It Wasn't All Rock 'n' Roll
Rock 'n' Roll was, without a doubt, the biggest entertainment
news of the 1950's. But there was other popular music in the
Classic vocalists like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett
and Perry Como all remained popular throughout and beyond the
And even though
their overall sales would be eclipsed by rock 'n' roll in the
middle of the decade, they managed to maintain a strong fan base
among listeners who had no taste for "that crazy new music."
For most of us, rock 'n' roll became a blessing; a forerunner of
sounds that were far more dynamic than the top-selling records
of the past that now seem unbelievably bland by comparison.
But there was a price
to be paid for the excitement rock 'n' roll provided (and that
price was a lack of variety).
As we all know, it's the music business. And, as we all know,
business people often show a profound lack of imagination.
The bigger players
in the music business of the 1950's proved to be no exception as
they rushed to cash-in on the next big thing and started to
ignore the marketing of most everything else.
Today most songs at the top of the sales charts are either rock
'n' roll or one of its many derivatives. And even though most
everyone today might find such tunes preferable to Percy Faith's
Song from Moulin Rouge (#1 record of 1953), the average person
would readily admit that a little variety never hurt anyone
(except maybe Percy Faith).
Looking at a typical year in 1950's music sales is not unlike
watching a schizophrenic moth having an epileptic seizure. For
example, Billboard (one of the music industry's leading
publications) reported 1955's top-selling records as:
1. CHERRY PINK AND APPLE BLOSSOM WHITE (an orchestral
2. ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK (rock 'n' roll)
3. YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS (a group sing)
4. AUTUMN LEAVES (a ballad)
5. UNCHAINED MELODY (a ballad)
Such a list could make a person believe that variety is a bad
thing. But at least choices were available.
Also available in the 1950's was country and western music that
sounded like country and western music. Unlike modern recordings
in the genre, country music did not sound like twangy rock 'n'
roll with a southern accent.
It also was not
performed by "wanna-be-rockers"
who couldn't make it in mainstream popular music due to lack of
Country music of the 50's was presented, for the most part, by
talented songwriters and performers. And even though mostly
popular only in rural areas at the time, the genre and its
performers had a profound effect on most every form of American
Thankfully, modern technology provides us with a much greater
chance to research, find and listen to all forms of music from
every era today.
We are now free to enjoy
a variety that was mostly lost due to marketing moguls who began
their musical homogenation process in the 50's.
As for me…I'll take rock 'n' roll.
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