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Popular music: 1958

Popular music changed dramatically in the mid-1950s. It seemed as if one moment the popular songs of the day came from the Broadway musicals, and the next the "hit" songs were being sung by gyrating, greasy-haired young men who were singing a new kind of music that went by the name of rock and roll. Though the change took place in the space of a few years, it all seemed to come together in one single year - 1958. Though rock and roll barely made an impact on the record sales charts of that year, its major exponents - Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard - all recorded and released some of their most memorable material in 1948, songs that changed the direction of popular music forever.

Top 20 Singles of 1958

1. A Pub With No Beer - Slim Dusty (right)
A classic Aussie song that was for years Australia's top selling single of all time. It was composed by a Sydney songwriter, Gordon Parsons, while on tour with The Slim Dusty Show in 1956, but owes a lot to this ballad by Northern Queensland farmer, Dan Sheehan of Ingham. That song first appeared in The North Queensland Register in 1944. In 1943, Sheahan rode 20 miles to town for a beer at the Day Dawn Hotel in Ingham.  Beer was rationed during the war and the American servicemen had drunk the bar dry the night before.  On hearing this from the publican Gladys Harvey, and unhappy about riding home dry, Dan penned a poem that he called the 'Pub without beer'.

In 1956, Parsons was handed a scrap of paper at the Taylors Arms Hotel in NSW with the poem as an anonymous verse.  He revamped it and presented it as a song to Slim Dusty who recorded it as the B-side to 'Saddle Boy' on April Fools Day 1957. Confusion over the song's origin reigned for years until Slim acknowledged Dan's claim in his book 'The Country Mile'.

The original Pub With No Beer was owned by the Harvey family and was partly demolished and rebuilt as Lee's Hotel. Recently Lee's hotel received Queensland Icon status through the Queensland Heritage Trust and was formally recognised as the original 'Pub with no Beer'. When asked, "What's your favourite song of all the songs you've done?", Silm Dusty once said, "I think I could say 'The Pub With No Beer' and it was classified as a B-side. Well, there was a chap called Bob Rogers who was a young DJ in Queensland. He picked it up and thought it was a very funny song. He came to Sydney and played it and the other DJs said, "You're mad." He said, "I'm not mad. That's a very funny song."
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    2. Bird Dog - The Everly Brothers (right)
    This is one of the early and long-forgotten hits of the popular American singing duo, The Everly Brothers. Written by Boudleaux Bryant, it tells the story of Johnny the joker whose jokes are funny, but when Johnny tries to steal the heart of the writer's girlfriend, he is described somewhat oddly as a quail. The carefully blended harmonies of Don and Phil Everly resonated with fans. The brothers broke up in 1973 after an onstage fight. They are now reunited to the delight of fans.

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    3. Young and Warm and Wonderful - Tony Bennett
    A major hit for Tony Bennett, back when he was one of popular music's leading crooners. Written by Louis C. Singer and Hy Zare, the song was recorded some nine years into Bennett's recording career during a time when he was working with the Count Basie Orchestra.

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    4. Catch A Falling Star - Perry Como (right)
    One of Perry Como's biggest hits and the one he is most remembered for. With words and music by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance, the song was recorded in New York in October 1957 and released as a single. Arranged by Joe Reisman and produced by Joe Carlton, it features the Mitchell Ayres' Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers.

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    5. Tom Dooley - The Kingston Trio (right)
    This folk song tells the true story of a young confederate soldier, Tom Dooley, who returned to his home in Happy Valley on the Yadkin River in Wilkes County, North Carolina after the Civil War.  Tom survived many battles but his claim to fame was his love of music. Before the war, Tom, a happy-go-lucky young man, was very popular with the young ladies.  Two of these young ladies were Laura Foster and her cousin  Ann Foster; both girls became infatuated with Dooley. After the war, He managed his time to be with both before making arrangements with Laura to run away and get married. One night she took what clothes she could carry on horseback and right home for her rendezvous with Tom and promptly disappeared. Three weeks later, her horse returned, gaunt and with a broken halter.  After a long search, Laura's body was found. The authorities compiled information that led them to arrest Ann Melton and Tom Dooley, which finally resulted in the hanging of Dooley. 

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    6. Volare (Nel Blu, Dipinto di Blu) - Domenico Modugno
    This was the first foreign-language single to top the charts in the early rock era. The Italian lyrics were written by Domenico Modugno and Franco Migliacci after Modugno described a man's dream of flying through the air with his hands painted blue. Dean Martin (No.12 in 1958), Bobby Rydell (No.4 in 1960), and Al Martino (No.33 in 1975) hit the charts with versions of the song but with English lyrics written by Michael Parish. Gipsy Kings made a rhumba version included in their 1989 album, Mosaique. Domenico Modugno died of a heart attack in 1994.

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    7.It's All In The Game - Tommy Edwards
    The only No.1 hit song written by a US Vice President (Charles Dawes), it was composed in 1912 as the wordless composition, "Melody in A Major". The lyrics were added in 1951 by Carl Sigman, who also changed the song's name to "It's All in the Game." Sammy Kaye, Carmen Cavallaro, Dinah Shore, and Tommy Edwards each had sizable hits with this song.

    "It's All in the Game" was also a hit for Cliff Richard in the U.K. in 1964 and a No.24 hit for the Four Tops in 1970, six months after Edwards' death. In the summer of 1951, the noted songwriter Carl Sigman had an idea for a song, and Dawes's melody struck him as an appropriate base for his sentimental lyrics. It was recorded that year by Dinah Shore, Sammy Kaye, Carmen Cavallaro and Edwards. The Edwards version did the best. A noted jazz arrangement was recorded by Louis Armstrong (vocals) and arranger Gordon Jenkins, with "some of Armstrong's most honey-tinged singing". Jenkins would in 1956 produce a version with Nat King Cole along the same lines.

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    8. Just Married - Marty Robbins (right)
    Marty Robbins had a string of country hits in the late 1950s - this one, along with "A White Sports Coat" and "The Story Of My Life" kept him at the top of the country charts during that period.

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    9. The Twelfth of Never - Johnny Mathis (right)
    Written by Paul Francis Webster and Jerry Livingston, "The Twelfth of Never" put Johnny Mathis on the map and became his signature song. The melody was taken from the 16th-century English folk song "I Gave My Love a Cherry" (aka "The Riddle Song"). A version of it later charted for The Chi-Lites in 1969 as B-side and also for Donny Osmond, reaching No.8 in 1973. A few years before recording this song, Mathis had broken future basketball great Bill Russell's high jump record by jumping 1.96 meters and was being groomed for a spot in the US Olympic Games team. Fate intervened when Mathis was spotted by Helen Noga, owner of The Black Hawk club, at a jam session and she became his manager. In September 1955, after Noga landed Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee's 440 Club, she ruthlessly pursued jazz producer George Avakian, who she found out was on vacation in the Bay Area. Avakian came to see him sing, and sent the now famous telegram to Columbia Records: "Have found phenomenal 19-year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts."

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    10. Arrivederci Roma - Vic Damone / Roger Williams
    Vic Damone and Roger Williams shared the honours with their versions of this song on its initial release. It was the title song of a musical romantic comedy film starring Mario Lanza and Renato Rascel. Lanza sang the song in the movie and Dean Martin picked it up and made it a hit again a year later.

  • hear the song online (Dean Martin)

    11. Twilight Time - The Platters (right)
    The Platters were one of the top vocal groups of the 1950's, selling 53 million records and being among the first doo-wop groups to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. "Only You" was their biggest hit - in 1955 - but this one sold equally as well three years later. The Platters' manager and producer Buck Ram had written the lyrics in 1938 for Buck's group, the Three Suns, who recorded it back then. It was followed by an old classic by Jerome Kern, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", which also made No.1.

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    12. This Happy Feeling - Debbie Reynolds (right)
    Another film theme song, this time a romantic comedy written especially for its star, Debbie Reynolds. The movie followed up Debbie's most popular screen role in Tammy And The Bachelor which was released a year earlier. The words and music of "This Happy Feeling" were written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

    13. Suzie Darlin' - Robin Luke
    Robin Luke recorded "Susie Darlin" while still attending Punahou High School in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He wrote this song for his baby sister Susie whom was about four or five years old at the time. Amazingly, the song was recorded in a motel room bathroom to obtain the effect of an echo chamber - the person playing the spoons sat in the tub! Luke became an instant teen idol but quickly fell from favour and is remembered today as one of popular music's first one-hit wonders. In later years, he became a professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. Australian singer Barry Crocker had a hit with his version, released in 1973.

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    14. A Certain Smile - Johnny Mathis
    Johnny Mathis had the pleasure of appearing in and performing the title song of the movie of the same name for which this number was written. The movie, starring Rossano Brazzi and Joan Fontaine, was his second film appearance after appearing in and singing 'It's Not For Me To Say' in 'Lizzie' in 1956. Words by Paul Francis Webster, music by Sammy Fain. The song peaked at No.14.

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    15. The End of A Rainbow - Earl Grant
    Grant was an easy-listening pianist/organist and singer - not unlike Nat King Cole - who was popular in the late 50s and early 60s. He played trumpet and drums in addition to piano, and studied at four music schools, after which he taught music himself. He then began performing in nightclubs while stationed in Texas during his army service. Grant signed to Decca Records in 1958 and reached No.7 in the US charts with this, his first single. He never again achieved the success he enjoyed with "The End", and died in a car crash in New Mexico in 1970.

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    16. Patricia - Perez Prado & his Orchestra
    Perez Prado played organ and piano in cinemas and clubs before becoming an arranger for mambo-style local Mexican bands in 1942. He formed his own band in 1948 in Mexico when the mambo beat was becoming very popular and shot to fame with this number. Prado was known as "King of the Mambo" in Latin America. This instrumental, his own composition, contained more than a hint of the current burgeoning pop sounds with its heavy bass and rocking organ rhythms, along with the cha-cha-cha beat. It was used by Federico Fellini as the theme song for the movie La Dolce Vita in 1960.

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    17. Come In Stranger - Johnny Cash (right)
    This single marked Johnny Cash's move from Sam Phillip's Sun Records to Columbia, and became a No.1 hit for the country singer. The song was used in and as a title for an episode of the TV show "Desperate Housewives" in 2004. It is featured on the album "Johhny Cash: The Sun Years". At 1 minute 42 seconds, it is the shortest hit song Cash ever recorded..

  • hear the song online

    18. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands - Laurie London (right)
    Laurie London's version of this traditional Gospel standard was the first of many recordings of this song that appeared in the 50s and 60s. A one-hit wonder, London-born London (hence his stage name) had just turned 13 when he gave this old time favourite the pop treatment and became a shortlived superstar.

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    19. To Know Him Is To Love Him - The Teddy Bears
    This is the song that launched legendary 60s pop producer Phil Spector's career. Spector was still in high school when he recorded it, and he quickly became a top producer after working with prominent songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The song is a tribute to Spector's father. When Spector was 8, his father Benjamin Spector reportedly sat in his car in broad daylight in front of the family house and sucked carbon monoxide fumes from a hose until he died while apparently no one noticed. Spector was inspired to write by a photograph of his father's tombstone - it said "To have known him was to have loved him." Phil changed the tense of the epitaph on the tombstone and matched it to the music of "When the Red, Red Robin Goes Bob-Bob-Bobbin' Along." Along with some high school friends, Phil put together The Teddy Bears, and wrote this for their new vocalist, Annette Kleinbard, to sing at a recording session. The drummer is Teen Beat magazine's Sandy Nelson. One of the two men singing harmony is a very young James Brown. Peter and Gordon (No.24 in 1965) and Bobby Vinton (No.34 in 1969) returned the song, as "To Know You Is to Love You," to the Top 40. Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt recorded a version of this song for their Trio album in 1987.

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    20. Pussy Cat - The Ames Brothers (right)
    The close-harmony vocal quartet, The Ames Brothers, had a string of hits in the 1950s; this one was released towards the end of their period of popularity. As their name suggests, they were a family group. With the onset of rock music, they could see the writing on the wall and disbanded in 1959. Ed, the youngest Ames brother, continued a performing career and appeared as an Indian named Mingo on the Daniel Boone TV series before hitting the Top Ten as a solo recording artist with "My Cup Runneth Over" in 1967. He also appeared on Broadway.

  • hear the song online
    Top 5 Australian Hits of 1958

    1. A Pub With No Beer - Slim Dusty
    See above.

    2. So Tough/That'll Be Alright - Johnny O'Keefe And The DeeJays
    According to legend, Johnny O'Keefe reportedly bluffed his way into his contract with Festival Records in the mid-1950s by spreading a false story that he had already signed a contract with them; this led to Festival telephoning him about the story, with the result that O'Keefe was actually offered an audition and signed to the label. Although not a great singer in the technical sense, O'Keefe rapidly developed into a showman and he was undoubtedly one of the most dynamic rock performers to emerge from Australia. His electrifying performances in the late 1950s are legendary, and he was also noted for his outrageous stage attire and his fondness for flashy American cars, traits cultivated as part of his imitation of his idols, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. O'Keefe was the first Australian to make the local pop music charts, the first to have a major pop-rock hit with a self-penned song, and the first Australian rock performer to have his own TV show. "So Tough" was written by (Frederick) Gary Mears, the vocalist of US group, The Casuals, who first recorded it in 1957. View the video online

    3. Wild One - Johnny O'Keefe And The DeeJays
    One of Johnny O'Keefe's first hits, the title of this song became his nickname, and in so doing he became Australia's first bona fide rock'n'roll star. The song was released on the Festival EP, Shakin' At The Stadium. The Australian version, with overdubbed applause, differs from the one released in the USA and UK. Songwriter credits on future versions often omit Tony Withers, a Sydney disc jockey who later worked in Britain on pirate stations Radio Atlanta and, as Tony Windsor, Radio London. The song has often been renamed "Real Wild Child" or "Real Wild Child (Wild One)", the name used for the song when released overseas. It was originally recorded by Jerry Iva ("JI") Allison of the Crickets, Buddy Holly's backing band, and by Jerry Lee Lewis, both in 1958. Here the song online

    4. Answer To The Pub With No Beer - Slim Dusty
    This song was recorded and released as a si gle in 1958 soon after the original song, "A Pub With No Beer". It was released on the album, Ausssie Sing Song, in July 1962. Hear the song online

    5. Over The Mountain - Johnny O'Keefe And The DeeJays
    This single was released in May 1958, two months after "Wild One". It reached No. 36 and charted for 3 weeks.

    Other Hits of 1958

    Rave On - Buddy Holly and The Crickets (right)
    One would expect a classic 50s rock'n'roll song like this to have been around the top of the charts on its release in 1958, however this was not the case as rock was not yet the dominant musical force that it became in the 60s. Records by the pioneers of rock'n'roll - Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly - sold in relatively small numbers, as their appeal was mainly among the youth of the day, who had little money to spend on records. The buying public was still predominantly the parents of Baby Boomers whose tastes in music where quite conservative. Thus, such Buddy Holly classics as "Rave On", "It's So Easy" and "Maybe Baby", received limited airplay on their release, and were not widely bought; it was up to local acts like Johnny O'Keefe to record cover versions and introduce Australian audiences to the world of rock'n'roll through them. "Rave On" was written by Sonny West, Bill Tilghman and Norman Petty and recorded in January 1958 at Petty's New Mexico studio where Holly laid down most of his hits. Petty wanted to give it to another act, but Holly protested and persuaded the songwriters to let him record it. Hear the song online

    Chantilly Lace - The Big Bopper (right)
    The Big Bopper (real name Jiles Perry Richardson Jr.) was a disc jockey with the capability to be much more. With a big voice, bigger personality and a gift for song writing, he was on track for a full career in music before it was cut short during in February 1959 when he died in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. In May 1957, he played 1,821 rock'n'roll records back to back on the radio during a marathon show lasting five days, two hours and eight minutes; he beat the old record for continuous broadcasting by eight minutes. Away from the radio he played guitar and began to write songs in earnest (including "Running Bear", as recorded by Johnny Preston), a serious career in recording wasn't however considered until he was discovered by Harold Pappy Daily. In the US, "Chantilly Lace" became the third most played song in 1958 and reached No.16 in the US charts; the big time beckoned. To support the song, and his singing career, the Big Bopper took some time out and joined Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Dion on a tour of the US. He was never to return, leaving just one hit as an indication of what might have been. Hear the song online

    It's So Easy - Buddy Holly & The Crickets
    Written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty (Holly's producer and manager) and recorded at Petty Studios in Clovis, New Mexico in June-August, 1958. This was the last single Holly recorded with The Crickets. In the last few months of his life, he moved to New York and began recording with more elaborate production techniques, including string sections. Holly was known for his innovative guitar riffs, but he didn't play lead on this one. A session guitarist named Tommy Allsup did. Allsup played in Holly's band on his last tour. Many of Holly's fans consider this one of his best songs, but it was never released as a single. Linda Ronstadt had a hit with this in 1977. Her version went to No.5 in the US. Hear the song online

    All I Have To Do Is Dream - The Everly Brothers (right)
    Written by the legendary husband and wife songwriting team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant and published in 1958, the best-known version was recorded by The Everly Brothers and originally appeared on the album, Everly Brothers Best. The first version they recorded was laid down in just two takes on 6th March 1958. The record is the only one to be at No.1 on all of Billboard's singles charts simultaneously, on 2nd June 1958. Another well known version was released by Richard Chamberlain on his album, Richard Chamberlain Sings. This version became a hit when released as a single in 1963. In France, this song was sung in 1963 by yé-yé singer Sheila. The French title is "Pendant les vacances." See the video online

    At The Hop - Danny & the Juniors
    A slightly disguised 12-bar blues celebration of popular dance styles, it was released in late 1957. It would go all the way to No.1 on 6th January 1958, to become one of the top-selling singles of 1958. It was written by Arthur Singer, John Medora and David White. The song describes the scene at a record hop, particularly the dances being performed and the interaction with the disc jockey host. "At The Hop" was performed at Woodstock by Sha-Na-Na in August 1969, and was included on the Woodstock album. View the video online

    Who's Sorry Now? - Connie Francis (right)
    With music by Ted Snyder and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, this song was first published in 1923. It was featured in The Marx Brothers' movie, A Night In Casablanca. The song enjoyed a big revival in 1958, courtesy of Connie Francis, and since then the song has become generally associated with her due to the worldwide popularity of her version: it reached No.4 on the Billboard charts in the U.S. and earned a gold record for sales of one million copies, and spent six weeks at No.1 in the U.K. The song was her ninth single - the first was "Freddy" in 1955 - and it shot her to fame and international stardom. Connie Stevens (born born Concetta Rosalie Anna Ingoglia) was one of popular music's most popular female artists of the pre-Beatles era. View the video online

    Chanson D'Amour - The Fontane Sisters
    A  popular song written by Wayne Shanklin, two competing versions of the song became popular in 1958. One was by Art and Dotty Todd. The other was by The Fontane Sisters. Both became popular in April of that year though it was the latter one which sold the most copies in Australia. In 1966, the song experienced a resurgence in popularity when it was released as a single by The Lettermen. This version became an adult contemporary hit in the United States. "Chanson D'Amour" became a massive hit in Europe for the retro styled jazz vocal group Manhattan Transfer whose cover was produced by Richard Perry. It spent three weeks at No.1 on the UK Singles Chart in March 1977. Hear the song online

    Fever - Peggy Lee (right)
    "Fever" is a song credited to Eddie Cooley and John Davenport (a pseudonym for Otis Blackwell). The song was a rhythm and blues hit for Little Willie John that crossed over and became a pop standard after being transformed, with additional lyrics, by Peggy Lee. It was published in 1956 and originally recorded by Little Willie John, making the popular charts as an early rock'n'roll song. In 1958, Peggy Lee's cover version was even more popular and was the only version that made the hit charts in Australia. It became a signature song for her and has been covered by over 150 recording artists. View the video online

    Get A Job - The Silhouettes
    "Get A Job" is one of the best known doo-wop songs of the 1950s. First recorded by The Silhouettes in October 1957, the song reached the No.1 spot on the US Billboard pop and R&B singles charts in February 1958. "When I was in the service in the early 1950s and didn't come home and go to work my mother said "Get A Job" and basically that's where the song came from" said tenor Richard Lewis, who wrote the lyrics. The four members of The Silhouettes shared the credit, jointly creating the "sha na na" and "dip dip dip dip" hooks later imitated by other doo-wop groups. The Silhouettes performed the song several times on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in early 1958. The song was later featured on the soundtracks of the movies American Graffiti, Stand By Me and Joey (in which The Silhouettes also performed it). The revival group Sha Na Na derived their name from this song's catchy lyric. View the video online

    It's Only Make Believe - Conway Twitty
    Written by Jack Nance and Conway Twitty (born Harold Lloyd Jenkins), this song was first released as a single by Twitty in 1958. The single performed well, topping both U.S. and British national charts, and to date it remains Twitty's only No.1 single on the pop charts of either country. Many artists have remade this song. Notable cover versions include: Billy Fury had a hit with his version in the United Kingdom in 1964. Also in 1964, The Hollies released a version for their album Stay With The Hollies. Glen Campbell's 1970 remake became a worldwide top ten hit. View the video online

    Tequila - The Champs
    This recording launched the surf instrumental phenomena that lasted well into the 1960s. The title of the song constitutes the entire lyrics and is said only three times. It went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "Tequila" is popular amongst fans of the golden age of rock and roll, but the band was a one-hit wonder. In 1957, Gene Autry's record label, Challenge Records, signed Dave Burgess (born 1934), a rockabilly singer-songwriter from California who often recorded under the name "Dave Dupree." At the end of 1957, having produced no hits, Challenge Records looked to Burgess, who organized a recording session on 23rd December in Hollywood, primarily to record "Train to Nowhere," a song by Burgess, as well as "Night Beat" and "All Night Rock." The last song recorded was "Tequila," essentially just a jam by the Flores Trio. There were three takes, and Daniel Flores (who died 19th September 2006) was the man who actually sang the word "Tequila!" The song served as the B-side for "Train to Nowhere," which was released by Challenge Records on January 15, 1958. Duvall recalls that the record initially found little success, but, after a DJ in Cleveland played the B-side, "Tequila" skyrocketed up the charts, reaching No.1 in March 1958. Daniel Flores had written "Tequila," but, because he was signed to another label, the song was credited to "Chuck Rio," a name he adopted for the stage. Those present for the 23rd December session began recording together under the name The Champs; the group technically formed after recording its most famous song. The song has been noted to have the same sound and structure of Bo Diddley's 1958 release 'Dearest Darling'. Hear the song online

    Yakety Yack - The Coasters (right)
    "Yakety Yak" was written, produced, and arranged by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for The Coasters and released on Atlantic Records in 1958. This song was one of a string of singles released by The Coasters between 1957 and 1959 that dominated the charts, one of the biggest performing acts of the rock and roll era. "Yakety Yak" is a playlet, a word Stoller used for the glimpses into teenage life that characterized the songs Lieber and Stoller wrote and produced. The lyrics describe the listing of household chores to a kid, presumably a teenager, the teenage's response (yakety yak) and the parent's retort (don't talk back), an experience very familiar to a white teenager of the day. Leiber has said the Coasters' portrayed "a white kid's view of a black person's conception of white society." The serio-comic street-smart "playlets" etched out by the songwriters were sung by the Coasters with sly clowning humor. Beneath the humor their songs often made incisive points about American culture, largely by lampooning racial stereotypes. An answer record was released by Gloria Gunter in 1959 called "Move On Out." Hear the song online

    Chipmunk Song - The Chipmunks with David Seville
    The Chipmunks are a fictional musical group, created by Ross Bagdasarian in 1958. The group consisted of three singing chipmunks: Alvin, Simon and Theodore. The trio was "managed" by their human "father" and confidant, David Seville. In reality, David Seville was Ross Bagdasarian's stage name, and the Chipmunks themselves are named after the executives of their original record label, Liberty Records: Alvin Bennett (the president), Simon Waronker (the founder and owner), and Theodore Keep (the chief engineer). Audiences often assume the characters started as cartoons and branched out into music, but that is the opposite of how they began. After first being brought to life in Bagdasarian's 1950s novelty recordings under the name David Seville and the Chipmunks, the characters were an unprecedented success, and the singing Chipmunks and their manager were given life in several animated cartoon series and motion pictures. The voices of the group were all performed by Bagdasarian, who sped up the playback to create the higher pitched, squeaky voices. Bagdasarian had used it for a previous novelty song project, "The Witch Doctor", but it was so unusual and well executed it earned the "trio" two Grammy Awards for engineering. Although the characters were fictional, they did release a long line of "real" albums and singles, with "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" becoming a No.1 hit single in the US. After his death in 1972, the voices of the Chipmunks were subsequently recorded by his son, Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., and his wife, Janice Karman, in all subsequent incarnations to date. View the video online

    Come On Let's Go - Ritchie Valens (right)
    in the autumn of 1958, Valens quit high school to concentrate on his career. Keane booked appearances at venues all across the US and performances on television programs. Valens, however, had a fear of flying brought on by a freak accident at his Pacoima Junior High School when two airplanes collided over the playground, killing or injuring several of his friends. The planes were a cargo plane and a military jet. The Cargo plane landed in the junior high playing field, and the military jet landed in the mountains east of there. Valens eventually succeeded in overcoming his fear a few months before he died in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. "Come On Let's Go" was the last song Valens recorded. Hear the song online

    Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley
    "Jailhouse Rock", written by Leiber and Stoller for the movie of the same name, was an early hit for Elvis Presley. It was released late in 1957 and made No.1 early in 1958. Composer Mike Stoller can be seen playing piano in the film presentation of the song. The song as sung by Presley is No.67 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Elvis joined the army shortly after the single was released. January 2005 marked what would have been Elvis Presley's 70th birthday. In commemoration, Elvis' record label re-released this single in the UK where it went straight to No.1, making it the oldest recording ever to top the UK charts. It also became the third single to hit No.1 twice in the UK, along with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "My Sweet Lord," both of which were also posthumous re-releases. In 1950s America, "rocking and rolling" was a slang expression used by African Americans for having sex, so the lyrics of this song were a sly reference to prison sex. The meaning was sufficiently veiled so as to not create a controversy at the time, however those who bothered to examine them closely were shocked by the homosexual implications of the line, "Number 47 said to number 3, You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see," given that all American prisons have either all-male or all-female inmates, not to mention the advice given to "Sad Sack" to use a wooden chair if he couldn't find a partner. These may be references to the fact that men have sex and rape other male inmates routinely in gaol, and the wardens turn a blind eye to such activities. View the video online

    Johnny B.Goode - Chuck Berry (right)
    Chuck Berry (born Charles Edward Anderson Berry) wrote the piece in 1955 and released it in 1958. It is a rock and roll telling of the American dream - a poor country boy becoming a star by hard work and his skill at playing the guitar. Although partly autobiographical, the inspiration for the song is said to have been Johnnie Johnson who played the piano and composed several songs with Berry, and is considered a major contributor to the unmistakable Berry sound. On earlier unreleased takes Chuck sang "colored boy" instead of "country boy", but it was changed for fear of it not being played on the radio. In reference to the boy's name, Berry was also born on Goode Avenue in St. Louis. Berry later wrote a sequel song called "Bye Bye Johnny". His instrumental "Concerto in B. Goode" is an extended instrumental exploration of "the Chuck Berry style" by its master and inventor. Berry's recording of the song was included on the Voyager Golden Record, attached to the Voyager spacecraft as representing rock and roll among other cultural achievements of humanity. In March 2005, Q magazine placed "Johnny B. Goode" at No.42 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Rolling Stone ranked it as the seventh greatest song ever on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. View the video online

    Move It - Cliff Richard and The Shadows
    This song is recognised by many critics as the first genuine British classic rock record. It was written by Cliff Richard's friend Ian Samwell, who was a guitarist with Richard's backing band The Drifters (later The Shadows). He wrote it while riding on a No. 715 London bus on the way to Cliff's house in Cheshunt for a rehearsal. The song is an attack on those who saw rock'n'roll as just a fad, and asked what they hoped to replace it with. When it came to recording the song, the song's producer Norrie Paramor had little faith in The Drifters (who at that time did not include Hank Marvin), so he brought in Ernie Shears to provide backing on lead guitar and his electrifying riffing greatly enhanced the record. This song was selected as the B-side to the less than inspiring "Schoolboy Crush," a cover of a Bobby Helms song. However when the producer Jack Good heard it, he insisted that if Cliff Richard was to appear on his TV show, Oh Boy, he would have to sing "Move It." The record climbed to No.2 in the charts, but was unable to dislodge Connie Francis' "Stupid Cupid" from the top spot. However its success made many see Cliff Richard (born Harry Rodger Webb) as the British answer to Elvis Presley and for a time he adopted a rock n' roller image. View the video online

    The Purple People Eater - Sheb Wooley (right)
    Shelby F. "Sheb" Wooley was a character actor and singer, best known for his 1958 novelty hit "Purple People Eater". This bouncy, happy song is very much a reflection of its time and genre, reflecting both the simple early rock'n'roll that was hugely popular and the public fascination with flying saucers and aliens. The rather silly lyrics tell how a strange monster (described as a "one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater") descends to earth because it wants to be in a rock 'n' roll band. One eternal question about the song is caused by an ambiguity in the English language: is the eponymous creature a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple creature that eats people, a creature that eats one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people, or somewhere in between?  The purple people eater reappeared in "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor," sung by Joe South, also released in 1958; it was also released as sung by The Big Bopper on the B-side of at least one version of the "Chantilly Lace" single. Alas, lightning only struck once, and the sequel was a flop. View the video online

    Rawhide - Frankie Laine
    The lyrics of the theme song from the westen TV show Rawhide were written by Ned Washington in 1958. It was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. Rawhide ran from 1959 to 1966.  It starred Eric Fleming and launched the career of Clint Eastwood. Lyrics written by Ned Washington - composed by Dimitri Tiomkin - accompanied by the art of Nelson Boren and Virgil Stephens. Hear the song online

    Scarlet Ribbons - The Kingston Trio
    Written by Jack Segal and Evelyn Danzil in 1949, this song is about a father searching the town for a ribbon for his daughter's hair. In the song, a father hears his daughter praying for a ribbon, searches for one, can't find any, comes home and sees a ribbon laying on her bed. A number of versions of the song were released in 1958; one by The Browns was the first, another by The Kingston Trio was the biggest seller. The song has been also been recorded by The Browns, The Brothers Four, Eddy Arnold, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Perry Como, Harry Belafonte, Jo Stafford, Dinah Shore, Patti Page, Jimmie Rodgers, Kate Smith, Joan Baez, Wayne Newton, Danny Thomas, Billy Joe Royal, Slim Whitman, Burl Ives, Roger Whitaker, The Chad Mitchell Trio, and Sinead O'Connor. Hear the song online

    Stupid Cupid - Connie Francis (right)
    Connie Francis specialised in downbeat ballads delivered in her trademark "sobbing" style - such as "My Happiness", "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry", "Among My Souvenirs", "Together", "Breakin' In a Brand New Broken Heart", and the Italian song "Mama" - many of which were remakes of old standards. However, she also had success with a handful of more upbeat, rock-and-roll-oriented compositions, such as "Stupid Cupid", "Lipstick On Your Collar", and "Vacation". Neil Sedaka, who had co-written "Stupid Cupid" with Howard Greenfield, played the piano at the recording session. The song was an international best seller and gave Sedaka his first taste of success as a songwriter. By late 1958, Neil was under contract to publishers Al Nevins and Don Kirshner as a songwriter at the now famous Brill Building in New York. It bristled with such talents as Neil Diamond, Carol King and Paul Simon. Hear the song online

    Sweet Little Sixteen - Chuck Berry
    This Chuck Berry classic was inspired by a teenage autograph-seeker on a package tour. The girl was insistent upon getting the autograph of each headliner on the tour. The song's melody is the same as the Beach Boys' hit "Surfin' USA". The Beach Boys claim they naively borrowed Berry's tune for their hit in order to give tribute to the creator of Rock'n'Roll, not realising it was a breach of copyright and would get them into legal trouble. Berry got composing credit in the mid-'70s as a result of a plagiarism lawsuit. Peaking at No.2 in the US, it was Berry's biggest selling single until "My Ding-a-Ling" was a surprise No.1 hit in 1972. Bobby Rydell's "Kissin' Time" also borrowed heavily from the melody of "Sweet Little Sixteen". Cameo-Parkway's Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann gave no songwriting credit to Chuck Berry, and luckily escaped from a lawsuit.  View the video online

    Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In) - Cowboy Church Sunday School
    In 1949, Country and western singer/songwriter, radio star and movie actor Stuart Hamblen became a born-again Christian after attending a Billy Graham gospel crusade meeting. He soon gave up his secular radio and film career to enter Christian broadcasting with his radio show, "The Cowboy church of the Air," which ran from 1938-52. In 1955 he had a hit single along with his family under the name "Cowboy Church Sunday School." With wife Suzy, daughters Veeva Suzanne and Obee Jane (Lisa), and two of the girls' friends, they recorded the song "Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In)", which Hamblin had written, and released it as a single. The song was recorded at the 33rpm speed so that it sounds like children singing when played at the normal 7" single speed of 45rpm. The tune hit No.8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1955. It was first released in Australia in 1958, "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine in". The song was performed on an episode of the television cartoon series The Flintstones in the mid-1960s and sung by characters Pebbles and Bamm Bamm. Hear the song online | Pebbles & Bamm Bamm

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