by Robert Seoane

THE DIAMONDS – BUDDY KNOX – MICKEY & SILVIA – THE DEL-VIKINGS – THE RAYS – THE BOBBETTES – LAVERN BAKER – LARRY WILLIAMS – LLOYD PRICE – EDDIE COCHRAN – JERRY LEE LEWIS – THE EVERLY BROTHERS

Insignificant events occurred throughout 1957 where its the impact would not be felt until years later. The Cavern Club, home to The Beatles in Liverpool in the early 60s opened their doors in 1957. Meanwhile over the summer, a boy named John meets a boy named Paul and they soon decide to form a band together. A show called American Bandstand debuts on ABC in the fall and showcases the weekly Music Top Ten every day, bringing rock ‘n’ roll into America’s living room like an exciting new friend of the kids.

By the end of the year however, Rock ‘n’ Roll was already being tamed. With Elvis just a few weeks from entering the Army and  “The Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Alan Freed out of the picture on the grounds of accepting payola.  The American Establishment got a little help from across the pond when the UK announced Jerry Lee Lewis’ marriage to his thirteen year old cousin in scandalous headlines, ending his career as it was just beginning. Slowly but surely, the strings were being pulled to nullify the rebellious power of the music by taming or going after them legally and through the press.

Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Ray Charles were still going strong but Little Richard was already beginning to wane, allowing his guilt for singing the Devil’s music and his “omni-sexual” tendencies to turn him towards a religious life.

The nation was in firm ground economically after its strong resurgence from World War II.  It was a period of celebration, discovery and new directions, none of this more markedly pointed out than with the joyful sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

LITTLE DARLIN’ – THE DIAMONDS

Classic One Hit Wonders abounded in 1957 and helped define the year nostalgically as one of innocence, fun and charm. There was “Little Darlin” by The Diamonds, a group of four well-dressed nerds in their father’s suits who sang doo-wop like the best of them. They tried to be funny on-stage,  acting self-consciously towards the way they sang, making fun of it instead of relishing in its own uniqueness.

“Oh, little darling, Oh-oh-oh where ar-are you, My love-a, I was wrong-a, To-oo try, To lo-ove two A-hoopa, a-hoopa, hoopa, Kno-ow well-a, That my love-a, Wa-as just fo-or you, Ooooonly yoooooooooooou..”

It may not read well but it sounds great.

PARTY DOLL – BUDDY KNOX

Straight out of Happy, Texas, Buddy Wayne Knox had his only Number One Hit, “Party Doll”, a song about a man’s need to have sex with girls who party. He had written the lyrics as a teenager in 1948 and recorded it years later with two college friends and his sister and her friends on background vocals in Norma Petty’s recording studio where Buddy Holly also recorded. After becoming a regional hit, a New York distributor contacted them about the song, ultimately landing it on the Billboard Number One spot nationally for one week.

“Every man has got to have a party doll, to be with him when he’s feelin’ wild, to be everlovin’, true and fair, to run her fingers through his hair… Come along and be my party doll… and I’ll make love to you, to you, I’ll make love to you…” Party Doll – Buddy Knox

Buddy Knox died in 1999 at age 65 of lung cancer.

COME GO WITH ME  – THE DEL-VIKINGS

The Del-Vikings were a doo-wop group made up of members from the Armed Forces. They also hold the distinction of being the first racially integrated rock ‘n’ roll group in history, comprised of four black men and one white man. Their name was a vague attempt to sound mysterious by adding “Del” to their original name, “The Vikings”. “Come Go With Me” written by Del-Vikings member Clarence Quick,  reached Number Four in the Billboard Pop Chart and sold a million copies, earning a gold disc. The doo-wop accompaniment is truly transcendent and has a sense of timelessness while still deeply rooted in its time. The saxophone solo in the middle of the song introduced an alternative to the electric guitar solo.

“Love, love me darlin’, come and go with me, please don’t send me, ‘way beyond the sea; I need you, darlin’, so come go with me.” Come Go With Me – Del-Vikings

LOVE IS STRANGE – MICKEY AND SILVIA

Mickey Baker was considered one of the best guitarists in his day, bridging R&B rhythms with rock ‘n’ roll much like his peers Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Silvia Vanderpool, who later married and became Silvia Robinson, was an entrepeneureal spirit, the first woman to be showcased playing an electric guitar, and who was instrumental in getting rap music off the ground in 1979 when she founded Sugar Hill Records and released the first rap song ever “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang.  Before that, she had also scored a Top Hit by herself in 1973 called “Pillow Talk”, a very sexy song that was considered too risqué for radio.

But in 1955, Mickey was a guitar teacher and Silvia was his student. By 1957, they were a duo with a national hit.

Although released in November of 1956, “Love Is Strange” peaked at No. on the Billboard Pop Charts and hit Number One on the Billboard R&B chart in mid-January of 1957, remaining in the Top 40 for the next three months and selling over a million records. An earlier version had been released the previous May by Bo Diddley, who claimed authorship to the song, having put his wife’s name, Ethel Smith, as a co-writer instead.

According to Mickey and Silvia, Bo Diddley and Billy Stewart had written a song called “Billy’s Blues” together. When Mickey & Silvia heard it, they changed the lyrics and came up with “Love Is Strange”.

There is a dispute over who wrote the lyrics, both Diddley and M&S claiming their own rights. But it was the Mickey & Silvia’s version that gained popularity and the airplay, It’s distinction that set it apart from Bo Diddley’s version was its spoken word middle.

“Sylvia!”…”Yes, Mickey,”…”How do you call your Lover Boy?”…”Come here, Lover Boy!”…”And if he doesn’t answer?”…”Oh, Lover Boy!”…”And if he still doesn’t answer?”… “I simply say…(sung) Baby/ Oh baby/ My sweet baby/ You’re the one.” – Love Is Strange Mickey & Silvia

“Love Is Strange” stayed a rock ‘n’ roll classic thanks to so many covers by other legendary country and rock artists such as Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Sonny & Cher, Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton as well as Paul & Linda McCartney. in their 1971 album soon after Paul had left The Beatles.

The song also received help when it was showcased in two films years later. The first one was in 1972 when the notorious pornographic movie “Deep Throat” featured “Love Is Strange” but with different lyrics. The song was re-released as a B-Side single to “Time Of My Life” By Mill Medley and Jennifer Warnes as both songs are featured in 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” with Patrick Swayze.

The film cemented the song’s reputation and it can still be heard in TV commercials and wafting out of speakers every now and then.

Silvia Robinson died in 2011 of congestive heart failure at age 75. Mickey Baker died at age 87 in 2012.

SILHOUETTES – THE RAYS

Not to be confused with the same song released as a single months later by The Diamonds of “Little Darlin’” fame, The Rays’ version remains the definitive version of a classic pop doo-wop ballad. It started when songwriter Bob Crewe casually looked out the window of the train he was travelling on and noticed as he passed someone’s home that a couple were there, embracing behind the windowshade. The single became popular through a stroke of good luck when a DJ in Philadelphia fell asleep through the playing of a stack of records. When the stack ended, the last song was “Silhouettes” and it played over and over as DJ Hy Lit snored. Soon it peaked at Number Three on Billboard’s National Pop Chart.

“Silhouettes” has been re-recorded over the years, including as a Number hit for Herman’s Hermits in 1965, updating it with a Sixties feel.

MR. LEE – THE BOBBETTES

The Bobbettes hold the distinction of being the first girl group in rock ‘n’ roll history. They paved the way for every subsequent girl group, from The Ronettes, The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas to The Supremes, right on up to Destiny’s Child.

First known as The Harlem Queens, The Bobbettes began as neighborhood friends singing in the hallways of their apartment building and the streets of their neighborhood. Finally discovered by record producer James Daily at an Apollo Theater amateur night show, they were soon signed to Atlantic Records. Their first song “Mr. Lee”, a bouncy, catchy rock ‘n’ roll pop song, was originally written as a put-down of a teacher, but Atlantic records convinced them to change the lyrics into a song about a teenage girl’s crush on her professor. The song became a hit and peaked at Number Six in the Billboard Pop chart and Number One in the R&B chart in 1957. That made them the first girl group to appear in both charts

After the success of “Mr. Lee”, The Bobbettes insisted they record the put down version of the song. “I Shot Mr. Lee” was recorded at Atlantic but the record company refused to release it. The song was shocking, especially for its time, when rock ‘n’ roll lyrics were usually about  dancing and falling in love, this song was about murder.

“I picked up my gun and I went to his door, now Mr. Lee can tell me no more, he hollered help, help, murder, police… Six, seven, eight, Mr. Lee had a date, nine, ten, eleven, now he’s up in heaven… shot him in the head, boom boom, uh oh…”  -“I Shot Mr. Lee” by The Bobbettes

The Bobbettes took the song to another record company and it was released by, ironically enough, Triple-X Records in 1950, where it went up to Number 52. Seeing that it charted, Atlantic records subsequently released their version of the song.

Both The Bobbettes and the song “Mr. Lee” were instrumental to the direction of rock ‘n’ roll, introducing the world of girl groups to the genre and pushing the envelope with lyrics that would rarely be sung in a pop song, until way towards the last decade of the twentieth century when Live Crew paved the way for being able to sing about anything, and rap artists like Eminem, composing songs with violent themes.

At the writing of this in 2014, only one member, Emma Pought, remains alive. The first member to have died was her sister Jenny Paught, at the hands of a stranger who stabbed her to death in New Jersey in 1980.

JIM DANDY – LAVERN BAKER

LaVern Baker had signed to Atlantic Records in 1953 and had several successful singles over the subsequent years. “Jim Dandy” however, released in late 1956 and charting to Number on the R&B chart and Number 17 on the Pop chart in early ’57, is a rock ‘n’ roll standard.  Remade by the country rock group Black Oak Arkansas in 1974, “Jim Dandy” easily crossed over genres and defined itself as a rock ‘n’ roll song for that feat.  LaVern Baker’s voice belted the song out with a powerful force. Black Oak Arkansas’ version required two singers, both of them with distinctive voices, the raspy sounding Jim “Dandy” Mangrum and the equally raspy Ruby Starr shared the vocal chops and brought the song up to another level, from an R&B tune to a hard rock song. Both versions do the song justice, making “Jim Dandy” one of the most influential songs in rock ‘n’ roll history.

LARRY WILLIAMS

Larry Williams has but been forgotten under the shadow of Little Richard’s phenomenal trend-setting success. In fact, many songs by Williams can easily be mistakenly attributed to Little Richard. His career began as soon as Little Richard decided to give up rock ‘n’ roll for a life in the ministry in 1957. Both good friends and co-artists for Specialty Records, Williams bid Little Richard well as Williams was selected by Specialty House Producer Robert Blackwell to ascend to the throne Little Richard was vacating.

SHORT FAT FANNIE

His second single after the uneventful and boring “High School Dance” stalled, “Short Fat Fannie” was also the first novelty rock ‘n’ roll song to include other famous rock ‘n’ roll song titles. He also sounded a lot like Little Richard.

“I was slippin’ and slidin’ with Long Tall Sally… She’s my tutti fruiti,I love the child so, she watch me like a hound dog everywhere I go, whenever I’m around her I’m on my p’s and q’s, she might step on my blue suede shoes…” “Short Fat Fannie” by Larry Williams<

“Short Fat Fannie” hit Number Five on the Billboard pop chart and Number One on the R&B chart. Various artists from Little Richard himself to Levon Helm of The Band (turning it from an R&B song to a rockin’ rockabilly number), The Beatles (in the film “Let It Be”) and many more artists have covered the song. John Lennon was a particularly avid fan of Larry Williams work, having recorded no less than three of his compositions as The Beatles.

BONY MARONIE

Williams’ next single “Bony Maronie” was released in 1958 and didn’t chart as well as “SFF”, reaching only to Number 14 in the Billboard Pop chart and Number Four in the R&B chart. Apparently listeners preferred fat fannies to Williams’ opposite, bony ones. But ”BM’s” effect on the future of rock ‘n’ roll music was in many ways more profound than “SFF”. Little Richard of course covered the song, seeing such similarities in musical style between him and Williams, and practically steals the song from Williams with his unique exuberance and energy.

Among other legendary artists, The Who has included it in its touring repertoire in the early 70s  and John Lennon recorded his own version of “Bony Maronie”, a more pedantic, crunching version,  in 1975 for his “Rock And Roll” album.

“Bony Maronie” holds the distinction of having been translated into Spanish and sung by various Latin artists over the decades. Renamed “Popotitos”, the Latin rock group Saru Giran made it popular to a new generation of Latin audiences in 1982, and was later also remade by Ricky Martin.

DIZZY MISS LIZZIE/SLOW DOWN

Mistaken for a Little Richard song for its distinct similarity to “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie”, also released in ’58, was made famous when The Beatles recorded it in 1965 for their “Help” album (released in America in “The Beatles VI”).

Paul McCartney regards it as one of their slickest productions to date. John Lennon was obviously such a Williams fan that he played and recorded it in 1969 when he performed with The Plastic Ono Band on stage in Canada and preserved the event in the “Live Peace In Toronto” album. The Plastic Ono Band was a “revolving door” of artists who would be enlisted by J&Y to play with them at any given moment This first incarnation of the band included besides John & Yoko, Eric Clapton on lead guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass and Alan White on drums. John played rhythm guitar and Yoko wailed and put a bag over herself.

Lennon also sings a rousing version of the B-side to “DML”, “Slow Down”.  of the Beatles’ recordings of Larry Williams songs were performed and sung with such exuberance by them as to even surpass the original recordings. Critics of The Beatles’ version do exist however, pointing out to a moment at :14 in the recording when the piano disappears for a few seconds, which if you’re not looking for you’ll miss, and the fact that George’s lead guitar solo does indeed feel a little aimless and searching for a groove that he never seems to quite find.

After that last dynamite single, Williams would not chart again in the Hot 100 for another nine years, and even then only making it to Number 96.

Larry Williams died of a gunshot wound to the head in 1980. Police called it a suicide although questions remain over the actual cause of his death.

LLOYD PRICE

Lloyd Price almost missed his opportunity for success because he was drafted and wound up fighting in Korea in 1954. Although he had already been recording before his tour of duty, his only hit had been his first recording “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” in 1952.

“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” features Fats Domino on piano, and his familiar “trilling” playing can be heard at the outset. Price wrote the song as a teenager when he worked at New Orleans radio station WBOK. The DJ he worked with used to say Lawdy Miss Clawdy before his on-air commercial pitches, and Price came up with a melody to accompany him. Soon, the melody itself became popular among the ‘Nawlins’ radio audience so he wrote the entire song. In 1952 he audtitioned for Art Rupe, founder of Specialty Records, the label that would later sign Little Richard and Larry Williams. The single was released in early 1952 and introduced the New Orleans Sound. It spent twenty-six weeks on Billboard’s R&B chart, including seven weeks at the Number One positions, but it never charted in the pop charts despite the fact that the single had sold more than a million records. It was an early pre-cursor to rock ‘n’ roll and it opened white teenagers’ ears to the new sound that in just a few years was going to be coming their way like a tsunami.

Fats Domino pointed out that the melody from “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” was taken from his own composition he released two years earlier in 1950 called “The Fat Man”, which in turn borrowed its melody from an old blues song called  “Junkers Blues”.

“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” is now considered one of the first rock ‘n’ roll songs ever recorded and set the pattern of the New Orleans style of rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis recorded his own version. So did Little Richard. Larry Williams got the inspiration for his “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” undoubtedly from the “LMC” title. Sixties rock artists were weaned on the song, including Eric Burdon with and without The Animals, The Hollies, Joe Cocker, Paul McCartney and The Beatles, who played their version of the song in their film “Let It Be”.

When Price came back from Korea in 1956, he found that Little Richard had replaced him in importance over at his label Specialty Records. To add insult to injury, his chauffer, Larry Williams had already begun to chart with the aforementioned “Short Fat Fannie”  and subsequent hits. This got Price eager to get back to work. He began his own record label and recorded “Just Because” which was picked up by ABC Records in 1957 and became his first pop chart hit.

John Lennon recorded “Just Because” in 1975 as the close to his rock ‘n’ roll album and incudes a tongue in cheek goodbye at the end of the song that foreshadowed Lennon’s five year old retirement from writing and recording until 1980 when he resurfaced with “Double Fantasy”.

Lloyd Price broke through the pop charts and hit Number One with his following single “Stagger Lee” a remake of an old 1923 folk song turned into a rocking tune about the murder of Billy Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton in 1895. Apparently Stag Shelton was a pimp and got into an argument with fellow underworld member Lyons in a saloon where Lyons wound up dead. Shelton was incarcerated in 1897 and his story became American folklore, with varying renditions being sung about calling “Stag” Lee Shelton everything from “StackoLee” to “Stagolee” to “Stagger Lee” among many other variations.

“Stagger Lee” reached Number One on the Pop and R&B charts in 1959 despite its violent lyrics. TV shows like “American Bandstand” would require Price to “tone down” the lyrics when he performed them on the air. Price’s voice was put to full use in this full-throated song, complete with a great sax ending. Covers and sequels of the song abounded over the years. It was remade by Pat Boone, Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown, Wilson Pickett (who was the first artist to sign on to Lloyd price’s record label) and Amy Winehouse among many others.

The Grateful Dead sings a version that continues the story after Lyons is shot down and his wife goes to exact revenge on Stag.

The Clash sings about Stag and Billy where Billy is the bad guy in “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” off of their 1979 album “London Calling”.

Subsequent groups performed recorded the song over the years, most recently by The Black Keys in 2006 with a similar song called “Stack Shot Billy”.

“Stagger Lee” has also been heard and referred to in films such as “Grindhouse” and “Black Snake Moan”.

Lloyd Price’s next hit “Personality” was released that same year and would reach to Number Two in the Pop charts and give him his nickname, “Mr. Personality”. It was co-written with his long time business associate Harold Logan who would be shot to death in 1969.

Lloyd Price is a survivor. In the 70s Price owned a Manhattan restaurant/nightclub called Turntable. He helped fun Don King’s “Rumble In The Jungle” event matching Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.  Today in 2014 at age 81, he manages Icon Food Brands which sells Lawdy Miss Clawdy southern style food products, and every so often, will still perform.

EDDIE COCHRAN

Elvis had a brief run for his money when Eddie Cochran caught the teenage public ear. Cochran was a good looking, young seventeen year old kid who even sounded a little like the King.  Unlike many of the rock ‘n’ roll pioneers, Eddie didn’t live in poverty or have to pick cotton with his family. He came from a more stable environment, born in Minnesota although he always claimed to be from his parents’ home state of Oklahoma, and going to music school to learn to play the guitar and piano. His interest in music led him into joining a friend who was also named Cochran, and called themselves the Cochran Brothers and even released a few ignored singles.

But Eddie and Hank Cochran didn’t last very long after Eddie started writing music. A year later, in 1956, Eddie met Jerry Capeheart, his future manager, in a guitar shop when he went to buy guitar strings. Soon, Cochran and Capeheart developed a working relationship and not long after, they were recording. Capeheart gave them co-billing as “Jerry Capeheart featuring the Cochran Brothers” on a single that showcased a song called “Walkin’ Stick Boogie”.

Six months after that. Capeheart co-wrote solo Eddie Cochran’s first single “Skinny Jim”.

He was still an unknown in 1956 when Cochran met film director Boris Petroff, currently at work on his  movie “The Girl Can’t Help It”. Petroff asked Cochran to play “Twenty Flight Rock” in his film and Cochran heartily agreed. “Twenty Flight Rock” is a classic Elvis -like jam about a boy whose girlfriend lives at the top of her building and can never go to her apartment because he just gets too tired climbing the stairs.

“She lives in a twentieth floor up town, the elevator’s broken down, so I walked one, two flight, three flight, four, five, six, seven flight, eight flight more… up on the twelfth I started to drag, fifteenth floor I’m ready to sag, get to the top, I’m too tired to rock… when she calls me up on the telephone, said c’mon over honey, I’m all alone, I said baby, you’re mighty sweet but I’m in the bed with a achin’ feet, this went on for a couple of days but I couldn’t stay away…” Twenty Flight Rock – Eddie Cochran

“The Girl Can’t Help It” launched Cochran’s career. Soon, Liberty Records came a-knockin’ with a record contract. Like the other record companies at the time, they were looking for their own Elvis, just like RCA had. Liberty prepped Eddie to be the next big thing for 1957, and as a result, released the first of his two most famous rock ‘n’ roll classic records.

SITTIN’ IN THE BALCONY

Released in January of 1957, “Sittin’ In the Balcony” was Eddie Cochran’s first hit, but only going as far as Number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It’s legend however looms large over time as an early classic rock ‘n’ roll song. It was one of the few songs Cochran recorded that he hadn’t written. Its actual composer was John D. Loudermilk who released his own version of the same song at the same time as Cochran released his. Loudermilk never became the singer he aspired to be, but instead became a songwriter for other artists such as Cochran.

“I’m just a-sittin’ in the balcony, Just a-watchin’ the movie, Or maybe it’s a symphony, I wouldn’t know, I don’t care about the symphonies, Just a-cymbals and a-timpanies, I’m just a-sittin’ in the balcony, on the very last row” – Eddie Cochran

Cochran’s delivery of the song was pure Elvis. Many thought it was indeed Presley’s new single upon first listening. He would appear on television often over the next few years, specifically on Dick Clark’s rock ‘n’ roll shows. In one episode, Clark introduces Cochran, who is actually sitting in the very last row of that theater’s balcony singing the song, flanked by two teenage girls who resemble 50s mannequins borrowed from nearby Macy’s window due to their complete lack of excitement.  Cochran didn’t look great that day either, as though he had put on weight, and by the obvious reaction of the girls around him, they were not too excited about having him there, whereas those same girls probably would have torn Elvis Presley apart if he was near their teenage grasp.

By March, Cochran’s second film, the very rotten “Untamed Youth” premiered. Starring the forgettable blond bombshell Mamie Van Doren, Eddie Cochran has a small supporting role as one of the “juvenile delinquents” sentenced to picking cotton at a mean cotton tycoon’s farm. His character’s name is “Bong”, probably because he keeps singing “bong…bong…bong” in the horrifically awful song “I Ain’t No Cotton Picker” featured in the movie.

But my guess is that he got his name because, judging by his performance, he looks as though he’s been hitting a bong during the entire filming. I’m sure the writer and Director also partook because the movie is so bad, it was featured decades later in “Mystery Science Theater 3000”.

Releasing a few more singles throughout the rest of 1957, including “Twenty Flight Rock” from “The Girl Can’t Help It”,  as well as his first and only album. “Singin’ To My Baby” was filled with catchy rockabilly melodies that included “SITB” and “TFR”, but he only achieved moderate success and airplay until his next big hit the following year with a song that quickly became the soundtrack to the summer of 1958.

SUMMERTIME BLUES

Co-written with Capeheart, “Summertime Blues” is Cochran’s biggest, most covered hit and a rock ‘n’ roll standard. A nice chugging rhythm begins the song, which gets any passive listener already moving. Then four sharp guitar strums climb on the rhythm and ride along in pairs like a funky train. The song then shows its charm with Cochran’s engaging vocal delivery, immersing you immediately into a great tune.

“Well, I’m a-gonna raise a fuss, I’m a-gonna raise a holler, About a workin’ all summer just to try to earn a dollar, Every time I call my baby, and try to get a date, My boss says, “No dice son, you gotta work late”, Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do, But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues…”  -Eddie Cochran

“Summertime Blues” reached No. 8 in the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. It was a late summer hit, being released in late July and staying in the top 10 all the way through to the beginning of Fall.

The song lent itself to a rockabilly style, a country twang and ultimately helped usher in heavy metal as subsequent artists covered the tune and made it their own.

The first re-make was by The Beach Boys in October of 1962 off their first album, a lovingly sung and produced recording as tribute to Cochran.

Then The Who started including it in its repertoire, recording it live during one of their 1967 tours and recorded the song live in 1970 as part of the “Live At Leeds” album. The Who were the first to amp the song up, with Pete Townshend’s powerful windmill guitar style adding a muscle hidden behind the original acoustic version. Bassist John Entwhistle supplied the intermittent baritone when they played live. When he died in 2002, Townshend and Roger Daltrey never played the song live again.

If The Who opened the door to an amped up “SB”, Blue Cheer burst the doors off its hinges. Blue Cheer was a very short lived group who many claim to have been the first heavy metal band in rock history, before Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Steppenwolf… even before the term was coined. Listening to their version of “SB” makes you understand why many agree with that and also contend that Blue Cheer’s version of Cochran’s composition can be considered the first heavy metal song.

“SB” has lived on in society’s public consciousness as it’s been used in several films and sung by many other artists through the rest of the 20th century, one of the last being Alan Jackson’s country version, which is closest to the original since it’s a rockabilly tune.

Lastly, hard rock mega-band Rush did a version of “SB” ala Blue Cheer in 2004 for their EP released that year. It was Geddy Lee who first pointed Blue Cheer out as the first heavy metal band.

Personally, out of of these versions, I’ll stick to the original with its catchy acoustic guitar open and Eddie Cochran’s playful Elvis style voice.

C’MON EVERYBODY

Cochran released several singles besides the ones covered here, but none of them were as memorable as these three. “C’mon Everybody”, released a few months after “Summertime Blues”, was originally a B-side and was more popular in the UK than here, peaking only to Number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 but reaching the Top Ten overseas.

Starting with a cool rockabilly bass lick, it’s soon joined by Cochran’s catchy acoustic guitar strumming before he starts singing in his own distinctive voice, distancing himself away from his Elvis-like vocals and sounding more like his own person.

Cochran recorded another version of this song, substituting the title lyric, singing “Let’s Get Together” instead of “C’mon Everybody”, but that wasn’t released until the 70s.

“C’mon Everybody” today is considered a rock ‘n’ roll classic. The tune has lived on over the decades, as it’s been showcased in Levi commercials and covered by several groups, including Led Zeppelin.

Cochran didn’t know it at the time, but with just those three songs, he earned himself a place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of fame, having gained credibility by the appreciation of many subsequent rock legends  had for his music.

Cochran’s career was into high gear as 1959 arrived. He was gaining a reputation as a session musician as well when his friends Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash. It shook him to the core and he vowed to slow down his touring and focus more on recording instead, in order to diminish his chances of being the victim of a similar fate. He did however decide to take a tour of the UK in 1960 due to his popularity there, even more than in his home country.

Ten minutes before midnight on Saturday, April 16, 1960, Eddie Cochran and his girlfriend Sharon Sheeley got into a taxi cab with fellow rock legend Gene Vincent who was touring with Cochran in the UK. The taxi blew a tire, causing it to careen against a tree (a tree that today still carries a plaque bearing his name). Vincent was seriously injured. Cochran’s instinct was to save his girlfriend so he managed to shield her from the impact. She survived but Cochran was thrown from the taxi and sustained head injuries that would lead to his death in the hospital sixteen hours later.

He was twenty-one years old.

JERRY LEE LEWIS

His nickname was “The Killer”. Most people will connote that to mean that he’s a violent person. The fact that his fifth wife died and he was under suspicion of having murdered her didn’t help dispel this assumption. But it’s been mostly said that his nickname comes from the fact that, when Jerry Lee Lewis either doesn’t know or doesn’t recall your name, he’ll just call you ‘Killer’.

The career of Jerry Lee Lewis was like a great ball of fire that suddenly got water thrown on it. Like his fellow contemporaries, burgeoning talent starting with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis rounded off the stable of artists Sun Records was boasting nicely. In just two years Sun Records was developing future legends.

Much like Carl Perkins, Lewis also traveled to Memphis to audition for Sam Phillips at Sun.  He arrived in November of 1956 to find out that Mr. Phillips was out of town, but engineer John Clement had the foresight to record him. Lewis performed Ray Price’s “Crazy Arms”. What stood Lewis out from the other rockabilly artist spring around him, was that Lewis’ main instrument was, like Little Richard, Fats Domino and Ray Charles,  a piano.  Jerry Lee Lewis however, was the first rock ‘n’ roll artist to introduce the piano into the rockabilly rock ‘n’ roll and introduced piano to rock ‘n’ roll to the mainstream audience much like Elvis did for rock ‘n’ roll as a whole.

Lewis signed on with Sam Phillips in 1956 and released “Crazy Arms” as his first single. Lewis’ abilities on the piano and his love for boogie-woogie added a new dimension to Phillips’ artist ensemble. He was backing Carl Perkins on his recordings that December night in 1956 with Johnny Cash listening in when Elvis dropped by. Sam Phillips captured that evening and released it as the Million Dollar Quartet, a collection of mostly gospel songs many of which were backed with Lewis on piano.

WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOIN’ ON

The second time Lewis recorded for Sun, he brought in his own rendition of a song originally recorded it by Big Maybelle called “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”.

He enhanced the tune and sped it up with his own boogie woogie piano and recorded an instant classic. Sam Phillips felt it was too risqué with the  spoken proclamations Lewis sprinkled throughout the song, but Lewis knew he had a hit, and so he did.

“Easy Now…Shake it Ahhhh… Shake it babe, yeah…. You can shake one time for me… Now lets get real low one time now…Shake baby shake… you gotta do honey is kinda stand in one spot… wiggle around just a little bit…that’s what you gotta do, yeah…”

He mimicked Elvis’ one-two-three punch on the charts by topping the R&B and Country charts that Spring of 1957, as well as reaching Number Three in The Billboard Hot 100.

His stage presence did nothing to distance himself from his “Killer” nickname. He didn’t just play the piano. He beat the keys to death with his fingers, his elbows, even his feet. His onstage antics started after he once kicked over his piano stool over by mistake during a performance. He got such an overwhelming reaction from the audience that Lewis kept it in his act. Soon, he was pounding on the keyboards while jumping up and down, and playing with his elbows. When he stood on top of the piano, he would clutch the mic, his curly hair completely disheveled and covering his face, singing like a madman to the energized crowd. Lewis wasn’t faking it. Much like Little Richard’s musical style, Lewis understood that the audience liked a real show, and the wilder he got the more of a reaction he received. This behavior from both these artists pioneered the “Rock ‘n’ Roll persona”; the wilder the better. The energy Jerry Lee Lewis exuded in his early performances was encompassing, bringing his audience in, inviting everyone  to stand up on the piano with him and rock out.

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE

“You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain, too much love drives a man insane, you broke my will, oh what a thrill , goodness gracious great balls of fire…”

Jerry Lee Lewis’ second single, “Great Balls of Fire”, was released just before Thanksgiving of 1957. It was written by Otis Blackwell of Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” fame,. That single also managed to unite R&B, C&W and pop fans alike as it reached the second position on Billboard’s Hot 100, Number Three in the R&B chart and topped the Country chart. Rock ‘n’ Roll music was appealing to modern musical tastes. What was once looked upon as a genre that would never work because you couldn’t place it in any one specific definition, the world demonstrated that to them, good music was good music, and that not only was it alright to appeal across the board, but it was already becoming a powerful influence in the accepting of different ethnicities and their value to society.

The phrase Great Balls Of Fire was a southern Christian term that was considered blasphemous, due to its verbal twist on the actual phrase “cloven tongues as of fire” when the Holy Spirit manifested itself according to Pentecostal belief. As a result, controversy fueled the popularity of the song, despite it being labeled “The Devil’s Music”.  Lewis himself struggled with his conscience throughout his career, believing that he indeed was playing the devil’s music.

“You know it’s strange, the same music that they kicked me out of school for is the same kind of music they play in their churches today. The difference is, I know I am playing for the devil and they don’t.”–Jerry Lee Lewis

He was doing a very good job at spreading the satanic word. The “Great Balls Of Fire” single sold one million copies during the first 10 days of release. It has sold a total of five million copies since, making it one of the biggest selling singles in the world of time.

Lewis’ career was ascending rapidly. He appeared with his band singing “GBOF” in the 1957 film “Jamboree”, along with his contemporaries Fats Domino, Carl Perkins and a very young Dick Clark.

BREATHLESS

Now, if you love me, let’s please don’t tease, if I can hold you then, let me squeeze, my heart goes ’round and ’round, my love comes tumblin’ down, you leave me… breathless.”

Lewis welcomed 1958 with another Top 10 hit released that February called “Breathless”. Again charting in three genres, R&B, country and Pop, Lewis was assured a tremendous career, many saying he would soon be eclipsing Elvis, especially now that he was going into the Army. But fate intervened and the resulting outcome was the sudden, abrupt halt of Jerry Lee Lewis’ career.

HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL

“High School Confidential” the  movie was a  rock ‘n’ roll drama starring Russ Tamblyn of future “West Side Story” fame and Mamie Van Doren, the blonde bombshell of the moment who also starred in “Untamed Youth” with Eddie Cochran. Lewis and Ron Hargrave wrote the song for the movie and Jerry Lee along with his band were filmed playing the song on the bed of a pick-up truck during the opening titles of the movie.

“Boppin’ at the High School Hop, boppin’ at the High School Hop, shakin’ at the High School Hop, I’ve been rollin’ at the High School Hop, I’ve been movin’ at the High School Hop, everybody’s hoppin’, everybody’s boppin’, boppin’ at the High School Hop…”

“High School Confidential” the song also charted in three genres, but it would be the last single that would ever chart as high.

Lewis was on tour with his new bride in the UK in May of 1958 just as “High School Confidential” had been released. News soon leaked in the UK press announcing that Jerry Lee Lewis’ bride was only thirteen years old. He was twenty-two at the time. To make things even worse, her bride was also his cousin.

Lewis couldn’t understand what the fuss was about, having been already married twice before. He claimed his first marriage happened when he was fourteen and his wife was seventeen, so this hoopla about her wife’s tender age was bewildering to him. The rest of the world disagreed, and Lewis never had another meaningful hit again, relegating him from the summit of a well-paid top entertainer to a struggling musician accepting gigs in small clubs and bars to make a living.

Lewis would marry a total of seven times, He was married to his cousin for thirteen years and they had two children together. One of those children, Steve Allen Lewis, died drowned in a swimming pool at age three in 1962. His most recent marriage began in 2012, Out of his six children, he has lost two. His fourth wife also drowned in a swimming pool just days before their divorce was final. His fifth wife died of mysterious circumstances. Lewis was never charged, although allegations existed.

As the decades past, Lewis’ stature in rock ‘n’ roll has increased to legendary status, equal to every artist associated with the rock ‘n’ roll era of the mid-Fifties, Jerry Lee Lewis has toured consistently over the years and has released over sixty albums, an average of one almost every year throughout the rest of the twentieth century. At the writing of this in 2014, Lewis’ last original album, “Duets” was released in 2010, followed two years later by a new re-issue of his greatest hits. Despite this prodigious output over the last six decades, the four singles he released during 1957 and 1958 will forever be remembered as rock ‘n’ roll standards and has carved Lewis a rightful place in Rock ‘n’ Roll history.

THE EVERLY BROTHERS

They were introduced to the national radio audience in 1945 as “Little Donnie and Baby Boy Phil” on their father’s radio show on KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa called “The Everly Family Show”.

Little Phil and Don Everly’s father was a musician at heart who loved and played bluegrass, country & western and the blues his life. Like Carl Perkins, Ike Everly was also taught how to play the guitar by a black man. In this case, he was a black musician by the name of Arnold Schultz, a local black guitarist who taught Ike a thumb picking style of guitar playing. Ike later taught that to Merle Travis, who popularized it in the Country & Western world.

Being a very musical family, Ike Everly also taught his two boys that same thumb-picking style over time, but back when Little Don and Phil were 8 and 6 respectively, they were harmonizing with their mom on their dad’s radio show.

The family moved to Tennessee in the 50s, and once the two young brothers graduated from high school, they headed together for Nashville to start a career, honed through the years by their father who taught them the close harmonizing they later became famous four, as well as the fresh, sharp steel guitar sound that typified myriad rock ‘n’ roll songs of the future.

Family friend, singer/musician Chet Atkins was an early fan of The Everly Brothers, and would buy them a piece of pie and a cup of coffee at a local diner every time he would see them in Nashville. Atkins was then manager of RCA’S Nashville recording studio in 1955 and helped The Everly Brothers snag a recording contract with Columbia Records the following year, despite Atkins continued relationship with RCA.

“One thing that impressed me when I met those kids was that they were so intelligent…. Don and Phil used proper English and I just thought they were a cut above . . .  intellectually and education-wise.” – Chet Atkins

That relationship with Columbia Records produced one single “Keep A’Lovin’ Me”. It was a big dud and Columbia records dropped them from the label.

Atkins encouraged the brothers to continue undeterred. Dedicated to have them succeed, he introduced him to Wesley Rose of Acuff-Rose music. Rose was impressed the the Everly’s songwriting abilities, and promised them that if they signed with him as songwrtiers, he would make sure they received a record deal. They signed in late ’56 and by early ’57, Rose introduced the kids to Archie Blyer of Cadence Records. From there, things started to happen very fast.

BYE BYE LOVE

Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, a very square looking married couple, were struggling artists living in a mobile home who were friends with Wesley Rose. Rose had been trying to get a rockabilly artist to record the Bryant’s composition “Bye Bye Love”, but no one seemed to like it, except for Rose. Once he helped the Everly Brothers land the record contract, he urged them to try it. The song was right up the brothers’ alley. The Bryants specialized in catchy country & western guitar based songs with clever lyrics and arrangements. Once Phil & Don heard their demo, they adapted it for themselves, using their years old style of thumb picking steel guitar chords and immaculate harmonizing. The result was nothing short of rock ‘n’ roll perfection.

“There goes my baby, with someone knew. She sure looks happy, I sure am blue. She was my baby, ‘til he stepped in, goodbye to romance, that might have been…” -Bye Bye Love

There’s not much that cannot be said about “Bye Bye Love”. It’s deliciously rhythmic two guitar accompaniment matched with the exquisite harmony of the two brothers pre-dates The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, The Hollies, Crosby, Stills and Nash and, among many more artists, The Beatles. At one point early on when they first met, John and Paul briefly even called themselves “The Foreverly Brothers”.  Paul McCartney carried the Everly Brothers with him always, even mentioning the brothers’ first names, “Phil and Don”, in his 1976 song “Let ‘Em In”.

of these future rock legends copied the exact same harmonic style and many times mimicked the wonderful acoustic guitar sound that the Everly Brothers forever cemented into rock ‘n’ roll legend.

“Nobody structures harmonies and chord progressions and melodies better than Brian (Wilson), but I was blessed to have him as first cousin, and we have a special chemistry together. We loved the same kind of music and we learned from the best: Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers and doo-wop stuff. We have the depth and appreciation of those complex beautiful harmonies along with R&B and rock’n’roll. It was a great synthesis with our voices.” – Mike Love; The Beach Boys

“Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard… Both voices pristine and soulful.”-Paul Simon

“I decided that whatever music I was going to make in the future, I wanted it to affect people the same way the Everly Brothers’ music affected me.” – Graham Nash of The Hollies; Crosby, Stills & Nash

“When John and I first started to write songs, I was Phil and he was Don. Years later, when I finally met Phil, I was completely star-struck and at the same time extremely impressed by his humility and gentleness of soul. I will always love him for giving me some of the sweetest musical memories of my life.” –Paul McCartney

Simon & Garfunkel issued a live recording of their version of “Bye Bye Love” in their 1970 Grammy award winning album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, and covered it faithfully. If you listen to the delicate harmonies and beautiful acoustics that pervade many Simon & Garfunkel songs, you can trace a perfectly straight line to the Everly Brothers.

In 1974, during a particularly bad nadir in George Harrison’s career, he released an album entitled “Dark Horse” which didn’t sell too well due to George’s then heavy handedness with preaching Krishna to his fans. One of the tracks was called “Bye Bye, Love”. Beside the comma in the title, it was a complete re-working of the song, with a totally different guitar accompaniment that featured George’s familiar electric guitar slide of the time and a completely different way of singing the melody. Throwing caution into the wind after having completely made the song unrecognizable, he also changed many portions of the lyrics and related it to his recent discovery that his wife Patty Boyd has been having an affair with his best friend, Eric Clapton.

“There goes our lady, with a-you-know-who, I hope she’s happy, old Clapper too, we had good rhythm (and a little slide) till she stepped in, did me a favour, I … threw them both out.” “Bye, Bye Love” by George Harrison

Back in the 70s John Lennon got into the habit of criticizing Paul McCartney in the lyrics of the songs he’d released during the first few years of the Beatles’ break up. George seemed to have taken to the idea and decided to diss his soon to be ex-wife and best friend for fucking behind his back. The result is a strange artifact in the Beatles/Everly connection, and not a bad little song either. It’s pretty amazing how George could take a famous song and re-work it into another, not as catchy, but certainly sing-able tune. He didn’t stay mad at the new couple either, continuing to play with Clapton over the years and even being Best Man at their wedding. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll.

Released in March 1957, The Everly’s “Bye Bye Love” did the famous one-two-three punch that only the best rock ’n’ rollers of that era achieved regularly after Elvis showed them how. It hit Number Two on the Pop charts right behind Elvis’ “Teddy Bear”, Number One on the Country charts and Number Five on the R&B charts.

To date in 2014, the Everly Brothers are the most successful US rock ‘n’ roll duo in Billboard’s Hot 100. Their influence pervades the next decade of rock and roll and has spread now throughout pop music still being heard today.  Who doesn’t like to hear a pretty harmony over a catchy acoustic guitar? Thank the Everly Brothers for that.

WAKE UP LITTLE SUZIE

Also written by the Bryants, “Wake Up Little Suzie” is a perfect example of the songwriters’  wit and charm. Starting again with another tasty morsel of thumb picking acoustic guitar, it burst into the same harmony reminiscent of “Bye Bye Love’ but steers into a totally new melody that tells the innocent story of two teenage kids who go on a date and fall asleep at the movies. The movie must have been incredibly boring to have not decided to make out instead, but back in those days, kids were depicted as good little boys and girls who obeyed their parents dutifully and only break the rules because of their own inexperience and youthful ways. Still, the fact that they “slept together” albeit innocently for 1957 in certain cities, in this case Boston, was not to be tolerated, so they banned it there for their suggestive lyrics. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, the term “Banned In Boston” was used in advertising  bawdy burlesque performances around the country, taking on the connotation that if it was banned there, it’s got to be risqué.

“Well, what are we gonna tell your Mama, what are we gonna tell your Pa? What are we gonna tell our friends when they say, “Ooh la la!” –“Wake Up Little Suzie”

It wasn’t just the intense and perfect acoustic guitar dual accompaniment from both brothers, or the sharp rhythm. It wasn’t just the immediately catchy melody and the funny lyrics. It wasn’t the perfect blend of harmony between the two brothers’ golden voice. It was also the way they enunciated the voices and threw in a hiccup in their phrasing of the word “mama” and the whole delivery of that line, spitting it out like gunfire then jumping over a syllable, in perfect harmony.

“Suzie” topped the Pop and Country charts soon after it was released in September of 1957. Soon after that, The Everly Brothers toured with the cream of the crop of their rock ‘n’ roll peers for most of the remainder of the year, joining the likes of Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly. Holly and the Everlys became fast friends. Phil was only eighteen years old at the time and his brother Don was twenty. Buddy had just turned twenty-one. They immediately got along being from the same region of the country. Buddy even wrote a song called “Wishing” and gave it to the Everlys as a gift. The two brothers were a significant influence on Holly and his group The Crickets when it came to their wardrobe. Holly saw how well dressed Phil and Don always were in their performances, so he too decided that they should drop the t-shirt and levis look for sharp suits. This influence of the Everly Brothers in rock ‘n’ roll fashion not only gave Buddy Holly and The Crickets a signature look, but it was also transferred to The Beatles who mimicked The Crickets not only in insect name and the fact that there were four guitarists and a drummer in the band, but in the Beatles 1964 collarless suits as well.

The Everly’s had profoundly influenced the direction of rock ‘n’ roll with the release of just two singles in 1957 by a square looking but very clever songwriting duo, imprinting their own style and pointing at a new dimension to what you can do with a couple of guitars, good vocals and a drum beat. Throughout the following three to four years, they would continue to release the most beautiful and enduring songs of the rock ‘n’ roll era, sung, re-made and treasured by many musicians and artists that were to come in the Twentieth Century.

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