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.
1956 was in the grip of the first flush of rock and roll, however, most of the songs today don’t reflect that because other sorts of music were still dominant at the time.
In spite of what I just said, I’ll start with one of the creators of rock music. If only BO DIDDLEY could have copyrighted his guitar style and the groove he created he could have made a fortune as much of the music of the sixties was based on what he created.
The Rolling Stones especially built their early career on Bo's style of playing. You have to admire Bo who made a career performing songs named after himself. This isn’t one of them, it’s Who Do You Love?
EDDIE FISHER had a couple of hits this year.
The really forgettable Dungaree Doll was one of them, but we used that one in a previous version of this year. Another one, equally as “good” is Cindy, Oh Cindy.
The song Sixteen Tons was a double crossover hit – it crossed over from 1955 to 1956 and also crossed over from the country charts to the pop. The man responsible was TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD.
Rather surprisingly for a singer from both genres, Ernie was a classically trained singer. Also unusual for a country song, the clarinet is featured prominently.
If I mention BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS, I imagine that there is one song that springs to mind.
That wasn’t his only hit; there were quite a few others. One of those, and probably his second most remembered song, is See You Later Alligator. The song was written by Bobby Charles, a New Orleans songwriter and occasional singer. He wrote quite a number of hits for performers from that city (although Bill isn’t one of those).
FRANKIE LAINE claimed his was a jazz singer, not a pop performer. He made a few jazz albums and based on those he’s right about that. However, most of us remember him as a pop performer, especially singing cowboy songs.
One of those is certainly Moonlight Gambler, just because of the backing rather than the words.
The song Green Door has been recorded a few times over the years. It was written by Hutch Davie and Marvin Moore. It first saw light of day in a version by JIM LOWE.
Jim released a bunch of records over the years, but none sold anywhere near as many copies as Green Door. There are many theories about the club mentioned in the song. Marvin has said that it was about a club in Dallas. He even mentioned the city in an early draft of the song.
JAMES BROWN seems out of time – either a throwback to an earlier time, or anticipating music a decade or more in the future.
I’ve always thought of him as a performer from later decades, but here he is right in the middle of 1956 with Please, Please, Please, one of his earliest records.
As a complete contrast, FATS DOMINO is right at home this year.
Fats had had hit records from 1949 and continued doing that to the rest of the decade and beyond. Here is an oldie, but still a goodie, Blueberry Hill.
THE PLATTERS were easily the finest Doowop/pop/rock singing group of the decade. Only The Drifters would give them a run for their money.
Although not their first hit, The Great Pretender is probably their most memorable. They were blessed with one of the finest singers in the business, Tony Williams.
PATTI PAGE dominated the charts in the fifties.
She sang what was then considered throwaway pop songs, but 60 years later are considered classics of the form (at least by me). One of those is Allegheny Moon.
This was the year that ELVIS really hit it big.
He had half a dozen chart toppers, starting with Heartbreak Hotel. Besides that one, there were others you know, perhaps including I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.