Fifties Study Hall, Music in the 50's

Fifties Study Hall: Top Groups of the 1950’s

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Welcome to 50’s Study Hall!  In this section, I will be publishing a series of lists with facts and short biographies that can be used as a reference. Please feel free to message me if any of the info needs correcting, or if you have anything to add.  I hope this section will help readers to find lots of Fifties Facts in one single place!

You will find the Study Hall menu at the upper right of this page. Like all Study Hall posts, you will want to check back from time to time as new information will continue to be added to these entries.

For this session, we will be studying the top musical groups of the 50’s. Because what is the 50’s, without the jukebox? Here you will find many of the hottest groups of the era listed with their original members*, labels, the years the group was at its most popular, and their biggest hits. While I pretty much love ALL these groups, I’ve added a heart ❤  symbol next to my absolute favorites. When it comes to groups in the early music industry, there are more details and facts than you might have ever imagined. So go ahead and take out your notebooks… It’s Study Hall time.

*Please note that in most cases, not all members are listed; this reference lists original members only

50’s Study Hall: Top Groups of the 1950’s

Bill Haley and His Comets ❤

billhaleyandhiscommets
Bill Haley (3rd from left) and His Comets

Original Members: Bill Haley (lead vocals and guitar),  Danny Cedrone (lead guitar), Joey D’Ambrosio (sax),  Dick Richards (drums), Johnny Grande, Billy Williamson, Rudy Pompilli (sax), Al Rex (bass), Franny Beecher, Marshall Lytle.

Genres: Rock n Roll, Rockabilly

Label: Brunswick

Peak Years: 1954 – 1958

Biggest Hits: “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, “Rock Around The Clock”, “Rocket 88”, “Rock The Joint”, “See You Later Alligator”, “Burn That Candle”

Bill Haley and HIS Comets were arguably the very first band to introduce the world to Rock n Roll. Many consider their Number One hit “Rock Around The Clock” (1955) to be the first Rock n Roll song ever, while others say it’s “Shake Rattle and Roll” (1954). In any case, this group was one of the first musical acts to incorporate Rock n Roll elements to the already  well-established Big Band genre in their songs. While Haley’s Comets changed many times over the years, their many hits have become a staple of American Music History. Bill Haley himself died in 1983 after a battle with addiction and other ailments, leaving behind an early Rock n Roll legacy.

 

The Bobettes

Orignal Members: Jannie Pought, Emma Pought, Reather Dixon, Laura Webb, Helen Gathers. Feat. Jesse Powell (tenor sax), Allan Hanlon and Al Caiola (guitar), Ray Ellis  (piano), Milt Hinton (bass), and Joe Marshall (drums)

Genre: Pop

Label: Atlantic

Peak Years: 1957

Biggest Hits:  “Mr. Lee”

This great 5-gal group originated in Harlem. Their big hit “Mr. Lee” was about a girl who had a crush on her teacher! Funny enough, the real Mr. Lee was disliked by his students, but Atlantic records wanted the words changed to reflect something more positive. (Perhaps the original lyrics went: “1-2-3, we hate Mr. Lee…”?) But at any rate, the re-write yielded a big hit which made it to #1 in September, 1957. The song put The Bobettes  down in musical history as a very successful One Hit Wonder.

 

The Champs

Members: Danny “Chuck Rio” Flores (sax and vocals), Dave Burgess (rhythm guitar), Dale Norris (lead guitar), Bob Morris (bass guitar), Dean McDaniel (bass), Benjamin Van Norman (bass), Joseph A. Bernas (bass), Gene Alden (drums), Dean Beard (piano),

Genres: Rock n Roll, Chicano Rock

Label: Challenge

Peak Years: 1958

Biggest Hits: “Tequila”

This group best known for the timeless instrumental hit “Tequila” (written by Danny Flores, credited as Chuck Rio). “Tequila” is a hit that has spanned 6 decades in undying popularity. It’s been covered and used in endless ways since its debut in 1958. Uses of this much-loved party tune include being the signature dance song for the character Pee Wee Herman in the 1980’s.

 

The Chordettes

The_Chordettes
The Chordettes

Members: Janet Ertel, Carol Buschmann, Jinny Osborne, Dottie Schwartz, Lynn Evans, Margie Needham.

Genre: Pop

Label: Columbia

Peak Years: 1954 – 1961

Biggest Hits: “Mr. Sandman”, “Lollipop”

This female group brought us two of the most simplistic yet most loved songs of the 1950’s: “Mr. Sandman” and “Lollipop”! While its members were substituted in different years for different reasons, the group always performed as a quartet.

(Extra Credit: Janet Ertel’s daughter, Jackie, married Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers. They later divorced.)

 

The Chords ❤

Original Members: James Keyes, Claude Feaster, Carl Feaster, Floyd F. “Buddy” McRae, and William “Ricky” Edwards.

Genre: Doo-Wop

Label: Cat Records

Peak Years: 1954

Biggest Hits:  “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)”

This group is known for writing and recording the original version of  “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)” and little else. However, this fantastic hit reached #2 on the charts and has been since featured in many movies. (Extra credit: “Sh-Boom” was most recently used in a partially animated Honda commercial in 2018 known as “Daydream”.)

 

The Cleftones

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The Cleftones: (l-r going upward) Charles James, Berman Patterson, Herb Cox, Warren Corbin

Original Members: Herbie Cox (lead singer), Charlie James McGhee (first tenor), Berman Patterson (second tenor), Warren Corbin (bass)

Genres: Doo-Wop, Pop, R&B

Label: ?

Peak Years: 1956

Biggest Hits: “Little Girl of Mine”, “Gee” (alt. version)

The Cleftones started out as a local band called “The Silvertones” at their school in Queens, NY. Once signed, they were renamed The Cleftones and their first big hit was their version of the song “Gee” (originally by The Crows). Warren “Buzzy” McLean (not pictured) also joined the group as baritone. In a 2000 interview, Berman Patterson explained that at the time, The Cleftones’ bubblegum sound was new and refreshing as opposed to the typical rhythm and blues.

 

The Clovers

Members: Billy Mitchell (lead), Billy Shelton (tenor)

Genres: R&B, Doo-Wop

Label: Atlantic/ Poplar/ United Artist Records

Peak Years: 1959

Biggest Hits: “Love Potion #9”

The Clovers actually started out in 1946 after assembling at Armstrong High School in Washington D.C. They recorded several songs in the early 50’s, but their biggest hit “Love Potion #9” (written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stroller) did not hit the charts until the summer of 1959. (Please note that the numerous members who have been in this group are not all listed here.)

 

The Coasters 

thecoastersactually
The Coasters: A classic jukebox favorite

Original Members: Carl Gardner (lead),  Cornell Gunter (tenor), Leon Hughs (tenor), Billy Guy (baritone), Willie “Dub” Jones (bass), Bobby Nunn (bass), Adolph Jacobs (guitar), King Curtis (tenor sax)

Genres: Rock n Roll, R&B

Label: Atco

Peak Years: 1957 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “Searchin’”, “Young Blood”, “Charlie Brown”, “Yakity Yak”, “Poison Ivy”

With mega-hits like “Yakity Yak” and “Charlie Brown”, The Coasters are a jukebox MUST for any Malt Shop enthusiast. Nothing says 50’s like the upbeat saxophone and cartoon-like voices injected into these classics. The Coasters have been recognized all over the world as a quintessential group of the Malt Shop era. Their songs have been featured in countless movies and television shows. They were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Today, The Coasters continue the group’s legacy with four active members: J.W. Lance, Primotivo Candelaria, Robert Fowler and Denis Anderson.

 

The Crests

Original Members: Tommy Gough, Chico Torres, Patricia Van Dross, Johnny Mastro

Genres: Pop, Doo-Wop, R&B

Label: Coed Records

Peak Years: 1958 – 1961

Biggest Hits: “Step By Step”, “Trouble in Paradise”, “The Angels Listened In”, “16 Candles” (aka “Sixteen Candles”)

The Crests can be considered one of the very early pop groups with their teenage upbeat songs that fall under the “bubblegum” genre. They are probably most well-known for the classic song, “Sixteen Candles” which was re-recorded as the theme for the popular 1980’s movie of the same name.

 

The Crew-Cuts ❤

Original Members: Rudi Maugeri , John Perkins (lead and tenor), Ray Perkins (bass), Pat Barrett (lead and tenor)

Genre: Doo-Wop

Label: Mercury / RCA

Peak Years: 1954 – 1956

Biggest Hits:  “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)” (cover), “Earth Angel” (alt. version)

Originally from Ontario, Canada, this quartet rose to fame with their fantastic cover of The Chord’s “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream”) which reached #1 on the charts in 1954. Most of their own original songs were known in Canada, while their US hits were frequently covers, such as their popular rendition of The Penguins’ “Earth Angel”.

 

The Crickets (aka Buddy Holly and The Crickets) ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ …

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The Crickets: (l-r) Niki Sullivan, Joe B. Mauldin, Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison.

Original Members:  Buddy Holly (lead vocals and guitar), Niki Sullivan (backing vocals and rhythm guitar), Jerry Allison (backing vocals and drums), Joe B. Mauldin (backing vocals and bass)

Genres: Rock n Roll, Rockabilly

Label: Brunswick

Peak Years: 1957 – 1958

Biggest Hits:  “That’ll Be The Day”, “It’s So Easy,” “Oh Boy!”, “Rave On”, “Lonesome Tears”, “Not Fade Away”, “Maybe Baby”, “I’m Looking For Someone To Love”, “Think It Over”

The Crickets are most noted for their original lead singer, Rock n Roll pioneer, Buddy Holly. The boys first assembled at Lubbock High School in the mid 50’s. Their most popular hit-yielding days were led by Buddy Holly with his new, innovative style managed by Norman Petty.  Petty divided credits between The Crickets as a group and Buddy Holly as a solo artist so that they could produce a number of songs simultaneously. Rhythm guitarist Niki Sullivan left the group in ’58, leaving the three remaining Crickets. Holly left The Crickets shortly before dying in a plane crash 1959. However, he intended on working with the group at a later date. New lead singer David Box also died in a plane crash in 1964. Despite many changes and losses, The Crickets remained intact for several decades with various members including Sonny Curtis and Tommy Allsup. Original members who stayed with the group for life were Jerry I. Allison and Joe B. Mauldin. In 2012, Allison, Mauldin and Sullivan were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, 26 years after Holly’s posthumous induction in 1986. Sullivan died in 2004 and Mauldin passed away in 2015. In February 2016, several members of The Crickets performed in the group for the very last time at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA: the site of Buddy Holly’s final show. (Just give yourself extra credit if you read this whole thing. 🙂 )

 

The Crows

Original Members: Daniel “Sonny” Norton (lead), William “Bill” Davis (baritone), Harold Major (tenor), Mark Jackson (tenor and guitarist), Gerald Hamilton (bass). 

Genres: Rock n Roll, Pop

Label: Rama

Peak Years: 1954

Biggest Hits: “Gee”

The song “Gee” (Why I love that gal) is sometimes credited as the first Rock n Roll song recorded by a group. The Crows were unable to perform on a regular basis due to other commitments. Additionally, the other songs that followed “Gee” did not do well on the charts. Thus, The Crows were fated to became a one-hit-wonder.

 

The Danleers

Original Members: Jimmy Weston (lead), Johnny Lee (1st tenor), Willie Ephraim (2nd tenor), Nat McCune (baritone), Roosevelt Mays (bass)

Genres: Doo-Wop, R&B

Label: Mercury

Peak Years: 1958

Biggest Hits: “One Summer Night”

Known for their romantic “One Summer Night”, The Danleers formed on the streets of Brooklyn. After reaching stardom status, they toured with big names like Frankie Avalon and Bobby Darin. Despite efforts to rekindle their popularity in the early 60’s, the group’s stardom went out with the 1950’s.

 

Danny and The Juniors

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Danny and The Juniors: (l-r) Danny Rapp, David White, Joe Terry and Frank Maffei

Original Members:  Danny Rapp (lead), David White (1st tenor), Joe Terry (baritone), Frank Maffei (2nd baritone)

Genres: Pop, Doo-Wop

Label: ABC Paramount

Peak Years: 1958 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “At The Hop”, “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay”

Danny and The Juniors brought a generation of teens together with their 1958 mega-hit “At The Hop”. The song is one of the most iconic songs of the entire 50’s decade. They followed up the first hit with “Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay” (written by David White). Although, those were really their only well-known songs, the group continued to tour together and remained in the industry for decades. Sadly, on April 3, 1983 at the age of 41, lead singer Danny Rapp took his own life in Quartzsite, Arizona.

 

The Del-Vikings ❤

delvikings
The Del-Vikings in their hey day

Original Members:  Clarence Harvey Ringo, Norman Wright, David Lerchey, William Blakely.

Genre: Doo-Wop

Label: Mercury

Peak Years: 1956 – 1958

Biggest Hits: “Come Go With Me”, “Whispering Bells”

For those lucky enough to have lived in the 50’s, the doo-wop sounds of the Del-Vikings conjure up nostalgia… and for those not yet born back then, they conjure up a picture of a time when love and romance was carried on soft breezes on warm summer nights. The Del-Vikings were formed by six fellas in the United States Air Force in 1955. The following year, “Come Go With Me” made it to the Top 10 on Billboard’s Pop Chart and went gold.  The group disbanded in 1965. (Extra Credit: “Whispering Bells” was featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 movie Stand By Me.)

 

The Diamonds 

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The Diamonds in 1957: Aren’t they cute? Sorry I don’t know who’s who!

Original Members: Dave Somerville (lead), Ted Kowalski (tenor), Phil Levitt (baritone), Bill Reed (bass)

Genres: Doo-Wop, Pop

Label: Coral (first contract), Mercury

Peak Years: 1957 – 1958

Biggest Hits:  “Little Darlin’”, “The Stroll”, “Walking Along”, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”(cover)

The Diamonds encompassed the happy-go-lucky days of dancing and romancing with their now-nostalgic musical hits. Dave Somerville started the group in 1953. Their decision to go pro led to winning a talent show and a contract with Coral records. The Diamonds later auditioned in Cleveland and were signed to Mercury Records. In 1957 they gained international fame with “Little Darlin'”. In February 1958, a new dance craze called “The Stroll” swept the nation and was featured on American Bandstand. For years afterwards, “The Stroll” remained a popular dance at weddings and functions. (Extra Credit: The idea for “The Stroll” originated from AB host, Dick Clark. The song itself was written by Clyde Otis.)

 

Dion and The Belmonts ❤

dionandtheBelmonts
Dion (center) and The Belmonts

Original Members:  Dion DiMucci (lead vocals), Carlo Mastrangelo, Fred Milano, Angelo D’Aleo

Genres: Doo-Wop, Pop

Label: Rhino

Peak Years: 1958 – 1960

Biggest Hits:  “I Wonder Why”, “Lonely Teenager”, “Teenager In Love”

Originating in The Bronx, NY this group of four talented Italian boys rose to stardom with their teen-age- themed pop songs in the late 1950’s. Their classic hits feature doo-wop and the smooth, melodious lead vocals of Dion DiMucci. Dion became a popular solo artist in the 60’s with hits like “Wanderer” and “Run Around Sue”. (Extra Credit: Dion and The Belmonts were part of the line-up of the Winter Dance Party ’59 tour which claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.)

 

The Elegants

Orignal Members:  Vito Picone, Arthur Venosa, Frank Tardogno, Carman Romano and James Moschello.

Genre: Doo-Wop

Label: ?

Peak Years: 1958

Biggest Hits:  “Little Star”

The Elegants were a group of Italian boys from South Beach, Staten Island, New York. They got their start performing at the boardwalk in their neighborhood. In 1958, they became famous for their number one hit “Little Star”. As teens they toured with Buddy Holly, Dion and the Belmonts, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. Despite their huge success with “Little Star”, they are considered a One Hit Wonder, and although they performed into the 70’s they never topped the charts again.

 

The Everly Brothers ❤

everlybros_sullivan1957
The Everly Brothers: Phil (l) and Don (r) – I think!

Members: Don Everly, Phil Everly (both on vocals and guitar)

Genres: Rock n Roll, Rockabilly, Pop, Folk

Label: Cadence (& more)

Peak Years: 1957 – 1964

Biggest Hits: “Wake Up Little Susie”, “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “Bird Dog”, “Bye Bye Love”, “Claudette”, “When Will I Be Loved”, “So Sad”, “Walk Right Back”, “Cathy’s Clown”, “Let It Be Me”

Perhaps the most successful duo of all time, brothers Don and Phil created a harmonious musical legacy with their seemingly unending string of hits. They first performed on Radio Station KMA in Shenandoah, IA at the ages of 6 and 8 years old. Several years later, they signed with Cadence records and recorded their first album “Bye Bye Love”. This and other mega-hits such as “Wake Up Little Susie” quickly rose to the top of the charts in 1957 and grabbed the attention of millions around the world. These were followed by “All I Have to Do is Dream”, “Claudette” and “Bird Dog” in 1958. They toured with Buddy Holly and The Crickets in both ’57 and ’58. The brothers performed well into the 1980’s and continue to sell millions of albums featuring their classic hit songs which never really went out of style. Phil passed away on January 3, 2014 from Chronic Oppressive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at the age of 75. (Extra Credit: “Claudette” was written by Roy Orbison who wrote it for his wife.)

 

The Fleetwoods ❤

Members: Gary Troxel, Gretchen Christopher, Barbara Ellis

Genre: Pop, Doo-Wop

Label: Dolton Records/ Liberty Records

Peak Years: 1959

Biggest Hits: “Come Softly To Me”, “Mr. Blue”

“Come Softly To Me” is probably one of the most beautiful songs of the era. “Mr. Blue” carries the same gentleness to it, something you rarely hear these days. Both songs charted in 1959 as Number One hits on the Billboard US Hot 100. The Fleetwoods continued to chart hits into the mid-60’s

 

The Five Satins

Original Members: Fred Parris,  Ed Martin, Jim Freeman, Nat Mosley and Al Denby

Genre: Doo-wop

Label: Ember

Peak Years: 1956 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “In The Still of the Night”, “To The Aisle”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”

The Five Satins gave us the romantic hit “In The Still of the Night” which charted both in 1956 and 1959. It is mainly that song that was the glue that held the group together, causing them to re-unite (with many various new members) and continue to perform to this day.

 

The Four Aces

Original Members:  Al Alberts, Dave Mahoney, Lou Silvestri, and Rosario “Sod” Vaccaro.

Genre: Pop

Label: Victoria, Decca

Peak Years: 1954 – 1958

Biggest Hits: “Mr. Sandman”, “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing”, “Three Coins In The Fountain”, “A Woman In Love”, “So Long”

One of the very first pop-genre groups, The Four Aces began charting hits as early as 1949 with “(It’s No) Sin”. They are probably best known for their 1954 hit “Mr. Sandman” which was also released by the female quartet The Chordettes in the very same year. Their song “Three Coins In The Fountain” was featured in the movie of the same name. The Four Aces went out with the 50’s and no more hits were charted after 1959.

 

The Four Lads 

thefourlads
The Four Lads

Original Members:  Jimmy Arnold (lead),  John Bernard “Bernie” Toorish (tenor), Frank Busseri (baritone), Corrado “Connie” Codarini (bass)

Genre: Pop

Label: Columbia

Peak Years: 1952 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “Moments to Remember”, “Standin’ On The Corner”, “No, Not Much”, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, “Somebody Loves Me”

The Four Lads can be considered one of the very first Pop groups ever. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, the original four members grew up together and went to St. Michael’s Choir school. Their break came when they were noticed by Mitch Miller in 1950. Most of their hits were in the early 1950’s, but the group continued on into the late 60’s.

 

The Four Preps

Members: Bruce Belland (lead), Marv Ingram (high tenor) , Glen Larson (baritone), Ed Cobb (bass)

Genre: Pop

Label: Capitol Records

Peak Years: 1957 – 1958

Biggest Hits: “26 Miles (Santa Catalina)”, “Big Man”

This group got their break when they were discovered in a talent show by a Capitol Records exec in 1956. Their biggest hit (written by Belland and Larson) was “Santa Catalina” which reached #2 on the charts in early ’58. The Four Preps performed along side mega-stars such as Ricky Nelson and they appeared as themselves in the film Gidget in 1959. Ed Cobb went on to become a successful writer/producer credited for his work on such hits as Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” in the 1980’s.

 

The Impalas

impalas
The Impalas: (l-r) Lenny Renda, Richard Wagner, Joe Frazier and Tony Carlucci.

Members: Joe “Speedo” Frazier (lead), Richard Wagner (baritone), Tony Carlucci (first tenor), Lenny Renda (2nd tenor)

Genre: Pop

Label: Cub

Peak Years: 1959

Hits:  “Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home)”

The Impalas formed in 1958 in Brooklyn, NY. Their big hit was “Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home)” which went to #2 on the Pop Charts in 1959. The record went Gold, selling over 1 million copies. Their next songs were much lesser-known and the group disbanded in 1961. Fortunately, we will always have “Sorry” as a classic jukebox hit.

 

The Imperials (aka Little Anthony and The Imperials)

Original Members: Jerome Anthony “Little Anthony” Gourdine, Clarence Collins, Ernest Wright, Glouster “Nate” Rogers, and Tracey Lord.

Genres: Rhythm and Blues, Rock N Roll, Soul

Labels: many

Peak Years: 1958 – 1964

Biggest Hits: “Tears On My Pillow”, “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop”

In the Malt Shop Era, this group is best known for “Tears On My Pillow” (1958) and their 1960 hit, “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop”. However, The Imperials charted hits well into the mid-1970’s.

 

The Isley Brothers 

theisleybros50s
The Isley Brothers in the 50’s

Original Members: O’Kelly Isley Jr, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley, Marvin Isley and Vernon Isley (d. 1955)

Genres: Doo-Wop, Rock n Roll, R&B

Label: various

Peak Years: 1959 onward

Biggest Hits: “Shout”, “Twist And Shout”

This long-running group’s first major hit came in 1959 with “Shout” (Parts 1 &2). Athough the vast majority of The Isley Brothers’s hits came in the 1960’s, they are included on this list since they yielded their first major hit at the end of the 1950’s decade. One of the many hits that followed afterward includes the dance favorite “Twist And Shout”, which is frequently mistaken a The Beatles’ original song, although it was actually a cover. (Extra Credit: “Shout” was featured in the 1993 musical comedy Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg.)

 

The Kingston Trio

Genre: Folk

Original Members: Dave Guard, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds

Label: Capitol

Peak Years: 1958 – 1964

Biggest Hits:  “Tom Dooley”, “Tijuana Jail”, “MTA”

The Kingston Trio began their long and successful career in Folk music in the 1950’s. They were three college boys who grew up in Hawaii and went to school in Palo Alto, CA. After Dave Guard graduated from Stanford University, the trio went on to perform in many Bay Area locations. In 1958, they signed a record contract in San Francisco, CA which yielded their big hit, “Tom Dooley”. Dave Guard left the group in the early 60’s and was replaced by Jon Stewart. Although through the years there have been different members and incarnations of the group, The Kingston Trio have been acclaimed as the one of the most famous Folk groups of all time. (Extra Credit: The Kingston Trio is also remembered for their famous 60’s song “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”)

 

The Monotones

themonotones
The Monotones: (top row 1-r): Warren Davis, Frankie Smith, George Malone (bottom row l-r): Warren Ryans, Charles Patrick, John Ryans

Members: Charles Patrick (lead), Warren Davis (1st Tenor), George Malone (2nd Tenor), Frankie Smith (Bass),  John Ryanes (2nd Bass), Warren Ryanes (Baritone)

Genre: Doo-Wop

Label: Chess Records

Peak Years: 1958

Biggest Hits: “The Book of Love”

The Monotones began their singing days at the New Hope Baptist Choir led by Cissy Houston (mother of singer Whitney Houston) In 1956, they won on Ted Mack’s Amateur hour which launched their career. Charles Patrick wrote “The Book of Love” after being inspired by a toothpaste commercial. (“I WONDER where the yellow went?!”) The soon-to-be hit song was released in February of ’58 and made it to #3 on the charts. The Monotones disbanded in 1962, with “Book of Love” as their only big hit.

 

Norman Fox & The Rob Roys

Members: Norman Fox (lead), Bob Trotman (first tenor), Andre Lilly (second tenor), Robert Thierer (baritone), and Marshall “Buzzy” Helfand (bass)

Genre: Pop, Doo-wop

Label: Backbeat and Capitol

Peak Years: 1957 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “Tell Me Why”

One of the few multi-racial groups at the time, Norman Fox & The Rob Roys produced great upbeat songs such as 1957’s “Tell Me Why”. Their other two songs were “Lover Girl” and “Dance Girl Dance”. A short-lived, but important group of the era, Norman Fox & The Rob Roys broke up in 1963.

 

The Penguins

Original Members:  Cleveland Duncan, Curtis Williams, Dexter Tisby, Bruce Tate

Genre: R&B

Label: Dootone, Mercury

Peak Years: 1955

Biggest Hits: “Earth Angel”

For The Penguins, the classic prom-night hit “Earth Angel” was their only Top 40 success. It was one of the first songs to cross over from the R&B charts to Pop charts. Curtis Williams is credited as one of the co-writers (along with Jessie Belvin and Gaynel Hodge) “Earth Angel” was actually the B-Side of the the much lesser known “Hey Signorita”.  The Penguins broke up in 1962, but will always be remembered for this classic hit.

 

The Platters 

theplatters
The Platters in 1956: Clockwise from top: Paul Robi, Herb Reed, David Lynch, Zola Taylor and Tony Williams.

Members: Paul Robi, Herb Reed, David Lynch, Zola Taylor, Tony Williams

Genre: Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Pop, Doo-Wop

Label: Mercury

Peak Years: 1955 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, “Twilight Time”, “The Great Pretender”, “Only You (And You Alone)”, “(You’ve Got) The Magic Touch”

The Platters brought us some of the most famous and dramatic love ballads that have been jukebox favorites for decades. The Platters formed in 1952 in Los Angeles, CA. Their first Number One hit single was “The Great Pretender” in 1955. More Number Ones include “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” both in 1958. They were the first African American group to be widely accepted by all playlists, and at one point were the most popular group in the World. They continued to make the charts into the 1960’s, despite falling out of favor with the public after a scandal in 1959 in which some of their male members were arrested on drug and prostitution charges (a very serious offense back in those days). Despite difficulties in later years, The Platters remain to this day, as one of the most recognized groups of the entire Malt Shop era.

 

The Poni-Tails

Members: Toni Cistone, Laverne Novak, Patti McCabe

Genre: Pop

Label: Point, ABC-Paramount

Peak Years: 1958

Biggest Hits: “Born Too Late”

The Poni-Tails were formed in Ohio at Brush High School where they were just a bunch of  teenage gals who liked to sing in the 50’s. Their big hit “Born Too Late” (about a girl too young to date the guy she had a crush on) came in 1957 and peaked at #7 on the charts. Their follow-up songs “Seven Minutes In Heaven” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” only made it to the 80’s on Billboard US Top 100. They released two singles in 1960 which did not chart, and so they could be regarded as a One Hit Wonder.

 

The Rays

Members: Harold Miller (lead vocals), Walter Ford (tenor), David Jones (tenor), Harry James (baritone)

Genre: doo-wop

Label: Chess

Peak Years: 1957- 1958

Biggest Hits: “Silhouettes”

The Rays formed in New York in 1955 and were at their height in late ’57/ early ’58 with their hit song “Silhouettes” which peaked at #3 on the charts. They performed into the early 60’s .

 

 

Santo and Johnny

santoandjohnny
The Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny made up the duo of the same name.

Members: Santo and Johnny Farina

Genres: Rock n Roll, Rockabilly

Label: Canadian-American Records

Peak Years: 1959

Biggest Hits: “Sleepwalk”

Teen brothers Santo and Johnny Farina hailed from Brooklyn, NY with some mad guitar playing skills. They are best known for their classic instrumental hit, “Sleepwalk” which hit the charts in 1959.

(Extra Credit: “Sleepwalk” was featured in the 1987 movie LaBamba, a biographical drama about the life of Ritchie Valens.)

 

The Sihouettes

Members: Bill Horton (lead), John “Bootsie” Wilson (lead), Rick Lewis (tenor), Earl T. Beale (baritone), Raymond Edwards (bass)

Genres: Doo-Wop

Label: Ember

Peak Years: 1958 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “Get A  Job”

The Sihouettes were first called The Thunderbirds when they started out in 1956. They hailed from Philadelphia, PA. “Get A Job” hit #1 on the charts and the group performed on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. No more hits were charted after that, although the group continued to work together for decades before finally retiring in 1993.

 

The Skyliners

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The Skyliners in happier days

Members: Jimmy Beaumont (lead), Janet Vogel (soprano), Wally Lester (tenor), Jackie Taylor (bass voice, guitarist), Joe Verscharen (baritone)

Genre: Pop

Label: Calico

Peak Years: 1959

Biggest Hits: “Since I Don’t Have You”

This group is best known for it’s romantic slow-dance hit “Since I Don’t Have You” which topped the charts in 1959. Other hits included “This I Swear” and “It Happened Today”. The group continued into the 60’s and 70’s with various songs and endeavors. Sadly, Janet Vogel took her own life in 1980 at the age of 38. Her son, Gavin Rapp (no relation to Danny Rapp of Danny and The Juniors), produced the biography “Since I Don’t Have You”, depicting the years the group was famous and the events leading up to his mother’s death.

 

The Spaniels

Members:  Thornton James “Pookie” Hudson, Ernest Warren, Willie C. Jackson, Opal Courtney Jr., Gerald Gregory

Genres: R&B, Doo-Wop

Label: Vee-Jay Records

Peak Years: 1954 – 1955

Biggest Hits: “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight”

The Spaniels first called themselves “Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonaires”. They assembled at Roosevelt High School in Gary, IN. They were one of the first to sign with Vee-Jay Records, the first African American owned record label. Their biggest hit “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight” reached number 5 on Billboards R&B charts and has been featured in movies and television shows. The Spaniels broke up in 1966.

 

The Teddy Bears

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The Teddy Bears: Phil Spector, Carol Connors and Marshall Leib

Members: Phil Spector, Marshall Leib, Carol Connors

Genre: Pop

Label: Era

Peak Years: 1958 – 1959

Biggest Hits: “To Know Him Is To Love Him”

The Teddy Bears were record-producer Phil Spector’s very first vocal group. Their song “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (written by the then teen-aged Spector) made it to #1 on the charts for three weeks in 1958.  Although The Teddy Bears were short-lived, Phil Spector has gone on to produce numerous groups and artists and is one of the most well-known names in the music industry.

 

The Teenagers (aka Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers) 

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Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers (l-r): Joe Negroni, Sherman Garnes, Jimmy Merchant, Frankie Lymon and Herman Santiago

Original Members:  Frankie Lymon (lead), Jimmy Merchant, Herman Santiago, Joe Negroni,            Sherman Garnes.

Genre: Pop

Label: Gee / Roulette

Peak Years: 1956 – 1957

Biggest Hits:  “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”, “Baby, Baby”

This group’s most notable song “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” was recorded with young Frankie Lymon as the lead singer, thus the group then called itself: “Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers”. This caused some discord among the members and Frankie was pulled from the group to record solo in 1957. Sadly on February 27, 1968 Frankie Lymon succumbed to an overdose at the age of 25.  Today, the group remains intact under the name “The Legendary Teenagers” and consists of members Herman Santiago, Bobby Jay, Terry King and Terrance Farward.

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