50's Study Hall, Music in the 50's

Fifties Study Hall: Top Solo Recording Artists 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 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!

This section will list the Top Solo Recording Artists of the 1950’s… and there were a lot of them! Many of these Stars also performed in groups or had a famous back-up band. However, they were also stand-alone successes and some of the most amazing legends of all time.

So take out your notebooks. It’s Study Hall Time.

(Stars are listed alphabetically, by first name)

Top Solo Recording Artists of the 1950’s

 

Bobby Darin 

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Bobby Darin

Birth name: Walden Robert Cosotto

DOB: May 14, 1936, The Bronx, NY

Died: Dec. 20, 1973, Los Angeles, CA

Darin’s early 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. Her married actress Sandra Dee, whom he later divorced. Darin died from complications during heart surgery on December 20, 1973 at the age of 37.

 

Bobby Day

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Bobby Day

Birth name: Robert James Byrd

DOB: July 1, 1930, Fort Worth, TX

Died: July 27, 1990, Los Angeles, CA

Day’s 1958 hit “Rockin’ Robin” is perhaps one of the most famous tunes of the era. The song reached Number 2 on the US charts. Also in 1958, Day’s single “Over and Over” reached Number 41. He also recorded “Little Bitty Pretty One” in 1957 (a song made popular by Clyde McPhatter in 1962.) With “Rockin’ Robin” as his biggest hit, it’s interesting to note Bobby Day’s real surname: Byrd.

 

Bobby Freeman

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Bobby Freeman

Birth name: Robert Thomas Freeman

DOB: Jun. 13, 1940, Alameda, CA

Died: Jan. 23, 2017, San Francisco, CA

His hit “Do You Want To Dance” 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.

 

Bobby Helms 

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Bobby Helms

Birth name: Robert Lee Helms

DOB: Aug. 15, 1933, Bloomington, IN

Died: Jun. 19, 1997, Martinsville, IN

His hits were “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. He passed away due to complications from emphysema and asthma at the age of 63.

 

Buddy Holly

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Buddy Holly

Birth name: Charles Hardin Holley

DOB:  Sept. 7, 1936, Lubbock, TX

Died: Feb. 3, 1959, Clear Lake, IA

Buddy Holly was the lead singer, guitarist and song writer for The Crickets and one of the Pioneers of early Rock N Roll. His label as a solo artist was Coral Records which was a division of Decca. Simultaneously, he signed with Brunswick Records as a group with The Crickets. His last recordings were solo, and included “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” (written by Paul Anka) and “Crying Waiting Hoping”, which was later dubbed with back-up vocals and released after his death in 1959. Holly was just 22 when he died in a plane crash while on tour in Iowa.

 

Buddy Knox

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Buddy Knox

Birth name: Buddy Wayne Knox

DOB: Jul. 20, 1933, Happy, TX

Died: Feb. 14, 1999, Bremerton, WA

Knox is known for the 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.

 

Carl Perkins

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Carl Perkins

Birth name: Carl Lee Perkins

DOB:  Apr. 9, 1932, Tiptonville, TN

Died: Jan. 19, 1998, Jackson, TN

Perkins is known as The King of Rockabilly. He 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.

 

Chuck Berry

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Chuck Berry

Birth name: Charles Edward Anderson Berry

DOB: Oct. 18, 1926

Died: March 18, 2017

Chuck Berry was a Rock n Roll pioneer best known for the hit “Johnny Be Goode” (1958). His other 50’s hits included “School Days”, “Rock and Roll Music” and “Sweet Little Sixteen” which topped the charts between 1957 and 1959. Several hits followed in the 60’s. Berry died at the age of 90 after an epic career which spanned 7 decades.

 

Clyde McPhatter

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Clyde McPhatter

Birth name: Clyde Lensley McPhatter

DOB: Nov. 15, 1932

Died: June 13, 1972

Clyde McPhatter found success in the early and mid 50’s as a member of the groups Billy Ward & The Dominoes and The Drifters. His solo career began in 1956 with the hit “Treasure of Love” and was followed by “A Lover’s Question” which peaked at number 6 on the charts in 1958. His other big hits were “Lover Please” and his cover of “Little Bitty Pretty One” in 1962. McPhatter died in 1972 at the age of 39 after multiple organ failure.

 

Connie Francis

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Connie Francis

Birth name: Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero

DOB:  Dec. 12, 1937, Newark, NJ

Connie Francis was perhaps the most popular female solo artist of the 1950’s. She topped the charts in the 50’s with songs like “Stupid Cupid”, “Who’s Sorry Now?”, and “Lipstick on Your Collar” The 50’s were just the beginning. Francis had many hits through the 60’s and 70’s, some of which were inspired by her Italian heritage.

 

Eddie Cochran

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Eddie Cochran

Birth name: Edward Ray Cochran

DOB: Oct. 3, 1938, Albert Lea, MN

Died: Apr. 17, 1960, Bath, England UK

Cochran is known 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 Rock n Roll artists such as Gene Vincent and Billy Fury.  In 1960, Cochran was tragically killed in a car crash at the age of 21 in Bath, England.

 

Debbie Reynolds

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Debbie Reynolds

Birth name: Mary Frances Reynolds

DOB: April 1, 1932, El Paso, TX

Died: Dec. 28, 2016, Los Angeles, CA

Debbie Reynolds is known for the many movies she starred in, starting with The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady in 1950. Her big 1957 chart-topping hit “Tammy” was from the film Tammy And The Bachelor in which she played the title role.

 

Doris Day

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Doris Day

Birth name: Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff

DOB: April 3, 1922, Cincinnati, OH

Died: May 13, 2019, Carmel Valley, CA

Most of Doris Day’s films were musical-based. In addition to film, Doris Day had 5 studio albums in the 1950’s alone. She married four times and had a son, record producer Terry Melcher (1942-2004).

 

Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley

Birth name: Elvis Aron Presley

DOB:  Jan 8. 1935, Tupelo, MS

Died: Aug. 16, 1977, Memphis, TN

Elvis is the most famous of the Sun Records alumni. His hits of the 1950’s include: “Hound Dog”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “All Shook Up”, “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and more. He also starred in several films (which featured his songs) beginning in the 50’s and spanning through the 1960’s.  Although he was a solo artist, his back-up vocals were provided by The Jordanaires.

 

Fabian

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Fabian

Birth name: Fabiano Anthony Forte

DOB:  Feb. 6, 1943, Philadelphia, PA

Fabian started his career after being randomly discovered by a record exec. in the late 50’s. He’s mainly known for pop songs and he was featured in a few movies. Some of his music hits were “Shivers”, “I’m A Man”, “Hound Dog Man” and “Tiger”.

 

Fats Domino

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Fats Domino

Birth name: Antonie Dominique Domino, Jr.

DOB:  Feb. 26, 1928, New Orleans, LA

Died: Oct. 24, 2017, Harvey, LA

Fats Domino had 11 Top 10 hits during the 1950’s era. Some of which include the 1956 song “Blueberry Hill”. Other hits include “Blue Monday”, “My Blue Heaven”, “I’m Ready”, “Ain’t That A Shame”, “I Hear You Knockin'”, “Whole Lotta Lovin'” “Valley of Tears” and more. His music was influenced by his hometown of New Orleans. After a long, successful life, Fats passed away in 2017 at the age of 89.

 

Frankie Avalon

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Frankie Avalon

Birth name: Francis Thomas Avallone

DOB: Sept 18, 1940, Philadelphia, PA

His fame began in the late 50’s/ early 60’s with hits that include: “Venus”, “Bobby Sox to Stockings”, “Just Ask Your Heart” and “Dee Dee Dinah”. He went on to star in teenage beach movies with Annette Funicello.

 

Frankie Ford

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Frankie Ford

Birth name: Vincent Francis Guzzo, Jr.

DOB: Aug. 4, 1939, Gretna, LA

Died: Sept. 28, 2015, Gretna, LA

His biggest hit, “Sea Cruise” peaked at number 14 in 1959, and has remained a dance favorite for decades. His other hits included “Roberta” (1959) and several songs into the 1960’s. He was born and died in his native town of Gretna, LA.

 

Frankie Sardo

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Frankie Sardo

Birth name: Frank Sardo Avianca

DOB: Sept. 16, 1936, Sicily, Italy

Died: Feb. 26, 2014, Somers, NY

His Rock and Roll hits include “Fake Out”, “May I”, “When The Bells Stop Ringing”, “Oh Linda” and “Just You Watch Me”. He also recorded songs with his brother Johnny. Later in his career, Sardo also acted and produced films. He was part of the 1959 Winter Dance Party- the tour on which Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson were killed.

 

Freddy Cannon 

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Freddy Cannon

Birth name: Frederick Anthony Picariello Jr.

DOB: Dec. 4, 1936, Revere, MA.

Cannon had a string of huge hits like “Tallahassee Lassie”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (1959) and “Palisades Park” (1962). He began with appearances on a local dance show, 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.

 

Gene Vincent

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Gene Vincent

Birth name:  Vincent Eugene Craddock

DOB:  Feb. 11, 1935, Norfolk, VA.

Died: Oct. 12, 1971, Los Angeles, CA

Gene Vincent’s band was The Blue Caps, but he’s also noted as a solo artist. He turned out Classic Rockabilly Hits like “Be-Bop-A-Lula”, “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and “Say Mama” Vincent also worked in the UK 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.

 

Guy Mitchell

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Guy Mitchell

Birth name: Albert George Cernik

DOB:  Feb. 22, 1927, Detroit, MI

Died: Jul. 1, 1999, Las Vegas, NV

In the early 50’s, before Rock n Roll, Guy Mitchell was already turning out hit records. In 1956 his hit “Singin’ The Blues” reached number 1 on the US charts. His other late 50’s hit, “Heartaches By The Number” also reached number 1 in 1959. “Rock-A-Billy” reached number 10 in 1957. Mitchell passed away from cancer at the age of 72.

 

Jackie Wilson

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Jackie Wilson

Birth name: Jack Leroy Wilson, Jr.

DOB:  June 9, 1934, Detroit, MI

Died: Jan. 21, 1984, Mount Holly, NJ

Jackie Wilson launched his successful career in 1957 with the hit “Reet Petite”. Hits to follow were “That’s Why I Love You So”, “I’ll Be Satisfied” and “Lonely Teardrops” which reached number on on the R&B charts in 1958.  He went on to become an icon in the 60’s and 70’s with the hit “Higher and Higher” in 1966. In 1975, Wilson collapsed on stage from a heart attack and never recovered. He passed away in 1984 at the age of 49.

 

Jerry Lee Lewis

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Jerry Lee Lewis

DOB:  Sept. 29, 1935, Ferriday, LA

Probably the best piano player of all time, Jerry Lee Lewis is a name synonymous with early Rock n Roll. His most well-known classic hits include: “Great Balls of Fire”, “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On”, “High School Confidential” and several others.  Lewis was one-fourth of Sun Record’s Million Dollar Quartet which included Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

 

Jimmie Rodgers

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Jimmie Rodgers

Birth Name: James Frederick Rodgers

D.O.B: September 18, 1933, Camas, WA.

Rodgers became known for his 1957 hit “Honeycomb”, as well as his 1958 hits “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”, “Oh-oh I’m Falling In Love Again”, “Secretly” and “Are You Really Mine?”  He also did a cover version of “Bo Diddley”.  Rodgers continued to perform into the 21st Century to sell-out crowds.

 

Jimmy Clanton

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Jimmy Clanton

DOB: Sept. 2, 1938, Baton Rouge, LA.

Clanton is known for pop music 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.” He was also in the film “Go Johnny Go” featuring the song by Chuck Berry.

 

Johnny Cash

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Johnny Cash

Birth name: John R. Cash

DOB: Feb. 26, 1932, Kingsland, AR

Died: Sept. 12, 2003, Nashville, TN

Johnny Cash was The Man In Black, an American Rockabilly Rebel and one of the Sun Records’ most famous artists. His most famous hits came after the 1950’s, however, and include: “Ring of Fire”, “Walk The Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues” and “A Boy Named Sue”.

 

Johnny Horton

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Johnny Horton

Birth name: John LaGale Horton

DOB: Apr. 30, 1925, Los Angeles, CA.

Died: Nov 5, 1960, Milano, TX.

Johnny Horton was mainly a Country star, but his hit “The Battle of New Orleans” made it to Number One on the US mainstream charts. Horton also won a Grammy in 1960 for “North To Alaska” which was used in the movie of the same name. Later that same year, Horton was killed in a car crash at the age of 35 while on tour in TX.

 

Johnny Mathis

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Johnny Mathis

Birth name: John Royce Mathis

DOB:  Sept. 30, 1935, Gilmer, TX.

Mathis is famous for 1950’s ballads such as “Chances Are”, “It’s Not For Me To Say”, “The Twelfth of Never”, “Misty” and “Wonderful Wonderful”. His career has spanned six decades.

 

Johnny Tillotson

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Johnny Tillotson

DOB: Apr. 10, 1938, Jacksonville, FL.

His first big his was “Dreamy Eyes” in 1958, followed by “Poetry In Motion” in 1960. He had 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.

 

 

J.P. Richardson: “The Big Bopper”

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J.P. Richardson

Birth name: Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.

DOB:  Oct. 24, 1930, Beaumont, TX.

Died: February 3, 1959, Clear Lake, IA.

The Big Bopper started out as a D.J. in his home state of TX. After enormous success with his chart-topping hit “Chantilly Lace”, he set out on the tour which turned out to be his last. His other well-known song is the comical “Big Bopper’s Wedding”. Richardson died at the age of 28 in the same plane crash that killed Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly.

 

LaVern Baker

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LaVern Baker

Birth name: Delores Evans

DOB: Nov. 11, 1929, Chicago, IL

Died: Mar. 10, 1997, Queens, NY

Baker’s first hit was “Tweedle Dee” in 1955 which made it to number 14 on the US Pop Chart. Her best known hit of the early days of Rock N Roll was “Jim Dandy” in 1956. Both songs were included on her self-titled 1957 album.

 

Little Richard

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Little Richard

Birth name: Richard Wayne Penniman

DOB: Dec. 5, 1932, Macon, GA

Died: May 9, 2020, Nashville, TN

Little Richard is known as “The Architect of Rock n Roll”, one who planted the seed for all who came after. His string of hits began in 1956 with “Tutti Frutti.” Hits to follow include “Long Tall Sally,” “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” “Rip It Up,” and the classic favorite “Lucille”. Little Richard became an icon throughout the years as he continued to perform and appear in films and on TV. He died at the age of 87, after a battle with bone cancer.

 

Lloyd Price

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Lloyd Price

Birth name: Lloyd Price

DOB: March 9, 1933, Kenner, LA

Lloyd Price became famous in the late 50’s with hits such as “Personality”, “Stagger Lee” (which reached number 1) and “I’m Gonna Get Married”. His very first hit single was “Just Because” in 1956. The popularity of the 1959 song “Personality” earned Price the nickname “Mr. Personality”. He remained popular into the 1960’s, but none of his songs past the 50’s decade made it to the Top 10.

 

Pat Boone

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Pat Boone

Birth name: Charles Eugene Boone

DOB:  Jun. 1, 1934, Jacksonville, FL

His recordings 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  Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally”.

 

Paul Anka 

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Paul Anka

Birth name: Paul Albert Anka

DOB:  Jul. 30, 1941, Ottowa, Canada

Anka became a teenage mega-star in the late 50’s with his dramatic, chart topping ballads such as: “Diana” (1957) “Lonely Boy”, “Time To Cry”, and “Puppy Love”. At age 16 he wrote “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, one of the last songs recorded by Buddy Holly. With much success through the years, Anka’s career has spanned over 6 decades.

 

Peggy Lee

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Peggy Lee

Birth name: Norma Deloris Egstrom

DOB: May 26, 1920, Jamestown, ND

Died: Jan. 21, 2002, Bel Air, CA

By the end of the 50’s, Peggy Lee had already been around for years; her first big hit was “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place” way back in 1942. She was a jazz singer who crossed into the mainstream with the wildly popular song “Fever” in 1958. “Fever” peaked at number 8 on the US charts, securing her version of the song as a classic. Lee continued her musical success into the 1970’s.

 

Ray Charles

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Ray Charles

Birth name: Ray Charles Robinson

DOB: Sept. 23, 1930, Albany, GA

Died: June 10, 2004, Beverly Hills, CA

Mega-legend Ray Charles began his career at the top in the 1950’s with such classics as “I’ve Got A Woman” (1954) and “Drown In My Own Tears” (1956). His biggest hits of the 60’s include “Georgia” and “Come Rain or Shine” (1960) and “Hit The Road Jack”. (1961) Charles fathered 10 children with 12 different women. He died at the age of 73 in 2004.

 

Ricky Nelson

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Ricky Nelson

Birth name: Eric Hilliard Nelson

DOB:  May 8, 1940, Teaneck, NJ

Died: Dec. 31, 1985, De Kalb, TX

Nelson began his road to stardom as the younger son on the TV program “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.

 

Ritchie Valens

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Ritchie Valens

Birth name: Richard Steven Valenzuela

DOB:  May 13, 1941, Pacoima, Los Angeles, CA

Died: Feb. 3, 1959, Clear Lake, IA

Valens was 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 just 17.

 

Roy Orbison

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Roy Orbison

Birth name: Roy Kelton Orbison

DOB: Apr. 23, 1936, Vernon, TX

Died: Dec. 6, 1988, Hendersonville, TN

His many hits began with “Ooby Dooby” in 1956. He wrote the Everly Brothers song “Claudette” for his wife, Claudette Frady. His mega-hits from the 60’s include “Crying”, “Pretty Woman” and “Only The Lonely”. Orbison 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.

 

Ruth Brown

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Ruth Brown

Birth name: Ruth Alston Weston

DOB: Jan. 12, 1928, Portsmouth, VA

Died: Nov. 17, 2006, Henderson, NV

Ruth Brown became a successful R&B singer in the late 40’s. Her big 1950’s hits included “5-10-15” (1953), “Mama” (1953), “Mambo Baby” (1954) and “Lucky Lips” (1958) written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was followed by “The Little Girl’s Gone Rockin'” written by Bobby Darin and Mann Curtis. Brown went on to be an actress and won a Tony Award in 1989. She toured up until her death at the age of 78.

 

Sam Cooke

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Sam Cooke

Birth name: Samuel Cook

DOB: Jan. 22, 1931 Clarksdale, MS

Died: Dec. 11, 1964, Los Angeles, CA

Sam Cooke is 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)  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 at a hotel who claimed that he attacked her.

 

Wilbert Harrison

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Wilbert Harrison

Birth name: Wilbert Huntington Harrison

DOB: Jan. 5, 1929, Charlotte, NC

Died: Oct. 26, 1994, Spencer, NC

Wilbert Harrison is known for the 1959 “Kansas City” which reached number 1 in 1959. “Kansas City” was released on Fury Records and the song was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952. It wasn’t until 1970 that Harrison had another major hit with “Let’s Work Together”.

 

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