by Ray D'Ariano
 
 

There's this great clip on You Tube featuring George Carlin talking to Arsenio Hall about Doo Wop.

"When I was growin' up, '52, '53, '54, when I was 15, 16 and 17, ok, the best years… the white music, the pop music of that time, was Perry Como, and, you know, Bing Crosby, and The Andrew Sisters, and Georgia Gibbs….that what was on the radio…..(but) disc jockeys like Alan Freed were out there startin' to get this thing rolling… we were lucky because the jukeboxes in our neighborhood had The Drifters, The Dominos, The Orioles, The Clovers, the early groups, The 5 Crowns, The Spaniels, The Flamingos, all the bird groups, The Swallows. They called them all the bird groups, The Cardinals were another great one. So it was much better music for making out...We'd get into the fish, the grind, or whatever we would call the dance, just an excuse to stand still and make out is all it was. That music was a strong pull because again it had that freedom to it, you know?

 
 
The Moonglows

Clyde McPhatter was still with The Dominos. He hadn't left yet to form The Drifters. When he left that's when Jackie Wilson took over for him in The Dominos. In '53 The Spaniels had Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight. (Then) The white music business ripped off the black music which happened in '54, Sincerely, and all those tunes, and this guy, what was his name, Bill Haley and the Rockets?.. the Comets….really lame stuff….and they copped Joe Turner's tune, Shake, Rattle and Roll, which was his and he beat them to the charts by a couple of months so we were like bugged with that…you know white people covering this good music. We knew the original Sh- Boom was by the Chords…At 17 I went into the Air Force, this is when I really got into the music… that's when I started singing some of these songs, and it wasn't doo wop. That's another word that came along later when these white groups were doing it. It was still rhythm and blues what I call hallway groups. There were some pretty decent (white) groups. I don't mean to just generally dismiss them, but there was a difference between what I was growing up with and what came along later."

The label doo wop is controversial, to say the least, among the artists who performed the music. During a recent interview Little Anthony said, "We are not a doo wop group. It is a misconception." An interesting comment since he and The Imperials are the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, joining other 'doo wop' artists The Coasters, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Dion, The Drifters, and The Platters. Question: is "I'm On The Outside Looking In" rock and roll? No problem calling it a pop record or even doo wop, but rock and roll? It gets complicated and it's really like splitting hairs. Anthony and The Imperials and all of the groups who are known today as doo wop are all masters of vocal group harmony. You can label it anyway you want, but it is vocal group harmony.

Truth is, as Carlin points out, the music wasn't called doo wop when it was recorded and released back in the day. In the 40's and 50's black artists records were dubbed as race music and that title evolved into rhythm and blues. There were many styles of music under the R&B umbrella...solo artists, bands, and the harmony music now known as doo wop.

The actual term doo wop probably goes back to a riff in "When You Dance" by The Turbans. Then on "In The Still Of The Night" by The 5 Satins there's another vocal doo wop riff in the background, but why single that out and label an entire style of music with that name? Some credit, or damn, depending on your point of view, the late DJ Gus Gossert with coining the phrase on his New York radio shows, but others say it originated in California.

Fact is for the last 30 years the term "doo wop" has been used to describe old R&B plus 50's and early 60's vocal group harmony. Many of the early R&B artists dislike the term and we not only respect them, but love the incredible music they created. With that said for our purposes the term doo wop covers great vocal group harmony records primarily from the 50's and 60's, with an occasional tune recorded earlier or later.

R&B, Doo Wop, Rock and Roll, Race Music…different names for what really matters… the music. What follows is a list of one hundred excellent examples of this music that will never die.


The Doo Wop Essential Top 100

1. Gloria - The Cadillacs
2.
Diamonds and Pearls - The Paradons
3.
I Only Have Eyes for You - The Flamingos
4.
Daddy's Home - Shep and the Limelites
5.

I Wonder Why - Dion and the Belmonts

 
In 1989, Lou Reed inducted Dion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said, "(I wanted to escape…) the world of SAT tests, the college boards - leap immediately and eternally into the world of Shirley and Lee, the Diablos, the Paragons, The Jesters. The lyrics sat in my head like Shakespearian sonnets with all the power of tragedy: "Gloria," "Why Don't You Write Me Darling." "Send Me A Letter" - The Jacks. And then there was Dion - that great opening to "I Wonder Why" engraved in my skull forever. Dion, whose voice was unlike any other I had heard before. Dion could do all the turns, stretch those syllables so effortlessly, soar so high he could reach the sky and dance there among the stars forever.
6.
To Be Loved - The Pentagons
7.
Oh What A Night - The Dells – Great Chicago group who were originally called The El-Rays.
8.
Since I Don't Have You - The Skyliners
9.
Hey Senorita - The Penguins
 
This tune was called "Esa Chiquita'. As "Hey, Senorita" it was released as the A-side, but the jocks played the B side and "Earth Angel" reached #8 on the pop charts.
10. Sincerely - Moonglows
11. Been So Long - The Pastels
12. When You Dance - The Turbans
13. Where Or When - Dion & the Belmonts
14. Why Do Fools Fall in Love - Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers – Originally titled
"Why Do Birds Sing So Gay?"
15. I'm So Happy (Tra-La-La-La-La) - Lewis Lymon and the Teencords
16. 16 Candles - The Crests
 
Johnny Maestro (John Mastrangelo) is one of the greatest male vocalists in the history of rock and roll. In the 1950's he fronted one of the first integrated groups, The Crests. They formed in Manhattan, and included Harold Torres, Talmadge Gough, J.T. Carter, and the older sister of Luther Vandross, Patricia Vandross.
17. Glory Of Love - The Five Keys
18. At My Front Door - The El Dorados
19. One Summer Night - The Danleers
20. The Wind - The Diablos – Covered by The Jesters.
21. Can't We Be Sweethearts - The Cleftones
22. Please Say You Want Me - The Schoolboys
23. Look in my Eyes - The Chantels
24. Wisdom Of A Fool -The Five Keys
 
Tony DeLauro, producer of The Royal New York Doo Wopp Show, a series of unforgettable concerts that ran from the late 70's to the early 90's at The Beacon Theater and Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan: "To me "Wisdom Of A Fool," that's the song. Rudy West and The 5 Keys. We always used to tape the show on to cassette and I would take the tapes home with me. I would put my headphones on, put the tape in the stereo, and lie down on the floor and listen. That night I must have dozed off and I remember waking up at 4:30 in the morning just as Rudy West was singing "Wisdom Of A Fool." It's a pure love song. The point of the song was don't ever let someone who loves you go.
25. That's The Way It Goes - The Harptones
26. Lovers Never Say Goodbye - The Flamingos
27. In The Still Of The Night - The Five Satins – Written by its singer Fred Parris and New York City's all time favorite oldie.
28. Earth Angel - The Penguins
29.
Morse Code Of Love - The Capris – Recorded in the early 80's and a big hit in the northeast. Manhattan Transfer covered it on their great album 'Bop Doo- Wop which includes "Heart's Desire," "That's The Way It Goes," and "Unchained Melody."
30. Zoom - The Cadillacs
31. You Belong to Me -The Duprees
32. Looking for an Echo - Kenny Vance
 
He put Jay and The Americans together and now fronts The Planotones who along with Kenny's vocals - sweet tenor and/or falsetto - create adult doo-wop harmony that never forgets the teen angst and passion embedded in its roots.
33. You Cheated, You Lied - The Shields
34. My Prayer - The Platters
35. I Thank The Moon - The Crests
36. Tears on My Pillow - Little Anthony & the Imperials
 
Born in New York City in 1940, Little Anthony Gourdine became one of rock's most sensational and passionate vocalists. At age 15 he joined The Duponts, his first doo-wop group. His next group, which featured vocalists Clarence Collins and Ernest Wright, Jr., was called The Chesters. They were signed to End Records, and changed their name to The Imperials. Their first single release, "Tears On My Pillow" was released in 1958, and it was the legendary DJ, Alan Freed who first called the group Little Anthony & The Imperials, a name that they decided to use from that point on.
37. My True Story - The Jive Five
38. Life Could Be A Dream (Sh-Boom) - The Chords
39. Maybe - The Chantels
40. Life Is But A Dream - The Harptones
41. Church Bells May Ring - The Willows – Neil Sedaka played the chimes on this recording.
42. Denise - Randy and the Rainbows
43. Don't Ask Me to Be Lonely - The Dubs – The originally recorded as The Marvels, but it was this tune that got them on the charts in 1956.
44. Little Girl of Mine - The Cleftones
45. Tonight Could Be The Night - The Velvets
46. Please Say You Want Me - Schoolboys
47. Little Star - The Elegants
48. Long Lonely Nights - Lee Andrews and the Hearts
49. Story Untold - The Nutmegs
50. Remember Then - The Earls
 
If the only thing they ever did was their classic doo wop riff . . . WOP WOP PATTY PATTY BOP BOP SHOE BOP DE BOP BOP OWOOOOOOO . . . in this tune they would have made their contribution to the history of rock and roll. It is a perfect rock and roll record.
51. Sunday Kind of Love - The Harptones
52. We Belong Together - Robert & Johnny
53.
This Magic Moment - The Drifters – Nik Cohen writes, "The Drifters were masters of escape . . . their basic message was always the same: Somewhere in this city, so vast and impersonal, so loud and harsh and filthy, their is still a refuge, where nothing can reach you, where fun is still fun."
54. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - Platters
55. Can I Come Over Tonight - The Velours
56. So Fine - The Fiestas
57. Lonely Way - The Skyliners
58. Speedo - Cadillacs
59. To Love And Be Loved - The Pentagons
60. Blue Moon - The Marcels
61. Who's That Knocking - The Genies
62. Tonite, Tonite - The Mello-Kings
63. Could This Be Magic - The Dubs
64. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight - The Spaniels
65. Have You Heard - The Duprees
66. Castle in the Sky - Bop Chords
67. Chapel of Dreams - The Dubs
68. Golden Teardrops - The Flamingos – A perfect example of vocal group harmony.
69. Babalu's Wedding Day - The Eternals
70. Tonight I Fell In Love - The Tokens
71. Cherry Pie - Marvin & Johnny
72. Ten Commandments Of Love - The Moonglows – Bobby Lester and Harvey Fuqua had a group called The Crazy Sounds renamed the Moonglows by DJ Alan Freed.
73. Worst That Could Happen - Brooklyn Bridge
74. There's a Moon Out Tonight - The Capris
75. The Way You Look Tonight - The Jaguars
76. That's My Desire - Dion and the Belmonts
77. Fools Fall In Love - The Drifters
78. Crying In The Chapel - The Orioles
 
According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, "The Orioles established the basic pattern for the doo-wop sound: wordless, melismatic harmonies surrounding the tenor vocals of Sonny Til and George Nelson's baritone. The Orioles differed from groups like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots in that they made purely vocal music without orchestration and accompanied only by the solo guitar of Tommy Gaither.
79. What Time Is It - Gene Pitt & The Jive Five
80. What's Your Name - Don and Juan
81. This I Swear - The Skyliners
82. A Thousand Miles Away - The Heartbeats
83. Come Go with Me - The Del-Vikings
84. This Is My Love - The Passions
85. Only You - The Platters
86. Over the Rainbow - The Dimensions
87. Devil or Angel - The Clovers
88. Oh Rosemarie - The Fasinators
89. Heart and Soul - The Cleftones
90. Every Day Of The Week - The Students
91. For Sentimental Reasons - The Cleftones
92. Gee - The Crows
93. Hushabye - The Mystics
94. Book of Love - The Monotones
95. Goody Goody - Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers
96. Never - The Earls
97. The Great Pretender - The Platters
98. Image of a Girl - The Safaris
99. I'm So Young - The Students
100. In The Chapel In The Moonlight - The Orioles
   

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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