Lesson #1: The 50′s Iconic Black and White Rock and Rollers

by Grandpa Mike & Daddy on February 16, 2011

iTunes Playlist for this lesson: Maile Music Project Lesson #1 iTunes Playlist

Introduction from Grandpa Mike

Up until the post World War II years, popular music was dominated by the so-called Big Band sound (ref: Tommy Dorsey, the Glenn Miller Orchestra) and smooth white-guy crooners like Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra — this music is important in itself, but was really not a part of my musical upbringing. Maile, if you are interested, check out Great Grandpa Irv and Great Grandma Bea’s 78 record collection — that was their hip jams.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra

The Glenn Miller Orchestra

Anyways, in the mid-to late 50′s, a new sound emerged, a blend of rhythmic and vocal stylings that were — to be honest about it — very threatening to the mainstream (aka white) American majority.  The beat was infectious and the lyrics, while mild by today’s standards, were considered naughty.  A lot of this attitude was unfortunately based on the racial biases of the time — in fact, the music we refer to as Rock n Roll was often termed “race music.”  Radio announcers refused to play these songs and politicians ranted that this music was a Communist plot aimed at weakening our youth.

Alan Freed

Alan Freed

However, good taste and a love of a great beat eventually prevailed — Alan Freed, a DJ (disc jockey) in Cleveland,Ohio (the site of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) popularized the music and it caught on like a virus.  I was quite young when all this was happening, but I remember listening to my AM transistor radio and memorizing the lyrics to these songs.  In Chicago, the hot radio station was WLS and the DJ Dick Biondi would do the TOP TEN countdown every Friday — I’d go to the local record store and buy my favorite 45′s each week (79 cents each).  I’d watch Dick Clark every weekday afternoon when I got home from school and idolize the “teenagers” who appeared and danced on the TV show American Bandstand (from Philadelphia).  My classmates and I would talk about their dance-steps and hairdos at school and we all tried to copy their moves.  We would get together at what we called “boy-girl parties” on the weekends, and we’d bring our 45 records to play on the host’s record player.  We were SOOOO COOOOL!!!!  I was not a big Elvis fan–he became famous when I was about seven years old — but I’ve come to appreciate his place in music history, despite what I consider his basic cheesiness.  Anyways, the following cuts are what I consider essential tunes from this time period — ENJOY, my little love!!

P.S. The song “Tequila” was not originally from the 1st Pee-Wee Herman movie, regardless what your daddy tells you.  Sorry, Daddy Matt, but I really couldn’t limit my selctions to just 10 in this category –there’s too many great tunes!

The Lesson #1 Songs

  1. C’mon Everybody by Eddie Cochran
  2. Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran
    Later covered in the 60′s by Blue Cheer — at the time considered the LOUDEST band in the world!
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  3. Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley
    The hot, thin Elvis — check out the TV video from the 50′s.
  4. Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry
  5. Roll Over Beethoven by Chuck Berry
  6. Maybelline by Chuck Berry
    Good ‘ol Chuck is still appearing live — he’s in his 80′s and lives in St. Louis. The inspiration for another elder statesman, Keith Richards — a future lesson, Maile…
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  7. I’m Ready by “Fats” Domino
    One of the great personal interest stories from Hurricane Katrina was the rescue of Fats from his New Orleans home.
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  8. Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On by Jerry Lee Lewis
  9. Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis
    Maile — other than being known for his flamboyant piano playing — with his feet! — and marrying his 13 year-old cousin, Jerry Lee was just a normal good ‘ol boy.
  10. Rave On by Buddy Holly
  11. Oh, Boy! by Buddy Holly & The Crickets
    Buddy, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens all died in a tragic plane crash — immortalized years later by the song “The Day the Music Died“.
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  12. La Bamba by Ritchie Valens
    Rock and roll was color – and ethnicity – blind; Valens was the first Latino rock star–take that, Ricky Martin!!
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  13. Blue Suede Shoes by Carl Perkins
    Superior to Elvis “the Pelvis’s” version.
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  14. Yakety-Yak by The Coasters
  15. Charlie Brown by The Coasters
    I loved these guys sense of humor — when you’re 9 years old, it was the height of profundity! — listen to their “Poison Ivy“.
  16. Splish Splash by Bobby Darin
    A Frank Sinatrish hipster — he’s probably better known for his great version of “Mack the Knife” but I love this song — and his wife back then, Sandra Dee, was the Angelina Jolie of the moment!
  17. Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  18. Sea Cruise by Frankie Ford
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  19. Tallahassie Lassie by Freddy “Boom-boom” Cannon
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  20. Rebel Rouser by Duane Eddy
    Love the twangy guitar — prelude to the surf sounds of the 60′s.
  21. Bye Bye Love by The Everly Brothers
  22. Wake up Little Susie by The Everly Brothers
    Grandma and I saw these guys a few years ago in concert — they still had it — actually made a dour Paul Simon smile!
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]
  23. Bony Moronie by Larry Williams
    Great sing-along — I still know all the lyrics!
  24. Rock Around the Clock — Bill Haley and His Comets
    Great name for a group — the ultimate white-bread combo who could rock.
    [Youtube | Wikipedia]


  25. Bo Diddley by Bo Diddley
    The classic “Bo Diddley” beat is featured in more songs than I can count — he has the coolest rectangular guitar — check it out!
    Youtube | Wikipedia]
  26. The Girl Can’t Help It by Little Richard
  27. Good Golly Miss Molly by Little Richard
    The King of Mascara — a very brave soul, considering he was a black, gay artist back in the 50′s — always true to himself — and a hell of a performer!

Well, that’s it for Lesson #1 — if you’re not grooving by the time you finish listening to these jams, I pity your poor soul!

Love, Papa Mike

(Remember, you can download all of the songs above on iTunes by clicking here: Maile Music Project Lesson #1 iTunes Playlist)

  • http://twitter.com/ElyssaK Elyssa

    This is awesome! Job well done. I can’t wait to follow along.

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