I was a teenager when rock and roll came out, and not being allowed to play "that disgusting music" at home made me more keen! Still keen.
The Music of the 1950s
Let me take you through a snapshot view of the 1950s, a view skewed by the fact that I was not even a teenager in 1950, and by 1959 I was already a mother.
Pop Music as we Know it Was in its Infancy
Too much happened in those post-war years to give you all the cultural, historical and political details, so these are just a few of my own musical memories which stood out.
It was the decade when Pop Music and Rock 'n Roll really took off but there was other good music too. And we played records on the gramaphone or radiogram
Early 1950s Music Records
Until I left home and went to boarding school at the age of 11, my musical taste was somewhat shaped by the records my parents used to play.
The decade started with us playing records -short 78 rpm's on our big state-of-the-art very expensive radiogramme and by the mid 1950s all that changed, and we were able to play 45 rpm's and Extended Play 33 1/3 rpm's, which were much more delicate, and you had to be careful not to scratch them. These were all mono, and stereo came in a bit later.
Harry Belafonte was a family favorite, with his "Down the Way Where the Nights are Gay and the sun shines daily (or was it gaily?) on the Mountain top", and "Banana Boat Song" starting with it's plaintive call "Dayo, Isadayayayo....daylight com and I wanna go home".
In 1954 Harry Belafonte starred in the film Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge
As they were not operatic singers, their voices were dubbed by LeVern Hutcheron and Marilyn Horne. I enjoyed it, but my parents were not so sure, being brought up on the original 1875 Carmen opera by Georges Bizet . The film music was a nearly faithful copy, but with a modern twist to the story and Afro-Caribbean actors playing the lead parts, which was almost unheard of at that time.
Beniamino Gigli: Che Gelida Manina (La Boheme) Your Tiny Hand is Frozen
My father's favorite was Beniamino Gigli, considered to be one of the very finest tenors in the recorded history of music. Not only would we listen to wonderful songs from the Italian Opera, such as "Your Tiny Hand is Frozen", and "I Pagliacci", but we would also get fabulous renderings of operatic songs belted out from the bathroom by my father, who had aspirations to be an opera singer and a rich tenor voice to back this up. "O Solo Mio" had a life before football and ice cream adopted it as their own.
There Were Many Popular French Singers
My parents were very sociable, we lived in Central Africa at that time, and they used to have a lot of small parties and sundowners, when they would dance and play sophisticated music - they loved all things French, such as Edith Piaf singing "Je Regrette Riens" and Charles Trenet singing "La Mer". Another popular French song of the time was "La Vie en Rose"......"take me to your heart again" ....... These were not strictly songs of the 1950s, but their popularity continued into that era, and are certainly fixed there in my childhood memory.
At School we Used to Gather Round the Wireless to Listen to the Hit Parade Once a Week
We would hear such gems as Rosemary Clooney singing "On the Baby's bottom on the baby's knee, where will the baby's dimple be?", and Frank Sinatra singing "The Tables are Empty, the dance floors deserted", which I always loathed. It was some years later that I realized that I just didn't like crooners.
Perry Como - out!
Mel Torme - Out!
Dean Martin - yuck!
And, as for Frank Sinatra's signature song, "I Did it My Way", I never liked it until I heard the vastly superior Punk version by the Sex Pistols, several years later--at least it injected some fun into what was otherwise a rather nauseating dirge, pompous self-glorifiying and lacking musicality.
Nat King Cole
Nat King Cole was very popular - "Smile while your heart is breaking" and "Too Young" - very smooth, if a little bland, and Les Paul and Mary Ford singing in unison "How High the Moon", and "Vaya Con Dios" and then later in 1954, "Mr. Sandman" sung by the Chordettes.
But my favorite was Frankie Lane.
I still have his album Frankie Lane and the Four Lads --if anyone wants to buy it, just ask - cheap, because the cover is torn.
Early '50's on YouTube--Jamaica Farewell, La Mer, and Mister Sandman
And here are a few more popular songs of the 1950's - how many do you remember or even know?
Mid to Late1950's: The Explosion of Rock and Roll:
Johnnie Ray and Elvis Presley
In early 1950s Johnny Ray's "Cry" came on the scene, followed by "A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation".
Then there was my hero and personal favorite, Elvis Presley, with "Hearbreak Hotel" and "Blue Suede Shoes".
In 1954 Bill Haley was credited by many with first popularizing Rock and Roll with his group Bill Haley & His Comets and their hit song "Rock Around the Clock"
Other popular music was "Earth Angel" - Penguins, "Sh-Boom"- the Chords and "That's All Right" - Elvis Presley and "Diana" - Paul Anka.
Then, in1955: "Tutti-Frutti" - Little Richard, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" - Teenagers and "The Great Pretender" - The Platters.
Here's Evis on Amazon
Music in Mid to Late 1950s - Music on YouTube - Presley, Haley, Little Richard, The Platters:
Elvis Presley - Heartbreak Hotel
Bill Haley - Rock Around the Clock
Little Richard - Tutti Frutti
The Platters - The Great Pretender
Paul Anka - Diana
The Platters - The Great Pretender
Dancing and Fashion
Ballroom dancing was still popular - As well as rock and roll, I could dance the quickstep, foxtrot and waltz, which were more intimate dances than the wild rock and roll which soon became ubiquitous amongst the younger generation, setting them apart from the "grown-ups".
I liked both, but I must say, if you wanted a close clinch, and a romantic cuddle, ballroom was best!
Girls' skirts became very wide, even circular, with big hoop petticoats underneath, and wide belts. Flat shoes, ballet pumps, came in, together with bobby sox and pony tails for the girls, and jeans for the boys.
Take the Poll below and see what everyone thinks
Just a bit of fun!
My favorites were Elvis Presley and Rock and Roll.
See the Question Below:
Links to More Web Pages about the 1950s Era - Things About the 1950s Which You Might Have Forgotten - More nostalgia
- Swell & Groovy Hairdo's of the 1950s & 60's
Lots of pictures of old film stars and a comprehensive run-down of the hairstyles of the day
- Fashion History - Women's Clothing of the 1950s
More fashionable film stars and a good discussion about the clothes of the 1950s and their origins
- Parents are the Real Pop Pickers
Young adults like same music as mum and dad because they associate it with memories
What do You Think About 1950s Music? - Leave your comments here on my Guest Book
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on March 08, 2014:
@Cyrus Solomons: II can't remember much music of that time, but I expect I could
Cyrus Solomons on March 07, 2014:
Great collection. Maybe you could also try to put together another collection of the 90's
David Stone from New York City on March 07, 2014:
This music was just a little to early to get a real hook in me, but I remember Mom taking us to see Rock Around The Clock at a Drive In when I was six or seven.
It was great era for music as radio became more popular and singers found it easier to gain broader audiences. In some ways, I'm sorry I missed it, but I wouldn't want to give up my 1960s either.
I thought you summed this up very well, Diana. Thank you.
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on March 07, 2014:
Nice little trip down memory lane, even if yours was a little different from ours in the states. Still, many of the performers were still the same. Thanks for sharing your 50s memories.
SteveKaye on March 07, 2014:
Most of the music that I remember was upbeat and fun.
Robin S from USA on March 07, 2014:
Fun lens. I missed out on being born in the 50s but I grew up hearing a lot of the music.
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 30, 2013:
@BLouw: These songs always bring back memories of the good old days!
Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on June 30, 2013:
@aviwolfson: He certainly was!
Barbara Walton from France on June 29, 2013:
I really enjoyed listening to these. Love The Great Pretender and didn't realise just how beautifully Harry Belafone's songs were. Many thanks for putting these together.
Avi Wolfson from Massachusetts on June 28, 2013:
Little Richard was the man.
dwindhaus lm on March 27, 2013:
I love the 50's, great lens
nyclittleitaly on February 17, 2012:
Thanks for a great lens about really good music. I did a few lenses on this music also.
Bobbala on January 25, 2012:
Thanks for a great lens.
katemiya on September 17, 2011:
I love the rockabilly sound so the 50s are great! You provided a lot of information for us in this lens.
sousababy on September 12, 2011:
I was born in the late 60's but I do enjoy listening to classic rock n roll. Thanks for sharing.
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on September 02, 2011:
I was born in 1954 and so I know all these songs too. They were always playing them on the radio (sorry wireless) on the Light Service. We never had a record player, but my cousins did, and I used to play all their old 45's. More were from the early 1960s than the 50's though (Beatles, Cliff Richard etc), but I used to play The Banana Boat Song too. I still have Rock Around The Clock and Love Me Tender on 78. Nothing to play them on these days though. Great memories of my younger days, Blessed.
Dakeas on August 28, 2011:
Great! thank you
Linda Hahn from California on June 06, 2011:
Best music ever!
anonymous on June 05, 2011:
You have so many of my favorites, Elvis, Frankie Laine, Harry Belafonte, and so many more. Great job!
gottaloveit2 on June 04, 2011:
Love the poodle skirt! Great lens and a nice stroll down memory lane.
anonymous on June 02, 2011:
Love this lens! Fabulous trip back to the 50's. I especially remember the songs from the mid to late 50s with nostalgia, that's when my sister was in high school, and she bought all the hit records. As the little sister, I got to listen to them vicariously! Great job with this!
TeacherSerenia on January 22, 2011:
Some of my favourite songs are from the 50s.
Rockin' robin, It's my party, Jambalaya, Rock around the Clock, Shake Rattle & Roll, Great Balls of Fire, Whole Lotta Shakinâ Goinâ On, and others.
But I also love 70s and 80s disco music as well.
CeruttiTesi on January 01, 2011:
Very romantic and chic! Thank you!