Old Collectible Fifties Records          

Doo-Wop

by Erika Cox

Doo-Wop became very popular in the 1950’s producing a great deal of Doo-Wop groups.

However, the name Doo-Wop wasn’t invented until years later and was named Doo-Wop from the syllables sung by members.

Doo-Wop groups emerged from all over the country and they were often labeled according to where they originated. Each area of the country had a unique sound. There were East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Southern, and even Street Corner Groups.

Let’s back up and explain what Doo-Wop music is all about. I, personally, love the sound of musical instruments and believe that a truly gifted and talented music artist plays an instrument of some kind. However, the voice is a powerful instrument in itself and when someone has a truly gifted voice it is a beauty to hear.

The impact of the human voice is unmatched. Like an instrument the voice can hit many notes but it can only hit one note at a time, so in order to make up for this when groups got together to sing they would incorporate a variety of voices that would hit different notes simultaneously.

Doo-Wop is a combination of harmonizing vocals and sometimes with no background music. The style is simple yet complex based on the harmonizing techniques, and the emphasis is on the words of the song.

Since some people listen to a song for the words and most, if not all, of the Doo-Wop songs were love songs the style became very popular, especially back in the 1950’s when things were much simpler and love songs more popular.

Most of the Doo-Wop groups in the 50’s were Black. Black vocal harmony goes back a long way in America, all the way back to slavery when the Slaves would often harmonize singing songs while working in the fields.

Because Doo-Wop became extremely popular in the 1950’s there were a barrage of groups that came on the scene, some had a lasting affect others were one hit wonders.

Some of the more popular groups included, The Platters, The Coasters, The Ink Spots, The Drifters, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, The Del-Vikings, and the Five Satins.

There were a number of groups consisting of teenagers like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers and the School Boys.

There were a few white Doo-Wop groups, a popular one was The Crew Cuts but often this group would cover the Black groups’ music to make the music more acceptable to mainstream society. It also served the prejudice views that wanted to keep white teenagers from listening to Black music.

Another group called the Del-Vikings consisted of Black and White members. Some groups that were, for the most part, one hit wonders were groups like The Penguins with their huge hit, “Earth Angel”. Although, it is easy to lump all these groups and their sound together, there was a lot of variety between the groups.

The Platters were sophisticated, the Ink Spots recorded fast tunes, with Clyde McPhatter, the Drifters created a smooth, sexy sound, and the Coasters had a comedy approach many of their songs were humorous. Also, some of the groups used instruments or an orchestral sound, while others went acapella.

By 1958, what is now known as Classic Doo-Wop was on it’s way down due to saturation in the market. One of the last popular songs was “I Only Have Eyes For You” by the Flamingos.

Doo-Wop made a resurgence in the early 1960’s with what is now called Neo Doo-Wop, a new breed of Doo-Wop groups that came out. Unlike the first wave of Doo-Wop groups in the 1950’s, there was a mixture of Black, White and Italian groups.

Many groups got their start by singing and harmonizing on street corners and in hallway buildings. Similar, to the groups in the 1950’s, many of these groups were one-hit wonders and were basically produced like an assembly line.

The British Invasion led to the decline of the Neo Doo-Wop groups but both the classic and the neo Doo-Wop groups served an important purpose because people enjoyed listening to the harmonizing vocals and the groups filled that need.

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