Tag Archives: Rhythm and Blues

66. Blue Monday – Fats Domino – 1956

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Blue Monday” is a song originally written by Dave Bartholomew, and first recorded by Smiley Lewis in 1954.

It was later popularized in a recording by Fats Domino in 1956, on Imperial Records (catalog # 5417), on which the songwriting credit was shared between Bartholomew and Domino. Most later versions have credited Bartholomew and Domino as co-writers. Fats Domino’s version was featured in the 1956 film The Girl Can’t Help It. It was included on the 1957 album This Is Fats and the 1959 album Fats Domino sings 12,000,000 Records.

Trivia

  • Although many musicians have recorded Bartholomew’s songs, his partnership with Fats Domino produced some of his greatest successes. In the mid 1950s they wrote more than forty hits for Imperial Records, including two songs that reached Number One on the Billboard R&B chart “Goin’ Home” and “Ain’t That a Shame“.
  • Domino finally crossed into the pop mainstream with “Ain’t That A Shame” (1955), which hit the Top Ten, though Pat Boone characteristically hit No. 1 with a milder cover of the song that received wider radio airplay in a racially-segregated era.
  • Domino appeared in two films released in 1956: Shake, Rattle & Rock! and The Girl Can’t Help It.
  • Blue Monday became one of the earliest rhythm and blues songs to make the Billboard magazine pop music charts, peaking at number five and reaching the number one spot on the R&B Best Sellers chart.
  • McCartney reportedly wrote the Beatles song “Lady Madonna” in emulation of Domino’s style.
  • Domino did manage to return to the “Hot 100” charts one final time in 1968—with his own recording of “Lady Madonna”.
  • By the end of his career, Domino was credited with more charted rock hits than any other classic rock artist except for Elvis Presley.
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65. I’m a Man- Bo Diddley – 1955

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I’m a Man” is a rock and roll song written and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1955. A moderately slow blues with a stop-time figure, it was inspired by an earlier blues song and became a number one U.S. R&B chart hit. “I’m a Man” has been recorded by a variety of artists, including The Yardbirds who had a number seventeen pop hit in the U.S. in 1965.

“I’m a Man” was released as the B-side of “Bo Diddley“, his first single in April 1955. The single became a two-sided hit and reached number 1 in the Billboard R&B chart. “I’m a Man” was inspired by Muddy Waters‘ 1954 song “Hoochie Coochie Man“, written by Willie Dixon. After Diddley’s release, Waters recorded an “answer song” to “I’m a Man” in May 1955, titled “Mannish Boy“, a play on words on Bo Diddley’s younger age as it related to the primary theme of the song.

Trivia

61. Tutti Frutti – Little Richard – 1955

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“Tutti Frutti” (means “All Fruits” in Italian) is a song co-written by Little Richard, which was recorded in 1955 and became his first major hit record. With its opening cry of “A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!” (a verbal rendition of a drum pattern that Little Richard had imagined) and its hard-driving sound and wild lyrics, it became not only a model for many future Little Richard songs, but also a model for rock and roll itself.

In 2007, an eclectic panel of renowned recording artists voted “Tutti Frutti” number 1 on Mojo‘s The Top 100 Records That Changed The World, hailing the recording as “the sound of the birth of rock and roll.” In 2010, the US Library of Congress National Recording Registry added the recording to its registry, claiming the “unique vocalizing over the irresistible beat announced a new era in music”. In April 2012, Rolling Stone magazine declared that the song “still contains what has to be considered the most inspired rock lyric ever recorded: “”A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!”

Trivia

  • The original lyrics, “Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy”, were replaced with “Tutti Frutti, aw rooty! Tutti Frutti, aw rooty”.
  • The record entered the Billboard Rhythm and Blues chart at the end of November 1955, and rose to # 2 early in 1956. It also reached # 17 on the Billboard pop chart.
  • After Pat Boone‘s success with “Ain’t That a Shame“, his next single was “Tutti Frutti”, markedly toned down from the already reworked Blackwell version. Boone’s version made no. 12 on the national pop chart, with Little Richard’s trailing behind only reaching no. 17.
  • Little Richard admitted that though Pat Boone “took [his] music”, Boone made it more popular due to his high status in the white music industry.
  • “They didn’t want me to be in the white guys’ way … I felt I was pushed into a rhythm and blues corner to keep out of rockers’ way, because that’s where the money is. When ‘Tutti Frutti’ came out … They needed a rock star to block me out of white homes because I was a hero to white kids. The white kids would have Pat Boone upon the dresser and me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better, but the families didn’t want me because of the image that I was projecting.” – Little Richard.

57. Shake, Rattle and Roll – Big Joe Turner & His Blues Kings – 1954

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Shake, Rattle and Roll” is a twelve bar blues-form rock and roll song, written in 1954 by Jesse Stone under his assumed songwriting name Charles E. Calhoun. It was originally recorded by Big Joe Turner, and most successfully by Bill Haley & His Comets. The song as sung by Big Joe Turner is ranked #126 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In early 1954, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records suggested to Stone that he write an up-tempo blues for Big Joe Turner, a blues shouter whose career had begun in Kansas City before World War II. Stone played around with various phrases before coming up with “shake, rattle and roll”.

Trivia

  • The phrase had been used in earlier songs. In 1919, Al Bernard recorded a song about gambling with dice with the same title, clearly evoking the action of shooting dice from a cup. The phrase is also heard in “Roll The Bones” by the Excelsior Quartette in 1922.
  • Turner’s version was recorded in New York on February 15, 1954. The shouting chorus on his version consisted of Jesse Stone, and record label executives Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegün. The saxophone solo was by Sam “The Man” Taylor.
  • Turner’s recording was released in April 1954, reached #1 on the US Billboard R&B chart on June 12, did not move for three weeks, and peaked at #22, nearly at the same time, on the Billboard pop chart.
  • The song, in its original incarnation, is highly sexual. Perhaps its most salacious lyric, which was absent from the later Bill Haley rendition, is “I’ve been holdin’ it in, way down underneath / You make me roll my eyes, baby, make me grit my teeth”. [It may actually be “Over the hill, way down underneath.] On the recording, Turner slurred the lyric “holdin’ it in”, since this line may have been considered too risqué for publication.
  • The chorus uses “shake, rattle and roll” to refer to boisterous intercourse, in the same way that the words “rock and roll” were first used by numerous rhythm and blues singers, starting with Trixie Smith‘s “My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)” in 1922, and continuing on prominently through the 1940s and 1950s.
  • Stone stated that the line about “a one-eyed cat peepin’ in a seafood store” was suggested to him by Atlantic session drummer Sam “Baby” Lovett; also a sly sexual reference.

43. How High the Moon – Les Paul and Mary Ford – 1951

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How High the Moon” is a jazz standard with lyrics by Nancy Hamilton and music by Morgan Lewis. It was first featured in the 1940 Broadway revue Two for the Show, where it was sung by Alfred Drake and Frances Comstock.

In Two for the Show, this was a rare serious moment in an otherwise humorous revue.

The best-known recording of the song is by Les Paul and Mary Ford, made on January 4, 1951. The record was released by Capitol Records as catalog number 1451, with the flip side “Walkin’ and Whistlin’ Blues”, and spent 25 weeks (beginning on March 23, 1951) on the Billboard chart, 9 weeks at #1. The record was subsequently re-released by Capitol as catalog number 1675, with “Josephine” on the B-side.

Trivia

  • The earliest recorded hit version was by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra. It was recorded on February 7, 1940, and released by Columbia Records as catalog number 35391, with the flip side “Fable of the Rose”.
  • The Les Paul Trio recorded a version released as V-Disc 540B with a spoken introduction which was issued in November, 1945 by the U.S. War Department.
  • The song was sung in various recordings by Ella Fitzgerald, becoming (with the Gershwin‘s “Oh, Lady Be Good!“) Ella’s signature tune. She first performed the song at Carnegie Hall on September 29, 1947. Her first recording, backed by the Daydreamers, was recorded December 20, 1947, and released by Decca Records as catalog number 24387, with the flip side “You Turned the Tables on Me”.
  • Les Paul met country-western singer Iris Colleen Summers in 1945. They began working together in 1948, at which time she adopted the stage name Mary Ford. They were married in 1949.
  • He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible.
  • He is credited with many recording innovations. Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.
  • This song features Ford harmonizing with herself.
  • Read way more about Les Paul here.

41. Rocket 88 – Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats – 1951

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Rocket 88” (originally written as Rocket “88”) is a rhythm and blues song that was first recorded at Sam Phillips‘ recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 March or 5 March 1951 (accounts differ). The recording was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, who were actually Ike Turner‘s Kings of Rhythm.

The record reached no.1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Many experts acknowledge its importance in the development of rock and roll music, with some claiming it as the first rock and roll record.

Trivia

  • The band did not actually exist and the song was put together by the then 19 year-old Ike Turner and his band in rehearsals at the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and recorded by Turner’s Kings of Rhythm.
  • Brenston, who was a saxophonist with Turner, also sang the vocal on “Rocket 88”, a hymn of praise to the joys of the Oldsmobile “Rocket 88” automobile, which had recently been introduced.
  • The song was based on the 1947 song “Cadillac Boogie” by Jimmy Liggins.
  • Drawing on the template of jump blues and swing combo music, Turner made the style even rawer, superimposing Brenston’s enthusiastic vocals, his own piano, and tenor saxophone solos by 17-year-old Raymond Hill (later to be the father of Tina Turner‘s first child, before she married Ike).
  • The song also features one of the first examples of distortion, or fuzz guitar, as well as feedback ever recorded, played by the band’s guitarist Willie Kizart.
  • The legend of how the sound came about says that Kizart’s amplifier was damaged on Highway 61 when the band was driving from Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. An attempt was made to hold the cone in place by stuffing the amplifier with wadded newspapers, which unintentionally created a distorted sound; Phillips liked the sound and used it.

28. (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 – The Nat King Cole Trio – 1946

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(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66“, often rendered simply as “Route 66“, is a popular song and rhythm and blues standard, composed in 1946 by American songwriter Bobby Troup. It was first recorded in the same year by Nat King Cole, and was subsequently covered by many artists including Chuck Berry in 1961, The Rolling Stones in 1964, Depeche Mode in 1987, Pappo’s Blues in 1995, John Mayer in 2006, and Glenn Frey in 2012. The song’s lyrics follow the path of the U.S. Route 66 highway, which used to run a long distance across the U.S., going from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California.

Trivia

  • Troup conceived the idea for the song while driving west from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, California, and the lyrics—which include references to the U.S. Highway of the title and many of the cities it passes through—celebrate the romance and freedom of automobile travel.
  • In an interview he once said the tune for the song, as well as the lyric “Get your kicks on Route 66,” came to him easily, but the remainder of the lyrics eluded him. More in frustration than anything else he simply filled up the song with the names of towns and cities on the highway.
  • “Route 66” was first recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole, whose rendition became a hit on both the U.S. R&B and pop record charts. Cole would later re-record the tune in 1956 (on the album After Midnight) and 1961 (on the album The Nat King Cole Story).
  • Legend was that Cole’s singing career did not start until a drunken barroom patron demanded that he sing “Sweet Lorraine”. Cole, in fact, has gone on record saying that the fabricated story “sounded good, so I just let it ride”.
  • In 1946, the Cole trio paid to have their own 15-minute radio program on the air. It was called, “King Cole Trio Time.” It became the first radio program sponsored by a black performing artist. During those years, the trio recorded many “transcription” recordings, which were recordings made in the radio studio for the broadcast. Later they were used for commercial records.
  • Essex-born English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg also recorded an “anglicised” version of the song called “A13 (Trunk Road to the Sea)” for a John Peel session. In the song—strummed and sung to the same tune as the original—the landmark cities are replaced with English ones along the route of the A13, with Bragg inviting listeners to “Go motoring, on the A-thirteen”.