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Doo-Wop

March 8, 2019

Wikipedia describes Doo-Wop as follows:

Doo-wop is a genre of rhythm and blues music developed in the 1940s by African-American youth, mainly in the large cities of the upper east coast including New York. It features vocal group harmony that carries an engaging melodic line to a simple beat with little or no instrumentation. Lyrics are simple, usually about love, ornamented with nonsense syllables, and often featuring, in the bridge, a melodramatically heartfelt recitative addressed to the beloved. Gaining popularity in the 1950s, doo-wop enjoyed its peak successes in the early 1960s, but continued to influence performers in other genres.

Here’s an example of Doo-Wop with the aforementioned bridge, Little Darlin’ by the Diamonds (1957)

Although the musical style originated in the late 1940s and was wildly popular in the 1950s, the term “doo-wop” itself did not appear in print until 1961, in The Chicago Defender, just as the style’s vogue was nearing its end. Though the name was attributed to radio disc jockey Gus Gossert, he did not accept credit, stating that “doo-wop” was already in use in California to categorize the music.

“Doo-wop” is itself a nonsense expression. In The Delta Rhythm Boys’ 1945 recording, “Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin”, it is heard in the backing vocal. It is heard later in The Clovers’ 1953 release “Good Lovin'” (Atlantic Records 1000), and in the chorus of Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees’ 1954 song “Never” (Space Records 201). The first record to use “doo-wop” in the refrain was The Turbans’ 1955 hit, “When You Dance” (Herald Records H-458). The Rainbows embellished the phrase as “do wop de wadda” in their 1955 “Mary Lee” (on Red Robin Records; also a Washington, D.C. regional hit on Pilgrim 703); and in their 1956 national hit, “In the Still of the Night,” The Five Satins enlivened the bridge with a plaintive “doo-wop, doo-wah.”

Here’s the Satins version of In The Still of the Night:

In 1961, Barry Mann released a song that played on the Doo-Wop sound’s success. Along with Gerry Goffin, he co-wrote and recorded Who Put The Bomp. It charted at number seven in the United States. The spoken bridge is a reference to the song Little Darlin’ by the Diamonds. Other parts of the song recall the Marcels’ Blue Moon, Chubby Checker’s Pony Time and The Edsels’ Rma-Lama-Ding-Dong. In the end, it is a sort of salute to Doo-Wop. The song fits into the category of “self-referential” songs.

Over the years, Doo-Wop has come simply to mean any song in the Doo-Wop style. It is in the end a truly American sound that can’t be imitated. Its popularity has never really gone away, as attested to by the countless PBS Doo-Wop television specials. Many of the original Doo-Wop groups still tour and perform. Me? Oh yes, I am a verified Doo-Wop fan.

What’s your favorite Doo-Wop song? (One of mine is the obscure Pretty Little Angel Eyes by Curtis Lee ((1961)) backed by the Halos and produced by Phil Spector.)

Another favorite is 1962’s Remember Then by the Earls.

Note: The picture above represents a typical Doo-Wop chord progression in C Major.

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From → America, History, Music

6 Comments
  1. Fun read. I learned a lot from reading this. Who put the bop in the bop-she-bop? (These may be the way I misheard them.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed. Here’s an old post you might like as well: https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/i-never-got-to-be-a-bass-man/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Loved the post. I do remember the song. What do you think of the Pentatonx phenomenon? Would one of their members qualify as a bassman? He certainly does the percussive sounds to perfection.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. These songs really seem to evoke a feel-good era of almost-innocence. I really enjoy learning the history from you!

    Liked by 1 person

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