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!
For this session, we will be studying the top musical duos of the 1950’s. As with groups, musical duos were rampant in the 50’s era, some with phenomenal staying power- others destined to become one hit wonders.
When it comes to 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.
50’s Study Hall: Top Music Duos of the 1950’s
Billy & Lillie
Members: Billy Ford and Lillie Bryant
Billy and Lillie charted three hit singles in the late 1950s: “La Dee Dah”, “Bells, Bells, Bells (the Bell Song)” and “Lucky Ladybug”. They performed “La Dee Dah” on American Bandstand, much to the liking of host Dick Clark who asked their songwriters Bob Crewe and Frank Slay to write them another hit. Billy Ford died in 1983 or 1985. Lillie Bryant went on to become a local politician in her hometown of Newburgh, NY.
The Cochran Brothers
Members: Hank Cochran and Eddie Cochran (vocals and guitar)
First thing’s first. Despite their same last name, Hank and Eddie were not brothers! In fact, they weren’t related at all! Although they aren’t as well known for their work as Eddie Cochran is for his solo hits, this duo is an important piece of Rockabilly history. The Cochran brothers toured the West coast before breaking up in 1956.
The Everly Brothers
Members: Don and Phil Everly (both on vocals and guitar)
Perhaps the most successful duo of all time, brothers Don and Phil created a harmonious musical legacy with their seemingly unending string of hits. As teens, they signed with Cadence records and recorded their first hit “Bye Bye Love” which topped the charts in 1957. Their follow up hit “Wake Up Little Susie” topped charts in the Fall of that same year. “All I Have To Do Is Dream” remained on the charts through the Spring and Summer of ’58 . It was followed by another pair of hits “Claudette” and “Bird Dog” and “Til I Kissed You” (1959). In 1960, the brothers signed a 10 year contract with Warner Brothers which yielded more hits. After a break up in the 70’s, the brothers reunited in 1983. Phil passed away in 2014, shortly before his 75th Birthday. Don passed away on the 21st of August, 2021 at the age of 84.
Jan & Arnie
Members: Jan Berry and Arnie Ginsburg
Jan and Arnie are known for the hit “Jennie Lee” from the Summer of 1958. Their hits to follow were “Gas Money” and “Bonnie Lou”. That September they released their last single together “The Beat That Can’t Be Beat”. By 1959, Arnie decided he was through with the music business. Jan went on to become half of the duo Jan and Dean, known for their wildly popular surf music in the 1960’s.
Jan & Dean
Members: Jan Berry and Dean Torrence (vocals)
By 1959, Jan had a new partner in the industry: 19-year-old Dean Torrence. Their first hit was “Baby Talk” which reached Number 10 on the charts. Jan and Dean’s peak years as pioneers of the Surf Music genre were between 1963 and 1966.
Johnnie & Joe
Members: Johnnie Louise Richardson & Joe Rivers (vocals)
Johnnie & Joe are best known for their 1957 hit “Over The Mountain, Across The Sea”. Their other hit song “I’ll Be Spinning” also topped R&B charts in 1957. “Over The Mountain” made a comeback on the charts in 1960. The duo would perform their hits at reunion shows until Johnnie died in 1988 due to complications from a stroke.
The Kalin Twins
Members: Harold and Herbert Kalin (vocals)
Twin brothers Hal and Herbie Kalin had a rough start in the music industry with a few flops. But by 1958, their song “When” reached Number 5 on the US charts. “Forget Me Not,” reached Number 12 in the US Billboard chart later in 1958. After lower ranking songs in 1959, the twins never charted again. Hal died in 2005 in a car accident at the age of 71, and Herbie died nearly a year later.
Les Paul and Mary Ford
Members: Les Paul and Mary Ford (guitar and vocals)
Les Paul and Mary Ford were a husband and wife duo who had a profound influence on the music industry. Their guitar playing and harmonies were what made them so popular, yielding 28 hits from 1950 and 1957. Sixteen of their songs made it to the Top Ten between 1950 and 1954, including “Tennessee Waltz”, “How High The Moon” and “Via Con Dios”. The pair divorced in 1964. Les Paul is also famous for his signature guitars.
Marvin & Johnny
Members: Marvin Phillips and Emory “Johnny” Perry
Marvin & Johnny’s biggest hit was “Cherry Pie” (not to be confused with the Warrant song of the same name) which topped the charts in 1956. “Cherry Pie” was by far Marvin & Johnny’s biggest hit, but they also found success with the record’s flip side, “Tick Tock”.
Mickey & Sylvia
Members: Mickey Baker and Sylvia Vanderpool (guitar and vocals)
Mickey and Sylvia are best known for their 1956 hit “Love Is Strange” which reached Number 1 on R&B charts and Number 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Their other songs include “There Ought To Be A Law” and “Who Knows Why”. The duo split up in 1959, but soon re-united in the early 60’s to form Willow records and work with Ike and Tina Turner.
Patience and Prudence
Members: Patience and Prudence McIntyre (vocals)
These two cute little gals were sisters from Los Angeles. Their big hit was “Tonight You Belong To Me” which reached #4 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1956. Their other hits included “Gonna Get Along Without You Now” and “The Money Tree”. They appeared on The Perry Como show. When they reunited years later, they revealed that part of the reason their career ended so soon was that their father did not want them to remain in the spotlight.
Robert & Johnny
Members: Robert Carr and Johnny Mitchell
Robert & Johnny were a duo from The Bronx who charted hits in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Their biggest hit “We Belong Together” (1958) made it to number 12 on the charts and was covered by Ritchie Valens, The Belmonts and Jimmy Velvet.
Santo & Johnny
Members: Santo and Johnny Farina (both on guitar)
Brothers Santo and Johnny Farina hailed from Brooklyn, NY and possessed some mad guitar playing skills. They’re best known for their instrumental Rock n Roll hit, “Sleep Walk” which reached Number One on the charts for two weeks in September of 1959. Their follow up hit “Tear Drop” was also fairly successful, but far lesser known.
Shirley & Lee
Members: Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee
This duo met as children in their hometown of New Orleans. By 1955 they released the hit “Feels So Good”. Their biggest hit was “Let The Good Times Roll” in 1957, which was banned by some stations for being too suggestive. Leonard Lee passed away from a heart attack in 1976. Shirley went on to make music before retiring some years later. She passed away in 2005.
Skip & Flip
Members: Clyde Battlin & Gary S. Paxton
This duo met while attending the University of Arizona. As a musical duo, Skip & Flip made their mark in 1959, when their record “It Was I” peaked at number 11 on the charts. They were also known for their cover of Marvin & Johnny’s “Cherry Pie” in 1960. Gary S. Paxton also topped the charts with The Hollywood Argyles hit “Ally Oop” (also in 1960)
Tom & Jerry
Members: Paul Simon (as Jerry Landis) and Art Garfunkel (as Tom Graph)
Yes, it’s another amazing musical discovery: Simon and Garfunkel actually began their careers as teens in the 1950’s known as the duo, “Tom & Jerry”! Tom and Jerry were a one hit wonder with their Top 40 hit “Hey Schoolgirl” which they performed live on American Bandstand in 1957. The pair took a hiatus from the industry when they realized the Rock N Roll scene wasn’t for them. They returned as Simon and Garfunkel in 1968 with their smash hit “Mrs. Robinson” (from the movie The Graduate) and the rest is history.
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