The late ’50’s were a great time for music: doo-wop, early rock ‘n roll, even mainstream pop artists like Bobby Darin had hits. American Bandstand – which had started in Philly in 1952 – had gone national in 1957. Teens would give ratinga (“85. It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it”) to hit tunes that artists would come on and lip synch to. Dancers became minor celebrities.
- Rock and Roll is Here to Stay. Danny and the Juniors.
- Little Star. The Elegants.
- Yakety Yak. The Coasters.
- Stagger Lee. Lloyd Price.
- Two People in the World. Little Anthony and the Imperials.
- Chantilly Lace. The Big Bopper. “Hello, bay-beh.”
- Twilight Time. The Platters. Sweet soul music. For a time, the most successful vocal group in the world.
- Sixteen Candles. The Crests.
- La Bamba. Ritchie Valens.
- Tears on My Pillow. Little Anthony & the Imperials.
- Summertime Blues. Eddie Cochran. The Who did a killer version on Live at Leeds.
- Since I Don’t Have You. The Skyliners. One of the greatest doo-wop songs of all time. First group I’m aware of to incorporate a woman.
- Mack The Knife. Bobby Darin. Originally sung by Lotte Lenya (in German) in The Threepenny Opera. A great, uptempo song about a pretty bad guy.
- Come Softly To Me. The Fleetwoods. Love the background “ooh-ahs” in this. A gentle love song.
- I’ll Be Satisfied. Jackie Wilson.
- I Wonder Why. Dion and the Belmonts.
- I Only Have Eyes for You. The Flamingos.
- A Teenager in Love. Dion and the Belmonts. Dion is one of the most important artists of his generation. And then he came out with “Abraham, Martin and John,” in 1968.
- Kansas City. Wilbert Harrison. Released (by another artist) several years earlier as “K.C Loving.” Apparently, some recording executive thought it sounded hipper. It went nowhere till this version. 12th Street and Vine is now a park.
- Sleep Walk. Santo & Johnny.
- Memphis, Tennessee. Chuck Berry. You can never go wrong naming songs after US cities. One of the most covered Berry songs ever.
- There Goes My Baby. The Drifters.
- Shout. The Isley Brothers. The Isleys used to sing Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” The audience at one show got so worked up – like at church – that the group started an improvised call-and-response with the audience. That evolved into “Shout.”
- Save The Last Dance for Me. The Drifters.
- New Orleans. Gary “US” Bonds. Bruce Springsteen is a big Bonds fan and did some collaborations with him.
- Chain Gang. Sam Cooke.
- Dream Lover. Bobby Darin.
- Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go. Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. “There’s a thrill, upon a hill. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”
- Stay. Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. “Just a little bit longer.” Jackson Browne had a hit with this.
- When Will I Be Loved. Everly Brothers.
- Shop Around. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. John Lennon worshiped Smokey.
- Wonderful World. Sam Cooke.
- Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes). Carla Thomas. Daughter of R&B man Rufus Thomas who wrote “Walkin’ the Dog.”
- Will You Love Me Tomorrow. The Shirelles. Perhaps King and Goffin’s greatest song. Initially banned from some radio stations as too “sexually charged. “
Next post: 1961-1962. Girl groups flourish, doo-wop continues. Motown starts to hit its stride.