DooWop Nation
November 11, 2004 1:03 PM   Subscribe

DooWop Nation Not to get all Pepsi Blue on your collective ass, but I have been luxuriating in the Proper box sets The Dawn Of Doo-Wop (tracklist) and Doo Wop Delights (tracklist and discography) and thought to construct a post around the topic of the original postwar--as World War II--black harmony singing style, of which, as Greil Marcus notes in his Lipstick Traces, there were 15,000 records recorded after World War II--a DIY phenomenom which he compares to rise of punk... (more inside, naturally)
posted by y2karl (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Having--with no small thanks to all the PBS Golden Ager re-union concerts run ad nauseam during marathons, not to mention such latter day abominations asThe Longest Time by the odious Billy Joel--managed to neglect the genre, now I find my interest is piqued. So, here are a few links:

For background, I can think of no better omnibus than Marv 'Unca Marvy' Goldberg's R&B Notebook which is an adjunct to his Marv Goldberg's Yesterday's Memories Rhythm & Blues Party. (Perhaps Unca Marvy Don't Play No Bombs! but a website designer he ain't: what an eyesore!) But he's got the goods on the some of the earlier black harmony groups, such as theThe Four Vagabonds and let me stop right there and quote:

A crisis in the recording industry made the talents of the 4 Vagabonds even more desirable to RCA. James C. Petrillo was the President of the American Federation of Musicians, and he called two strikes, concerning musicians' wages, which crippled the music industry. The first "Petrillo Ban," which prevented all union musicians from playing their instruments at recording sessions, lasted from August 1, 1942 to November 11, 1944. Record companies jammed their studios with artists in order to cut as many masters as possible before the ban took effect, and these were released during the ban. This explains, for instance, why The Mills Brothers cut no discs from 1942 until late 1944. The effect of the strike was minimal upon the 4 Vagabonds, who imitated the instruments they needed anyway. However, on discs such as Ten Little Soldiers, the group had to substitute a ukulele, which the AFM didn't consider to be a serious instrument, for Ray Grant's usual guitar accompaniment.

There's where your dawn of doo wop began right there--the Petrillo Ban. The standard definition of doo wop runs something like

US pop-music form of the 1950s, a style of harmony singing without instrumental accompaniment or nearly so, almost exclusively by male groups. The name derives from the practice of having the lead vocalist singing the lyrics against a backing of nonsense syllables from the other members of the group.

but rarely, online, at least, is one told that this came from attempts to reproduce the sounds of guitar, bass, horns and strings during the years of the Petrillo Ban. Necessity was the mother of all doo wop.

Well, enough blab--here's the rest of the linkage:

There's music galore on the Archived Jukeboxes at the Doo Wop Cafe, another Doo Wop Jukebox courtesy the Central Oklahoma Classic Chevy Club, then there's patchy's Doo Wop Drive In Jukebox Speakers, as well as the Pete Chaston Doo-Wop Show, while his Doo Wop Roots provides more background--what is it that makes these Doo Wop djs commit such cardinal sins of web design, anyway?--while Squire's Listing of Urban Vocal Group Internet Webcasts can lead one to far, far more online doo wop.

And here is the mother of all online doo wop--The Vocal Group Harmony Website.

then comes the more modest Doo Wop Net, also the Doo Wop Sound, while there's more Realaudio at The Doo Wop Shop and Tom Michalik's Doo Wop Music.

Whew, I could go on but enough! Let me close with a quote from this Pop Matter's review of yet another box set, Savoy Jazz's excellent The Roots of Doo Wop

A lot of the parallels between the culture of doo wop fans (or really, that of the fans of any musical genre) and '80s and '90s indie-rock fandom may have already been drawn, but it's worth mentioning, especially as people begin looking backwards to compensate for the lack of nourishment to be had from most of current popular radio. Lenny Kaye, writing in 1970 about a 1965 concert of a cappella singers, a New York-based style that grew out of doo wop in the early 1960's, in Hackensack, New Jersey, not far from Savoy's home in Newark, qualified the unifying force of being hip to music that others may choose to overlook: "And it was exciting to be at the theatre; a kind of community existed between the people who came, a spiritual bond which said that there is one thing that binds us all together -- one thing that we have that the Others don't even know about. There was a sense of belonging, of participation in a small convention of your own personal friends." In the liner notes to this collection, Billy Vera expresses a similar sentiment, "And part of the excitement was knowing that you were onto something known only to the hip few, much as jazz was in its early years. You were on the inside and everybody else was out." Taken in that way, it becomes even more flattering and worthwhile that a group of enthusiasts have chosen to open up their doors and let us all in a little on their secret.
posted by y2karl at 1:06 PM on November 11, 2004

I take back every bad thing I've said about you lately, karl. Nice box sets. Although the abscence of "Peppermint Stick" by the El Chords (if this record were any more evocative of a New York streetcorner, a subway train would have to drive out of the speakers), and "Chapel Bells" by the Fascinators, and "Roaches" by the Court Jesters is glaring.

Doo-wop was such a part of New York culture back in the 50's and 60's that I remeber my old man and a Bronx-bred neighbor 30 years down the line mentioning groups that had gone to their respective high schools.

"And part of the excitement was knowing that you were onto something known only to the hip few, much as jazz was in its early years. You were on the inside and everybody else was out."

With all due respect to Billy Vera (who will always be revered by me for writing "Don't Look Back" and his work with Judy Clay), I never really understood, the "secret society" approach to cool. Whenever I find something I like, I go nuts evangelizing people about it and I'm glad to see it catch on. But that's just me.
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM on November 11, 2004

The reason I mentioned the Proper box sets, by the way, is because they are such bargains--$20 a pop for 4 CDs of 25 songs each. And they are excellent collections. It's such a deal!

That Savoy set runs for $40 but I'm planning on picking it up, too, because, being fixated on Postwar R&B nowadays, I got the Savoy Jazz Stompin' At The Savoy, which is one of the best blues collections I have come across recently. Oh, man, I just love it!

Oh, here's the Hoy Hoy Website, which covers the latter part of the postwar R&B I currently crave.
posted by y2karl at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2004

The Lee Maye page is a great story of a man who hit the postwar American double-cool sweepstakes of being a rock-n-roll star and a great ballplayer.

*dip-dips boom-booms gets a job*
posted by jonmc at 1:24 PM on November 11, 2004

Has anyone ever given any thought to some sort of Radio MeFi?

This post just doesn't really lend itself primarily to text (although it's interesting, of course) Maybe there is some way we (I say we ... jumping on my own bandwagon, but really any member who was interested) could prepare 1 hour chunks of program, and we could stream them (so as not to get in copyright trouble).

I know there are some people here: jonmc, y2karl, iconomy, grumblebee and some of the field recording enthusiasts that could whip up programs just from their audio archives that would be pretty darned interesting.

feasible? give it some thought.
posted by milovoo at 1:44 PM on November 11, 2004

cool, thanks
posted by matteo at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2004

Yeah, Proper should get props for all these. I just recently got their Spike Jones and Slim Gaillard collections and whatever else you wanna say about the content, twenty bucks for a hundred songs is somewhat the bomb.

Thanks, y2karl.
posted by soyjoy at 2:15 PM on November 11, 2004

Do what, mate?

Bloody hell, karl, didn't take you long! That's a whole banquet there, thanks - dunno if there's anything left to say about doo wop.

Done any gigs lately?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:41 PM on November 11, 2004

I just recently got their Spike Jones and Slim Gaillard collections...

Slim's Jam with Jack McVea, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie from that Stompin' At The Savoy box is #1 on my chart right--

Why, here's Jack Mac-Vout-tie and his tenor...

Say you better bring me a double order of Reety Footies with a little hot sauce on it....

And here's old Charlie Yardbird-orooni Parker...

Well, looka here, here's old Dazz-mac-skippin'vouz-orooni...

Jive at the apex and such swinging breaks.

I got my eye on that BeBop Spoken Here box but I'll likely pick up on that Slim Gaillard after that.
posted by y2karl at 3:43 PM on November 11, 2004

OK, so the massively informative title tags are there, but I just found myself waving my mouse back and forth over the link, wondering "Why isn't there one link for every character?"
Sigh...good times. Good times.
posted by LairBob at 3:54 PM on November 11, 2004

Not that this isn't still a great post...thx
posted by LairBob at 3:58 PM on November 11, 2004

y2karl -- Now that the election's over, you're back in top form. Great post. Although, I have to disagree with you on "The Longest Time." Like the song or not, it's not a Sha-Na-Na caricature, but an earnest application of the Doo-Wop idiom to a sincere emotion expressed in a very well crafted song. Doo-Wop should be a living tradition, like bluegrass and polka, with contemporary composers continuing to add to its literature. Paul Simon made an attempt (not very good) in "Capeman." The modern a capella movement of the 90s never really nailed it. This rich, all-American form is out there now, waiting for its Greenbriar Boys, it's Green Day... it's Paul Butterfield.
posted by Faze at 5:16 AM on November 12, 2004

Faze, now that the election's over, I still think you are full of shit.
posted by y2karl at 8:20 AM on November 12, 2004

Ow, you hurt my feelings.
posted by Faze at 11:02 AM on November 12, 2004

Girls, girls, you're both pretty.
posted by jonmc at 11:31 AM on November 12, 2004

wonderful thread. this music was so amazing.
posted by Bootcut at 7:45 PM on November 13, 2004

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