Results for 1950's

interviews

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Chris Jones

Chris Jones In anticipation of this weekend's Tony Awards, Jim and Greg invite Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones to join them on the show. Jones has been watching the trend of intersecting rock and theater for years, and this year it seems to have come to an apex. All four of the nominees for Best Musical have rock roots: American Idiot, which features music by Green Day, Million Dollar Quartet, which is inspired by the famed recording session featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Fela!, which is based on the music of African musician Fela Kuti, and Memphis, which tells the story of a rock DJ in Memphis in the 1950s. As Chris Jones explains, much of this trend is the result of economic interests–a new generation of theatergoers raised on rock and roll are now willing to pay big bucks for Broadway shows. He also credits shows like Spring Awakening for helping to bend the old musical rules. To Jim and Greg's surprise, Chris enthusiastically recommends American Idiot and doesn‘t think the band’s fans will be put off.

Go to episode 237

Ernie Isley

Few groups can claim the sustained success of The Isley Brothers, in no small part due to the contributions of our guest Ernie Isley. The Isley Brothers formed in the 1950s as a doo-wop vocal group in Cincinatti, scoring huge hits with the wedding staples "Shout" and "Twist and Shout." They managed to survive the British Invasion, assisted by the incredible playing of their young guitarist Jimi Hendrix. With the addition of two more brothers, Ernie and Marvin, the band started to branch out into funk, soul, psychedelia, rock, and disco. It's this willingness to defy categorization that's led to the Isleys' longevity – the band scored the rare feat of charting in six consecutive decades.

Ernie Isley picked up where Hendrix left off on guitar, creating an unmistakeable tone featured on hits like "That Lady" and "Summer Breeze." But his contributions as a songwriter were just as vital, including a pair of sociallly conscious anthems in 1975: "Harvest for the World" and "Fight the Power," which Ernie penned in the shower before a trip to Disneyland. The Isleys' influence continues to be heard today in the hip-hop realm. Artists from Ice Cube to Notorious B.I.G. to Kendrick Lamar have crafted iconic songs from Isley Brothers samples. The band is now being honored with a massive boxset called The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983), and even that just scratches the surface of the Isleys' long career.

Go to episode 509

Low Cut Connie

Philadelphia rock ‘n’ rollers Low Cut Connie was founded in 2010 by lead singer and pianist Adam Weiner and drummer and guitarist Dan Finnemore. They later added musicians James Everhart, Will Donnelly and Larry Scotton to round out their 1950s-influenced, signature sound. A key element of their music is the use of a piano to pound out some raunchy, rock tunes and make people get up and dance. They've released three albums so far: Get Out the Lotion, Call Me Sylvia and Hi Honey. Even President Obama is a fan, he put the group's song "Boozophilia" on his summertime Spotify playlist alongside artists like Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. The band visited our studio a few weeks ago where Greg and Jim asked them about how they first formed, their career ups-and-downs and singer Adam Weiner's experience with the TV show The Voice.

Go to episode 519
reviews
Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) [Remastered]Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) available on iTunes

Ray Charles Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)

Ray Charles is another deceased musician who has recently been brought back to life in the media. Last year, Charles was profiled in his own biopic, Ray, and this year his music was featured in a song that was number one for most of 2005Kanye West's "Gold Digger." Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959) is a six-disc overview of Charles' early period. Charles was signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun in the 1950s, and according to Greg, these Atlantic recordings came to be what we now know as R&B music. The music, originally produced by Jerry Wexler, will appeal to the soul aficionado, but neither Jim nor Greg can recommend this set as a Buy It for a casual listener. Both say it's a Burn It. The song Greg chooses is Charles' original 1954 performance of "I've Got a Woman," as opposed to Jamie Foxx's rendition you hear on "Gold Digger."

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
dijs

Jim

“Frenzy”The Fugs

This past weekend, Jim was talking with someone about his book about The Velvet Underground. That person said, "How can you talk about the Velvet Underground without mentioning The Fugs!?" Well, he's right. The Fugs were hugely influential on the VU, and also paved the way for the "freak folk" acts of today. None were half as freaky as The Fugs, who came from the beat scene of the 1950's. These writers and musicians made crude, but wonderful protopunk rock, and Jim chooses their track "Frenzy" to take with him to the desert island this week.

Go to episode 204

Greg

“Killing Floor”Hubert Sumlin

The great Chicago blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin died last month and Jim and Greg didn't get a chance to send him off with a full obit. With his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg now has his opportunity. Sumlin was twenty-one years younger than Howlin' Wolf when he joined the elder bluesman's band in the 1950s. Wolf was like a father to Sumlin, and Sumlin eventually became his right-hand man. Sumlin was briefly booted from the band in ‘56 for playing over Wolf’s vocals (no one plays over the Wolf!), but adapted his style by dropping his pick and plucking with his fingers. This signature style would make him an icon to later guitarists like Clapton and Hendrix. The 1964 track "Killing Floor," Greg says, is Sumlin at his best-like a second voice in the song.

Go to episode 319
news

Music News

The digital music era began years ago for most music consumers. But, the labels have been slow to catch up. Now Atlantic Records has announced that over half of its last quarter revenues are from digital sales. But, the bad news is that even though digital songs make up more than half the pie, the pie itself is much smaller than it used to be. In just a few years the music industry's total revenues have dropped from $15 billion to $10 billion. Jim and Greg predict these numbers will continue to dip.

One of the most disappointing selling records this year is proving to be Guns N' Roses new release Chinese Democracy. Fans have been waiting 17 years for the album, but it only reached number 3 on the Billboard chart with 261,000 copies sold. Lackluster album sales aren't the only thing on Axl Rose's mind. Now his thoughts are focused on Dr. Pepper. The soda company promised a free soda to everyone in America provided Guns N‘ Roses actually released an abum. They were prepared to make good on this offer, but their web server was a different story. After their site crashed, Axl and company took it upon themselves to act as consumer advocates and are threatening to sue Dr. Pepper. It appears that Axl has a litigious itch that he just can’t scratch.

Next up in the news Jim and Greg discuss the passing of singer and civil rights activist Odetta. The classically trained vocalist found her voice in the folk music movement of the 1950's. She inspired countless musicians including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan and sang at the historic 1963 March on Washington. To honor Odetta's memory Jim and Greg play "Jack O'Diamonds."

Go to episode 158

Music News

We're going to be honest. Deaths in the musical world are a mixed bag. On one hand, you're sad about the loss of a great figure and sad for their friends and family. But on the other hand, sometimes it takes a loss to make you stop and reconsider that person's contributions. This week Jim and Greg look back at two wonderful songwriters that died on Monday: Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford. Leiber is best known as one half of the duo Leiber & Stoller. Ashford, too, was in a duo with his wife Valerie Simpson. Leiber wrote lyrics for a number of hits in the 1950's and 1960's including "Stand By Me" and "Hound Dog," though not originally for Elvis. Ashford & Simpson penned the tunes "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Let's Go Get Stoned," and their own hit "Solid." Greg particularly likes the song "California Soul" by Marlena Shaw.

Go to episode 300

Music News

The man commonly referred to as“the fifth Beatle,”Sir George Martin, died Tuesday at the age of 90. Martin, a producer, was originally known for bringing success to Parlophone Records in the 1950s by producing comedy albums by such performers and Peter Sellers, Peter Ustinov, and The Goon Show troupe.

Then, in 1962, Martin met with an unknown band called The Beatles. The group had been rejected by every label they had spoken to prior, and Martin, though not thoroughly impressed by their music, signed The Beatles to Parlophone. Luckily for them—and for the droves of Beatles fans-to-be—Martin had been seeking a new group to represent the rock ‘n’ roll scene emerging from the UK, and he liked their sense of humor. He taught the novice, live band about recording and producing.Between 1962 and 1970, The Beatles produced 13 albums and 22 singles under Martin's guidance. And though he went on to produce several big-name bands after that, Martin is most well-known for bringing The Beatles from obscurity to the forefront of popular music.

Listen to the Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection of George Martin-produced album Revolver here.

Go to episode 537