This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
What happened in 1955?
- Rosanne Cash was born
- A riot broke out at an Elvis concert. It was not the last
- Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat in a bus
- First Guinness Book of World Records was published
- Scrabble made its debut
- Edna Everage made her first appearance
- Rebel Without a Cause was released
- Melbourne were premiers
The most appropriate way to start this year is with CHUCK BERRY who pretty much defined the year (and the rest of the decade).
Well, Elvis was in the mix as well, of course, but Chuck did it all - wrote the songs, performed them, played guitar just like ringing a bell. This was the first time, but far from the last, that Chuck made the charts. The song is Maybellene.
Whenever the song Unchained Melody comes on around these parts, there's always a lively discussion between Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and me concerning which is the definitive version. The A.M.'s preference is for the Righteous Brothers and mine is Al Hibbler's. Both agree that the other one is pretty good.
Having said that, I won't play either of them today. The Righteous Brothers' version wasn't from this year and although Al's was, I have made it a policy not to repeat anything from the first time around for these years. There is some virtual fine print in my unwritten contract, though, to the effect that I may use the same song as long as it's a different version.
Here's the third best (and it's not too shabby either) by ROY HAMILTON.
See what you think.
It's a year of firsts (and some onlys) and here's LITTLE RICHARD's debut.
I should have mentioned Richard in my comments on Chuck as well. Rolling Stone magazine stated that Tutti Frutti "contains what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded: A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bam-boom!!"
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Another who changed the course of music is BO DIDDLEY. This year is full of them.
It's a pity Bo couldn't copyright that riff, he'd have made a fortune. In any case he didn't make much, if any, from the songs either, due to unscrupulous mangers, promoters, record companies and probably others as well. To the day he died he was still trying to recover what was due to him.
Anyone who can name a song after himself has a lot of front. Bo certainly had that. This is Bo Diddley.
A first appearance also for THE PLATTERS.
The Platters were the best of the singing groups of the fifties and they were also the most successful. They initially got nowhere for a year or two and then their lead vocalist was replaced by Tony Williams and a female singer, Zola Taylor, was added as well.
Everything clicked and their first record, Only You, climbed up the charts.
This is the other hit for GOGI GRANT, you all know the biggest one which was also from this year.
The first of her two hits this year was Suddenly There's a Valley. After her time in the sun, she made albums and appeared on TV now and then and also supplied the voice for films where a good singing voice was required of an actress who couldn't sing.
Mannish Boy was an "answer" song to Bo Diddley's I'm a Man. That, in turn, was an answer to the MUDDY WATERS song, Hoochie Coochie Man.
Muddy recorded the song several times over his career and I think the later versions to be superior. However, this is the first one and the one that counts this year.
Okay, get out your coon skin caps, hope they're not too moth eaten, put them on and sing along with BILL HAYES.
The Ballad of Davy Crockett was first heard when Davy Crockett was shown on Disneyland on TV. Bill then recorded it and it became a hit.
Fess Parker, who played Davy, also had a version. I notice in the song that they gloss over his death at the Alamo.
Okay everybody - 1, 2, 3. “Born on a mountain top in Tennessee...”
THE DREAMWEAVERS started out when Wade Buff and Gene Adkinson, who met in the Miami Boys' Drum and Bugle Corp, discovered they liked singing together. They wrote songs as well.
They thought they needed a female voice to complement theirs and tried several before settling on Mary Rude (who later married Wade).
They recorded the song, It's Almost Tomorrow and that became a big hit. A couple more songs didn't do quite as well. Then Wade left, Mary divorced him and The Dreamweavers were no more. The dream unraveled, I suppose.
RAY CHARLES got the idea for this song while he was listening to gospel radio in his car (he wasn't driving).
He heard the infectious beat and with Renald Richard, a member of his band, wrote new words to it. They also added a touch of jazz and some rhythm and blues and well, changed it completely. The result was I Got a Woman.
You can find more music from 1955 here.
1956 will appear in two weeks' time.