Tuesday, July 27, 2010


49. The Coasters

The Coasters are one of the most successful doowop groups. They are one of the few who claimed multiple successes.

Given the importance of doo wop in American music it is surprising how few artists had lengthy careers. Most of the best had a handful of hits, at best. The Coasters enjoyed slightly better conditions. They could do serious and silly, finding welcoming audiences, and DJs, with both.

Their five-part line up, like other doo wop artists, would morph into the Motown mold. Their songs would be covered for decades. Still, on the radio, you're more likely to hear a Coaster's track than another doo wop group's.

Key tracks: Yakkety Yak (1958) and Young Blood (1957), which show off the serious and silly.

Yakkety Yak

Young Blood

48. Howlin' Wolf

Howlin' Wolf began his career late, but made an instant impact. More than a few artists in the 60's and 70's copied his songs.

Well, not that they were his songs. His versions, however, became the definitive stuff. It helped that artists as varied as Etta James and Cream were both using his material. Wolf's own albums were quite popular in their own right: early party albums of sorts. His albums from the 1950s are actual albums - every track is a winner.

And Wolf could be original. Just listen to 'Smokestack Lightning', which has now become a standard. His performances, apparently, were the stuff of legends. Which is to be expected from a larger than life figure like the Howlin' Wolf.

Key tracks: Moanin' at Midnight (1959) and Smokestack Lightning (1956), which are typically spooky offerings.

Moanin' at Midnight

Smokestack Lightning

47. Louis Jordan

Jordan helped create rock n roll, undoubtedly. No other black artist has ever spent as many weeks at #1 as Jordan.

Recording in the 40s and 50s, at peak popularity, Jordan made the jukebox a thing. The jukebox kings of the 50s would later be rock and roll idols. Before them Jordan established the importance of the thing, and in doing so lent quite a bit to the rhythm that rock and R&B embraced.

Jordan's songs are terribly catchy and fun. Not only that - they were truthful and conscious of the times. "At the end of 'Saturday Night Fish Fry,' they all windup in jail. Everybody is having a good time, then the cops arrive. That's a powerful statement about racism, too."

Key tracks: Saturday Night Fish Fry (1949) and Is You Is O Is You Ain't My Baby (1944), which display his funny rockin'.

Saturday Night Fish Fry:


Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby:

46. The Allman Brothers Band

Duane was one of the best guitarists ever. With his brother Gregg providing the vocals the two brought the south to rock.

Given the important part the south has played in American music it was only natural that they develop a specific rock sound. Flip through the country rock stations and you will hear many permutations of Duane Allman's style. They helped to create/remind people of the highway mentality as integral to the southern sound.

Their performances At Fillmore East in 1971 are unquestionably some of the best live rock captured on vinyl. With nods to jazz greats and improvisation that is inimitable the Allman sound will be standard until someone can meet and match Duane: and that may never happen.

Key tracks: Jessica (1973) and Hot 'Lanta (1971), which prove their improvisational style in studio and live cuts.



Hot 'Lanta:


45. Little Richard

No one can hold a candle to Little Richard. Not really.

Richard growing up was looking for something louder than 'Pennies From Heaven'. "...I didn't know where to find it. And I found it was me." He was the first of the rock and roll legends. Had his career not been cut short so early he would've been one of the all-time greatest. Many of his incidentals became blueprints for what rock would be, and have stayed part of the expectation.

The screaming teens started with Richard. The flamboyance and grandeur started with Richard. He established the piano as the percussive force that is periodically rediscovered. Every 'shooby-doo' and 'na na na' owes something to Richard's inspired 'A wop bop alu mop, a wop bam boom!' His music is timeless, and will continually admired by new generations.

Key tracks: Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally (1957), which show off all his raucous, loud energy.

Tutti Frutti:


Long Tall Sally:


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