Category Archives: 1950


Mixes by Year: Top Recording Artists of 1950-54


In this time period that is known as pre-rock n’ roll, or more accurately early rock n’ roll, the full length album was not yet popular as a format so in lieu of that I am including photos of 25 artists/performers that I think are the best and most important of that era.  I know that for many of you, the early fifties could be a bit out of your musical interests so I forgive you if you want to stick with things a bit current.  But for any fan of Blues, Rockabilly, Doo-Wop, old school Country or the original crooners like Sinatra and Nat King Cole you should check this stuff out.  Or if you like your rock n’ roll raunchy, some of this stuff is just as lascivious as any current rap song.

The running narrative on the fifties decade is that rock n’ roll music didn’t exist until Elvis, Little Richard & Chuck Berry invented it in 1954/55.  Or some generously acknowledge the fact that there were many black musicians doing something extremely similar to rock n’ roll before Elvis, Chuck & Richard- but they insist that Elvis invented rockabilly by combining country with race music (read: Rhythm & Blues).  Well in my opinion neither is true.  While Elvis was certainly a unique artist, am amazing singer , an electric performer & a wonderful interpreter of songs, he didn’t really help to create either rock n’ roll or rockabilly.  Bill Haley was doing rockabilly two years before Elvis, as heard on the song “Rock this Joint” from 1952 (notice the guitar solo is the exact same solo used on “Rock Around the Clock”).  But Haley was pushin’ forty and was nowhere close to a sex symbol.  Elvis had the sex appeal along with the musical goods.  Elvis Presley was certainly the first white, full blown white rock n’ roll superstar.  Berry & Richard, along with Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis were certainly stars in their own right as well but they weren’t the originals.  Many of the people & groups listed below were absolutely playing rock n’ roll music- but it was pre white rock n’ roll which meant that very few white people actually heard it.

The pre-rock n’ roll era is said to have started somewhere in 1947 or ’48 but for the sake of my own sanity I’m beginning at 1950- a nice round number and the exact midpoint (obviously!) of the 20th century.   At that time the jump blues of performers like Louis Jordan was popular- it was a mixture of an upbeat blues combined with swing-Jazz and is certainly a close cousin of rock n’ roll.  Wynonie Harris and Roy Brown also played a raunchy version of it and were big stars in among the R&B set.  Atlantic Records in New York was signing up artists like Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and later Ray Charles and Doo-Wop groups like the Clovers and the Drifters and would have massive commercial success, influencing the creation of both rock n’ roll and Soul Music.  Doo-Wop is a vocal style that emerged from the northeastern and midwestern cities that became extremely popular in the early fifties- it involved four to five part harmonies and was derived from earlier groups like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers.  It would remain a hugely popular style throughout the decade and would eventually cross over big to the white audience and would even experience a revival in the early sixties after petering out at the end of the fifties.

Elsewhere Chess Records in Chicago was championing an urban Blues and developed huge talents starting in the early fifties like Muddy Waters, Little Walter (possibly the best harmonica player who ever lived!), the guitarist B.B. King & the superhuman Howlin’ Wolf.  These artists, along with Delta Blues stars like John Lee Hooker, the “King of Slide Guitar” Elmore James & Texas bluesmen Lightnin’ Hopkins would be instrumental in bringing the blues-style, which had been around since at least the teens, to the masses.  At least the black masses.

Some of these artists were already at the tail end of their career at the dawn of the rock n’ roll era like Louis Jordan, Roy Brown and the Ink Spots.  Some had the majority of their career happen in the years between ’50-’54 like Joe Turner, Billy Ward & the Dominoes & Ruth Brown.  Others were really just at the start of their career like Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke (then of the gospel group the Soul Stirrers) & Ray Charles.  And some were major stars between ’50-’54, but became even bigger once rock n’ roll hit- examples of this are New Orleans singer/pianist Fats Domino and vocal group the Drifters.

In the late forties and early fifties singer/songwriter Hank Williams was creating modern country.  Other country artists like Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Hank Thompson & Hank Snow followed in his wake.  Along with the awful pap that dominated white radio at the time where some of the best male vocalists of all time- Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett & Dean Martin (though far superior vocally to the other two) were the best of the lot, in addition to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole who was able to cross over the color barrier.


























Mixes By Year: Best of 1950 Volume 1

Best of 1950 Volume 1 (6/11/03)

1.  Baby Face Leroy Trio- Rollin’ & Tumblin’ (Part 1)

Buy Rollin’ and Tumblin’ – Part 1 – And This Is Free: The Life and Times of Chicago’s Legendary Maxwell Street

Buy Rollin’ and Tumblin’ – Part 1Amazon

2.  Fats Domino- The Fat Man

Buy The Fat Man – The Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits

Buy The Fat Man Amazon

3.  Wynonie Harris- I Like My Baby’s Pudding

Buy I Like My Baby’s Pudding – Risqué Blues – My Ding-A-Ling

Buy I Like My Baby’s PuddingAmazon

4.  John Lee Hooker- Crawlin’ King Snake

Buy Crawlin’ Kingsnake – I’m In the Mood

Buy Crawlin’ King SnakeAmazon

5.  Jimmy Rogers & His Trio- That’s All Right

Buy That’s All Right – Chess Blues Classics 1947 – 1956 (The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection)

Buy That’s All RightAmazon

6.  Tiny Bradshaw- Well Oh Well

Buy Well, Oh Well – Rhythm & Blues 1945-1951 – Music Sampler Vol. 1

Buy Well Oh WellAmazon

7.  Smokey Hogg- Little School Girl

Buy Little School Girl – It’s All About the Blues

Buy Little School GirlAmazon

8.  The Ink Spots- The Way it Used to Be

Buy The Way It Used To Be – The Anthology

Buy The Way It Used To BeAmazon

9.  Dean Martin- I’ll Always Love You ( Day After Day)

Buy I’ll Always Love You (Day After Day) – Dino – The Essential Dean Martin

Buy I’ll Always Love You (Day After Day) (1997 Digital Remaster)Amazon

10.  Nat King Cole- Mona Lisa

Buy Mona Lisa – The Very Best of Nat King Cole

Buy Mona Lisa (2000 Digital Remaster)Amazon

11.  Ruth Brown- Teardrops from My Eyes

Buy Teardrops from My Eyes – The Essentials: Ruth Brown

Buy Teardrops From My Eyes (LP Version)Amazon

12.  Johnny Otis Quintette (Feat. The Robins & Little Esther)- Double Crossing Blues

Buy Double Crossing Blues – Greatest R&B Hits of 1950, Vol. 1

Buy Double Crossing BluesAmazon

13.  Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys- Faded Love

Buy Faded Love – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bob Wills

Buy Faded LoveAmazon

14.  Flat & Scruggs- Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Buy Foggy Mountain Breakdown – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Flatt & Scruggs

Buy Foggy Mountain Breakdown Amazon

15.  Hank Williams- Long Gone Lonesome Blues

Buy Long Gone Lonesome Blues – Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits

Buy Long Gone Lonesome Blues Amazon

16.  Hank Snow- I’m Movin’ On

Buy I’m Movin’ On – The Essential Hank Snow

Buy I’m Movin On (Original)Amazon

17.  Joe Hill Louis- Gotta Let You Go

Buy Gotta Let You Go – Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958 (Disk 1)

Buy Gotta Let You Go – OriginalAmazon

18.  Lefty Frizzell- If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time

Buy If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time (78rpm Version) – Look What Thoughts Will Do

Buy If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time (78rpm Version)Amazon

19.  Peggy Lee- Show Me the Way Out of the World (‘Cause that’s Where Everything Is)

Buy Show Me the Way to Get Out of This World (‘Cause.. – The Capitol Collectors Series: Peggy Lee

Buy Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World (‘Cause That’s Where Everything Is)Amazon

20.   Percy Mayfield- Please Semd Me Someone to Love

Buy Please Send Me Someone to Love – Poet of the Blues

Buy Please Send Me Someone To Love (Album Version)

21. Roy Brown- Hard Luck Blues

Buy Hard Luck Blues – Rhythm & Blues 1945-1951 – Music Sampler Vol. 1

Buy Hard Luck BluesAmazon

22.  Joe Liggins & the Honeydrippers- Pink Champagne

Buy Pink Champagne – Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers

Buy Pink ChampagneAmazon

23.  Amos Milburn- Bad Bad Whiskey

Buy Bad, Bad Whiskey – The Greatest Rhythm & Booze Collection

Buy Bad Bad WhiskeyAmazon

24.  The Ravens- Count Every Star

Buy Count Every Star – Revolutionary Road (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Buy Count Every StarAmazon

25.  Louis Jordan & his Tympani Five- Blue Light Boogie (Parts 1 & 2)

Buy Blue Light Boogie – Jukebox Hits Volume 2 1947-1951

Buy Blue Light BoogieAmazon

26.  Muddy Waters- Rollin’ Stone

Buy Rollin’ Stone (Single Version) – Muddy Waters the Anthology: 1947-1972

Buy Rollin’ StoneAmazon