During the early 1950s, when rock ‘n’ roll’s history was beginning to come together, no single type of music sold better — or was more influential in binding teenagers together — as the harmony singing known as doo-wop. It didn’t come out of nowhere, however, and scholar Bill Dahl has now undertaken a 15-volume year-by-year survey of the form for Bear Family Records called Street Corner Symphonies: The Complete Story of Doo-Wop.
Billy Ward and the Dominoes’ “Sixty Minute Man,” an underground hit in 1951, is often credited as one of the first rhythm-and-blues records that white kids bought because it was dirty. By today’s standards, it’s pretty mild, but it was a different story then. Otherwise, the song is normal fare for the day, with bass singer Bill Brown taking the lead and the rest of the group punctuating the lyric with support.
Vocal groups had been around for a while by the time this record was made, and were often part of nightclub shows back in the 1930s. Some would sing with the band’s rhythm section behind them, and some, like the Cats and the Fiddle, played their own instruments.
Others, like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, were famous on their own, and would play clubs and package shows with other musicians. Some of these acts went on for decades, often without a single member of the original group appearing with them.
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