Music - 1950s

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Hank Ballard

Hank Ballard (real name John Henry Kendricks) was born in Detroit on 18 November 1927. When he was seven he was sent to Bessemer,...

Hank Williams

Hiram King "Hank" Williams was born in Alabama and began playing guitar at the age of eight. As a teenager he led his own country...

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte was born in New York City on 1 March 1927 of a Jamaican mother and a Martinique father. He was taken as...

Howlin’ Wolf

Chester Arthur Burnett was born in Mississippi on 10 June 1910 and began singing the blues while working on a plantation, after being thrown...

Impalas, The

The Impalas formed in 1958 in Brooklyn, New York, with Tony Carlucci singing first tenor, Lenny Renda singing second tenor, and Richard Wagner singing baritone. They...

Ink Spots, The

The Ink Spots were the inspiration for many black vocal groups of the 1950s - for The Ink Spots were black but had hits...

Jackie Wilson

Jack Leroy "Jackie" Wilson, Jr. (born in Detroit on 9 June 1934) was an African-American singer who played an important part in the transition...

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis was raised in the same Pentecostal religious tradition and cultural setting as Elvis, and was exposed to almost identical musical influences. From...

Jim Reeves

The son of an impoverished Texas farming family, Jim Reeves was actually a very successful country music recording artist before he came to the...

Jimmy Reed

The master of down-home blues was, shockingly, turned down as an artist by Chess records in 1953, but became a best-selling performer for rival...

Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith single-handedly took the lumbering electric organ out of the realms of bible-thumping and chapels of rest, stuck a cold beer on the...

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker was born on a sharecropper farm in Clarkesdale, Mississippi in 1917 and became - with his distinctive heavily-rhythmic boogie style -...

Johnnie Ray

Despite being skinny, pigeon-toed, half-deaf and effeminate, this highly emotional performer was the most popular singer of the pre-Elvis era. Indeed, when Elvis first started out he was...

Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson

Watson wrote and recorded a bunch of R&B goodies in the 1950s (including Gangster Of Love and Looking Back) that gave him West Coast recognition without stirring...

Johnny & The Hurricanes

Although they scored four Top Thirty hits in their native USA, Johnny and the Hurricanes doubled that figure in Britain, where they sold almost...

Johnny Ace

Born in Memphis on 9 June 1929, Johnny Ace (real name John Marshall Alexander Jr) returned from service in the US Navy during WWII...

Johnny Cash

He was born J.R. Cash ('John' came later, and 'Johnny' was an invention of Sun Records chief Sam Phillips) in Kingsland, Arkansas, one of...

Johnny Devlin

Johnny Devlin was born John Lockett Devlin on 11 May 1938 in New Zealand. Devlin's cover of Lloyd Price's Lawdy Miss Clawdy (1958) went to #1...

Johnny Mathis

An outstanding college high-jumper, Johnny Mathis was on course for an Olympic medal before being distracted in the mid-50s by the opportunity to sing...

Johnny Nash

Born on 19 August 1940, in Houston, Texas, John Lester Nash, Jr was one of the first black entertainers to work on Houston TV. He...

FEATURED 1950s MUSIC POSTS

“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...

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...

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...

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...

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...