Chronological Monthly looks at UK & US scenes in the early days of rock'n'roll -  October 54 to December 56 NOW COMPLETE

 

DECEMBER 1956

 

As the first full year of rock'n'roll came to an end, early 1950s favourites Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell, Bing Crosby, Dickie Valentine and Eddie Fisher were still flying high in the UK Top 10, with rock's only contributions coming from Bill Haley ('Rip It Up') and The Platters ('My Prayer'). However, Top 30 newcomers that month included 'Blueberry Hill' by Fats Domino, 'Love Me Tender' from Elvis Presley (which oddly, missed the Top 10), Little Richard's UK chart debut with the original version of 'Rip It Up' and Britain's first rock star Tommy Steele's rendition of 'Singing The Blues'. Surprisingly, it was reported in Billboard that Steele's previous unsuccessful single, 'Doomsday Rock', was selling in large quantities in r'n'r strongholds Cleveland and Milwaukee.

 In the US, Guy Mitchell's 'Singing The Blues' heading every pop chart in the last month of 1956 with November's No.1, Elvis' film theme 'Love Me Tender', in close contention. The month's hottest new rock-related recordings on the Best Sellers chart were Pat Boone's 'Don't Forbid Me' (which had been written for Elvis) and the Highlights melodic 'City Of Angels'. These charted alongside the R&B hits 'Confidential' by Sonny Knight (real name Joe Smith), the hand clapping instrumental 'Slow Walk' by saxophonist Sil Austin's and 'Since I Met You Baby' by Ivory Joe Hunter. Interestingly, the latter used a similar arrangement as Pat Boone's very successful recent revival of Hunter's 'I Almost Lost My Mind'. 


On the US R&B chart, Fats' classic 'Blueberry Hill' ended the year at the top, while Clarence Henry and Jesse Belvin made their chart debuts with two gems, 'Ain't Got No Home' and 'Goodnight My Love', respectively. Returning to the R&B heights were Lavern Baker with 'Jim Dandy'. Jimmy Reed with "You've Got Me Dizzy' and Chuck Willis with 'Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You' . Over on the Country chart, Marty Robbins' original version of 'Singing The Blues' led the lists all month, followed by Ray Price's 'Crazy Arms' - a version of which had been released this month as a debut disc by Jerry Lee Lewis. There were new Top 15 C&W hits for Johnny Cash, with double sided 'There You Go'/'Train Of Love', and Sonny James' teen-targeted ballad 'Young Love' (a song that would be a transatlantic No.1 in 1957). December 1956 was also the month that the famous "Million Dollar Quartet" tapes with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were recorded at Sun's studio in Memphis. Christmas releases included 11 year-old Brenda Lee's 'I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus', Little 'Lambie' Penn's 'I Wanna Spend Christmas With Elvis' and 'Jingle Bells' by Skinny Dynamo (no relation to Fats).

 

More movie rock - 'Rock Rock Rock' which starred Alan Freed, Chuck Berry, The Flamingos, Johnny Burnette's Rock & Roll Trio, Lavern Baker and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers opened in New York. Among the stars performing at the premiere were Chuck Berry and Connie Francis (who provided the sound track voice of Tuesday Weld in the film). Also getting their first cinema showings this month were: 'Shake Rattle And Rock' starring Fats Domino and Joe Turner and 'Rhythm And Blues Revue' which featured Etta James, The Clovers and Big Maybelle.

 

1956, was undoubtedly the year of Elvis Presley. He put 17 different sides into the US chart (the runner-up was Pat Boone with five), saw five of them reach No.1 and held the top spot for six months. Elvis products earned $20 million and he closed 1956 by breaking all the records by having 10 separate tracks on the US Top 100 with three of them being in the Top 20.

 

A survey showed that of the 125 records to make the US Best Sellers in 1956, 25 (or 20%) were R&B recordings, and that many of the other pop chart records were adaptations of R&B songs. It was not a one-way street, however, since pop infiltrated the R&B charts to a greater degree than ever before. It seemed obvious that pop and R&B were richer for the free exchange of ideas that now took place between them.

 

 

NOVEMBER 1956

The Platters clocked up their second UK Top 10 hit with a revival of 'My Prayer', which joined US rock records by Elvis, Bill Haley, Mitchell Torok and Freddie Bell in the Top 10 (the later two oddly failed to chart in the artists' homeland). Simultaneously, the debut hit from Britain's first rocker Tommy Steele, who was attracting hundreds of screaming fans on his first tour, only narrowly missed that mark. New entrants in the Top 30 included two singles and an album from Bill Haley & The Comets; 'Rip It Up', 'Rudy's Rock' and 'Rock 'n' Roll Stage Show'. Also making their first entries were Elvis' revivals of both 'Blue Moon' (which quickly reached the Top 10) and 'I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine'.

 

Elvis' 'Love Me Tender' replaced his 'Don't Be Cruel'/'Hound Dog' at No.1 on the US Top 25 Best Sellers and stayed there all month, which stopped Jim Lowe's 'Green Door' from reaching No.1, although on the Top 100 (based on a mix of sales, airplay and juke box spins) Jim achieved that feat. New faces in the Top 25 included Eddie Cooley's rockin' 'Priscilla'(Elvis' rendition of the R&B song 'Love Me' and teen idol-come-future country star George Hamilton IV with 'Rose And A Baby Ruth'.

 

The US R&B chart found Fats Domino's 'Blueberry Hill' replacing Bill Doggett's 'Honky Tonk' at the top. New entries in the Top 15 included 'She's Got It' by Little Richard , 'On My Word Of Honor' from B.B.King , 'Slow Walk' by saxophonist Sil Austin, 'I Feel Good' from Shirley & Lee  and Elvis' 'Love Me Tender'. There was also room for the doo wop diamonds 'Oh What A Night' from The Dells and 'A Thousand Miles Away' by The Heartbeats. Meanwhile on the C&W chart Ray Price's 'Crazy Arms' was replaced at the top by Marty Robbins' crossover hit 'Singing The Blues' and recent hits from Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins remained in the Top 15.

 

American pop DJs voted Elvis Presley Most Played Male Artist of 1956, but did not list him among their Favourite Male Artists - a category Frank Sinatra won. Country DJs named him Most Played Male Artist but he could only muster 15th place in the Favourite Country Artist section. In the British NME poll, Elvis was voted runner-up to Bill Haley as World's Most Outstanding Vocal Personality (with UK heartthrob Dickie Valentine in 3rd place), and took second place to Frank Sinatra in the World's Outstanding Singer section. Elvis' first film 'Love Me Tender', which opened to mixed reviews, recouped its production costs in just three days. Meanwhile, it was announced that 'Hound Dog'/'Don't Be Cruel' had sold over three million copies, placing it with Gene Autry's 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' and Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' as one of the top three sellers since the war. When asked his opinion of Elvis, Bing told Ed Sullivan, 'He's got a darn fine voice'. 'I Put A Spell On You' by Screamin' Jay Hawkins created a lot of interest. Advertisements hollered 'He Rocks, Rolls, Grunts, Groans, Shouts & Screams', and a noted critic added 'He goes through tantrums that make Elvis Presley look like a choir boy'. As it turned out the record was just "too wild" for radio play and therefore failed to chart, although in retrospect it is regarded as a rock'n'roll classic. Ed Sullivan's TV guests inlcluded Elvis, Fats Domino and our own Gracie Fields and Julie Andrews. Johnnie Ray topped the bill at the London Palladium, and Buddy Holly had his third Decca recording session, although this too did not produce a hit.

OCTOBER 1956

 

This was a landmark month for British rock music, as it saw the first home made rock'n'roll chart entries: 'Teach You To Rock' (a song first cut by Freddie Bell & The Bellboys) by jazz drummer Tony Crombie and his band The Rockets, and the more authentic 'Rock With The Cavemen' by Tommy Steele. The latter artist, who was initially hailed as the "British Elvis", was a true overnight sensation - and was filming his life story less than three months after first charting! In the month that Bill Haley & The Comets had five singles in the Top 20 and Elvis narrowly missed the top slot with 'Hound Dog', Freddie Bell and The Platters had Top 10 entries and Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps charted with both 'Race With The Devil' and 'Blue Jean Bop'.

 

The US Best Sellers Top 25 was led all month by Elvis' double sider 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'Hound Dog', which kept Bill Doggett's rockin' R&B instrumental 'Honky Tonk' from the No.1 slot. Newcomers to the pop chart included 'I Walk The Line', the first pop hit for Johnny Cash, Fats Domino's update of 'Blueberry Hill' and fellow New Orleans' act Shirley & Lee with 'Let The Good Times Roll'. The Platters clicked again with the double sider 'You'll Never, Never Know' and 'It Isn't Right' and other doo wop greats The Five Keys, The Five Satins and The Moonglows charted with 'Out Of Sight Out Of Mind', 'In The Still Of The Night' and 'See-Saw', respectively. Incidentally, Gwen Gordy whose brother Berry later would become a legend penned 'See Saw'. The hottest new record of the month was Elvis' new single, 'Love Me Tender', which broke all records by amassing over one million advance orders and entering the Top 25 first week at No.2. Incidentally, a record four British (Easy Listening) singles made the US Top 100 this month: acts involved were Ted Heath, Cyril Stapleton, Anne Shelton and Bob Sharples.

 

The American R&B Top 15, which was headed by Doggett's disc, welcomed Chuck Berry's 'Too Much Monkey Business', Ray Charles' classic 'Lonely Avenue' and the aforementioned hits from the Platters and Fats Domino. On The C&W chart Elvis lead the way with 'Hound Dog', which was joined in that Top 15 by great rockabilly cuts 'Teenage Boogie' by Webb Pierce (who signed a $100,000 deal with US Decca  and 'Dixie Fried' from Carl Perkins.

 

BBC Radio launched a new show called 'Top of the Pops'…Filming started on the first color rock'n'roll movie, 'Do-Re-Mi' (later titled 'The Girl Can't Help It'), which featured Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Platters, Gene Vincent and newcomer Eddie Cochran…Elvis attracted a record 26,000 fans to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas... Johnny Cash was jailed overnight for possession of pills…. Little Richard recorded 'Good Golly Miss Molly', 'Jenny Jenny' and 'Baby Face' - which were all hits much later in the decade…. Paul Anka released his first single 'I Confess' and the Johnny Burnette trio issued the rockabilly gem 'The Train Kept-a-Rolling' (often said to be the first record with fuzz guigtar featured)

 

SEPTEMBER 1956

 

Forces Sweetheart Anne Shelton replaced Doris Day at No.1 with 'Lay Down Your Arms' (a song thought by some at the time to encourage cowardice in the armed forces!). New r'n' records on the Top 30 were the double sided UK debut hit by The Platters, 'The Great Pretender' and 'Only You', Lonnie Donegan's skiffle double header, 'Bring A Little Water Sylvie' and 'Dead Or Alive', Elvis' Hound Dog' and 'Razzle Dazzle' by the king of rock'n'roll, Bill Haley, who had 5 singles in the Top 30!. There was also room in the chart for Freddie Bell & The Bell boys with 'Giddy Up A Ding Dong' and even radio comics The Goons with 'Bloodknok's Rock & Roll Call'. The month ended with 18 of the Top 30 being - rock'n'roll related - the first time it had passed the 50% mark!

 

Across the Atlantic Elvis' 'Hound Dog' held the top spot all month, although on the last week it was the 'b' side 'Don't Be Cruel' that sold more copies, while the Platters revival of a 1939 song 'My Prayer' was at No. 2 for all of the five weeks. New to the Top 25 were 'Rip It Up' by Bill Haley and vocal group favourites 'A Casual Look; by the Six Teens, 'Ka Ding Dong' by The G-Clefs and 'St. Therese Of The Roses' by Billy Ward & The Dominoes (featuring lead vocalist Jackie Wilson).

 

The top R&B record was Bill Doggett's 'Honky Tonk' with The Platters ' My Prayer' and Elvis' 'Hound Dog' close behind. Chart newcomers included The Five Satins gem 'In The Still Of The Night', 'Bad Luck' by B.B. King and 'See Saw' by The Moonglows. On the C&W chart Ray Price's 'Crazy Arms' was No.1 all month , although 'Hound Dog' was snapping at its heels as was Johnny Cash's 'I Walk The Line'. Important new releases this month included Chuck Berry's 'Brown Eyed Handsome Man, 15 year old Paul Anka's debut disc 'I Confess', 'Lonely Avenue'/'Leave My Woman Alone' by Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker's 'Dimples', 'Red Headed Woman' by Sony Burgess and 'Lipstick, Powder & Paint' by Joe Turner

 

Don't knock R&B - Columbia Records A&R head Mitch Miller, a member of the anti-rock brigade, said 'Rhythm & Blues in its pop manifestation, rock'n'roll, has given many people a false idea of the legitimate article, R&B', he emphasised that R&B is an art and that many genuine R&B records rank as classic recordings… Many people tipped West Indian calypso music to take over from r'n'r. As it happened, only New Yorker Harry Belafonte really benefited from the craze - his album, 'Calypso', headed the American charts for a staggering 31 weeks…Shortly after 'Hound Dog' had sold a million in an unprecedented two weeks, Elvis smashed the record again when 'Love Me Tender' amassed an amazing million advance orders, and helped to push his total RCA sales over the 10 million mark in nine months. Incidentally, 82% of the US TV audience saw Elvis' first appearance on Ed Sullivan's show this month . .. Alan Freed made yet another low budget film, 'Rhythm N' Blues' (re-titled 'Don't Knock The Rock') with guests Little Richard, The Treniers and, of course, Bill Haley & The Comets.                                                                               

 

AUGUST 1956

                                                 

The months top rock record was 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love' written and sung by Frankie Lymon and his group The Teenagers - the 13 year old was only kept off the top by Doris Day - ah well, Whatever Will Be Will Be!. The month's Top 30 still included hits from Elvis Presley (2), Pat Boone (2), Bill Haley, Fats Domino and Lonnie Donegan. Chart debuts were made by Pat Boone's version of Ivory Joe Hunter's 'I Almost Lost My Mind' and Clyde McPhatter's 'Treasure Of Love'

 

The first half of the month found The Platters topping the Best Sellers with 'My Prayer/Heaven On Earth' and the last two weeks by 'Hound Dog'/'Don't Be Cruel' by Elvis - which sold a million in a record two weeks. Incidentally Leiber & Stoller, the writers of 'Hound Dog' called Elvis' version of the Big mama Thornton's R&B hit, 'Too nervous, too fast and too white". New To the Top 25 were the first "cut-up" novelty (using parts of 15 current r'n'r records without permission) hit 'Flying Saucers' by Buchanan & Goodman "The Fool" by Sanford Clark, Little Willie John's original recording of 'Fever', Bill Doggett's R&B million seller 'Honky Tonk' and Nervous Norvus wild 'Ape Call'.

 

The two US R&B No.1s of the month were 'Fever' by Little Willie John and 'Rip it Up' by Little Richard. New entrants in the Top 15 included Shirley & Lee's classic' Let The Good Tines Roll', The Teenagers 'I Promise To Remember' (which claimed 200,00 sales in its first week) and Fats Domino's 'So Long', which his label announced had sold 300,000 in 10 days. On the country chart 'Heartbreak Hotel' was replaced by another Elvis cut, 'I Want You I Need You, I Love You', which in turn was replaced by Ray Price's 'Crazy Arms' (later covered as his first release by Jerry Lee Lewis). Gene Vincent made his debut C&W entry and Carl Perkins' 'Boppin The Blues' also charted. New releases included ones by future hitmakers Johnny Burnette, Brook Benton, The Coasters, Eddie Cochran (in the Cochran Brothers) and The Coasters.

 

An association of R&B DJs decided the time was right to disassociate R&B from rock'n'roll - since the latter's bad publicity was affecting their business….. While Elvis was working on his first film 'Love Me Tender', Alan Freed was shooting his second cheapie, 'Rock Rock Rock', which also included The Flamingos, Johnny Burnette, the Three Chuckles and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. Incidentally, the latter group headlined another record breaking Freed show at the Paramount Theatre along with Fats Domino and Joe Turner…. In the UK, for the first time, NME devoted a whole page to the Singles chart.. Lonnie Donegan made his UK stage debut (after a successful US tour)…At a time when '40% of UK hits were in the r'n'r idiom' and no British artists were in the UK Top 10, London's first rock'n'roll club, Studio 51 in Soho, was launched with Rory Blackwell's Rock 'n' Rollers being the resident act. The news that ex jazz drummer "Tony Crombie was forming a rock'n'roll band" made the front page of MM and the group, The Rockets (who included two Americans) signed with Columbia Records. At the same time, Tommy Hicks, was discovered singing at London's recently opened Two I's coffee bar and was re-christened Tommy Steele.

 

 

JULY 56

Pat Boone's 'I'll Be Home' stopped Elvis' debut hit 'Heartbreak Hotel' from reaching the top before being replaced at No.1 by The Teenagers 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love - the first major hit written by, sung by and aimed at teenagers. Bill Haley's 'Saints' remained in the Top 10. Lonnie Donegan's 'Skiffle Session EP' entered the Top 20. The Top 30 welcomed Elvis' third chart entry in 10 weeks, 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' and the debut hits by Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps 'Be-Bop-A-Lula', Fats Donino's 'I'm In Love Again' and Pat Boone's cover of 'Long Tall Sally', as well as Stan Freberg's parodies of 'Rock Island Line' and 'Heartbreak Hotel'.

 

Meanwhile back in the USA, Elvis hit the top again, this time with the double sider 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' and 'My Baby left Me' and Pat Boone reached runner up position with 'I Almost Lost my Mind'. The Platters returned to the Top 10 with 'My Prayer' (which was not that dissimilar to the Ink Spots' 1939 version, Gene Vincent debuted with 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' while Fats Domino's 'I'm In Love Again', which sold 300,000 in the first 3 weeks, remained in the Top 10 all month. Newcomers in The Top 25 included The Jayhawks and The Cadets both with versions of the novelty rocker 'Stranded In The Jungle', Little Richard with the double sider 'Rip It Up' and 'Ready Teddy' and Fats Domino with the standard 'When My Dreamboat Comes Home'

 

Little Willie John's original version of 'Fever' took over from Fats Domino at No.1 on the R&B chart. With Little Richard's 'Rip It Up' moving to No.2. Newcomers to the Top 15 were the crossover hits by The Cadets (aka The Jacks), The Jayhawks (later renamed The Vibrations) and The Platters. Elvis' 'I Want You' took over at the top of the Country chart before being replaced by Ray Price's original recording of the later Jerry Lee Lewis favourite 'Crazy Arms'. New country hits included Carl Perkins' 'Boppin' The Blues' and Gene Vincent 'Be-Bop-A-Lula'.

 

Approximately 70,000 fans tried to attend a rock'n'roll show in Maryland starring Carl Perkins, The Teenagers, Chuck Berry and Shirley & Lee. Rock packages were no longer simply R&B shows under another name - they had multi-racial headliners, with acts also coming from the C&W and pop fields - rock'n'roll was finding an identity of its own….A noted American TV critic described Elvis as 'Unspeakably untalented and vulgar'... Buddy Holly recorded his first version of 'That'll Be The Day' in Nashville..Alan Freed announced that he was planning a rock'n'roll tour for the UK (it never happened) ..Gene Vincent made his US nationwide TV debut on the Perry Como show…Dick Clark took over as host of 'Bandstand'…The film 'Rock Around The Clock' premiered in London - the NME reviewer said of the movie that took two weeks to film, "not for people with any degree of musical taste"…Meanwhile Alan Freed and Bill Haley were filming their next movie, 'Rock, Rock, Rock'…Cash Box magazine named Little Richard, Little Willie John, The Teenagers and the Teen Queens as the Best Up-And-Coming R&B artists.. In Nashville, Brenda Lee recorded her first session and Johnny Cash made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry…The Hilltoppers toured the UK…Riots were reported at Fats Domino shows in California…Elvis had his first article in the UK music press and Rock & Roll was mentioned in a headline for the first time…Little Richard first recorded 'Good Golly Miss Molly' - but not released at the time… Interesting rock releases included 'Hucklebuck' by Freddie Bell, 'Who Do You Love' by Bo Diddley, 'Fools Paradise' by The Cochran Brothers (inc. Eddie), 'I Don't Know' by James Brown, 'While i Dream' by The Tokens (ld vocal Neil Sedaka) and 'Lipstick, Powder & Paint' by Joe Turner

 

JUNE 56

Lonnie Donegan took 'Lost John' to No. 2, which surprisingly was higher than his groundbreaking transatlantic Top 10 single 'Rock Island Line' had reached. Lonnie was kept from the top by Pat Boone's rendition of the Flamingos R&B hit 'I'll Be Home' - the first chart topper by a solo star in the rock'n'roll vein. It was then pushed into third position by Elvis' debut hit 'Heartbreak Hotel' -acclaimed as the first hit to be made by Radio Luxembourg and juke boxes - as BBC play was virtually non existent. It was the first rock-slanted Top 3 ever in the UK. Jumping into the Top 10 were Bill Haley's latest 'The Saint's Rock 'n Roll' and both Carl Perkins and Elvis' versions of 'Blue Suede Shoes', while The Top 20 welcomed 13 year old Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers with ' Why Do Fools Fall In Love.

 

Across the Atlantic Elvis notched up a couple more weeks in top spot with 'Heartbreak Hotel' and new Top 10 entries included for Pat Boone's revival of Ivory Joe Hunter's 'I Almost Lost My Mind' , Elvis' follow-up 'I Want You, I Need You, I Love You' (which sold over 389,00 in its first 6 days) and the gory r'n'r novelty 'Transfusion' by Nervous Norvus - which was banned by many US radio stations and, of course, the BBC. The Top 20 welcomed newcomers Gene Vincent and Clyde McPhatter with 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' and 'Treasure Of Love', respectively. 

 

The US R&B chart was led by Fats Domino's 'I'm In Love Again' with Little Willie John's original version of 'Fever' just failing to dethrone it. Top 15 newcomers included 'Roll Over Beethoven' by Chuck Berry, 'Hallelujah I Love Her So' by Ray Charles and 'Rip It Up' by Little Richard. On the country chart 'Heartbreak Hotel' took residence at No.1 all month, while Elvis' 'I Want You' climbed quickly to No.2 (replacing Carl Perkins) and the Top 10 welcomed 'I Walk The Line' by Johnny Cash.

 

Two of the most important R&B releases of the year surfaced: The Five Satins 'In The Still Of The Nite', which is regarded as the doo-wop record and Shirley & Lee's masterpiece 'Let The Good Times Roll'…Lonnie Donegan, who had now left the Chris Barber Jazz Band, was touring the USA. On some dates he headlined with Pat Boone and on others was backed on stage by the Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll Trio, whose new single was 'Tear It Up' . Other interesting new rock releases included 'Silly Willie' by Bobby Darin, 'Send For My Baby' by Connie Francis, 'Shortnin' Bread Rock' by Etta James, 'See You Soon Baboon' by Dale Hawkins and 'All Shook Up' by Vikki Young (later covered by Elvis)…Elvis's "wiggling and wriggling" performance of 'Hound Dog' on the Milton Berle TV brought a howl of protest… Elvis told the press "Rock'n'roll has been around for years it used to be called R&B"… The first ads for newcomers Gene Vincent, Roy Orbison and Johnny Burnette appeared on the same day in Billboard…UK skiffle king Lonnie Donegan touring the US with an all rock'n'roll/doo-wop package show…Britain launched its first "rock'n'roll princess" Pauline Shepherd.

 

 

 

 

MAY 1956

In the month of the first Eurovision Song Contest, Ronnie Hilton held the top spot all month with the big ballad 'No Other Love', but a couple of new faces on the chart were about to turn the music world upside down, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins, who burst upon the scene with 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Blue Suede Shoes', respectively. Also this month Lonnie Donegan's 'Lost John' gave him another Top 10 entry and Pat Boone headed towards the top with 'I'll Be Home'. Other rock entries were Bill Haley's 'The Saints Rock 'n'Roll' and Elvis' cover of Carl's 'Blue Suede Shoes'.

 

In The USA, 'Heartbreak Hotel' held the top spot all month and Carl Perkins, The Platters and The Teen-Agers remained in the Top 10 where they were joined by Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally' (which outsold Pat Boone's cover version) and Fats Domino's 'I'm In Love Again' Most notable new entrant in Top 25 was The Teen-Agers' 'I Want You To Be My Girl' and a few inevitable R&B covers, Cathy Carr and Gale Storm's renditions of 'Ivory Tower'  and The Diamonds version of The Willow's 'Church Bells May Ring'- the original included chime bells played by newcomer Neil Sedaka.

 

The R&B chart was led all month by 'Long Tall Sally' and new entrant included 'Ruby Baby' by The Drifters, 'Forty Days' by Muddy Waters, 'This Litle Girl Of Mine' from The Cleftones and Little Willie John's original recording of 'Fever' . All month long Elvis held the top spot on the country chart with Carl Perkins at No.2 and Elvis again at No.3 with 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget' and even his 'Baby Let's Play House' returned to the Top 15.

 

New faces on the burgeoning rock'n'roll scene included the Johnny Burnette Rock 'n' Roll trio, who were recording their first tracks, The Four Lovers who were charting with 'Apple Of My Eye'  (they latter found fame as the Four Seasons) and 11 year old Brenda Lee who signed to Decca.., The successful all-star 'Biggest Rock'n'Roll Show of 1956' headed by Bill Haley & The Comets and The Teenagers amazingly included Freddy Randall's British dixieland band (the first UK act to experience a rock show first hand). Noteworthy recent R&B releases included 'Hallelujah I Love Her So' by Ray Charles and 'Roll Over Beethoven' by Chuck Berry.                                                                            

 

 

April 1956

In the month that West Indian ragtime pianist Winifred Atwell became the first black artist to top the UK charts, new entries in the Top 20 included R&B cover versions by Teresa Brewer and Pat Boone of 'A Tear Fell' and 'I'll Be Home', plus Lonnie Donegan's double sided follow up 'Lost John' and 'Stewball', alongside Perry Como's rock-leaning 'Juke Box Baby', which name-checked several recent rock'n'roll records. The only genuine rock record selling well was Bill Haley's 'See You Later Alligator', but this the lull before the storm - it was the month Elvis had his first UK release.

 

In America, the month ended with that Elvis single 'Heartbrerak Hotel' at No.1, with Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes' in the Top 5 and The Teenagers 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love', Lonnie's 'Rock Island Line' (which sold 150,000 in 10 days) and the Platters' 'Magic Touch' joining them in the Top 10. Rock'n'roll and R&B were now accounting for about a third of the new entries in the Top 25, and among these were Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally', Bill Haley's 'Saints Rock 'n' Roll', Elvis' version of 'Blue Suede Shoes' and Otis Williams & The Charms 'Ivory Tower' .

 

On the R&B front The Teenagers and Little Richard spent two weeks each at No.1.

Notable newcomers to that Top 15 included chart debutant James Brown with 'Please Please Please' and the two white rockers, Elvis and Carl, also reached the Top 10. 'Heartbreak Hotel' topped the Country chart all month and there were Top 10 C&W places for Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash (Folsom Prison Blues).

 

A quarter of America's population watched Elvis perform 'Heartbreak Hotel' on the 'Milton Berle Show', and within days it had passed the million sales mark. He was quickly signed to a three-film deal, and his debut album sold over 150,000 in just 10 days. However, despite his overnight' super-stardom, Elvis could not keep the Las Vegas punters entertained, and had his two week stint at the Frontier Hotel cut short….The CBS radio network premiered America's first nationally broadcast rock & roll show, 'Rock n' Roll Dance Party', hosted by Alan Freed. Meanwhile, Alan's 'Easter Jubilee Of Stars' was breaking his own box office records at the Paramount Theatre. A hundred extra police were needed to control the crowds who wildly appreciated headliners The Platters and The Teenagers. Freed also signed a deal with Radio Luxembourg to air tapes of his shows in Europe. According to Freed's stations, WINS, 'Rock and roll is already big in Britain and Europe, but they don't call it that yet'…Interesting new records included Marty Robbins' rendition of 'Long Tall Sally' and singles by The Four Tops, Billy Stewart and Solomon Burke.

 

MARCH 1956

American one hit wonder group The Dream Weavers topped the UK charts (including the first ever MM chart) with their self composed and self financed single 'It's Almost Tomorrow' - interestingly two members of the group married each other this month - and are still together today! New Top 20 entries included the latest hit from Bill Haley, 'See You Later Alligator', Australian Jimmy Parkinson's cover of The Platters' 'The Great Pretender' and Kay Starr's rock'n'roll pop song 'Rock And Roll Waltz' which topped the chart as the month closed.

 

 

Over the Atlantic two MOR instrumentals held the top spot this month, 'Lisbon Antigua' by Nelson Riddle's Orchestra and Les Baxter's Orchestra's rendition of 'Poor People Of Paris'. Top rock'n'roll tracks were The Platters' 'The Great Pretender' and the fast climbing groundbreaking greats 'Blue Suede Shoes' by Sun Records Carl Perkins and ex-Sun singer Elvis Presley's first pop chart hit 'Heartbreak Hotel'. Also entereing the Top 25 The Teen Queens original version of 'Eddie My Love' and covers by the Chordettes and The Fontane Sisters. Also entering were pop covers of Frankie Lymon & The Teenager's hit 'Why Do Falls Fall In Love' from The Diamonds and Gale Storm. In the last week of the month The Platters returned to the chart with 'The Magic Touch' and Lonnie Donegan flew the British flag when 'Rock Island Lane' charted.

 

 

The Frankie Lymon hit replaced The Platters at No.1 on the R&B chart. Newcomers to the R&B Top 15 included Howlin' Wolf's classic 'Smokestack Lighning', 'No Money Down' by Chuck Berry, and The Coasters made their chart debut with 'Down In Mexico' and surprisingly white rocker Carl Perkins; 'Blue Suede Shoes'. New releases included the original of Elvis' later chart topper 'One Night' by Smiley Lewis.

 

In this eventful month, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins achieved the supposed impossible when their singles 'Heartbreak Hotel' and 'Blue Suede Shoes' respectively, climbed up the pop, C&W and R&B charts. On the C&W chart, a week after Elvis' 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget' vacated the top slot, his follow-up 'Heartbreak Hotel' repeated the feat, and the month ended with Carl's classic standing at No.2. In hindsight, among the month's most interesting releases were 'Seven Night To Rock' by Moon Mullican, 'Giddy Up A Ding Dong' by Freddie Bell & The Bellboys, 'Long Tall Sally' by Marty Robbins and 'Ruby Baby' from The Drifters.

 

Elvis, now called 'The King Of Western Bop', quickly covered Carl's 'Blue Suede Shoes' and sang it on the Dorsey Brothers TV show. Perkins missed his chance for national TV, when he was badly injured in a car crash on route to the Ed Sullivan show. Rock'n'roll was still not accepted by the majority of the older generation - The minor riots that greeted Alan Freed's road show, attracted much bad press. Rock'n'roll was called 'a communicable disease, which is both cannibalistic and tribalistic'. Some people tagged it 'immoral', saying 'it's part of a plot to undermine the morals of our youth, and to pull the white man down to the level of the negro'. Bill Haley & The Comets signed a record breaking deal which would earn them in $250,000 for just 21 weeks work.

 

Teenagers arrested at Alan Freed Road Shows… Seventeen year old Connie Francis appeared on the Ed Sullivan show… Elvis made his US album debut alongside four soundtrack albums in the Top 5… Ruby Murray had star studded surpsise 21st birthday party… Roy Orbison recorded his first single 'Ooby Dooby'… The NME said of Elvis & Carl's success, "The industry shocked that two C&W artists are tops in pops"… The film 'Rock Around The Clock' opened in the USA… 'My Fair Lady opened on Broadway… Birmingham, Alabama's White Citizen Council tried to ban R&R on radio & on juke boxes, and many people in the C&W feel same felt the same and wanted country music with R&B influences excluded from the C&W charts..4000 fans mobbed Johnnie Ray In Australia- first ads seen for Elvis in NME on last day month… Eddie Cochran was made a member of TV's 'Hollywood Jubilee' and Carl Perkins made his national TV debut on 'Ozark Jubilee'…An Easter Alan Freed show packed them in at the famed Brooklyn Paramount, acts included The Platters, The Teenagers, The Cleftones,The Rover Boys and Bill Haley off-shoots The Jodimars… An NBC TV spokesman said of Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally'- "How do I know if I should ban it, when I can't even understand it"?

 

 

FEBRUARY 1956

The Top 20 still included Bill Haley's 'Rock-A-Beating Boogie' and Lonnie Donegan's groundbreaking 'Rock Island Line'. Established pop acts faring well with rock-oriented tracks were Frankie Vaughan's cover of Boyd Bennett's 'My Boy Flat Top', and veteran Kay Starr clicked with the 'Rock & Roll Waltz'. In a month when at times all the entrants in the UK Top 10 were American, the most popular song was the catchy 'Memories Are Made Of This" by Dean Martin. American country singer Slim Whitman successful opening at London Palladium and, to give you a feel of those non P/C days, the media carried a story about the Wolverhampton ballroom with the notice outside saying, "No teddy boys and no coloureds".

 

Across the Atlantic, the battle for the acceptance of rock'n'roll appeared to be almost over - as it was now becoming an acknowledged part of the US music scene and was receiving the media coverage and respect that its sales merited. 'Billboard' noted"Rhythm & Blues - or as teenagers call it, Rock And Roll - has not departed the entertainment scene. Rather it seems to have achieved a certain measure of respectability". An example of rock's new found respectability and acceptance was the success of Kay Starr's transatlantic chart topper 'Rock And Roll Waltz' - a clever MOR/rocker that sold to all age groups (a reportd 350,000 in the first 4 days). It was right at the top alongside The Platters 'The Great Pretender'(which headed the Juke Box and Airplay charts) and Bill Haley's 'See You Later Alligator'. Top 25 newcomers included Pat Bonne's double-sided R&B cover, 'I'll Be Home' and 'Tutti Frutti', 'Speedo' by The Cadillacs and Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers classic 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love', which was called "the first record made by kids for kids".

 

Billboard noted "Many R&B writers were now diluting their own material by writing directly for the pop market", which some critics considered tantamount to re-writing Shakespeare to appeal to the masses". The Platters headed the US R&B chart all month with Little Richard's'Tutti Frutti' at No.2. New entries in the Top 15 included 'Devil Or Angel' by The Clovers (revived successfully in 1960 by BobbyVee), the original versions of 'Ain't That Lovin' You Baby' and 'I'll Be Home' by Jimmy Reed and The Flamingos, respectively, and 'Drown In My Own tears' by Ray Charles. Other interesting R&B releases included 'I Need Your Love So Bad' (which became an early hit for Fleetwood Mac) by Little Willie John, and singles from future hit makers as Brook Benton and Chris Kenner. Also this month Jimmy Jones first recorded his 1959 transatlantic smash, 'Handy Man', on which he was backed by The Sparks Of Rhythm.

 

Elvis Presley's 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget' on Sun single briefly topped the C&W chart, while label mate Johnny Cash entered the C&W Top 15 with 'Folsom Prison Blues' and fellow son of Sun Carl Perkins charted with his across the board hit 'Blue Suede Shoes'. Other notable Sun singles in the month that Jerry Lee Lewis auditioned for the label included Billy Lee Riley's 'Red Hot' and Warren Smith's 'Rock And Roll Ruby'.

 

Other American news: Buddy Holley signed to Decca - a misspelling on the contact makes him Holly from now on…. Little Richard recorded 'Long Tall Sally' and starred at NewYork's Apollo Theatre for the first time …. Alan Freed's 'Biggest Rock & Roll Show of '56' tour was packing them in around the USA - headliners included Bill Haley & The Comets, The Platters, The Drifters, Joe Turner, Bo Diddley and Lavern Baker…A Billboard survey showed that 45 rpm pop singles now outsold 78s - it would be three years before that was the case in the UK…. A TV advert for Pall Mall cigarettes was regarded as the first rock'n'roll commercial… Bobby Darin was seen on Dorsey Brothers TV show singing his cover of Lonnie's 'Rock Island Line'…. The all star film 'Rhythm & Blues Review' was released in the USA… The Everly Brothers recorded their first single for Columbia. … James Brown recorded his first single 'Please Please Please'.

 

 

 

 JANUARY 1956

The first year where rock'n'roll really made its mark opened with the first rock chart topper, 'Rock Around The Clark' by Bill Haley & His Comets, still at No.1, and it was joined in the Top 5 by the group's 'Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie'. Also, Pat Boone's 'Ain't That A Shame' was still in the Top 20, and that week saw the entry of the record that launched one thousand skiffle groups, 'Rock Island Line' by Lonnie Donegan (making it three "Rock" titles in the Top 10). The success of Lonnie's record inspired the NME to note, "Further proof how unpredictable the music industry is now". A week later, future 6-5 Special stalwart Don Lang had his first chart entry with the scat song 'Cloudbust'. The only other rock-related Top 20 entrant was The Hilltoppers' cover of The Platters' classic 'Only You' (which was not released in the UK at the time) and Eddie Fishers' rendition of The Rock Brothers 'Dungaree Doll". For the record, the most popular songs of the month were 'Sixteen Tons' and 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett', youthful producer George Martin had three singes in the Top 20, Vera Lynn started her own TV series and Gracie Fields guested on the Ed Sullivan show.

 

Meanwhile, back in the USA, the month's top record was 'Memories Are Made Of This' by Dean Martin. The Top 10 also welcomed 'The Great Pretender' (Platters), Bill Haley & His Comets with his cover of Bobby Charles' 'See You Later Alligator' and veteran pop performer Kay Starr with 'Rock & Roll Waltz" which was heading to the top. The last week of the month saw the chart debut of another ground breaking rock'n' roll hit, 'Tutti Frutti' by Little Richard.

 

On the US R&B chart The Platters' Great Pretender' stood at No.1 all month. Other noted Top 15 new entries were 'Need Your Love So Bad' by Little Willie John, 'Seven Days' Clyde McPhatter (which claimed 200,000 sales in its first seven days), 'Speedo' by The Cadillacs and 'The Chicken & The Hawk' by Joe Turner. Incidentally, at the time Joe was touring Texas with Ray Charles and Etta James,

 

Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly made their Nashville recording debuts. Among the first tracks Elvis cut for RCA were covers of Ray Charles' gospel-based 'I Got A Woman', Little Richard's 'Tutti Frutti', The Drifters hard-hitting 'Money Honey' and a new song, 'Heartbreak Hotel'. Buddy recorded several sides for Decca including 'Midnight Shift' …. Elvis sang Joe Turner's 'Shake, Rattle & Roll' and 'Flip Flop & Fly' during his sensational national TV debut on the 'Dorsey Brothers Stage Show' - it was Elvis' first show in New York and the theatre was half empty… The Platters were signed to appear in the low budget movie 'Rock Around The Clock', in which Bill Haley sang all his current hits, and Haley's album of that title became the first R&R album to chart in the USA….. Bill Haley and Pat Boone both had four singles on the US Top 100 - all Pat's were cover versions of R&B songs… As The Coasters released their first single, 'Down in Mexico', The Cues put out 'Charlie Brown', a title that would later give the former hit a gold record Also released this month were 'Devil Or Angel' by The Clovers (a smash for Bobby Vee in 1960), 'Drown In My Own Tears' by Ray Charles, 'No Money Down' by Chuck Berry and the very influential R&B records 'Pretty Thing' by Bo Diddley and 'Ain't That Lovin' You Baby' by Jimmy Reed… A handful of rock'n'roll and R&B package shows were doing good business around the US including the latest Alan Freed Show whose star included Boyd Bennett, The Cadillacs, Lavern Baker and, perhaps surprisingly, Count Basie and his orchestra.

 

 

December 1955

 

Bill Haley's 'Rock Around The Clock' was the biggest seller of the month in Britain, even though it was briefly replaced at No.1 by Dickie Valentine's seasonal smash, 'Christmas Alphabet'. The only other rock-slanted singles in the Top 20 were Pat Boone's 'Ain't That A Shame' and Frankie Vaughan's cover of the swinger 'Seventeen', which was joined on the chart by the original US rendition from Boyd Bennett & The Rockets. The last chart of the year the chart was extended to a Top 25 and this included Haley's 'Rock A Beatin' Boogie'.

 

Across the Atlantic Tennessee Ernie Ford's novelty mining song 'Sixteen Tons' topped the chart all month (it sold a record 600,000 copies in its first nine days!), and still selling very well were 'I Hear You Knockin' (Gale Storm), 'Only You (Platters and The Hilltoppers) and 'Burn That Canndle' (Bill Haley). New rock records on the Top 25 were The Platters' 'Great Pretender', The Fontane Sisters' rendition of 'Daddy O', and 33 year old actor Gale Storm's 'Teenage Prayer'.

 

Jay McShann's 'Hands Off' (which was covered by at least five pop acts) replaced 'Only You' at the top of the R&B charts. Among the month's new entries in the R&B Top 15 were 'When You Dance' from The Turbans, 'Poor Me' from Fats Domino, Lieber & Stoller's production 'Smokey Joe's Café' by The Robins and 'Witchcraft' from New Orleans group The Spiders. In the C&W field Elvis was still enjoying his first Top 10 entry with 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget'.

 

Staggering statistics for 1955 - Sales of records in the USA were up over 40% compared with 1954, and the average age of record buyers was down to 18 from 25 from just three years earlier. In a year when six of the 10 most played juke box records came from the R&B/rock area, a respected music industry observer noted, "R&B records are now the pop records of the day"… Bill Haley & The Comets picked up several awards in the US, including R&B Personality Of The Year from the jazz magazine 'Downbeat'… RCA re-released Elvis' five Sun singles, as Billboard's headlines announced "The most talked about new personality in the last ten years is now with RCA"… Interesting new releases included 'Tennessee Toddy' from Marty Robbins, 'Sixteen Tons' by B.B. King , 'When I'm All Alone' by Solomon Burke, 'Charlie Brown' by The Cues, 'Speedoo' from The Cadillacs and 'Nite Owl' by Tony Allen.

 

NOV 1955

Rock'n'roll had its first ever UK chart topper this month - 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley & His Comets. The only other r'n'r-related Top 20 entries were Pat Boone's Top 10 cover version of Fats Domino's 'Ain't That A Shame' and Don Lang's scat-track 'Cloudburst' which he later often performed on 6-5 Special. It was coupled with a cover of the current Boyd Bennett hit 'Seventeen'. In the month that his compositions, 'Hernando's Hideaway' and 'Hey There', held three places in the UK Top 5, composer Jerry Ross died aged 29. Incidentally, Billboard noted that "England has become R&B conscious", and added "sales are not large but a beginning has been made".

 

In the USA, The Platters Top 5 entry 'Only You' was the biggest r'n'r record - despite a successful cover version by The Hilltoppers. The Cheers' biker track, 'Black Denim Trousers', was also in the Top 20 as were two cover versions of current R&B hits on Dot Records; Gale Storm's 'I Hear You Knocking' and Pat Boone's 'At My Front Door'. New comers in the Top 25 Best Sellers (the chart we refer to) included Bill Haley's Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie/Burn That Candle and Bonnie Lou's 'Daddy O'. Billboard launched their first Top 100 this month and the first of these included 26 rock or rock-related records.

 

The Platters 'Only You' led the R&B chart all month and was joined on that chart by such favourites as 'All By Myself' by Fats Domino, 'All Around The World' from Little Willie John, 'Good Rockin' Daddy' by Etta James and the groundbreaking 'Tutti Frutti' by Little Richard was the flavour of the month. On the C&W chart Elvis Presley's 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget You' was still a Top 10 fixture, where it was joined by the first hit from fellow Sun Records act Johnny Cash, 'Cry Cry Cry' and the debut chart entry by "The King of Country Music" George Jones with 'Why, Baby Why'. Also news from Nashville included that fact that teenage duo The Everly Brothers were recording their tracks for Columbia in Nashville and that Sun's Carl Perkins cut 'Blue Suede Shoes'.

 

Despite the fact that he had no pop track record and was virtually unknown outside of the southern states, RCA Records outbid many other labels to sign Elvis Presley, who also signed with manager Colonel Tom Parker this month. RCA paid $40,000, then considered a small fortune, for the artist whom they planned to push in three areas; C&W, R&B and pop….As the R&B package shows, 'Rock 'N Roll Revue' and 'The Big Rock & Roll Show' played to sell-out audiences on both coasts, Billboard DJ Poll winners included Fats Domino (Favourite R&B Artist) and Chuck Berry (Most Promising R&B Act), Elvis Presley (Most Promising C&W Artist - Jim Reeves was second) and Pat Boone (Most Promising Pop Newcomer)… In Britain, top NME award winners were Dickie Valentine, Ruby Murray and The Stargazers. The latter two, incidentally, appeared at The Royal Command Performance alongside 'The Prince of Wails' - US superstar Johnnie Ray, who failed to excite US teenagers this month when he mistakenly joined an Alan Freed r'n'r tour…… Rockin' R&B music got its first national TV airing on the Ed Sullivan Show, when DJ Dr. Jive (Tommy Smalls) hosted a 15 minute segment starring Bo Diddley, Lavern Baker and The Five Keys. Sullivan told his audience, "R&B is the new trend in music". Interesting releases included 'Pretty Thing' Bo Diddley and the original version of '"See You Later Alligator" by its composer Bobby Charles (who had hopped Fats Domino would record it).

 

 

OCTOBER 1955

Thanks to its inclusion in the newly released film 'Blackboard Jungle', Bill Haley & The Comet's minor hit from the previous January, 'Rock Around The Clock', returned to the charts - and the music scene was never the same again. However, most of the UK's record buyers didn't really notice it. The month's top seller in Britain was Jimmy Young's rendition of the western movie theme 'The Man From Laramie'. Incidentally, Jimmy had his first radio DJ experience this month when he hosted 'Housewives Choice' on BBC's Light Programme. Jimmy's hit was joined in the Top 20 by a handful of versions of 'Hey You' and 'Hernando's Hideaway' both from the US musical 'The Pajama Game', and everyone seemed to be singing 'The Yellow Rose Of Texas' or 'Blue Star'. Incidentally, Julie Dawn who sang the later hit only received a session for of £5.25 for her efforts!

 

Across the Atlantic, MOR music took back the top three slots on the chart courtesy of The Four Aces, pianist Roger Williams and Mitch Miller - however, none of these three acts ever returned to those heights again. New Rock faces on the chart included two R&B vocal groups The Platters, whose debut hit 'Only You' reached the Top 10, and The El Dorados who had a minor hit with their composition 'At My Front Door' - which Pat Boone covered successfully. Also debuting on the chart was actor/singer Gale Storm's cover of Smiley Lewis' R&B hit 'I Hear You Knockin'.

 

At the end of October The Platters' 'Only You' replaced Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline' in the top spot of the R&B chart and Smiley Lewis' 'I Hear You Knockin' climbed to runner-up position. Noted new singles on that chart included Chuck Berry's 'Thirty Days', 'Painted Pictures' by The Spaniels, 'Adorable' by multi-racial group The Colts (which was covered by The Drifters) and Ray Charles' double-sider Blackjack' and 'Greenbacks'. Meanwhile, over on the country field Elvis Presley climbed into the Top 10 with 'I Forgot To Remember' To Forget' and the Grand Ole Opry was seen on TV for the first time

 

Elvis was now building up quite a reputation as a showman. In this month his support cast included Sun label-mate Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Pat Boone and, in Oklahoma City, he even headlined alongside Bill Haley & The Comets. Holly, who also supported Haley, impressed Bill's label, Decca, so much that they asked him to come to Nashville.

 

Trad jazz-cum-skiffle musician Lonnie Donegan released his 'Backstairs Session' EP….

Among the month's more interesting rock/R&B releases were ''See You Later Alligator' by Bobby Charles (which Bill Haley quickly covered), 'Tuttu Frutti' by Little Richard, 'Speedo' by The Cadillacs and the Davy Crockett novelty 'Davy, You Upset My Home' by future soul star Joe Tex ….Atlantic Records purchased the Spark label owned by up and coming writer/producers Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller- the first release under the deal was 'Smokey Joe's Café' by The Robins …The Platters made their debut at the Apollo Theatre… The first rock'n'roll film, 'Rock 'N' Roll Revue', opened in New York. Its stars included Nat' King' Cole, Joe Turner, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown and The Clovers…A survey showed that albums now accounted for over 40% of record dollar volume in the USA…Hull's big voiced hero David Whitfield appeared on the Ed Sullivan TV show… 'Pick of the Pops' was launched on the Light Programme… Johnnie Ray was met by a barrage of scream-agers when he appeared on Sunday Night At The London Palladium.

 

 

SEPTEMBER 1955 

The British chart was a rock'n'roll-free zone this month although it did contain several C&W songs and western themed hits including three in the Top 15 by Slim Whitman, and versions of the western movie theme 'The Man From Laramie' by Al Martino and later radio superstar Jimmy Young.

 

 

Producer Mitch Miller's 'Yellow Rose Of Texas' held off all comers on the US Best Sellers, while Pat Boone's version of Fats Domino's 'Ain't that A Shame' replaced 'Rock Around The Clock' as the most played record on juke boxes and headed half a dozen rock related records in the Top 20. R'n'R Newcomers to the month's chart included the Leiber & Stoller biker's anthem 'Black Demin Trousers (And Motorcycle Boots)' by The Cheers and two versions of the Jon Hendricks jazzy rocker 'I Want You To Be My Baby' by Lillian Briggs and cover queen Georgia Gibbs.

 

 

R&B-wise Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline' held the top spot all month. Leading newcomers were Smiley Lewis with the original version of 'I Hear You Knockin' (a UK No.1 for Dave Edmunds in 1970) and The Platters' 'Only You', which climbed slowly towards the No.1 spot. On the C&W chart Elvis Presley's first entry, 'Baby Let's Play House', was joined in the Top 10 by his follow up, 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget'. The Billboard reviewer noted "with each release Presley has been coming more and more to the forefront".

 

Bill Haley was in the studio with a new line up of Comets (the nucleus of the original group now performing as The Jodimars). There was speculation that Bill, who had just turned down a $2000 a day tour of Australia, would earn around half a million dollars in 1955 from shows alone… 'The Big Rock 'N Roll Show' hit the road with Alan Freed hosting. The show, which broke box office records, starred Chuck Berry, The Moonglows, The Harptones, The Nutmegs and initially balladeer Tony Bennett who, perhaps not surprisingly, became ill and had to withdraw after one day!… Hollywood headlines this month included the death of movie idol James Dean in a car crash, and the marriage of film star Debbie Reynolds to pop heartthtob Eddie Fisher, whose most recent hit was 'Wedding Bells' (their daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, wed Paul Simon in 1983)… Billy Ward & The Dominoes, with lead vocalist Jackie Wilson, opened for six weeks at New York's noted Copacabana night club… Interesting releases included Mary Robbins' cover of 'Maybelline', doo wop classic 'Ship Of Love' by The Nutmegs and the answer record, 'Come Back Maybellene' by John Greer …UK news included the launching of commercial TV, which for music fans meant The Jack Jackson Show on a Saturday and Sunday Night At The London Palladium (the first bill topper being Gracie Fields). Also David Whitfield received a gold disc for 'Cara Mia', Marie Benson left the No.1 group The Stargazers and Canadian teen idols The Crew Cuts toured. Additionally British heartthrob Frankie Vaughan was offered his first film role and the words "Rock & Roll" were mentioned for the first time in the NME (in a readers letter).

 

AUG 1955

The month's top two singles in the UK both had C&W connections. No.1 all month was Florida based C&W yodeller Slim Whitman's 'Rose Marie', which sold over 750,000 in the UK but surprisingly did not even reach the Top 100 in his homeland. No.2 that month was Frankie Laine's rendition of The Sons of The Pioneers' song 'Cool Water' (another US flop). The McGuire Sisters version of 'Sincerely' dropped out of the Top 20 this month but The Crew Cuts' 'Earth Angel' just hung on.

 

In the USA, rock'n'roll was really starting to make its mark. Bill Haley & The Comets' legendary Rock Around The Clock' was No.1 all month and Pat Boone's cover of Fats Domino's 'Ain't That A Shame' moved to No.2 in the last week of the month. In fact, for the first time, there were five r'n'r-related singles in the Top 10 that week, the others being ''Seventeen' by Boyd Bennett (whose group The Rockets said Bill Haley's Comets copied their sound), 'House of Blue Lights' by Chuck Miller, and newcomer Chuck Berry with his self-penned Chess debut disc 'Maybelline' -   which had been rejected by major labels Mercury and Capitol. Other new rockin' entries in that month's Top 25 charts were two other rendition of Bennett's 'Seventeen' by The Fontane Sisters and Rusty Draper, and The Crew Cuts' latest R&B cover, 'Gum Drop' - a song first recorded by Otis Williams & The Charms. The latter was also covered by the No.1 black vocal group of the 1930s, The Mills Brothers, and the cheekily named Gum Drops.

 

This month's R&B chart welcomed the current pop hits by Boyd Bennett and Chuck Berry and the doo wop classic 'Why Don't You Write Me' by The Jacks. Also making their R&B chart debuts were 'Anymore', the last hit by the late great Johnny Ace (which claimed 300,000 advance orders) and Shirley & Lee's stomping 'Feel So Good' - which Johnny Preston turned into a transatlantic pop hit as 'Feel So Fine' in 1960. Meanwhile in Memphis local DJ Bob Neal's hosted a rockabilly show at Overton Park starring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Charlie Feathers. Charlie composed Presley's last Sun single, 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget', which was released on the same day as Carl Perkins' first for the label, 'Gone, Gone, Gone'.

 

In the USA this month, Bill Haley appeared on Ed Sullivan's TV show…Bo Diddley made his debut at the Apollo… Despite their lack of hits, The Platters and The Robins (who soon evolved into The Coasters) were in residency in Las Vegas… Clyde McPhatter released his first solo single after leaving The Drifters, whose new lead vocalist was Johnny Moore… Big Maybelle and rockabilly artist Roy Hall released 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' (which in 1957 gave Jerry Lee Lewis his first hit). Etta James released 'Good Rocking Daddy' and The Robins issued 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' - which was used as the title of songwriters Leiber & Stoller's later musical… Two new labels formed that would help shape Rock'n'roll Ace and Atco… The decade's top producer Mitch Miller complained that some artists "want to choose their own songs!"

 

Rock'n' roll was starting to be taken seriously by the MOR, or should I say "square", set. In the US, adverts for the Ames Brothers claimed, "You ain't heard Rock'n'roll til you've dug the Ames Brothers", In the UK, ex big band singer Suzi Miller appeared with the Johnston Brothers on TV's 'Off The Record' singing the Etta James/Georgia Gibbs hit 'Dance With Me Henry', and adverts for jazz favourites the Kirchen Band's 'Flying Hickory' defiantly acclaimed "Who says British bands don't rock?".

 

JULY 1955

 

In the UK, The Crew Cuts' cover of the Penguins' US R&B hit 'Earth Angel' remained in the chart all month, and was joined in the Top 20 by The McGuire Sisters MOR-slanted rendition of The Moonglows' US R&B smash 'Sincerely' - a song penned by Moonglow Harvey Fuqua, and also recorded at the time by such hit makers as Louis Armstrong, Eddie Calvert and Muriel Smith. Fuqua did not mind the fact that the McGuire's stole his group's thunder - in fact, on his comeback album in 2000, he had Phyllis McGuire write the sleeve note.

 

In the USA, rock'n'roll scored it's first No.1, Bill Haley & The Comets 'Rock Around The Clock', which was easily the month's biggest seller, and it was briefly joined in the Top 20 by the group's rockin' double sider 'Razzle Dazzle'/'Two Hound Dogs'. The group, who were in the midst of a very successful cross-country US tour, were described in Billboard as "Now firmly established as leading interpreters of the R&B idiom". Georgia Gibbs' cover of 'Dance With Me Henry', The Crew Cuts cover of The Nutmegs' R&B record 'A Story Untold' and Chuck Miller's update of Ella Mae Morse's boogie stomper 'House of Blue Lights' also spent time in the Top 25. They were joined by Boyd Bennett & The Rockets' hard hitting 'Seventeen' and two versions of 'Ain't That a Shame', the original by Fats Domino (which topped the R&B chart all month) and a cover version by Pat Boone, which easily won the pop chart battle.

 

Newcomers on the US R&B chart (which so often influenced the pop listings) included 'A Fool For You' by Ray Charles (ON JUKE BOX) 'Diddley Daddy' by Bo Diddley, the groundbreaking 'Manish Boy' by Muddy Waters and the future world wide hit 'Only You' by The Platters. The most interesting new Top 15 C&W entrant was Elvis Presley who made his nationwide US chart debut with 'Baby Let's Play House' (it peaked at No.10). It was also the month that Elvis brought his first Cadillac and recorded his last session for Sun (which included the future C&W chart topper, 'I Forgot To Remember To Forget'). Also clicking on the country chart were Pat Boone's in-laws, Red & Betty Foley, with 'Satisfied Mind'.

 

In the USA, Disneyland first opened its doors…It was announced that Bill Haley had sold 3 million singles in the last 13 months…Many music business people had to admit they were wrong that "R&B had run its course" and acknowledge that there was still some life left in it…A survey showed that over half of singles sold were now on 45s…Newcomer Carl Perkins' 'Movie Magg'/'Turn Around' on the Flip label was attracting attention in West Texas.

 

Pre-rock US superstars, Tony Bennett, Guy Mitchell and Al Martino were all appearing in Britain this month. Incidentally these three, like Rosemary Clooney, Eddie Fisher, Johnnie Ray and several other early 1950s pop idols, were younger than Bill Haley, whose music was making them seem very old-fashioned. During this month Clooney was quoted as saying 'I won't record rock'n'roll - where's the story value in those songs?' For the record, Rosemary was in the UK promoting her latest hit, 'Where Will The Baby's Dimple Be' a song of dubious story value. Incidentally, despite the fact that 'Rock Around The Clock' was top Stateside it did not get a single mention in the NME this month.

 

 

 

June 1955

In the UK, the month started with two versions of 'Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White' in the UK Top 3, and ended with two versions of 'Unchained Melody' repeating the feat. As in May, the only r'n'r related hit was 'Earth Angel' by the Canadian quartet The Crew Cuts. 

 

June ended with 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley & His Comets climbing into the US Top 3. Other rock-connected new entries in the Top 30 being Chuck Miller's boogie based revival of 'House of Blue Lights' and the Crew-Cuts' cover of The Nutmegs' R&B hit 'A Story Untold'.

 

Among the new R&B chart entries were The Marigolds original version of 'Rolling Stone' and two sequel records to 'Dance With Me Henry'; The Midnighters' 'Henry's Got Flat Feet (Can't Dance No More)' and Ettta James' 'Hey Henry'. Bill Haley's groundbreaking pop hit also reached the R&B chart which was topped for 11 weeks by 'Ain't That A Shame' from Fats Domino. It was his first R&B No.1 in three years. Bo Diddley made his debut at the Apollo Theatre and the first Downbeat Magazine R&B Awards named Roy Hamilton Top Male Vocalist and Ruth Brown Top Female.

 

In the US, Bill Haley & The Comets, whose label Decca announced had sold 3 million records in the previous year, joined the second edition of Alan Freed's 'Rock 'N Roll Show'. Other headliners included The Nutmegs, The Cardinals, The Ravens and Gloria Mann (whose son Bob led 1988 chart topping act Will To Power)…The first portable radios went on sale…New releases this month included 'Freddie', a debut disc from 16 year old Connie Francis (who had nine successive flop solo singles before becoming one of the most successful female artists of all time), 'Two Blue Singing Stars' by The Cochran Brothers (including later hit rocker, Eddie Cochran) and 'Feel So Good' by Shirley & Lee (which was a US Top 20 hit for Johnny Preston in 1960 as 'Feel So Fine').

 

In the C&W area, Webb Pierce's revival of 'The Father Of Country Music' Jimmie Rodgers' 'In The Jailhouse Now' was at No.1, a position it didn't escape from for 20 weeks. It was even joined in the Top 10 by Jimmie's original 1930s recording (with had overdubs from acts like Chet Atkins and Hank Snow). Up-and-coming C&W star Elvis Presley appeared on a show in Lubbock, Texas with local hillbilly duo Buddy & Bob (Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery). Presley's performance inspired Holly to venture into rock'n'roll, and Holly recorded some tracks this month at the Nesman Studios in Wichita. Elvis' new single ' Baby Let's Play House' was revived in Billboard as "The Most unusual record we've heard in ages".

 

 

May 1955

 

Several songs charted simultaneously in the UK Top 20; 'Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White' (2 versions) 'Unchained Melody' (3 versions), and 'Stranger in Paradise' (5 versions). It looked like rock'n'roll had already had its day in the UK, with the only Top 20 entry with any r'n'r connection being 'Earth Angel' by The Crew-Cuts, which in the UK, left The Penguins original version out in the cold.

 

Their were only two new rock-related releases in the US Top 20; Balladeer Don Cornel's cover of The Moonglows 'Most Of All' on the flip, a cover of The Cardinals 'The Door Is Still Open', also joined it later) and 'Rock Around The Clock' by Bill Haley & His Comets. Few people realised at the time that the latter single, which had been re-released after it was included in the controversial movie 'Blackboard Jungle', would kick-star rock'n'roll around the globe.

 

The R&B chart welcomed newcomer Bo Diddley with the eponymous debut single. Also new on that chart were 'Bop Ting A Ling;' by Lavern Baker and Fats Domino's 'Ain't That A Shane', which was the record that broke him into US and UK pop charts. Also this month, Fats, who was becoming one of the top draws on the r'n'r as well as R&B circuit, had a show in Connecticut cancelled for fear of riots.

 

On the C&W front, promoter/manager Colonel Tom Parker's 'Hank Snow All-Star Jamboree' hit the road on a 20 city trek. It starred Snow, Slim Whitman, Faron Young and newcomer Elvis Presley. Presley was very well received and incited his first riot in Jacksonville, Florida - which definitely made Parker interested in Presley.

 

In the UK Johnnie Ray was mobbed by 8000 screaming fans at the London Palladium and Danny Kaye also starred at that theatre this month… In the US, Bill Haley & The Comets, who this month made their major TV debut on Milton Berle's show, released the 10" album 'Shake, Rattle And Roll'…RCA Records announced that 60% of their US sales were now on 45rpm singles…The synthesiser was first demonstrated in Washington…Chuck Berry recorded his first single 'Maybelline' (it took 36 takes), Johnny Cash cut his first Sun single 'Hey Porter' /'Cry Cry Cry' and the Four Tops made their first recording, backing vocalist Carolyn Hayes… Alan Freed hit the road with his first "Rock And Roll Show" tour - headliners on this all Afro-American package included Dinah Washington, Al Hibbler, The Moonglows, Five Keys and Bo Diddley… Industry comments about the current R&B/rock records includes 'musically infantile, lyrically ignorant', 'vulgar and ungrammatical', 'off-key trash' and 'sheer garbage'.

 

 

APRIL 1955

 

Many UK music business people thought that the short lived rock'n'roll craze had already been replaced by the Mambo, as Perez Prado's 'Cherry Pink" topped the chart, and even Bill Haley incorporated this Latin American dance into his latest Top 20 entry, 'Mambo Rock'. Canada's Crew Cuts made their Top 10 debut with another smoothed out version of an R&B hit, the Penguin's doo wop diamond 'Earth Angel', while both Britain's Frankie Vaughan and American cabaret entertainer Georgia Gibbs reached the UK Top 10 with their interpretations of Lavern Baker's R&B novelty hit 'Tweedle Dee'. The most popular song of the month was 'Stranger In Paradise' from the musical Kismet - with four renditions in the Top 20.

 

In the USA, there were three versions of 'Ballad of Davy Crockett'in the Top 10 (it was similarly successful in the UK nine months later).There were still eight pop covers of R&B hits in the Top 30 (at one time there were 5 in Cash Box magazine Top 10) including new entries from the Crew Cuts - this time a double cover- Nappy Brown's 'Don't Be Angry' (the original also dented the Pop Top 30) coupled with The Danderliers' R&B hit 'Chop Chop Boom'. The chart also welcomed newcomer Pat Boone with his interpretation of The Charms' R&B hit 'Two Hearts'. Co-incidentally, Boone's father-in-law Red Foley was in the Country Top 10 with a cover of The Charms previous hit, 'Hearts of Stone'.

 

R&B wise, The original Little Walter interpretation of the much recorded rock standard 'My Babe' replaced Johnny Ace at No.1, in a month when the Top 15 contained the originals of most of the pop hits and two versions of the much touted new song 'Unchained Melody' by Al Hibbler and Roy Hamilton (who sang it on the Ed Sullivan show).

 

In the UK this month - EMI launched 'stereosonic sound' ("an amazing 3D aural effect"), and promoted producer George Martin to head their Parlophone label after five years as assistant…Johnnie Ray was back in Britain and causing pandemonium wherever he went,, Dickie Valentine became the only British headliner at the Palladium for five years, while Hull balladeer David Whitfield appeared on two successive Ed Sullivan Shows in New York…It was reported that in the last three months Ruby Murray sold 650,000 singles.

 

In the US this month - R&B/Rock'n'Roll package shows continued to pull the crowds. Among the top attractions were Alan Freed's 'Rock And Roll Easter Jubilee' (headlined by Lavern Baker, The Moonglows and The Penguins - a reviewer noted that "the show's two white acts, Eddie Fontaine and the Three Chuckles, seemed out of place". The show broke the all time attendance record at the prestigious Paramount Theatre attracting over 100,000 fans. Other successful tours included 'The 1955 Rock And Roll Festival' and 'The Rock And Roll Show of '55'…To increase their share of the R&B market, Mercury Records, picked up The Penguins for $5000 (and as part of the deal were forced to also take newcomers, The Platters). New releases include - Elvis Presley's 'Baby Let's Play House' (which became his first country chart entry in July), Bo Diddley's debut 'Bo Diddley' and 'Oooby Dooby' by the Teen Kings (featuring Roy Orbison).

 

 

 

MARCH 1955

The sole rock'n'roll record in the UK Top 20, 'Shake Rattle & Roll' by Bill Haley & The Comets, finally dropped off as 19 year old Northern Irish singer Ruby Murray notched up a record breaking five tracks in the UK Top 20.

 

Across the Atlantic, it was another month when pop covers of R&B hits fared extremely well with the McGuire Sisters' version of The Moonglows 'Sincerely' being the nation's top seller . New rockers in the Top 30 Best Sellers this month were 'Mambo Rock' and its flip, 'Birth of the Boogie', by Bill Haley & His Comets, and Georgia Gibbs' cleaned up cover of Etta James R&B hit 'Dance With Me Henry' . Even though R&B songs held 13 of the Top 30 rungs on the pop chart Mercury Records announced "The R&B trend has hit its peak and is on the way out", adding "we have no plans to cover any more R&B songs" and soon afterwards RCA said a similar thing.

 

On the R&B chart the late Johnny Ace's 'Pledging My Love' stayed top all month. New entries in the Top 15 included The Charms' 'Two Hearts' (which newcomer Pat Boone quickly covered), Joe Turner's 'Flip Flop & Fly' (covered by both Elvis and Johnnie Ray) and the legendary Jimmy Reed's chart debut, 'You Don't Have To Go'. American Juke Box operators announced that there was 60% more R&B being selected than a year ago, and that month's most played R&B track was Ray Charles' classic 'I Got A Woman'. Interestingly Ray's song was covered for the pop market as 'I Got A Sweetie' by Jo Stafford.

 

In the UK that month - Eddie Fisher starred at the London Palladium and Doris Day made her visit to Britain (she was accompanied by her 12 year old son Terry (Melcher) later a successful West Coast producer…. Muddy Waters' had his first write up in UK music press by Humphrey Lyttleton…. Ruby Murray made her first UK tour support by up and coming comedy team Morecambe & Wise

 In the USA that month…Controversy surrounded the release 'Blackboard Jungle', a movie about teenage violence starring Glenn Ford. The film, which used the old Bill Haley & The Comets' single 'Rock Around The Clock' as its theme, was even banned in Memphis… Memphis' own Elvis made his first appearance on 'Louisiana Hayride' and the first newspaper article appeared about him in Chicago's Country & Western Jamboree. On a negative note though, Elvis flew to New York for an audition for the very successful Arthur Godfrey Show and failed…This month's Apollo Theatre bill toppers included The Drifters and Ruth Brown - on stage the latter was given a special award by Atlantic Records for selling over five million singles…Juke Box Jury host Peter Potter announced "All R&B Records are dirty and as bad for kids as dope - which may help explain why they are changing the name to rock & roll".


 

FEBRUARY 1955

 

Suddenly girl groups were in vogue. After the Chordettes and De Castro Sisters, New Jersey trio The Fontane Sisters, had their biggest hit with their rendering of The Charms' R&B No. 1, 'Hearts Of Stone' (which itself was a cover of The Jewels version). However, the month's most successful act were yet another Arthur Godfrey discovery, The McGuire Sisters, who also clocked up their biggest selling single with an R&B cover, 'Sincerely'. Incidentally, the song, which had been first recorded by The Moonglows, credited Alan Freed as a writer.

 

Interesting releases in a month when 45s outsold 78s for the first time in the US included 'Flip, Flop & Fly' by Joe Turner (which Elvis and Johnnie Ray later recorded), 'Good Mambo Tonight' by Wynonie 'Good Rocking Tonight' Harris, 'You Don't Have To Go' by the influential Jimmy Reed and the R&B standard 'My Babe' Little Walter.

 

Rockabilly boys - Arthur Godfrey reject, Elvis Presley, cut covers of Little Junior Parker's 'Mystery Train' and Arthur Gunter's recent 'Baby Let's Play House'. Also this month Charlie Feathers recorded 'Peepin' Eyes', Carl Perkins cut 'Honky Tonk Gal' and Jimmy Heap recorded 'Sebbin Come Elebbin'.                                

                                                                               

Cover story - Pop covers of R&B records were now rife. Stars were rushing to record the latest R&B hits (and future hits) at an alarming rate with records like 'Ko Ko Mo' by Gene & Eunice, 'Earth Angel' by The Penguins and 'Tweedle Dee' by Lavern Baker being among the month's prime targets. Lavern was so incensed that she appealed to Congress in an attempt to legally stop note-for-note covers, while white acts, including Georgia Gibbs, charged into studios to cover her 'Tweedle Dee' .

 

Murray-mania - In Britain, young Irish singer Ruby Murray was quickly becoming the most talked about new artist. Her recording of the British song 'Softly Softly' headed the lists closely followed by her interpretations of American songs, 'Heartbeat' and 'Happy Days And Lonely Nights'. Within weeks of debuting on the chart she had a record five singles in the Top 20! 

 

 

JANUARY 1955

 

The first month of the first full year of 'Rock 'n Roll' started with Bill Haley & The Comets' groundbreaking 'Shake, Rattle & Roll', becoming the first rock'n'roll single to enter the UK Top 10, while his re-issue of 'Rock Around The Clock' entered (albeit briefly, this first time) the Top 20. . Also this month, the NME Poll results showed Dickie Valentine as Top Male Vocalist, Lita Roza as Top Female and The Stargazers as most popular vocal group, and British record label EMI bought top US label Capitol Records for a reported $3 million.

 

Across the Atlantic Haley's 'Dim Dim the Lights' and 'Hearts of Stone' by The Charms were joined in the Top 20 by The Penguins' doo-wop classic 'Earth Angel' and the McGuire Sisters' cover of The Moonglows self-penned R&B ballad, 'Sincerely'. Incidentally the NME reviewer said this month of Haley's US hit - "How these boys rock, I marvel at the wonderful beat, which is something we never get right in this country"

 

The then US record for the greatest advance ticket sales for dance promotions was smashed by Alan Freed's first 'Rock 'n Roll Ball' in New York, with the 12,000 tickets being sold out before the two shows. The headliners of this five-hour show included Joe Turner, The Drifters, The Clovers, The Moonglows, Fats Domino and The Harptones. This all black line-up was very similar to the 'Top Ten Rhythm & Blues' show, which started a six-week run this month. The 'Rock And Roll" attracted a more multi-racial audience, but there was no escaping the fact that both shows' were R&B packages. The first West Coast rock show, 'Rock & Roll Jamboree', also opened this month, and featured such acts as Billy Ward & The Dominoes with lead singer Jackie Wilson, Gene & Eunice (whose 'Ko Ko Mo' was covered this month by The Crew Cuts and Perry Como), Shirley Gunter & The Queens and Richard 'Louie Louie' Berry.

 

Newcomers to the US R&B Top 10 included The Charms' follow up, 'Ling Ting Tong' (a cover of a Five Keys recording), Ray Charles' classic 'I've Got A Woman', BB King's 'Every Day I Have The Blues' and Johnny Ace's first posthumous release, 'Pledging My Love'. Ace, who was recently voted Most Promising Male R&B Artist, was buried in Memphis this month and over 5,000 fans attended the funeral. Interesting R&B releases this month included 'Rock Love' by Lulu Reed, 'Maggie Doesn't Work Here Anymore' by The Platters and 'Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)' by Etta James. It was reported that a record $25 million had been grossed by the R&B music business in 1954, thanks to the rise of 'Cat' music (the earlier name for rock 'n roll). Leading pop labels Columbia & RCA said 'If that's the music kids want, that's what they are going to get'.

 

On the country front this month, Grand Ole Opry was seen on TV for the first time, Jim Reeves appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, Patsy Cline made her first recording, and RCA announced it would be opening a studio in Nashville. Meanwhile in Memphis, Carl Perkins recorded his first single, 'Movie Magg'and 'Turn Around', while fellow Sun records act Elvis Presley's 'Milkcow Blues Boogie' was reviewed by Billboard, who noted, 'Presley continues to impress - he is one of the slickest talents in the country field in a long long time'

 

 

DECEMBER 1954

On the last chart of the year, 'Shake, Rattle & Roll' by Bill Haley & The Comets repeated its current US success, and became the first real rock record to enter the UK Top 20. However, it was by no means the season's biggest hit; ragtime pianist Winifred Atwell had the Christmas No. 1 with a medley of old party favourites. Joining Haley's two US Top 20 entries (the other being 'Dim Dim the Lights), and the still charting 'Bazoom' by The Cheers, was the Fontane Sisters cover version of 'Hearts of Stone'. The latter song had initially been recorded by The Jewels, but it was a cover by fellow R&B group The Charms (their sixth release, and first hit) that topped the R&B chart all December.  The year ended with one of the catchiest tunes of the era topping the US chart, 'Mr. Sandman' by The Chordettes. Trivia collectors might like to note that Chordette Janet Ertel was the grandmother of Erin Everly - the inspiration for Axl Rose's 'Sweet Child O' Mine'.

 

In the R&B arena, this month The Moonglows scored with their original recording of 'Sincerely' (later a No.1 pop hit by the McGuire Sisters), Roy Hamilton hit with the original of 'Hurt' (later a smash for Timi Yuro, Elvis Presley and The Manhattans) and the biggest selling doo wop of all time, 'Earth Angel' by The Penguins made its chart debut. Recorded as a throwaway b-side, it went on to sell over two million copies. Bird group names were all the rage for doo wop acts at the time, and as the group said, "The Penguin is the coolest bird!".

 

Other R&B rumblings: major labels RCA, Columbia, Decca and Mercury announced that they were planning to get more involved in R&B releases. BB King celebrated his fifth year in the music business and the late great Johnny Ace was killed on Christmas Eve while supposedly playing Russian Roulette backstage.

 

Interesting new R&B releases included Jimmy Reed's 'You Don't Have To Go', 'Ling Ting Tong' by the Five Keys and 'Sh-Boom' originators, The Chordcats (who had to change their name from The Chords) issued the similar sounding 'Hold Me Baby'. Also, in the first month that "rock & roll" had been given its name by Alan Freed, MOR bandleader Ralph Marterie released 'Rock Rock' and the aptly named Rocking Brothers released 'Rock It'.

 

Finally, on the C&W scene Eddie Arnold's hit with 'Hep Cat Baby', Stuart Hamblen scored with the original recording of 'This Ole House' and Kitty Wells charted with 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' (the first hit written by 17 year old Don of the Everly Brothers). New rock related releases this month included ' 'Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-O-De' by Malcolm Yelvington, a cover of Elvis' 'That's All Right Mama' by Marty Robbins and Elvis' own 'Milkcow Blue Boogie'.

 

 

 

 

NOVEMBER 1954

 

 

'Rock and Roll' was "officially" named this month - although R&B fans, who had been using the term for a while, might have been surprised by that fact . In the USA, R&B DJ Alan 'Moondog' Freed's air time was increased to 28 hours a week despite the fact that he lost a legal battle (with blind R&B musician Louis 'Moondog' Hardin) over the use of the name 'Moondog'. This meant that Freed had to rename his 'Moondog Party' show - he came up with the name 'Rock And Roll Party' - and a new musical term came into the language …Stan Freberg's mickey-taking version of 'Sh-Boom joined the Crew Cuts rendition of this novelty pop doo-wopper in the UK Top 20…In the US Top 20 Bill Haley & The Comet's 'Dim Dim The Lights' joined their 'Shake, Rattle & Roll' and 'Sh-Boom' by The Crew Cuts was joined by the similarly themed 'Bazoom' by The Cheers- the first Top 20 entry penned by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller...In the US R&B Top 10 Joe' Turner's original 'Shake, Rattle & Roll' completed a sixth month stay, also in that Top 10 were tracks by Muddy Waters, The Drifters and two tracks each by B.B. King and Dinah Washington.

 

 

 Dinah Washington had a couple of big ones

 

US major labels announced that the days of sending 78 rpm records to radio stations was over (it was only 45s from now on), and that they were also going to get more involved in R&B music, with the aim of 'increasing the number of records they sold to teenagers'. This announcement came shortly after a survey said "In the next five years there will be five million extra teenagers and record sales are bound to increase"…At a time when ballroom owners bemoaned the fact that business had dropped by over 50% in the last year, the Mambo was the No.1 dance craze. In the US, Mambo records were selling in the pop, C&W and R&B markets. In the latter Atlantic Artists Ruth Brown's topped the chart with 'Mambo Baby' (which was covered for the pop market by Georgia Gibbs)…. In the annual 'Billboard' DJ Poll, Bob Manning (?)) was voted Most Promising Male Artist ahead of Sammy Davis Jr, who this month lost an eye in a car crash. In the C&W poll Elvis Presley, who this month made his Texas debut on 'Texas Hayride', was voted eighth Most Promising New Singer (Tommy Collins took top spot)…WMPS radio station Memphis named Elvis 10th most popular "Folk" artist….Interesting US releases this month included 'Baby Let's Play House' by Arthur Gunter (which was covered by Elvis), 'White Christmas' by The Drifters, 'Tweedle Dee' by Lavern Baker, 'Good Mambo Tonight' by the 'Good Rockin' Tonight' man Wynonie Harris and Ray Charles recorded the groundbreaking 'I Got A Woman' (also covered by Elvis).

 

 

OCTOBER 1954


The Crew-Cuts cover of the Chords' US novelty R&B/Doo Wop hit, 'Sh-Boom', entered the UK charts - the first record with rock'n'roll roots to achieve this feat…… Bill Haley & His Comets scored their first US Top 10 entry with their cover version of Joe Turner's R&B smash 'Shake, Rattle & Roll', which came complete with "cleaned-up" lyric. .. Elvis Presley failed to impress on his only 'Grand Ole Opry' appearance, he was advised by the manager of that No.1 Country music show to "go back to truck driving'. Two weeks later, thanks to country duo Jimmy & Johnny's last minute withdrawal from the show, he was given a slot on the No. 2 country show, 'Louisiana Hayride', (which was heard over 190 stations in the USA). He sang both sides of his debut release, 'That's Alright Mama' and 'Blue Moon Of Kenutcky ' and kick-started his career. Up to that point, his single had never even been played on station KWKH, which hosted the popular programme.


Hank Snow, who topped the US country chart all this month, hired Mae Axton as his public relations aide, she later penned 'Heartbreak Hotel' for Elvis…Pioneering rock'n'roller Alan Freed was among the DJs who were accused of playing R&B records with "blue" lyrics, and spokesmen for the juke box operators and music trade papers agreed it was time to call a halt to 'off-colour and offensive' records like The Drifters' 'Honey Love', 'Toy Bell' by The Bees (which inspired 'My Ding-A-Ling') and the three current hits by The Midnighters, 'Work With Me Annie', 'Annie Had A Baby' and 'Sexy Ways'…The air also turned blue when The Chords met top selling humourist Stan Freberg (who had mercilessly parodied their hit 'Sh-Boom'  on the US TV show 'Juke Box Jury'. He upset the group and many music business people when he said he said that he hoped that his record "would put an end to R&B". 



 The Penguins - gave us the top selling doo wop record, 'Earth Angel'
 

Later UK hitmakers The Platters and Johnny Otis headlined the 'Hep Cat Ball' at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A…. Another L.A act, Shirley Gunter & The Queens (photo), became the first female led group to hit the R&B chart - their hit 'Oop Shoop' was on the pop chart by cover version specialists The Crew-Cuts….Important rock-related releases this month included 'Earth Angel' by The Penguins, 'Hearts of Stone' by The Charms, 'Ling Ting Tong' from the The Five Keys and 'Framed' by The Robins…A survey showed that 20% of all pop records had a R&B beat, sound or arrangement…The Treniers (See'The Girl Can't Help It' feature and Unsung Heroes) appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.. Rock may have been on the rise, but Mambo was the music style of choice in the month that Laine-mania arrived in the UK and 14,000 fans, including many screaming girls, greeted Frankie Laine at a show in Manchester.