1950s in music  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Music of the United Kingdom (1950s and 60s)

Popular music up to the early 1950s was mainly bebop and jazz variants. Jazz stars included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk. Rock and roll emerged as the teen music of choice with Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly being notable exponents. Elvis Presley was the musical superstar of the period with rock, rockabilly, gospel, and romantic balladeering being his signatures. Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash were rockabilly musicians. Doo Wop was another popular genre at the time. Calypso enjoyed popularity with Jamaican Harry Belafonte being dubbed the "King of Calypso". The Kingston Trio was instrumental in launching the folk music revival of the fifties and sixties. On March 14, 1958, the RIAA certified crooner Perry Como's single, "Catch A Falling Star" its first ever Gold Record.

This article includes an overview of the major events and trends in popular music in the 1950s.

Contents

The U.S. and North America

Rock and roll

Blues

R&B

  • In 1951, Little Richard Penniman began recording for RCA Records in the jump blues style of late 1940s Joe Brown and Billy Wright. However, it wasn't until he prepared a demo in 1954, that caught the attention of Specialty Records, that the world would start to hear his new, uptempo, funky rhythm and blues that would catapult him to fame in 1955 and help define the sound of rock 'n' roll. A rapid succession of rhythm and blues hits followed, beginning with "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally", which would influence performers such as James Brown, Elvis Presley, and Otis Redding.

Pop

Country music

  • In 1955, Ozark Jubilee began a nearly six-year run on ABC-TV, the first national TV show to feature country's biggest stars.
  • In 1958, the Nashville sound became country music's response to continued encroachment of genre by rock artists.
  • The late 1950s saw the emergence of the Lubbock sound, but by the end of the decade, backlash as well as traditional country music artists such as Ray Price, Marty Robbins, and Johnny Horton began to shift the industry away from the rock n' roll influences of the mid-50s.

Rockabilly

Rockabilly emerged in the early 1950s as a fusion of rock and roll and country music. Rockabilly was most popular with country fans in the 1950s. The music was propelled by catchy beats, an electric guitar and an acoustic bass which was played using the slap-back technique.

Rockabilly is generally considered to have begun in the early 1950s, when musicians like Bill Haley began mixing jump blues and electric country. In 1954, however, Elvis Presley truly began the popularization of the genre with a series of recordings for Sun Records. "Rock Around the Clock" (1955, Bill Haley) was the breakthrough success for the style, and it launched the careers of several rockabilly entertainers.

During this period Elvis Presley converted over to country music. He played a huge role in the music industry during this time. The number two, three and four songs on Billboard's charts for that year were Elvis Presley, "Heartbreak Hotel;" Johnny Cash, "I Walk the Line;" and Carl Perkins, "Blue Suede Shoes".

Cash and Presley placed songs in the top 5 in 1958 with No. 3 "Guess Things Happen That Way/Come In, Stranger" by Cash, and No. 5 by Presley "Don't/I Beg Of You." Presley acknowledged the influence of rhythm and blues artists and his style, saying "The colored folk been singin' and playin' it just the way I'm doin' it now, man for more years than I know." But he also said, "My stuff is just hopped-up country."

By 1958, many rockabilly musicians returned to a more mainstream style or had defined their own unique style and rockabilly had largely disappeared from popular music.

Bluegrass

Jazz

Bebop, Hard bop, Cool jazz and the Blues gained popularity during the 1950s while prominent Jazz musicians who came into prominence in these genres included Lester Young, Ben Webster, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Gil Evans, Jerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Art Blakey, Max Roach, the Miles Davis Quintet, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, and Billie Holiday.

Other Trends

Billboard Artist of the Decade

In December 1959, the American music magazine Billboard named Elvis Presley as the best Artist of the Decade for the 1950s.

Europe

During the 1950s European popular music give way to the influence of American forms of music including jazz, swing and traditional pop, mediated through film and records. The significant change of the mid-1950s was the impact of American rock and roll, which provided a new model for performance and recording, based on a youth market. Initially this was dominated by American acts, or re-creations of American forms of music, but soon distinctly European Bands and individual artists began in early attempts to produce local Rock and roll music.

Latin America

  • In 1958 Daniel Flores, who some call the "godfather of Latin Rock", performed his hit song "Tequila".
  • Argentinian band Los Cinco Latinos released their first album Maravilloso Maravilloso, which was met with success in Latin America and the United States.

Australia and New Zealand

  • New Zealand was introduced to Rock n Roll by Johnny Cooper's cover of "Rock around the Clock."

After Rock n Roll had been introduced the most famous of New Zealand's cover artists were: Johnny Devlin, Max Merit and the Meteors, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and Dinah Lee.

Electronic music: Post-war years: 1940s to 1950s

Main articles: History of electronic art music, Musique concrète, 1940s music, 1950s music

The tape recorder was invented in Germany during World War II. It wasn't long before composers used the tape recorder to develop a new technique for composition called Musique concrète. This technique involved editing together recorded fragments of natural and industrial sounds. Frequently, composers used sounds that were produced entirely by electronic devices not designed for a musical purpose. The first pieces of musique concrète were written by Pierre Schaeffer, who later worked alongside such avant-garde classical composers as Pierre Henry, Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen has worked for many years as part of Cologne's Studio for Electronic Music combining electronically generated sounds with conventional orchestras. The first electronic music for magnetic tape composed in America was completed by Louis and Bebe Barron in 1950.

Two new electronic instruments made their debut in 1957. Unlike the earlier Theremin and Ondes Martenot, these instruments were hard to use, required extensive programming, and neither could be played in real time. The first of these electronic instruments was the computer when Max Mathews used a program called Music 1, later users were Edgard Varèse, and Iannis Xenakis. The other electronic instrument that appeared that year was the first electronic synthesizer. Called the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer, it used vacuum tube oscillators and incorporated the first electronic music sequencer. It was designed by RCA and installed at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center where it remains to this day.

The Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, now known as the Computer Music Center, is the oldest center for electronic and computer music research in the United States. It was founded in 1958 by Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening who had been working with magnetic tape manipulation since the early 1950s. A studio was built there with the help of engineer Peter Mauzey and it became the hub of American electronic music production until about 1980. Robert Moog developed voltage controlled oscillators and envelope generators while there, and these were later used as the heart of the Moog synthesizer.


See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "1950s in music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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