25) "I Walk The Line"—JOHNNY CASH (1956) The Man In Black’s Top 40 debut, recorded at the mighty Sun Records studio in Memphis. It was quite an honor for me earlier this year to be able to stand in the very same room that this and many other legendary songs were recorded and soak in all that music history.
24) "Tutti-Frutti"—LITTLE RICHARD (1956) I can state with great certainty that Brother Richard’s version of this one is far superior to Pat Boone’s.
23) "I’m Walkin’"—FATS DOMINO (1957) The best of Antoine Domino’s pedestrian-themed songs, along with “Walkin’ To New Orleans” and “I Want To Walk You Home”.
22) "Blue Suede Shoes"—CARL PERKINS (1956) CP’s career was forever derailed by a car accident that laid him up in the hospital for quite a while just after this one came out, and EP came along and stole his thunder with his even more famous version of it.
21) "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?"—FRANKIE LYMON (1956) Future junkie and alleged polygamist Frankie Lymon had one helluva falsetto until his voice changed during pooberty.
20) "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"—THE PLATTERS (1958) “They asked me how I knew--her brassiere was blue…” ’Nuff said!
19) "Charlie Brown"—THE COASTERS (1958) Not to be confused with the Charles M. Schulz comic strip character of the same name, but a guy who evidently got picked on every bit as often.
18) "A Thousand Miles Away"—THE HEARTBEATS (1957) Doo-wop classic that makes creative use of the phrase “rat-a-tat” in the backing vocals.
17) "Speedo"—THE CADILLACS (1955) Mr. Earl sings early prequel to Kiss’ 1976 tune “Mr. Speed”.
16) "Rip It Up"—LITTLE RICHARD (1956) Oft-covered LR classic that features the line “wanna ball it up”, which somehow got by the censors and all the uptight religious conservative pinheads of that era.
15) "Ain’t That A Shame"—FATS DOMINO (1955) This song’s official title is “Ain’t It a Shame.” Ain’t no shame at all, actually—great song, no matter whether Fats or Cheap Trick does it.
14) "Rebel Rouser"—DUANE EDDY (1958) Outstanding twangy instrumental that was the perfect accompaniment to the “Run, Forrest, Run” scene in Forrest Gump.
13) "What’d I Say?" (Parts 1 & 2)—RAY CHARLES (1959) Brother Ray was one of the first to use an electric piano in his recordings, and this song was way ahead of its time.
12) "Rock A-Beatin’ Boogie"—BILL HALEY & HIS COMETS (1955) Haley’s songs had a habit of all kinda sounding the same (particularly the backing tracks), but this one stands out for me, for some reason.
11) "Party Doll"—BUDDY KNOX (1957) Not to be confused with the slightly more famous Buddy from this era, Mr. Knox scored a big hit with this catchy little tune, featuring a great guitar solo, which was still a rarity back then.
10) "Come On, Let’s Go"—RITCHIE VALENS (1958) I’m still not sold on RV deserving to be in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame—I think his induction was based more on potential than Ritchie’s actual achievements during his truncated eight-month career—but this song cooks from the get-go. Los Lobos did him proud with their excellent 1987 version for La Bamba too.
9) "The Battle Of Kookamonga"—HOMER & JETHRO (1959) Well over two decades before Weird Al came along, the art of the music parody was already born in the form of this duo who lampooned Johnny Horton’s hit “The Battle of New Orleans” from earlier in ‘59. A veritable Dr. Demento classic, indeed.
8) "I Only Have Eyes For You"—THE FLAMINGOS (1959) Rather trippy doo-wop belly-rubber song that features the mysterious “guh-budge-uh-buh” backing vocal bit. I suspect this was quite the make-out favorite back in the day too…
7) "Come Go With Me"—DEL-VIKINGS (1957) Is there any song more quintessentially ‘50s than this one? “Dom-dom-dom-dom,” indeed!
6) "The Big Beat"—FATS DOMINO (1958) One listen to his greatest hits CD revealed to me that there’s a helluva lot more to the Fat Man than just “I‘m Walkin‘” and “Blueberry Hill”, and this song is my favorite of everything he’s done. I’m just thankful that Richie Cunningham or (even worse) Potsie Webber never sang this one…
5) "Stranded In The Jungle"—THE CADETS (1956) One of the funniest and most creative songs of any era, let alone the primitive ‘50s. “Meanwhile, back in the States…”
4) [Tie] "Good Golly Miss Molly" (1958)/"Keep-A-Knockin’"—LITTLE RICHARD (1957) Two classic screamers from Mr. Penniman that I can’t choose one over the other, so they’re in a dead heat. The former also inexplicably snuck past the censors with the line “sure like to ball”, and the latter, while poorly recorded, is a sassy little attitude piece that just cooks.
3) "Since I Don’t Have You"—THE SKYLINERS (1959) Lovely ballad that just glides along like a Lincoln Continental, featuring outstanding vocals by this group from Pittsburgh, of all places. Oddly enough, this one only got to #12 on the Billboard charts.
2) "Little Darlin’"—THE DIAMONDS (1957) Doo-wop, Canuck-style! These guys were from Toronto, and hit the Top 40 numerous times, but only scored three truly big hits, ”The Stroll”, a version of The Rays’ “Silhouettes” that hit the Top 10, and this classic, which features the entire vocal range from bass to falsetto.
1) "Get A Job"—THE SILHOUETTES (1958) Speaking of doo-wop, they don’t get no better than this one, which is the epitome of the genre. The group Sha Na Na no doubt took their name from this song. I wonder why no one took the name “Ba-Doom”…