How can one word bring back such memories? Sometimes it was just a first name of a person, and with other songs it was a term that described in so much detail what we felt. Connie Francis called out to “Teddy,” and proclaimed we were “Together,” while Sue Thompson saluted, “Norman.” But it was the guys who crooned and pinned for their ladies. In the majority of songs of the 50’s and early 60’s, women were revered, placed on that exalted pedestal and idolized.
Doo Wop was to have its own anthem with multiple versions of “Gloria.” This song was developed to challenge any street corner group to see if they had what it took to really sing in doo-wop style. While the Cadillacs possessed the classic version with Earl (Speedo) Carroll on lead, Vito and the Salutations and Jimmy Gallagher and the Passions would rival them.
The salute to the ladies would continue with songs about “Maria, Nadine, Ronnie, Sheila, Sandy, Lucille, Sherry, Venus, Bernadine, Diana, Leah, Tammy, Ruby, Peanuts, Patches, Alfie and Denise”. All were names that could be sung on the street corner. Unforgettable songs such as “Desiree” by the Charts and Ritchie Valens’ “Donna,” could easily be harmonized as a sing-along tribute. “Maybelline” may be a girl’s name but it was a song about a car!
Other songs would tip the scales as Elvis’ and “Trouble,” from his movie “King Creole.” The Coasters would be “Searchin,” Hal Miller and The Rays with “Silhouettes,” Lee Andrews and the Hearts, “Teardrops,” Billy Ward & the Dominoes with their version of “Stardust,” and Jackie Wilson with an operatic stronghold on “Night,” all sent messages with just one powerful word.
Instrumentals such as Miserlou, Rumble, Sleepwalk (is that really one word?), Tequila, Patricia, Telstar, Apache, Baja and Pipeline made the charts and we knew every nuance of their melody.
Perhaps the song that is still etched in our collective memories was the one hit wonder, “You” by the Aquatones. Named after the color of their shirts, they enlisted a 17-year-old opera singer, Lyn Nixon, to sing lead and produced yet another MYM.
The English language creates the opportunity to utilize one word as the most profound visual and reflective method of communication. It can become the ultimate quiz show game where a one-word song will identify the artist or group who performed their song. Ready? Set. Go!