Monday, November 15, 2021

Under the Influence • Songs of 1952-1955

Songs of 1949-1951 • 1952-1955 • 1956-1959 • 1960-1962

1952 through 1955 is a real transitional period in popular music. Rock 'n' roll is a baby as the dominate pop standard hits of the day come from singers like Patti Page, Frankie Lane, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, and Rosemary Clooney. However, the top record producers are guys like Mitch Miller ruling the airwaves with homogenized cheery tunes with little innovation or imagination. Remember, Sing A-Long With Mitch.


In the 1950's, emerging star Pat Boone would specialize in taking original R&B hits from black artists and cover them with softer arrangements for the larger white market. Boone was certainly not the first or last to capitalize on this practice, where the music money stream almost never flowed back to the source, the black musicians creating songs in the early to middle 20th century.

Let's take a look at some of the musical events and songs that would influence a generation growing up in the 1950's. Kids who would jump at the chance to get out of the house and into a car with friends listening to some new rock 'n' roll while cruising Broadway... and away from their Father Knows Best world.

1952 in Music

  • March 21 – First reported rock and roll riot breaks out at Alan Freed's Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland, Ohio. Teenage excitement is blamed for the frenzy.
  • September – Bill Haley and His Saddlemen change [their name and] image to become Bill Haley & His Comets. (27 year old Bill Haley's no dummy, he dumps the country swing and jumps on this rock 'n' roll thang!) 

  • Jambalaya (On the Bayou) – Hank Williams
  • Juke – Little Walter
  • Wimoweh – The Weavers
  • I'm Confessin' - Les Paul & Mary Ford 
  • I Only Have Eyes For You - Billy Holiday
  • Tis' Sweet To Be Remembered - Flatt and Scruggs
  • Bloomdido - Charlie Parker / Dizzy Gillespie
1953 in Music
  • January 1 — Hank Williams, due to play a New Year's Day show in Canton, Ohio, dies sometime after midnight in the rear seat of his Cadillac, somewhere between Knoxville, Tennessee and Oak Hill, West Virginia. He was 29. Stories conflict on what happened in the final hours of his life, but what is not disputed is that his death gave rise to the legend. In the 60-plus years following his death, Williams' songs would be covered countless times, singers and songwriters would directly cite him as an influence. The last song released in his lifetime was 'I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive.'
  • July 18 – Elvis Presley makes his first recordings at Sun Records.
  • Hound Dog– Big Mama Thornton. Her #1 R&B hit would be recorded three years later by Elvis Presley making it a #1 smash hit selling 10 million copies.
  • Crazy Man, Crazy, recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets, becomes the first rock and roll single to make the Billboard national American musical charts.

  • I'll Go On Alone, Marty Robbins
  • Mess Around – Ray Charles
  • Please Don't Leave Me – Fats Domino
  • Your Cheatin' Heart – Hank Williams
  • I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, Hank Williams
1954 in Music
  • February 1 – Johnny "Guitar" Watson records 'Space Guitar' pioneering reverb and feedback techniques on guitar.
  • April – Fender Stratocaster electric guitar first produced in California.
  • April 12 – Bill Haley and His Comets record 'Rock Around the Clock' in New York City for Decca Records.
  • July 6 — Elvis Presley releases his first single, 'That's All Right' [and the B side 'Blue Moon of Kentucky']. A month later, Billboard gives the song a positive review, with the reviewer calling Presley a "strong new talent," and by September is a No. 1 hit in Memphis.
  • Les Paul commissions Ampex to build the first eight track tape recorder, at his own expense.
  • The Drifters form.
  • The Isley Brothers make their first recordings, featuring only the three eldest brothers, O'Kelly Jr., Rudolph and Ronald.[8]
  • The Newport Jazz Festival is established by George Wein.

  • I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man – Muddy Waters
  • Shake Rattle And Roll – Big Joe Turner
1955 in Music
  • January 14 – In New York City, Alan Freed produces the first rock and roll concert.
  • March 15 – Colonel Tom Parker becomes Elvis Presley's de facto manager.
  • March 26 - My first day on this earth and rock 'n' roll is off the launch pad in my birth year of 1955, not to mention Disneyland opens that summer. 
    Bill Hayes tops the US charts for five weeks with The Ballad of Davy Crockett and starts a (fake) coonskin cap craze. In the playlist this week, I'm going to include the 1955 Walt Disney TV intro to Davy Crockett sung by its star, Fess Parker.
  • April 14 – Imperial Records in the United States release 'Ain't That a Shame' by Fats Domino. It reaches #1 in the R&B chart and becomes over time a million seller, bringing Domino to prominence and quickly covered by Pat Boone making this song a Billboard #1 hit . 
  • May 13 – First riot at an Elvis Presley concert takes place in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • May 21 – Chuck Berry records his first single, 'Maybellene', for Chess Records in Chicago.
  • May 22 – Bridgeport, Connecticut, authorities cancel a rock concert to be headlined by Fats Domino for fear of a riot breaking out.
  • July 9 – Rock Around the Clock becomes the first rock 'n' roll single to reach #1on the Billboard charts.
  • July 17 - Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California. My wife Mary Kit will be born six months later and it will be her "happiest place on earth."
  • October - 'Tutti Frutti' is a song written by Little Richard and Dorothy LaBostrie that was first recorded in 1955, becoming Little Richard's first major hit record. With its energetic refrain, often transcribed as "A-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bam-boom!" (a verbal rendition of a drum pattern that Little Richard had imagined), and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself. The song introduced several of rock music's most characteristic musical features, including its loud volume, powerful vocal style, and distinctive beat and rhythm.
  • October 15 – Elvis Presley plays a concert in Lubbock, Texas. Opening act is local duo Buddy and Bob, Buddy being future rock star Buddy Holly.
  • November 20 – Bo Diddley makes his debut TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan show.
  • November 22 – Colonel Tom Parker signs Elvis Presley to RCA Records.
  • December 15 – Sun Records releases 'Folsom Prison Blues' recorded by Johnny Cash on July 30.
  • Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel write their first song, The Girl For Me, and begin singing together as a duo while still in high school in New York City.
  • In 1955, Lonnie Donegan's fast-tempo version of Lead Belly's Rock Island Line becomes a big hit in the UK where it helped trigger the skiffle craze. It flew up the English charts. Donegan had synthesized American Southern Blues with simple acoustic instruments: acoustic guitar, washtub bass and washboard rhythm. The new style was called 'Skiffle' .... and referred to music from people with little money for instruments. The new style captivated an entire generation of post-war youth in England. In the 1960's, many English bands including The Beatles would site Lonnie Donegan and Skiffle as a huge influence in their music development. 
Enjoy my friends!

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