Category Archives: 1951


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 1951 Volume 1

Best of 1951 Volume 1 (4/9/03)

1.  Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats- Rocket 88

Buy Rocket 88 – Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958 (Disk 1)

Buy Rocket 88 – OriginalAmazon

2. B.B. King- Three O’Clock Blues

Buy Three O’Clock Blues – B.B. King Classics

Buy Three O’Clock Blues (1991 Digital Remaster)Amazon

3.  Wynonie Harris- Bloodshot Eyes

Buy Bloodshot Eyes – Best of the Best

Buy Bloodshot Eyes Amazon

4.  Roy Brown- Bar Room Blues

Buy Bar Room Blues – Greatest Hits

Buy Bar Room Blues Amazon

5.  Muddy Waters- Honey Bee

Buy Honey Bee – Muddy Waters the Anthology: 1947-1972

Buy Honey BeeAmazon

6.  John Lee Hooker- I’m in the Mood

Buy I’m in the Mood (Single) – His Best Chess Sides

Buy I’m In The MoodAmazon

7.  Ruth Brown- I’ll Wait for You

Buy I’ll Wait for You – The Essentials: Ruth Brown

Buy I’ll Wait For You (LP Version) Amazon

8.  Ray Charles Trio- Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand

Buy Baby, Let Me Hold Your Hand – Greatest R&B Hits of 1951, Vol. 4

Buy Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand (Oh Baby)Amazon

9.  The Five Keys- The Glory of Love

Buy The Glory of Love – Greatest R&B Hits of 1951, Vol. 3

Buy The Glory of LoveAmazon

10.  The Cardinals- Shouldn’t I Know

Buy Shouldn’t I Know – Doo Wop Classics, Vol. 7

Buy Shouldn’t I KnowAmazon

11.  Les Paul & Mary Ford- How High the Moon

Buy How High the Moon – The Very Best of Les Paul and Mary Ford

Buy How High The Moon (1991 Digital Remaster)

12.  Martha Carson- Satisfied

*Not available via iTunes

Buy SatisfiedAmazon

13.  Celia Cruz- Ritmo, Tambo & Flores

Buy Ritmo Tambo y Flores – Por Siempre Celia Cruz (1925 – 2003 La Reina Que No Murió)

Buy Ritmo, Tambo Y FloresAmazon

14.  Sonny Boy Williamson- Eyesight to the Blind

Buy Eyesight To The Blind – The Best Of The Blues

Buy Eyesight To The Blind Amazon

15.  Elmore James- Dust My Broom

Buy Dust My Broom – Shake Your Money Maker: The Best of the Fire Sessions

Buy Dust My BroomAmazon

16.  Billy Ward & the Dominoes- Sixty Minute Man

Buy Sixty Minute Man – Rhythm & Blues 1945-1951 – Music Sampler Vol. 1

Buy Sixty Minute ManAmazon

17.  The Larks- My Reverie

Buy My Reverie – 100 Doo Wop Classics

Buy My ReverieAmazon

18.  The Clovers- Fool, Fool, Fool

Buy Fool Fool Fool – Down In the Alley: The Best of the Clovers

Buy Fool Fool FoolAmazon

19.  Tony Bennett- Because of You

Buy Because of You – The Ultimate Tony Bennett

Buy Because Of YouAmazon

20.  Hank Williams- Cold, Cold Heart

Buy Cold, Cold Heart (Single) – 20 of Hank Williams’ Greatest Hits

Buy Cold, Cold Heart Amazon

21.  Lefty Frizzell- I Want to be with You Always

Buy I Want to Be With You Always – 16 Biggest Hits

Buy I Want To Be With You AlwaysAmazon

22.  Nat King Cole- Too Young

Buy Too Young – Nat King Cole: The Greatest Hits

Buy Too Young (2003 Digital Remaster) Amazon

23.  Howlin’ Wolf- How Many More Years

Buy How Many More Years (Single) – His Best (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection)

Buy How Many More YearsAmazon

24.  Charles Brown- Black Nite

Buy Black Night – The Very Best of Charles Brown

Buy Black NiteAmazon

25.  Big Joe Turner- Chains of Love

Buy Chains of Love – Greatest Hits

Buy Chains Of LoveAmazon

26.  Woody Guthrie- This Land is Your Land

Buy This Land Is Your Land – The Essential Woody Guthrie

Buy This Land is Your Land Amazon