It may not be the bedrock of American oldies stations any longer – long replaced by the AOR of Journey, Foreigner and REO Speedwagon – but Doo Wop casts a long shadow. The nonsense syllables that defined a genre were first heard in the Turbans’ 1955 single When You Dance. Doo Wop – or, in the Turbans’ long hand “doo wop, be-dooby-dooby doo wop” gave a name to a specific strand of pop that lacked the violence and anarchy of its close cousin rock’n’roll, but is the exact sound that enters most peoples’ heads when they picture Anytown USA in 1956.
Bear Family Records has just released a set of five CDs, called Street Corner Symphonies, which all predate the Turbans’ hit, and all pre-date Rock Around the Clock, but are still identifiably Doo Wop. In the late forties and early fifties, teenagers were already harmonising on street corners, in subways, or in school gyms, searching for the echo to give their harmonies a fuller sound. The luckier vocal groups were hurried into a studio by a small-time entrepreneur and had a 78 or a 45 to show for their misspent youth. Once a while, one of the records clicked and the singers became stars. Continue reading