Category Archives: 1954


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 1954 Volume 1

Best of 1954 Volume 1 (1/22/03)

1.  Bill Haley & His Comets- (We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock

Buy (We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock – Big Hits & Highlights of 1954, Vol. 4

Buy (We’re Gonna) Rock Around The ClockAmazon

2.  Big Joe Turner- Shake, Rattle and Roll

Buy Shake, Rattle and Roll – Greatest Hits

Buy Shake, Rattle & RollAmazon

3.  The Joe Houston Orchestra- All Night Long

Buy All Night Long – L. A. Doo Wop Roots

Buy All Night LongAmazon

4.  The Robins- Riot in Cell Block #9

Buy Riot In Cell Block No. 9 – Rhino Hi-Five: The Coasters, Vol. 2 – EP

Buy Riot In Cell Block Number NineAmazon

5.  Guitar Slim- The Things that I Used to Do

Buy The Things That I Used to Do – The Very Best of 1951-1954

Buy The Things That I Used To DoAmazon

6.  Sugarboy Crawford & His Cane Cutters- Jock-A-Mo

Buy Jock-A-Mo – The Chess Blues-Rock Songbook

Buy Jock-O-MoAmazon

7.  Ray Charles- Don’t You Know

Buy Don’t You Know (Single) – The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years

Buy Don’t You KnowAmazon

8.  Howlin’ Wolf- I’ll Be Around

Buy I’ll Be Around (Single Version) – The Chess Box: Howlin’ Wolf

Buy I’ll Be AroundAmazon

9.  Muddy Waters- I Just Want to Make Love to You

Buy I Just Want to Make Love to You – Muddy Waters the Anthology: 1947-1972

Buy I Just Want To Make Love To YouAmazon

10.  Hank Ballard & the Midnighters- Work with Me Annie

Buy Work With Me Annie – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 3

Buy Work With Me Annie

11.  Little Walter-You’re so Fine

Buy You’re so Fine – The Essential Little Walter

Buy You’re So FineAmazon

12.  Ruth Brown- Oh What a Dream

Buy Oh What a Dream – The Essentials: Ruth Brown

Buy Oh What A Dream (LP Version)Amazon

13.  The Drifters- Such a Night

Buy Such a Night – Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters

Buy Such a NightAmazon

14.  The Clovers- Lovey Dovey

Buy Lovey Dovey – Down In the Alley: The Best of the Clovers

Buy Lovey DoveyAmazon

15.  The Five Keys- Ling, Ting, Tong

Buy Ling Ting Tong – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 6

Buy Ling, Ting, TongAmazon

16.  Elvis Presley- That’s All Right

Buy That’s Alright Mama – Golden Oldies

Buy That’s All RightAmazon

17.  Young John Watson (AKA Johnny “Guitar” Watson)- Space Guitar

Buy Space Guitar – Out There: Wild & Wondrous Roots of Rock ‘N’ Roll, Vol. Two

Buy Space GuitarAmazon

18.  The Chords- Sh-Boom

Buy Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream) – Greatest R’n’B Hits of 1954, Vol. 2

Buy Sh-BoomAmazon

19.  The Spiders- I Didn’t Want to Do It

Buy I Didn’t Want To Do It – Doo Wop Classics

Buy I Didn’t Want To Do ItAmazon

20.  Chuck Willis- I Feel So Bad

Buy I Feel So Bad – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 5

Buy I Feel So Bad Amazon

21.  Linda Hayes- Take Me Back

Buy Take Me Back – Rhythm & Blues 1952-1959 – Music Sampler, Vol. 2

Buy Take Me BackAmazon

22.  Lowell Fulson- Reconsider Baby

Buy Reconsider Baby – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Blues Rock Songbook Buy Reconsider Baby Amazon

23.  B.B. King- You Upset Me Baby

Buy You Upset Me, Baby (1954 Version) – B.B. King: The Ultimate Collection

Buy You Upset Me Baby mce_href= Amazon

24. The Penguins- Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)

Buy Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) – Best of the Penguins: The Mercury Years

Buy Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine)Amazon

25.  The Moonglows- Sincerely

Buy Sincerely – 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Moonglows

Buy SincerelyAmazon

26.  Nolan Strong & the Diablos- The Wind

*Not available on iTunes or Amazon

27.  The Chordettes- Mr. Sandman

Buy Mr. Sandman – The Chordettes’ Best

Buy Mr. Sandman (1954 #1 Billboard chart hit) Amazon

28.  The Spaniels- Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite

Buy Goodnight Sweetheart – Cryin In The Chapel

Buy Goodnight Sweetheart Amazon

Mixes By Year: Best of 1954 Volume 2

Best of 1954 Volume 2 (12/15/10)

1.  Muddy Waters- I’m Ready

Buy I’m Ready – Muddy Waters the Anthology: 1947-1972

Buy I’m ReadyAmazon

2.  Elvis Presley- Good Rockin’ Tonight

Buy Good Rockin’ Tonight – Elvis 75 – Good Rockin’ Tonight

Buy Good Rockin’ Tonight (2004 DSD remaster)

3.  Wynonie Harris-Don’t Take My Whiskey Away

Buy Don’t Take My Whiskey Away – Rot Gut

*Not available via Amazon

4.  Malcolm Yelvington & the Star Rhythm Boys- Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee

Buy Drinkin’ Wine Spo-dee-o-dee – The Sun Records Story – From the Heart of the Country, Vol. 2 (Disc 2) Buy Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee – OriginalAmazon

5.  Little Walter- Mellow Down Easy

Buy Mellow Down Easy – The Essential Little Walter

Buy Mellow Down EasyAmazon

6.  The “5” Royales- I Do

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

*Not available via Amazon

7.  Elmore James- Sho’ Nuff I Do

Buy Sho Nuff I Do – Let’s Cut It – The Very Best of Elmore James

Buy Sho’ Nuff I DoAmazon

8.  Big Joe Turner- Well All Right

Buy Well All Right – Big Hits & Highlights of 1954, Vol. 7

Buy Well All RightAmazon

9.  Ray Charles- It Should’ve Been Me

Buy It Should’ve Been Me – The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years

Buy It Should’ve Been Me (Remastered Version) Amazon

10.  Ruth Brown- Mambo Baby

Buy Mambo Baby – The Essentials: Ruth Brown

Buy Mambo Baby (LP Version) Amazon

11.  Shirley Gunter & the Queens- Oop Shoop

Buy Oop Shoop – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 6

Buy Oop Shoop Amazon

12.  Professor Longhair- In the Night

Buy In the Night (LP Version) – New Orleans Piano

Buy In The Night (LP Version)Amazon

13.  Hank Ballard & the Midnighters- Sexy Ways

Buy Sexy Ways – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 7

Buy Sexy WaysAmazon

14.  Dinah Washington- Big Long Slidin’ Thing

Buy Big Long Slidin’ Thing – Greatest R’n’B Hits of 1954, Vol. 2

Buy Big Long Slidin’ ThingAmazon

15.  The Honeybears- One Bad Stud

Buy One Bad Stud – Greatest R&B Hits of 1954, Vol. 9

*Not available via Amazon

16.  The Clovers- Little Mama

Buy Little Mama – Down In the Alley: The Best of the Clovers

Buy Little Mama (LP Version) Amazon

17.  The Jewels- Hearts of Stone

Buy Hearts Of Stone – 1950’s Hits & Highlights, Vol. 4

Buy Hearts Of StoneAmazon

18.  Lightnin’ Hopkins- Movin’ On Out Boogie

Buy Movin’ On Out Boogie – The Very Best Of

Buy Movin’ On Out BoogieAmazon

19. Howlin’ Wolf- No Place to Go

Buy No Place to Go (Single Version) – Howlin’ Wolf: Moanin’ In the Moonlight – Two for One

Buy No Place to GoAmazon

20.  Ray Price- Release Me

Buy Release Me – The Essential Ray Price

Buy Release Me (Single Version)Amazon

21.  Lefty Frizzell- Run ‘Em Off

Buy Run ‘Em Off (Album Version) – Look What Thoughts Will Do

Buy Run ‘Em OffAmazon

22.  Odetta- John Henry

*Not available via iTunes

Buy John Henry Amazon

23.  The Cadillacs- Gloria

Buy Gloria – Doo Wop Classics, Vol. 2

Buy GloriaAmazon

24.  The Counts- Darling Dear

Buy Darling Dear – Doowop Lollipop 2 – 50 Classic Gems

Buy Darling DearAmazon

25.  The Scarlets- Dear One

Buy Dear One – Absolutely The Best Of Doo Wop Volume 1

Buy Dear One – Original Amazon

26.  Frank Sinatra- Young at Heart

Buy Young At Heart – The Capitol Years

Buy Young At Heart (2000 Digital Remaster)Amazon

27.  The Rivileers- A Thousand Stars

*Not available via iTunes or Amazon

28.  The Drifters- White Christmas

Buy White Christmas – Let the Boogie-Woogie Roll: Greatest Hits 1953-1958

BuyWhite ChristmasAmazon