Category Archives: 1953


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 1953 Volume 1

Best of 1953 Volume 1 (2/5/03)

1.  Ruth Brown- Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean

Buy Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean – The Essentials: Ruth Brown

Buy Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean (Single/LP Version)

2.  Big Mama Thornton- Hound Dog

Buy Hound Dog (Single) – Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings

Buy Hound DogAmazon

3.  Faye Adams- Shake A Hand

Buy Shake a Hand – Solid Gold Hits, Volume 5

Buy Shake A HandAmazon

4.  Wynonie Harris- Down Boy Down

Buy Down Boy Down – Oh Babe

*Not available via Amazon

5.  B.B. King- Please Love Me

Buy Please Love Me (Single Version) – B.B. King: The Ultimate Collection

Buy Please Love MeAmazon

6.  Muddy Waters- Baby Please Don’t Go

Buy Baby Please Don’t Go – Muddy Waters the Anthology: 1947-1972

Buy Baby Please Don’t GoAmazon

7.  Fats Domino- Going to the River

Buy Going to the River – The Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits

Buy Going To The River (2002 Digital Remaster)

8.  Jumior Parker’s Famous Blue Flames- Mystery Train

BuyMystery Train – Greatest R&B Hits of 1953, Vol. 7

Buy Mystery Train Amazon

9.  Young John Watson (AKA Johnny “Guitar” Watson)- Motorhead Baby

*Not available via iTunes or Amazon

10.  The “5” Royales- Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

Buy Crazy Crazy Crazy – All Righty! (The Apollo Recordings 1951-1955)

*Not available via Amazon

11.  Little Walter- Mean Old World

Buy Mean Old World – The Essential Little Walter

Buy Mean Old WorldAmazon

12.  Frank Sinatra- I’ve Got the World On a String

Buy I’ve Got the World On a String – The Capitol Years

Buy I’ve Got The World On A String (2000 Digital Remaster)

13.  Jimmy & Walter- Easy

Buy Easy – Sun Records: The Blues Years, 1950-1958 (Disc 4)

Buy Easy – OriginalAmazon

14.  The Drifters- Money Honey

Buy Money Honey – Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters

Buy Money HoneyAmazon

15.  Amos Milburn- One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer

Buy One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer – Greatest R&B Hits of 1953, Vol. 5

Buy One Scotch, One Bourbon, One BeerAmazon

16.  Howlin’ Wolf- All Night Boogie

Buy All Night Boogie (All Night Long) [Single Version] – The Chess Box: Howlin’ Wolf

Buy All Night Boogie (All Night Long)Amazon

17.  The Coronets- Nadine

Buy Nadine – Doo Wop Juke Box, Vol. 12

*Not available via Amazon

18.  The Clovers- Good Lovin’

Buy Good Lovin’ – Atlantic Top 60: R&B Grooves

Buy Good Lovin’Amazon

19.  Bill Haley & His Comets- Crazy Man, Crazy

Buy Crazy Man, Crazy – Classics

Buy Crazy Man CrazyAmazon

20.  Hank Williams- Your Cheatin’ Heart

Buy Your Cheatin’ Heart – Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits

Buy Your Cheatin’ HeartAmazon

21.  The Orioles- Crying in the Chapel

Buy Crying In the Chapel – The Orioles 1947-1955

Buy Crying In The ChapelAmazon

22.  The Flamingos- Golden Teardrops

Buy Golden Teardrops – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 5

Buy Golden TeardropsAmazon

23.  The Harptones- A Sunday Kind of Love

Buy Sunday Kind of Love (Original Version) – Collector’s Gold Series

Buy Sunday Kind Of LoveAmazon

24.  Lavern Baker- Soul on Fire

Buy Soul On Fire – Soul On Fire: The Best of LaVerne Baker

Buy Soul On FireAmazon

25.  Elmore James- I Believe

Buy I Believe – Greatest R&B Hits of 1953, Vol. 8

Buy I BelieveAmazon

26.  Big Joe Turner- Honey Hush

Buy Honey Hush – Greatest Hits

Buy Honey HushAmazon

27.  The Crows- Gee

Buy Gee – Doo Wop Classics, Vol. 1

Buy Gee (LP Version) Amazon

Mixes By Year: Best of 1953 Volume 2

Best of 1953 Volume 2 (12/15/10)

1.  The Royals (Later Hank Ballard & the Midnighters)- Get It

Buy Get It – Greatest R&B Hits of 1953, Vol. 8

Buy Get ItAmazon

2.  B.B. King- Woke Up This Morning (My Baby Was Gone)

Buy Woke Up This Morning (My Baby She Was Gone) – Classic Masters: B.B. King

Buy Woke Up This Morning (My Baby She Was Gone) Amazon

3.  The “5” Royales- Help Me Somebody

Buy Help Me Somebody – All Righty! (The Apollo Recordings 1951-1955)

Buy Help Me SomebodyAmazon

4.  Elmore James- Please Find My Baby

Buy Please Find My Baby – Greatest Blues Licks

Buy Please Find My BabyAmazon

5.  Muddy Waters- I Want You to Love Me

Buy I Want You to Love Me – The Essence of Muddy Waters

Buy Mad Love (I Want You To Love Me)Amazon

6.  Fats Domino- Please Don’t Leave Me

Buy Please Don’t Leave Me – Greatest R&B Hits of 1953, Vol. 8

Buy Please Don’t Leave Me (2002 Digital Remaster)Take These Chains from My Heart – Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits Buy Take These Chains From My HeartAmazon

8.  Marty Robbins- I Couldn’t Keep From Crying

Buy I Couldn’t Keep from Crying – The Essential Marty Robbins

Buy I Couldn’t Keep From CryingAmazon

9.  The Five Keys- My Saddest Hour

*Not available via iTunes

Buy My Saddest HourAmazon

10.  John Lee Hooker- My Baby Don’t Love Me

Buy My Baby Don’t Love Me – Hooked On the Blues

Buy My Baby Don’t Love MeAmazon

11.  Little Walter- Blues with a Feeling

Buy Blues With a Feeling – The Essential Little Walter

Buy Blues With A FeelingAmazon

12.  Wynonie Harris- Quiet Whiskey

Buy Quiet Whiskey – Rot Gut

*Not available via Amazon

13.  Lightnin’ Hopkins- Late in the Evening

Buy Late In the Evening – The Very Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins

Buy Late In The EveningAmazon

14.  Ruth Brown- Wild, Wild Young Men

Buy Wild Wild Young Men – Greatest R&B Hits of 1953, Vol. 7

Buy Wild Wild Young Men (LP Version)Amazon

15.  Young John Watson (AKA Johnny “Guitar” Watson)- I Got Eyes

Buy I Got Eyes – 16 Super Hits

Buy I got eyesAmazon

16.  Lloyd Price- Tell Me Pretty Baby

Buy Tell Me Pretty Baby – Specialty Profiles: Lloyd Price

Buy Tell Me Pretty BabyAmazon

17.  The Velvets- I

Buy I – The Velvets’ I Cried

*Not available via Amazon

18.  The Spaniels- Baby It’s You

Buy Baby It’s You – The Very Best of the Spaniels

Buy Baby It’s YouAmazon

19.  Frank Sinatra- South of the Border

Buy South of the Border – The Best of the Capitol Years / Selections from the Capitol Years Box Set: Frank Sinatra Buy South Of The BorderAmazon

20.  Dean Martin- That’s Amore

Buy That’s Amore – Dino – The Essential Dean Martin

Buy That’s Amore (2001 Digital Remaster)Amazon

21.  Tony Bennett- Rags to Riches

Buy Rags to Riches – The Ultimate Tony Bennett

Buy Rags To Riches Amazon

22.  Eartha Kitt- Santa Baby

Buy Santa Baby (Digitally Remastered) – Santa Baby (Digitally Remastered) – Single

Buy Santa BabyAmazon

23.  The Four Tunes- Marie

Buy Marie – Doo Wop Classics, Vol. 4

Buy MarieAmazon

24.  The Vocaleers- Is It A Dream?

Buy Is It a Dream – The Vocaleers’ Love You

Buy Is It A Dream Amazon