Live Party Music from the Fabulous 1950’s
The Fabulous Fifties…from MGM to “American Bandstand.”
Now that’s entertainment!
Along with the great sounds of the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, the diverse and highly danceable music of the 1950’s offers a rich treasure trove for the musical score of a very hip Cinema Noir or Old Hollywood wedding.
By the time Elvis Presley took America and the rest of the world by storm with his 1956 cover of Big Mama Thornton’s 1953 hit, “Hound Dog,” swing, blues, jive, C&W and rockabilly had already converged into a musical explosion known as “rock and roll.”
Jazz, romance and Broadway went to Hollywood during those years, as well. Some of the best songs ever written, recorded or featured on a Broadway stage or in a musical production number came out of — or passed through — the 1950’s, truly the golden age of American music.
The 1950’s featured re-creations of romantic and swinging standards from the 1920’s and 1930’s, augmented by a colorful explosion of highly danceable music that crossed over from C&W (that’s country and western, folks), blues and rockabilly in the late 1940’s and turned into rock and roll (in about 1954, with the use of the rockabilly crossover “Rock Around The Clock” in the movie Blackboard Jungle.)
Add to this prolific and highly danceable body of work the music from the movies and Broadway shows of the era, and America’s airwaves were fairly bursting with a conglomeration of heady new sounds.
Soul, blues and big band shared playlist space with “crooners” like Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett, Eddie Fisher, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and their rocking and rolling counterparts, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Fats Domino and Elvis.
Nat King Cole, King Pleasure, Patti Page, Peggy Lee, Harry Belafonte and Louis Armstrong were heard on the same radio stations — usually one to a town, not 50 or 60 like we have today — as Hank Williams, The Drifters, The Platters, The Spaniels, Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Cash, James Brown, The Coasters, Richie Valens and B.B. King? You’d better believe it!
Huey Piano Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers along with Bobby Darin, Patti Page, Theresa Brewer, Doris Day, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis ..and the music from Hollywood musicals and the best of the Broadway stage.
Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Rogers & Hammerstein and Julie Styne …Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen…it just doesn’t get any better than the panoply of musical creativity America heard on the radio and played on home phonographs during the 1950’s.
The 1950s offered a combination of sounds for everyone. Rock ‘n roll, rhythm and blues, love songs, jazz, calypso and musicals were all popular. Record sales, more than air play, determined the song’s popularity. Home stereo systems and the corner soda fountain with its jukeboxes became focal points. Everybody danced!
Broadway hits included Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Pajama Game, Singin’ in the Rain, Bye Bye Birdie, My Fair Lady, Wonderful Town, Gigi and The Sound of Music.
Hollywood made movies of 1940’s Broadway gems like Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific and Kiss Me, Kate.
More Hollywood: An American In Paris, That’s Entertainment, The Bandwagon and Funny Face brought standards of an earlier era to life on the silver screen with the singing and dancing of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant and MGM’s talented vocal coach — who almost single-handedly brought American jazz into play in the 1950’s movie musical.
In no particular order, here are some of my favorite 1950’s musical memories:
Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson in “Kiss Me Kate”
Oscar Levant in “An American In Paris”
Johnny Mercer singing “Accentuate The Positive”
Polly Bergen, with the Jackie Gleason orchestra, singing “Bill” as a medley with “Why Was I Born?”
Fred Astaire “Dancing In The Dark” in Central Park with Cyd Charisse in “The Bandwagon”
Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head On My Shoulder,” Bobby Darin reinventing “Mack The Knife,” The Skyliners recording of the soaring “Since I Don’t Have You” and The Flamingos re-make of the Harry Warren & Al Dubin 1934 classic, ” I Only Have Eyes For You” and Peggy Lee’s “Fever”…all hits of 1959…
The 1950’s truly were an amazing decade.
Singer/bandleader Judy Chamberlain specializes in vintage live music for celebrity weddings in California, Arizona, Texas and beyond. She can be reached at 714 319-9242