Old Collectible Fifties Records          

Doo-Wop

 

by Jena Redwanski


By Definition: A Cappella or sounds made by a singing group as they provide harmonic background vocals for the lead singer. 

The term "doo-wop" was taken from the ad-lib syllables sung in harmony in doo-wop songs. Two songs in particular may lay claim to being the "first" to contain the syllables "doo-wop" in the refrain: the 1955 hit, "When You Dance" by The Turbans, in which the chant "doo-wop" can be plainly heard; and the 1956 classic "In the Still of the Night" by The Five Satins, with the plaintive "doo-wop, doo-wah" refrain in the bridge.

Chicago, New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles all lay claim to the origins of the doo-wop sound. It is said that The Orioles helped develop the doo-wop sound with their hits "It's Too Soon to Know" (1948) and "Crying in the Chapel" (1953). Many music historians consider “It’s To Soon To Know” to be the first doo-wop song to be recorded. The Orioles were formed in 1946 by Sonny Til, but were first named the Vibranaires.

Many early doo-wop groups began singing a cappella when they realized that they didn’t necessarily need instruments to make music. The teenagers couldn’t afford any instruments, so they used their mouths to make different sounds.

Because many early doo-wop groups were teenagers when they began, they lacked important business knowledge to make the money that they sincerely earned. The groups often put trust into the record companies when it came to contractual agreements.

The companies would tell them that they would profit from touring the country, or that they would earn more money if they were paid by recording session rather than by each song recorded.

Another common mishap was that the label owners would tell the groups that they would get more airtime if the group would allow the listing of the record owner as the composer or co-author of the song. They said that the DJ’s would be more likely to play the song if they knew it was from a recognized producer. Some of the groups’ contracts contained clauses, which stated that all expenses were to be paid from their royalties and major shows were done for free.

By 1958, the Doo-Wop style of music ruled the rock n’ roll airwaves The Platters, the Coasters and most of the greatest groups to ever record were capturing the hearts of America with their forever-legendary songs.

In the beginning, doo-wop groups mainly consisted of young African American teenagers, but by the late 1950s-early 1960s there was a rise of Italian doo-wop groups, including Dion and the Belmonts, The Capris, the Mystics, and the Duprees, and two racially integrated groups; The Del-Vikings and The Crests.

Doo-Wop was the closest rock style to mainstream pop in the mid-1950's and remained popular until just before the British Invasion of 1964. 1961 might have been the peak of doo-wop, with hits that include The Marcels' "Blue Moon". 

It has been noted too, that doo-wop groups tend to be named after birds. These groups include The Orioles, The Ravens, the Cardinals, the Crows, the Wrens, the Robins, the Swallows, the Larks, the Flamingos and the Penguins.



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