Music – 1950s

Viscounts, The

British group The Viscounts – Gordon Mills, Don Paul and Ronnie Wells – were a trio of variety entertainers in the tradition of The Mudlarks, certainly unlikely to ever make the trek to Hamburg to titillate the Reeperbahn punters. They went in for cover versions of American hits and ‘cash-in’s’ (such as Mama’s Doin’ The Twist). Nevertheless,(…)

Wanda Jackson

Wanda Jackson started her career as a dare. Her church friends dared her to audition for a local radio station’s talent spot when she was 12 years old. She took the dare and won, and ended up with a regular 15-minute slot on radio KLPR in Oklahoma City. In the late Fifties and early Sixties,(…)

Wanderers, The

  Another doo-wop group which was quite popular on the US East Coast but otherwise obscure, The Wanderers began as The Barons in 1952. Lead singer Ray Pollard, Frank Joyner, Robert Yarborough, and Sheppard Grant were the original members. They were also known as The Larks and Singing Wanderers and continued performing into the 1990s,(…)

Warren Smith

It’s astonishing the sheer amount of talent that was beating a path to Sam Phillips’ door in 1956 wanting a contract with Sun Records. Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Sonny Burgess and Billy Lee Riley all got Phillips’ OK that year, but even premier rock ‘n’ roll wild men like The Burnette Brothers were turned down. The(…)

Waylon Jennings

Following the break-up of The Crickets, Jennings played bass for Buddy Holly. During a particularly harsh winter in February 1958 while touring with Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, 21-year-old Jennings offered up his seat on a chartered light aircraft to a flu-ridden Big Bopper, volunteering to travel in the freezing tour bus in his place. As they(…)

Wee Willie Harris

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon, one of 14 children, was born on 1 July 1915 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After stints as a gospel singer and boxer, he settled in Chicago where he met Phil and Leonard Chess and began a long association with their seminal record label. At Chess he was A&R man, musical director, bassist, producer and(…)

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma – an uproarious oil town – on 14 July 1912. His father Charley was a Democrat politico and a Ku Klux Klan supporter. His father’s sour property deals impoverished them, and when Woody was seven his beloved elder sister Clara died in a fire. By then, his mother(…)

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