Essentials For Doo Wop Fanatics


As a companion piece to issue #2's essentials for beginners, here we list some great sources of information and enjoyment for the more advanced aficionados. We will lead off with some great readings -

DOO WOP : The Chicago Scene - by Robert Pruter (University of Illinois Press)

Not to be confused by other books with similar titles, this is the most thoroughly researched and scholarly written work regarding this musical form ever published. It is certainly a body of writing that is completist in nature. Here are all the fabulous vocal groups that became known, and many that never became known. The roots of the music in the city of Chicago is explored in great detail as is the daily life of the Black urban neighborhood that produced the music and the musicians. Some of the mythical places that I heard about back in the 1950s from those I knew close to the scene live again, such as the Club Delisa and the Crown Propeller Lounge. The story of the Flamingos is one of the most interesting, relating how they originated from members of a sect of Black Jews, and then became one of the city's top entertainers. They are all here-all the great and the forgotten. The personalities such as Al Benson, Hal Kent, the Magnificent Montague, and more live again in the pages of Pruter's book. Any work of literature in the future that deals with the style of music now called doowop (and I hope there will be many) will from this point in time forward, be measured against this marvelous work.

THEY ALL SANG ON THE CORNER - by Phil Groia (Philly Dee)

Now in a new and updated edition, this long standing work remains the best telling of the story of New York City's neighborhood vocal groups of the 1950s. The story of Harlem's fabulous Harptones provides a major story, and the relationships of neighborhoods plays itself out in the singing contests that took place between competing quartets and fivesomes throughout the city. Many of the best of these harmonizers never saw their best work ever put on records and some of the one upmanship is legendary. From the Morrisania section of the Bronx that produced the Crickets, Chords, and Mellows, to the Harlem of the Solitaires, Bop Chords, and Wanderers, to the Brooklyn of Fort Green and Bed-Stuy of the Imperials and Paragons, all parts of the city are covered in this affectionate tribute. The intricate and sometimes difficult task of keeping up with members coming and going is done with great accuracy, and many untold stories now see the light of day in this fascinating book about this music. A long standing favorite-if you have never read it than you owe it to yourself to seek out a copy of this fine work.

Other books of interest that are not specifically about vocal groups are -

FIRST PRESSINGS - ed. by Galen Gart (Big Nickel)

These volumes begin with 1950, and proceed through each year presently to 1957. Each one is a treasure trove of vintage ads from record labels, booking agencies, and promoters. Besides all the ads are lists of new releases week by week, news items and columns regarding record sales and public appearances, and plenty of photos and are all indexed year by year. Information on many groups and record releases that would be forgotten are now recorded for posterity in these pages. Included are news stories from various radio stations and on-air personalities of the day that allow you to relive the days when rock was in its infancy and the vocal group was coming of age. These articles, surveys, and photos are from trade publications of the day and provide an invaluable reference of the music and the musicians. All volumes are highly recommended with a special emphasis on the earliest years -1950-1954.

HONKERS and SHOUTERS - by Arnold Shaw (Schirmer)

This history of the development of Rhythm & Blues is written by a music industry insider during the 40s and 50s. While there may be some historical inaccuracies, for the most part this book is informative and entertaining. The various accounts of the founding of the independent labels that recorded almost all of the important songs of the era is a most interesting section.

BIG BEAT HEAT - by John Jackson (Schirmer)

The definitive biography of Alan Freed, the man who brought it all back home. From his earliest beginnings in Ohio and Pennsylvania, to the leader at the crest of the wave in Cleveland in the early 1950s, this story leads into the years as the high priest of rock & roll through the glory days of the mid-50s. The fall was as rapid as the rise. A mere 4 years after his arrival in the Big Apple Freed was under a cloud of suspicion from the payola scandals then sweeping radio. His demise was soon to follow. Jackson recalls in great detail all of these events and much more in a long overdue work. This should be required reading for anybody interested in the music and culture of the beginning of the rock & roll age.

THE SOUND OF THE CITY - Charlie Gillette

The overall history of rock & roll has been around for 25 years or so, and still remains the first, and one of the best, of the serious works concerning the history of the music. A good look at the general development of the rock & roll style and its practitioners.

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