Welcome to 50’s study hall. In this section, I will be publishing a series of lists that will allow readers to use them as a reference for the given topic. 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!
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For this session, we will be studying every gal’s favorite subject: BOYS! Boys are fun to study anyway, but boys from the Fifties? They were the dreamiest! Fifties fellas were mature and dapper with a fierce dash of rebelliousness. They were clean cut, well-dressed and I bet they smelled good too. And to top it off, the fellas on this list were some of the very first idols and heartthrobs of America (and the world!) So if you wanna learn the whose who hotties of The Best Era Ever, sit down and take out your notebooks. It’s study hall time.
50’s Study Hall: Boy Stars of the 1950’s
Birth name: Ronald Wycherley
DOB: Apr. 17, 1940, Liverpool, England
Died: Jan. 28, 1983, London, England
Hair: dark blond
Famous For: His hits “Maybe Tomorrow” which was his first solo hit song in 1959 and “Colette”. In the late 50’s, Fury worked along side friend Eddie Cochran. He went on to make hits into the 1960’s. He died at the age of 42 from a heart attack.
Birth name: Robert Cosotto
DOB: May 14, 1936, The Bronx, NY
Died: Dec. 20, 1973, Los Angeles, CA
Famous For: Being both a fantastic big-band crooner and a Rock n Roll artist. Hits include “Splish Splash”, “Dream Lover”, “Queen of the Hop”, “Things”, “Mac The Knife” and “Beyond The Sea”. He also wrote many songs that were recorded by other artists and he was featured in movies. He married actress Sandra Dee (they later divorced). Darin died from complications during heart surgery on December 20, 1973 at the age of 37.
Birth name: Robert Thomas Freeman
DOB: Jun. 13, 1940, Alameda, CA
Died: Jan. 23, 2017, San Francisco, CA
Famous For: His hit “Do You Want To Dance” which charted at #5 on the Pop Charts (and #2 on the R&B Charts) in 1958. Other hits include: “Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes” and “Need Your Love”. He also had a few lesser known songs in the early 60’s. Freeman was a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 76.
Birth name: Robert Lee Helms
DOB: Aug. 15, 1933, Helmsburg, IN
Died: Jun. 19, 1997
Hair: light brown
Famous For: His hits “My Special Angel”, “Fraulein” and 1957’s “Jingle Bell Rock” which was the very first rendition of the classic Christmas song. He continued to make the charts well into the 1960’s.
Birth name: Robert Lewis Ridarelli
DOB: Apr. 26, 1942, Philadelphia, PA
Hair: brown, pompadour
Famous For: Rydell was mainly a star of the early 60’s, although he started his career in the late 50’s after winning a TV talent show. His first hit was “Kissin’ Time” in 1959, but he was more popularly known for “Volare” in 1963. He starred in Bye Bye Birdie with Ann Margret the same year. Like many artists of the time, Rydell’s Italian last name (Ridarelli) was changed to something more American.
Birth name: Robert Thomas Velline
DOB: Apr. 30, 1943, Fargo, ND
Died: Oct. 24, 2016, Rogers, MN
Famous For: Being a singer and Teen Idol. His popularity peaked in the early 60’s. He replaced Buddy Holly in the line-up on the Winter Dance Party tour in February, 1959. His many hits include: “Rubber Ball”, “Take Good Care of my Baby”,“The Night Has 1000 Eyes” and “Run to Him”. He collaborated with The Crickets on the album “Bobby Vee Meets The Crickets” in the early 60’s. Vee died in 2016 after complications from altzheimers.
Birth name: Robert Vinton Jr.
DOB: Apr. 16, 1935, Canonsburg, PA
Hair: brown, ultra curly
Famous For: He was actually a 1960’s recording star, but is included in this listing in order to reference yet another “Bobby” of that era. His 60’s hits included “Blue Velvet”, “Blue on Blue”, “Roses Are Red (Violets Are Blue)” and “Mr. Lonely.” Apparently, he liked singing about blue.
Birth name: Charles Hardin Holley
DOB: Sept. 7, 1936, Lubbock, TX
Died: Feb. 3, 1959, Clear Lake, IA
Hair: dark brown, curly
Famous For: Being the lead singer, guitarist and song writer for The Crickets and one of the Pioneers of early Rock N Roll. He played a Fender Stratocaster, the avant-guard instrument of that era. Hits include: “That’ll Be The Day”, “Oh Boy!”, “Peggy Sue”, “Everyday”, “It’s So Easy”, “Not Fade Away”, “Rave On”, “Maybe Baby”, “Crying Waiting Hoping”. He was tragically killed in a plane crash while on tour at the age of 22. Due to his immense talent and profound influence on the music industry, Holly has been called the Father of Rock n Roll. Along with Elvis Presley, he was one of the first inductees of The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Birth name: Buddy Wayne Knox
DOB: Jul. 20, 1933, Happy, TX
Died: Feb. 14, 1999, Bremerton, WA
Hair: light brown, curly
Famous For: His 1957 pop hit “Party Doll”, and other hits like “Chi-Hua-Hua” and “She’s Gone”. He toured with Buddy Holly and The Crickets (et. al.) in 1958. He also starred in several movies in the early 60’s. His career spanned into the 1970’s.
Birth name: Carl Lee Perkins
DOB: Apr. 9, 1932, Tiptonville, TN
Died: Jan. 19, 1998, Jackson, TN
Famous For: Being known as The King of Rockabilly. Perkins was a singer, guitarist and song-writer who infused elements of both Country and Rock n Roll in such classic songs as “Matchbox”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Honey Don’t” and many others. He was one-fourth of Sun Record’s Million Dollar Quartet, with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.
Birth name: David Oswald Nelson
DOB: Oct. 24, 1936, New York, NY
Died: Jan. 11, 2011, Century City, CA
Hair: brown, preppy 50’s style
Height: approx. 6’0″
Famous For: Being the older son on the 1950’s TV show “Ozzie and Harriet” (the older brother of singer Ricky Nelson). David directed several episodes of the show and also starred in the 1959 movie The Big Circus. He was in several other movies over the years and graduated from the University of Southern California.
Birth name: Dion Francis DiMucci
DOB: Jul. 18, 1939, Brooklyn, NY
Famous For: Starting his career as the lead singer of Dion and The Belmonts as a teen. Their classic Malt Shop era hits include: “I Wonder Why”, “Lonely Teenager” and “Teenager In Love”. In the early 1960’s, Dion went solo and became successful on his own with with ever-popular hits like “Run Around Sue” and “The Wanderer”. He continued to tour into the 90’s.
Birth name: Isaac Donald Everly
DOB: Feb. 1, 1937, Brownie, KY
Hair: dark brown
Eyes: light hazel
Famous For: Being half of the duo, The Everly Brothers. They are revered for their fantastic use of close harmony in their songs. Their many hits include: “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Bye Bye Love”, “Bird Dog”, “Walk Right Back”, “Let It Be Me”, “When Will I Be Loved”, “So Sad” and “Cathy’s Clown”. Their popularity has spanned many decades.
D.O.B.: Apr. 26, 1938, Corning, NY.
Famous For: His instrumental (guitar) classics such as “Rebel Rouser” (which has been featured in many films such as Forest Gump), “Peter Gunn” and “Because They’re Young”. His career began in the 50’s, but he went on to make many albums and also star in several films.
Birth name: Edward Ray Cochran (some sources say Ray Edward Cochran)
DOB: Oct. 3, 1938, Albert Lea, MN
Died: Apr. 17, 1960, Bath, England UK
Hair: light brown, classic 50’s greaser style
Eyes: dark blue
Famous For: His raucous, upbeat Rock N Roll hits: “Summertime Blues”, “C’Mon Everybody”, “Twenty Flight Rock”,“Teenage Heaven” and many others. In his short life, he appeared in four movies, produced music and collaborated with fellow early Rock n Roll artists such as Gene Vincent and Billy Fury. He dressed in denim and leather, a typical rebel look of that era. In 1960, Cochran was tragically killed in a car crash at the age of 21 in Bath, England.
Birth name: Elvis Aron Presley
DOB: Jan 8. 1935, Tupelo, MS
Died: Aug. 16, 1977, Memphis, TN
Hair: brown, dyed black
Famous For: Being The King of Rock N Roll. His hits include: “Hound Dog”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Teddy Bear”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Love Me Tender” and more. He also starred in several films (which featured his songs) beginning in the 50’s and spanning through the 1960’s. In addition, he made many popular Christmas albums. Elvis has become one of the most recognized and impersonated American Icons of all time. He died suddenly at the age of 42 from an apparent heart-attack, possibly brought on by prescription drug abuse. He was one of the very first inductees into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986.
Birth name: Fabiano Anthony Forte
DOB: Feb. 6, 1943, Philadelphia, PA
Hair: brown, pompadour
Famous For: Starting his career after being randomly discovered by a record exec. in the late 1950’s. He was mainly known for pop songs and he was featured in a few movies in the 1960’s. Some of his music hits were “Shivers”, “I’m A Man”, “Hound Dog Man” and “Tiger”.
Birth name: Francis Thomas Avallone
DOB: Sept 18, 1940, Philadelphia, PA
Hair: brown, coarse
Famous For: Being in beach movies with Annette Funicello, but before that he was a singer in the late 50’s/ early 60’s. Hits include: “Venus”, “Bobby Sox to Stockings”, “Just Ask Your Heart” and “Dee Dee Dinah”.
Birth name: Vincent Francis Guzzo, Jr.
DOB: Aug. 4, 1939, Gretna, LA
Died: Sept. 28, 2015, Gretna, LA
Eyes: light brown
Famous For: His biggest hit, “Sea Cruise” in 1959 which peaked at #14 and has remained a dance favorite for decades. His other hits included “Roberta” (1959) and several songs into the 1960’s.
Birth name: Frank Sardo Avianca
DOB: Sept. 16, 1936, Sicily, Italy
Died: Feb. 26, 2014, Somers, NY
Height: approx. 5’7″
Famous For: His Rock and Roll hits such as “Fake Out”, “May I”, “When The Bells Stop Ringing”, “Oh Linda” and “Just You Watch Me”. He also recorded some songs with his brother Johnny. Later in his career, Sardo also acted and produced films. The insert of the German import album “Frankie and Johnny” highlights Sardo’s experience on the 1959 tour in which Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson were killed.
Birth name: Frederick Anthony Picariello Jr.
DOB: Dec. 4, 1936, Revere, MA.
Famous For: Hits like “Tallahassee Lassie”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (1959) and a huge amount of hits in the 1960’s including the famous “Palisades Park” (1962). He began with appearances on a local dance show called Boston Ballroom in 1958. His big break came when Dick Clark heard “Tallahassee Lassie” and liked it enough to revamp it into a single, even after it was rejected by several record labels.
Birth name: Vincent Eugene Craddock
DOB: Feb. 11, 1935, Norfolk, VA.
Died: Oct. 12, 1971, Los Angeles, CA
Hair: brown and super curly
Eyes: maybe brown
Famous For: Classic Rockabilly Hits like “Be-Bop-A-Lula”, “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and “Say Mama” (with The Blue Caps) Vincent worked in England along side pal Eddie Cochran. He survived the car crash in which took Cochran’s life in 1960, but sustained significant injuries. He died suddenly from a stomach ulcer 11 years later at the age of 36.
Birth name: James Byron Dean
DOB: Feb. 8, 1931, Marion, IN
Died: Sept. 30, 1955, Cholame, CA
Hair: brown, James Dean style
Famous For: Being the quintessential 1950’s rebel. The ruggedly handsome Dean starred in many films in the mid-50’s such as Rebel Without A Cause. True to his rebel persona, he lived fast and raced cars as a hobby. In 1955, he was killed in a car crash at the age of 24. His famous quote is: “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”. Dean is often depicted in American Pop-Art portraits such as the ones of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
Birth name: Jerry Ivan Allison
DOB: Aug. 31, 1939, Hillsboro, TX
Height: approx. 5’9”
Famous For: Being the drummer, back up vocals and song writer for The Crickets. He married Peggy Sue Gerron, the inspiration for the classic hit song, “Peggy Sue”. Allison was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame with his fellow band mates Joe B. Mauldin and Niki Sullivan in 2012.
Jerry Lee Lewis
DOB: Sept. 29, 1935, Ferriday, LA
Hair: blond, wild and curly
Famous For: Being an early Rock N Roll / Rockabilly star and playing crazy awesome piano. He’s nick-named “The Killer”. His most well-known classic hits include: “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” and several others. His marriage to his 14 year old cousin Myra in 1959 sparked nationwide controversy. Lewis was one-fourth of Sun Record’s Million Dollar Quartet which included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. (Still performing shows as of 2018!)
DOB: Sept. 2, 1938, Baton Rouge, LA.
Hair: light brown, DA
Famous For: His hits “Go Jimmy Go” and “Just A Dream” which he wrote and recorded in 1958. Being from Louisiana, he was known as the “Swamp Pop R&B Teenage Idol.”
Birth name: Joseph Benson Mauldin, Jr.
DOB: Jul. 8, 1940, Lubbock, TX
Died: Feb. 7, 2015, Nashville, TN
Hair: blond, fine, slicked back
Height: approx. 5’8”
Famous For: Being the double bassist for The Crickets. Also co-wrote songs. He joined The Crickets at age 15 and remained in the group for the rest of his life. Mauldin was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame with Jerry Allison and Niki Sullivan in 2012.
Birth name: John Joseph Burnette
DOB: Mar. 25, 1934, Memphis, TN
Died: Aug. 14, 1964, Clearlake, CA
Hair: brown, pompadour
Famous For: Various recordings in the 50’s, songwriting and acoustic guitar. He started off in a group with his brother Dorsey Burnette and friend Paul Burlison who were later known as “The Rock n Roll Trio”. He and his brother also wrote songs for Ricky Nelson. He is also famous for the hit “Dreamin'” released in 1960. Burnette’s biggest solo hit was “You’re Sixteen” in 1961. In 1964, Burnette was killed in a boating accident in Clearlake, California at the age of 30.
Birth name: John R. Cash
DOB: Feb. 26, 1932, Kingsland, AR
Died: Sept. 12, 2003, Nashville, TN
Hair: brownish-black and slicked back
Famous For: Being Johnny Cash, The Man In Black, an American Rockabilly Rebel. Classic hits include: “Ring of Fire”, “Walk The Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, “A Boy Named Sue” and many more. His early work includes one-fourth of Sun Records’ Million Dollar Quartet with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. He performed along side his second wife, June Carter Cash. Cash’s life story was depicted in the 2005 film Walk The Line staring Joaquin Phoenix.
Birth name: John Royce Mathis
DOB: Sept. 30, 1935, Gilmer, TX.
Famous For: Ballads such as “Chances Are”, “It’s Not For Me To Say”, “The Twelfth of Never”, “Misty” and “Wonderful Wonderful”. Also known for his many renditions of classic Christmas songs. (Still performing as of 2018!)
DOB: Apr. 10, 1938, Jacksonville, FL.
Famous For: Hits like “Dreamy Eyes” (1958), “Poetry In Motion” (1960) and other early 60’s hits such as “Jimmy’s Girl” and “Judy, Judy, Judy”. He went on to make several other songs throughout the 60’s and 70’s.
DOB: Mar. 13, 1939, Brooklyn, NY.
Hair: brown, wavy
Famous For: Hits like “Oh! Carol”, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” and “Stairway To Heaven” (NOT the same as the Led Zeppelin one). He is also a pianist, record producer and a prolific songwriter and has co-written over 500 songs.
DOB: Jun. 23 1937, South Gate, Los Angeles, CA
Died: Apr. 6, 2004
Hair: dark blond, slicked neatly back
Height: approx. 6’3”
Famous For: Being the “4th Cricket”. He played rhythm guitar on 50 of The Crickets’ recordings between 1956 and 1957. Unlike Buddy Holly, he played a Gibson electric. In 1958, he left the group for reasons unknown. In 2012 he was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with fellow original members Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin.
Birth name: Charles Eugene Boone
DOB: Jun. 1, 1934, Jacksonville, FL
Hair: brown, parted, short and neat
Famous For: Making a bunch of songs and having a TV show. He made white bucks (shoes) popular. His career spanned several decades. Hits include: “Ain’t That A Shame”, “Remember You’re Mine”, “I’ll Be Home” and the easy-going ballad “Love Letters in the Sand” in which he sings in a Bing Crosby-like style. He also covered many songs such as Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally”.
Birth name: Paul Albert Anka
DOB: Jul. 30, 1941, Ottowa, Canada
Hair: black, curly bangs
Famous For: Being a breakout singer/song-writer in the 1950’s with his career spanning into the 60’s and 70’s. His career began with hits such as: “Lonely Boy”, “Time To Cry”, “Diana”, “Puppy Love” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder”. At age 16 he wrote “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, one of the last songs recorded by Buddy Holly.
Birth name: Phillip Everly
DOB/Place: Jan. 19, 1939, Chicago, IL
Died: Jan. 3, 2014
Hair: light brown
Eyes: light hazel
Famous For: Being half of the duo, The Everly Brothers. They are revered for their fantastic use of close harmony in their songs. Their many hits include: “All I Have To Do Is Dream”, “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Bye Bye Love”, “Bird Dog”, “Walk Right Back”, “Let It Be Me”, “When Will I Be Loved”, “So Sad” and “Cathy’s Clown”. Their popularity has spanned many decades. Phil passed away at the age of 74 from COPD.
Birth name: Eric Hilliard Nelson
DOB: May 8, 1940, Teaneck, NJ
Died: Dec. 31, 1985, De Kalb, TX
Hair: dark blond, brushed back and styled
Famous For: Being the younger son on the 1950’s TV show “Ozzie and Harriet”. In his teen years, he became a major recording star with hits like “Walkin’”, “Poor Little Fool”, “Travelin’ Man”, “It’s Late”, “Be-Bop Baby” and more. He is the father of actress Tracy Nelson and twin brothers Matthew and Gunnar (from the 90’s Rock duo “Nelson”). Mr. Nelson was sadly killed in a plane crash at the age of 45 on Dec. 31, 1985.
Birth name: Richard Steven Valenzuela
DOB: May 13, 1941, Pacoima, Los Angeles, CA
Died: Feb. 3, 1959, Clear Lake, IA
Hair: black, classic 50’s style
Famous For: Being a teen singing sensation and phenomenal guitarist who yielded classic hits such as “Donna”, “La Bamba” and “Come On Let’s Go”. As he quickly rose to stardom, Ritchie left High School to go on tour in 1958. Not even one year later, he was killed tragically in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. He was only 17. Actor Lou Diamond Phillips portrayed Valens in the 1987 biographical drama La Bamba.
Birth name: Roy Kelton Orbison
DOB/Place: Apr. 23, 1936, Vernon, TX
Died: Dec. 6, 1988
Hair: black, pompadour
Famous For: His many songs starting with his first big hit “Ooby Dooby” in 1956. He also wrote songs performed by other artists including “Claudette” by The Everly Brothers. His later hits in the 60’s include “Crying”, “Pretty Woman” and “Only The Lonely”. He nearly always wore dark wayfarer style sunglasses. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In 1988, Orbison died at the age of 52 from a heart attack.
Birth name: Samuel Cook
DOB: Jan. 22, 1931 Clarksdale, MS
Died: Dec. 11, 1964, Los Angeles, CA
Famous For: Being known as the King of Soul. His hits include “You Send Me” (1957), “Summertime” (1957), “Wonderful World” (1960), “Chain Gang” (1960) and “Twistin’ The Night Away” (1961) and several more. He had 30 US Top 40 hits during his career. Cooke died in 1964 at the age of 33 after being shot by a woman who worked at a hotel who claimed that she was attacked by him.
DOB: Dec. 17, 1936, Bermondsey, London, UK
Hair: blond, 50’s style
Famous For: Being the UK’s first teen idol and Rock n Roll star. His hit “You Got Me Singing The Blues” topped UK charts in 1957. “The Tommy Steele Story” was the first album by a UK star to make it to number one.
Stay tuned to Fifties Study Hall, more information is always being added.