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.
In 1957 we were right in the middle of the first flush of rock & roll, although that wasn't necessarily reflected on the charts as all sorts of music were still being played on the radio. I'll demonstrate that today.
THE RAYS had a couple of minor hits over the years but I must confess that I don't remember any of them.
They did have one biggie though and I certainly remember that one. It was called Silhouettes. In the way of things at the time, a white group, The Diamonds, also released an almost identical version which, unusual for that era, didn't sell as well.
In 1956 LAVERN BAKER had big hit called Jim Dandy.
Because of its success, Lincoln Chase, who wrote it, came up with another in the saga called Jim Dandy Got Married. That one proved quite popular as well, this time in 1957, fortunately for us today.
THURSTON HARRIS first started performing in a band called The Lamplighters.
He later went solo (often backed by that band). Bobby Day (of Rockin' Robin fame) wrote and recorded a song called Little Bitty Pretty One. This made the low reaches of the charts. Thurston recorded it and took it way up close to the top. This is what it sounds like.
MICKEY AND SYLVIA were Mickey Baker and Sylvia Robinson.
Mickey was a music instructor and they met when Sylvia came in for lessons. Mickey was an ace guitarist and later made a good living as a session musician.
He was inspired by Les Paul and Mary Ford's music and decided to start a similar unit with Sylvia (and playing Les Paul Gibson guitars). They were successful enough to start their own record company and a publishing company as well as buying a nightclub.
Their biggest success was with the song Love Is Strange, later covered with equal success by the Everly Brothers.
By 1957 THE CHORDETTES were on a roll.
A few years earlier, they had recorded the first version of Mister Sandman which even I will admit was better than Emmylou, Linda and Dolly's version. So if they can beat that trio they must be pretty good.
Theirs wasn't the first version of that song (Vaughn Monroe, for heaven's sake, has that honor), but they did it best. Sorry to disappoint but it's the wrong year for that one.
Here is a song from this year that's nearly as good: Just Between You and Me.
LITTLE RICHARD produced some of the most raucous songs in early rock & roll (and, if I might editorialise for a moment, some of the best).
However, now and then he released a song that wasn't like that. This is one of those, Send Me Some Lovin'.
DEBBIE REYNOLDS had a hit with the song Tammy.
This was taken from a film in which she appeared called Tammy and the Bachelor. She played Tammy and the bachelor was Leslie Neilson. He played it straight, which must have been a bit a strain for him.
JACKIE WILSON's treatment of Reet Petite is rather interesting.
He sings it as rock & roll or maybe anticipating soul music. However, the backing for the song sounds as if it comes from a decade earlier, closer to big band than the music of the time. In spite of that it seemed to work.
In my part of the world, THE HILLTOPPERS had a big hit with the song Marianne.
Elsewhere, I believe this version was eclipsed by the one by Terry Gilkyson & The Easy Riders. Terry was something of a songwriter but he didn't write this one. He was also the father of another terrific singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson. However, the version I remember is the one we have today.
JIMMIE RODGERS was the name of a couple of recording artists, but only one of them was alive in 1957 and that's the one we have today.
Jimmie had quite a few hits in the fifties. This is one of his biggest, Honeycomb.