Music – 1950s

Dorothy Squires

Dorothy Squires was born Edna May Squires in Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire (South Wales) on 25 March 1915. She began to perform professionally as a singer at the age of 16, working mostly with the orchestra of Billy Reid who was her partner for many years. Reid began to write songs for her, and in the immediate post-war(…)

Dovells, The

The Dovells were an American vocal group, formed at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1957, under the name The Brooktones. Their first single was No, No, No which was a minor local hit. Summers and Dennis left the group, forming The Gems with Mark Stevens and Alan Horowitz in 1960, while the remaining Brooktones signed(…)

Drifters, The

Formed in 1953 in New York at the behest of Atlantic Records, The Drifters were consistent US hit makers until 1964. A few years later their career was strongly revived in Britain – some of their later UK hits (eleven of them in less than five years) were new songs, but their rebirth started in 1972(…)

Duane Eddy

Duane was born in Corning in far upstate New York, 150 miles from the Canadian border. He grew up there and in other small upstate New York towns like Bath and Penn Yan. There was a surprisingly good market for country music in the north country, and several of the southern Saturday night radio jamborees,(…)

Eartha Kitt

Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran was born on 3 October 1938, the youngest of five children. The Cochran family home was in Oklahoma City but shortly after Eddie was born the family was forced to move to Albert Lea, Minnesota, in search of employment. In Albert Lea (population 20,000) Eddie grew up in a relaxing atmosphere of hunting,(…)

Ella Fitzgerald

Born in Newport News, Virginia, in 1917, Ella Fitzgerald never knew her father – he left the family while she was an infant – and her mother died when Ella was a teenager. Ella was abused by her stepfather following her mother’s death and, at age 15, was given refuge by an aunt in Harlem,(…)

Elmore James

Despite his brief career – spanning little more than a decade before his early death in 1963 – bluesman Elmore James affected rock and roll in a way that few of his contemporaries could claim to . . . Profoundly influenced by blues guitarists such as Kokomo Arnold and the legendary Robert Johnson, who taught(…)

Elvis Presley

Elvis Aron (Aaron) Presley was born on 8 January 1935 to a poor family from Tupelo, Mississippi, and moved to Memphis, Tennessee with his parents in 1948. After school he drifted through various menial jobs, choosing to concentrate his attention on leisure activities – including listening to country music and R&B on the local radio(…)

Embassy Records

Embassy Records

Kids today want designer names, the genuine thing. But in the 1950’s and 1960’s when money was in short supply, they were happy to buy double-sided cover versions of chart hits on the Embassy label, sold for 4/6d (22p) and marketed exclusively by Woolworth’s.   The label was initially an offshoot of Oriole who did(…)

Emile Ford (& The Checkmates)

In a musical climate that had been dominated by white British and American acts, Emile Ford forged a name for himself as Britain’s first black pop star. Born Michael Emile Telford Miller on 16 October 1937, in St Lucia, Windward Islands (Bahamas) he emigrated to London during the 1950s. His family insisted he complete his(…)

Esther Phillips

Her inimitable ravaged voice – part Nina Simone, part Dinah Washington– combined with patronage from bandleader Johnny Otis saw her soar to the US R&B chart top spot in 1950 with Double Crossing Blues, Mistrustin’ Blues and Cupid Boogie. She was back at the top again in 1962 with her sublime cover of Release Me, this time with the help of Kenny Rogers,(…)

Etta James

LA-native Etta James (born Jamesetta Hawkins) was born in Los Angeles on 25 January 1938. Her mother, Dorothy Hawkins, a 14-year-old groupie and jazz fan, put her daughter into the care of her landlady, ‘Mama’ Lu Rogers, when Etta was just six months old. Etta would meet the man she believed to be her father, the(…)

Everly Brothers, The

Born Isaac Donald Everly on 1 February 1937 in Brownie, Kentucky, Don wasn’t the twin of Phil, as so many believed. Phil was in fact, born on 19 January 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. When the two boys were living in Shenandoah, Iowa, their parents – who were both performers – introduced them to listeners on(…)

Fabian

Born Fabiano Forte in Philadelphia on 6 February 1943, he attended the same boys club as his neighbourhood friends Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell.  All three had budding ambitions to become famous singers. In 1957 Fabian was introduced to Bob Marcucci and Peter de Angelis, who headed Chancellor Records in Philadelphia and was signed to a(…)

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