Tag Archives: doo-wop

62. Only You (and You Alone) – The Platters – 1955

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WikipediaOnly You (And You Alone)” (often shortened to “Only You“) is a pop song composed by Buck Ram. It was recorded most successfully by The Platters, with lead vocals by Tony Williams, in 1955. The first recording of the song on Federal Records, also by Williams and The Platters, turned out poorly in 1954, but after a re-recording, the song scored a major hit when it was released on July 3, 1955. Platters bass singer Herb Reed later recalled how the group hit upon its successful version: “We tried it so many times, and it was terrible. One time we were rehearsing in the car… and the car jerked. Tony went ‘O-oHHHH-nly you.’ We laughed at first, but when he sang that song — that was the sign we had hit on something.” The song held strong in the number-one position on the U.S. R & B charts for seven weeks, and hit number five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It remained there for 30 weeks, beating out a rival cover version by a white band called The Hilltoppers. When the Platters track, “The Great Pretender” (which eventually surpassed the success of “Only You”), was released in the UK as Europe’s first introduction to The Platters, “Only You” was included on the flipside. In the 1956 film Rock Around the Clock, The Platters participated with both songs “Only You” and “The Great Pretender”.

Trivia

  • The Platters were the first rock and roll group to have a Top Ten album in America.
  • In 1974, Ringo Starr covered this song (b/w “Call Me”) for his album Goodnight Vienna at the suggestion of John Lennon. This version was released as a single on 11 November in the US, and it became a number six hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached number one on the easy listening chart in early 1975.
  • The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1998.
  • Currently, there are four acts using variations of the name: The Buck Ram Platters, Herb Reed and His Platters, Monroe Powell and The Platters, and Sonny Turner (former lead singer of The Platters).

 

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55. The Wind – Nolan Strong & The Diablos – 1954

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The Wind” is a 1954 doo-wop classic by the pre-Motown Detroit R&B group Nolan Strong & The Diablos. The song appears originally on the group’s second 45rpm single, “The Wind / Baby Be Mine,” (Fortune Records #511)

The song has a unique, reverb-heavy sound and is centered around the high ethereal lead tenor voice of the band’s leader, Nolan Strong.

In 2007, The Metro Times listed “The Wind” at #11 in The 100 Greatest Detroit Songs list – which was the November 11th cover story.

“The Wind” was the group’s only national hit, though most of the group’s other hits were huge local successes in Detroit, including “Mind Over Matter” (Fortune #546, 1962), which went to #1 on local radio station play lists in 1962.

Trivia

53. Riot in Cell Block No. 9 – The Robins – 1954

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Riot In Cell Block #9” is a classic and pervasive R&B song composed by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The best known version is The Robins‘ song from 1954, which hit #1 in the R&B charts.

In this song, a man is serving his sentence in federal prison for armed robbery. At 4:00 AM on July 2, 1953, he wakes up to a rather alarming disturbance: a jail riot! It started in cell block #4 and continued through the prison hall from cell to cell. The jailhouse warden, armed with a gun, threatens to electrocute all the prisoners if the riot doesn’t stop soon, but one of them, Scarface Jones, retaliates by carrying dynamite. Forty-seven hours later, 3:00 AM on July 4, 1953, the prison security let loose tear gas on the inmates and they return to their cells.

Trivia

52. Crying in the Chapel – The Orioles – 1953

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Crying in the Chapel” is a song written by Artie Glenn for his son Darrell to sing. Darrell recorded it while still in high school in 1953, along with Artie’s band the Rhythm Riders. The song was rejected by Hill and Range Songs and Acuff-Rose Music. The song was eventually published by Valley Publishers which also released the single featuring Darrell Glenn. It became a local hit and then it went nationwide. He released the original version as a single as Valley 105 in 1953. The song became one of the most covered of 1953. Darrell Glenn’s original recording reached number one on the Cash Box charts where all the different versions were amalgamated and number six on Billboard.

Darrell Glenn’s original version also hit number six on the Billboard pop singles chart and number four on the Billboard country and western chart, Rex Allen‘s number eight, Ella Fitzgerald number 15, and Art Lund reached number 23.

The R&B group, The Orioles, recorded a cover version of the song which became a major success in 1953.

Trivia

  • The Orioles’ cover version went to number one on the R&B chart and number eleven on the pop chart.
  • It was included on the soundtrack album for the film American Graffiti.
  • Elvis Presley recorded a version of the song during the sessions for his RCA Records gospel album, His Hand in Mine. It was not included on that album, but rather was held back by RCA and finally released as an “Easter Special” single (447-0643) in April 1965, hitting number three on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and topping the Easy Listening chart for seven weeks, the greatest chart success for Presley over a six-year span.
  • In April, 1968, the vocal trio The Wailers, featuring Bob Marley on lead vocals and guitar, Rita Marley and Peter Tosh on harmony vocals backed by Rastafarian nyabinghi percussion group Ras Michael & the Sons of Negus recorded an adapted version of the song in Kingston, Jamaica. Its lyrics were adapted from the Orioles’ version by Rasta leader Mortimo Planno, who also produced and pressed the single entitled “Selassie Is the Chapel“, the first ever Rastafarian song recorded and released by Bob Marley.
  • The Orioles are generally acknowledged as R&B’s first vocal group. Baltimore natives, they blended rhythm with group harmonies. Dubbing themselves after Maryland’s state bird, the Orioles started the trend of bird groups (The Cardinals, The Crows, The Flamingos, The Larks, The Penguins, The Ravens, The Wrens, etc.).
  • The original five members of The Orioles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 as early influences.

50. Just Walkin’ in the Rain – The Prisonaires – 1953

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The Prisonaires

Just Walkin’ in the Rain” is a popular song. It was written in 1952 by Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley, two prisoners at Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, after a comment made by Bragg as the pair crossed the courtyard while it was raining. Bragg allegedly said, “Here we are just walking in the rain, and wondering what the girls are doing.” Riley suggested that this would make a good basis for a song, and within a few minutes, Bragg had composed two verses. However, because Bragg was unable to read and write, he asked Riley to write the lyrics down in exchange for being credited as one of the song’s writers.

Bragg and his band, the Prisonaires, later recorded the song for Sun Records and it became a hit on the R&B chart in 1953. However, the best-known version of the song was recorded by Johnnie Ray in 1956; it reached #2 on the US Billboard 100 and #1 on the UK Singles Chart.

Trivia

  • The group was led by Johnny Bragg, who had been a penitentiary inmate since 1943 when, at the age of 17, he was convicted of six charges of rape.
  • The Prisonaires were formed when Bragg joined up with two prison gospel singers, Ed Thurman and William Stewart (each of whom were doing 99 years for murder) and two new penitentiary arrivals, John Drue Jr. (three years for larceny) and Marcell Sanders (one-to-five for involuntary manslaughter).
  • The group was discovered by the radio producer Joe Calloway, who heard them singing while preparing a news broadcast from the prison. He arranged for the group to perform on the radio, a performance which was eventually brought to the attention of Sam Phillips of Sun Records.
  • He arranged for the group to be transported under armed guard to Memphis to record. A few weeks later, “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” was released and quickly sold 50,000 copies.
  • Their success was such that they were allowed out on day passes to tour throughout the state of Tennessee.
  • The group’s legacy was confirmed when “Just Walkin’ in the Rain”, written by Bragg, was recorded by Johnnie Ray.

20. Java Jive – The Inkspots – 1940

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No Wikipedia entry for the song
The Ink Spots

Long ago, before sex’n’drugs ruled rock’n’roll, The Ink Spots found time to sing in praise of the more innocent stimulation offered by the coffee jug.

The quartet first performed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1934. With their trademark ostinato guitar intros, and vocal harmonies as warm as a mug of steaming java, they rapidly became a crossover success with black and white radio listeners across America, even touring in the United Kingdom in the same year. They were to prove immensely influential on a host of famous R&B close harmony outfits, perhaps most famously The Platters.

The original lineup of Orville ‘Hoppy’ Jones, Ivory ‘Deek’ Watson, Jerry Daniels (replaced by tenor Bill Kenny), and Charlie Fuqua underwent many changes, and there was considerable animosity between ex-members. None of that turbulence can be heard in the group’s sweetly melodious recordings, however, which showcased what Melody Maker described as ‘beautifully balanced and exquisitely phrased vocalisms. ‘Java Jive’ a caffeine fad song written in 1940 and recorded by The Ink Spots in July of that year, is fittingly a little peppier than the band’s hypnotic lonesome-heart ballads. Its smart wordplay is couched in smooth harmonies and topped off with a playful vocal from Watson – who ironically had once performed in The Percolating Puppies; their ‘instruments’ had included coffee pots.

Trivia

  • The Ink Spots’ music led to the rhythm and blues and rock and roll musical genres, and the subgenre doo-wop.
  • The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
  • Since the Ink Spots disbanded in 1954, there have been well over 100 vocal groups calling themselves “the Ink Spots” without any right to the name, and without any original members of the group. These groups often have claimed to be “2nd generation” or “3rd generation” Ink Spots. Many such groups are still touring today.
  • Songs by the Ink Spots have been featured heavily in the popular video game franchise Fallout.
  • BioShock and BioShock 2 also made use of the group’s songs — “If I Didn’t Care” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free” in the former, and “We Three (My Echo, My Shadow and Me)” and “I’m Making Believe” in the latter.
  • Still others were included on the in-game radio stations in L.A. Noire. The inclusion of The Ink Spots’ songs in Fallout and other games has sparked a renewed interest in The Ink Spots’ work among newer generations in recent years.