Music – 1950s

“5” Royales, The

The "5" Royales began life in the 1940s as a gospel group called The Royal Sons Quintet but rechristened themselves The Royals after going secular and signing to New York's Apollo label in 1952. But Hank Ballard's backing band at the time was also called The Royals, so guitarist/songwriter Lowman 'El' Pauling and co added(...)

2i’s Coffee Bar

2i’s Coffee Bar

The 2i's Coffee Bar was an integral part of British pop music history. Situated at 59 Old Compton Street, Soho (London) it was originally owned by two brothers called Irani (hence the name "two I's") but on 22 April 1956 it was re-opened by two ex-wrestlers, Ray Hunter and Paul Lincoln, who had wrestled under the name(...)

Al Martino

Jasper Cini was born in 1927 and became a friend and disciple of Mario Lanza. Changing his name to Al Martino in the late 1940s when he started his career as a romantic Italian baritone, his breakthrough hit came with Here In My Heart (1952). The song had been originally intended for Lanza but the older man(...)

Alan Freed

The Disc Jockey widely believed to have first coined the phrase "rock 'n' roll" began life as a jazz trombonist with a band called Sultans Of Swing (it may have been them that Dire Straits were singing about many years later). Born in Pennsylvania in 1922, Freed began his DJ career at various Pennsylvania and Ohio radio(...)

Alma Cogan

Born in London, Cogan's chart career ran from 1954 to 1961 as she sang innumerable hits on the cusp of the rock era. Dubbed "The Girl With A Giggle In Her Voice", she was the highest paid British female entertainer of her era. Alma's mother encouraged her to enter show business, and she auditioned for Ted(...)

Ames Brothers, The

The Ames Brothers were a singing quartet from Massachusetts (USA) who became famous in the 1950s for their traditional pop music hits. The Ames Brothers consisted of Joe (1921 - 2007), Gene (1923 - 1997), Vic (1925 - 1978) and Ed (1927 - ). Born into a musically talented family, the boys were brought up on classical and operatic(...)

Andy Williams

Howard Andrew Williams was born in Iowa and started singing professionally with his three older brothers - Bob, Don and Dick - as the Williams Brothers Quartet. They worked in night clubs and on radio and backed Bing Crosby on his number one record Swinging on a Star in 1944. Embarking on a solo career in the 1950s,(...)

Anne Shelton

Anne Shelton, the singer with the wholesome girl-next-door appeal, came to be known as the "Forces' Favourite" on wartime radio. She provided an instant hit with her weekly radio programme for the BBC, during World War II. She was also supposed to accompany Glenn Miller on the ill-fated 1944 flight when the bandleader's plane vanished(...)

Anthony Newley

Anthony George Newley was born on 24 September 1931. He grew up around Hackney in the East End of London and began acting in his teens. He attended the Italia Conti Stage School and starred in movies like The Little Ballerina, and in 1948 played his much-remembered role of the Artful Dodger in David Lean's Oliver. Newley(...)

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

Arthur Crudup was born in 1905 in Jackson, Mississippi, and grew up in Forest, a town 40 miles west. He worked mainly as a sharecropper, but also as a levee worker, logger and sanitation worker. He also sang in church choirs and with the gospel group, The Harmonizing Four. In 1939 he took up the(...)

Atlantic Records

Atlantic Records has introduced the world to some of the most influential musicians this planet has ever produced; Jazz icons such as John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman, and rock giants like Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Yes and Bad Company. But Atlantic will always be primarily associated with the urban sound of black America. This was, after(...)

BB King

He says he can't sing and keep rhythm on the guitar at the same time, but the unquestionable king of the blues - in both record sales and influence - took the world by storm on his 1965 Live At The Regal LP. The Mississippi-born son of a share cropper, Riley B King started singing the blues(...)

Big Bopper, The

The "Big Bopper" was born Jiles Perry Richardson on 24 October 1930, in Sabine Pass, Texas. Following military service in the Army, he worked as a DJ on Radio KTRM in Beaumont, Texas (where he assumed the 'Big Bopper' moniker) and set about establishing himself in the entertainment industry by attempting to break the world(...)

Big Joe Turner

Joe Turner was born in Kansas City on 18 May 1911, and by the late 1920's he was a singing bartender in a town where the Great Depression was hardly noticed. "Roll 'em, Pete" Turner would roar from behind the bar to the stomping boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson, and the two of them developed these(...)

Big Mama Thornton

Born in Montgomery, Alabama, on 11 December 1926, Willie Mae Thornton supported herself from age 14, when her mother died. When Sam Green's Hot Harlem Revue came to town in 1941, Willie Mae heard that Green was looking for talent. She could play the harmonica and sing songs she had "picked up off the jukebox,"(...)

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