, in fact, a clarion-call summons to everybody to come take part in some twentieth-century fun. A similar summons became the anthem of 1950s youth when rock&roll arrived: Bill Haley, the square-dance caller instructing his hon’ to get her glad rags on and ‘Rock Around the Clock’” (Ian Whitcomb, Irving Berlin and Ragtime America, 1988). Collins and Harlon were popular duet singers, noted for their vaudeville and minstrel show performances. 

Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”

March 10, 2017

450 Mississippi John Hurt (1892-1966) “Frankie and Johnny” 1928

“One of Hurt’s closest musical associates was white neighbor and fiddler William Thomas Narmour (1889-1961)…Hurt would later describe how Narmour awoke him at one o’clock in the morning to inform him that a man from New York wanted to hear him play. An incredulous Hurt, thinking it was some sort of joke, was surprised to discover that Narmour was indeed telling the truth.” The Okeh recording agent provided money for Hurt’s recording trip to Memphis. Narmour “promised to deliver Hurt to the train station on time” (Daniel Fleck, Old-Time Herald, 2010). 

Mississippi John Hurt “Frankie and Johnny”

449 Bessie Smith (1894-1937) “Empty Bed Blues” 1928

“A tour de force of blatant double-entendres, the record was allegedly banned in Boston, but that was probably just a promotional ploy…perhaps in order to heighten curiosity and, thus, sales… ‘Empty Bed Blues’ was one of Bessie’s biggest on-stage hits and a major factor in the success of the early 1928 theater tour” (Chris Albertson, Bessie, 2003).

Bessie Smith “Empty Bed Blues (part 1)”
Bessie Smith “Empty Bed Blues (part 2)”