As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 1953!
The Southern Sons – “Rock In A Weary Land“
The Southern Sons existed in various incarnations since the thirties, singing about Jesus and other Jesusy things. The vocals in this a’capella recording are incredible, and it’s suprisingly pretty funky (after 0:30) – hear those James Brown-esque Yeeaaaaahs at 1:15 and 1:40? It’s almost eerie how well this foreshadows the future of popular music.
Dorothy Collins – “Mountain High – Valley Low” and “Crazy Rhythm”
Canadian-born Dorothy Collins released these two brilliant songs as a single in 1953, though further information is sparse – Dorothy didn’t start charting until a few years later. “Mountain High – Valley Low” kicks off with strange and probably affected vocals. “Crazy Rhythm” displays some fancy, jumping guitar that sounds like the legendary Les Paul, though it could also be by Les’ friend and Dorothy’s husband Raymond Scott. (Side note: Scott spend over a decade and several million dollars developing one of the first-ever synthesizers, the Electronium.) Les Paul is also known for pioneering multi-track recording, which you can definitely hear all over that track.
Tennessee Ernie Ford – “Catfish Boogie”
The fifties were a simpler time, when fishing could get you laid, and anything could be the basis for a boogie. Years later, Tennessee too would go on to host his own variety show – here‘s a clip of Johnny Cash’s guest appearance, with both men performing together.
Nat King Cole – “My Flaming Heart”
This is a clip from 1953 musical film Small Town Girl, and a performance that led to an Oscar nod for Best Original Song. Nat King Cole would become the first African American to host a television show a few years later.
Frank Chacksfield`s Tunesmiths – Little Red Monkey
Here’s another example of new technology slowly creeping its way into popular music. This spooky instrumental was actually a top ten hit in the UK, so you can think of this as pop music of the time. Listen for the clavioline, a very early electronic keyboard – this is supposedly the first ever recording with that instrument to chart in the UK.