THE PETE CHASTON DOO-WOP SHOW is on KCXL, 1140 AM on Greater Kansas City radio every Saturday from 2 p.m. till sunset . Most of what Pete plays are recordings from the original 45 rpm records!
About Pete Chaston
Pete Chaston grew up in New York City and got interested in doo-wop music at a young age. After retiring from the National Weather Service, where he worked as a meteorologist (a job for which he had to move to various different states over the years), Pete settled near Kansas City, Missouri, where he makes his living with writing books and giving lectures about the weather.
Order your Chaston & Groditski CDs Here! In his spare time Pete and his cousin, Walt Groditski, make their own, unique kind of demented, "Wensislavian" music and produce their own CDs, some of which have even been featured on the Dr. Demento Show. Visit the Chaston & Groditski site at www.chastongroditski.com for more information.
Besides making his own new music, Pete also likes to play the good old music that he grew up with; the doo-wop of the fifties and early sixties. Since 1996 he has been hosting the Pete Chaston Doo-Wop Show on KCXL 1140 AM Radio Free Liberty, a local radio station in Liberty, Kansas City (Missouri), that mainly offers talk radio. (During the night you can also listen to "The Music of Your Life" here.)
Every Saturday afternoon around 2 or 3 p.m. Pete takes over this radio station and plays his scratched, old doo-wop 45s and 78s until the sun sets, and the AM radio station has to power down. These live shows can also be heard over the Internet, but for this you need to install the Surfer NETWORK Player, which offers only a limited audio quality (at least as far as KCXL is concerned).
For that reason this site offers archived segments of the Pete Chaston Doo-Wop Show in streaming RealAudio. These shows have been recorded by Pete himself in the KCXL radio studio, and have been digitally edited for time and listening pleasure. Now you can listen to the Pete Chaston Doo-Wop Show whenever you like!
For humorous doo-wop and other music kicks, visit Pete's other site @ Chaston & Groditski: Your Headquarters for Demented Wensislavian Rock Music?
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THE ROOTS OF DOO-WOP MUSIC
by: Pete Chaston
As DOO-WOP music evolved, it is interesting to note the groups whose styles contributed to the development of this genre of music.
The beginnings can be traced to the World War II era and the group, THE INK SPOTS. With a string of classic recordings, this group developed the harmonizing sound, complete with falsetto and a deep bass, that set the pattern or style for some of the later groups.
As groups began to form, they developed their songs mostly without music. This led to some of the songs having sounds in them made by human voices, which eventually also became part of the sounds of later doo-wop recordings. For example, a "bom ba bom, bom bom" would evolve, and be carried on by later groups.
Some of the trend setters were THE RAVENS, THE ORIOLES and THE LARKS in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Some of the recordings that must be considered pathmakers for the doo-wop evolution include:
1948: "It's Too Soon to Know" by The Orioles,
1951: "My Reverie" by The Larks.
Groups such as THE MELLO-MOODS, THE FIVE KEYS and THE SWALLOWS emerged. They continued to set styles through recordings such as these, that were copied by other groups:
1951: "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" by The Mello-moods,
1951: "Glory of Love" by The Five Keys,
1951: "It Ain't the Meat" by The Swallows. The Swallows tune is an example of the uptempo early doo-wop style.
The music kept evolving through 1951, 1952 and 1953 with groups such as THE CARDINALS ("Shouldn't I Know", 1951) and THE CLOVERS ("Middle of the Night", 1952).
By 1953, the doo-wop genre of music was well-established as groups started forming in earnest. To list all the groups would be a chore, and you are referred to the book, "RPM Group Collector's Record Price Guide" by Jeff Kreiter for a listing of every known doo-wop reocord, their labels and their years!
However, some groups stand out, such as THE FLAMINGOES, THE MOONGLOWS and THE SPANIELS, who were brought into major fame thanks to then-Cleveland, Ohio (and later New York City) disk-jockey ALAN FREED, who was one of the first white disk-jockeys to play what was then essentially black American music, to a mixed audience. As young white listeners discovered this music, its popularity soared and these groups started to become major stars.
Groups from THE CASTELLES to THE PENGUINS set more styles of doowop, and in 1954, the hit, "Gee", by THE CROWS helped set a standard for uptempo doowop, as did the CLEFTONES in 1956 with hits such as "Little Girl of Mine", "You Baby You" and "Can't We Be Sweethearts". Along came 13-year old Frankie Lymon with his group, FRANKIE LYMON & THE TEENAGERS in 1956 with hits such as "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?", "I Want You to be my Girl", "Baby, Baby" and "I Promise to Remember", which started a "kiddie group" sound to add to the styles of doowop.
One sad aspect of the sudden rise to fame of these early doo-wop groups is that some of their best recordings were covered (redone) by "pop" artists, who usually took most of the doo-wop harmonizing and sounds out of the songs when they came out with their versions. Examples: "Secret Love" by The Moonglows, and "Cross Over the Bridge" by The Flamingoes, which were covered by "pop" artists who had bigger success with them. The smash hit, "Sh-Boom" by THE CHORDS was covered so well by The Crew-cuts that the Crew-Cuts version became the million-seller. In 1955 and 1956, Pat Boone became a major pop star by chiefly covering the hits of doowop and rhythm and blues artists such as THE FLAMINGOES, FATS DOMINO and LITTLE RICHARD.
By 1956, doowop music became the dominant American music style and lasted until 1964 when THE BEATLES and the rest of the British Invasion in 1964 led most American disk-jockeys to forget about an original American art-form.
White doowop groups contributed another set of styles to enhance the genre. In 1958, "I Wonder Why" by DION & THE BELMONTS became a number one nationwide hit and is considered by many to be a sort of "National Anthem" of doowop music. That same year, "I Remember" by THE FIVE DISCS helped set the trend for years of doowop that had a great diversity of background sounds, and a range of bass, tenor and falsetto stylistics.
The year with the greatest collection of doowop hits was 1961. Thus, 1961 might be considered to be the peak of doowop in the 20th century. THE MARCELS, a black and white group from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, set a major doowop style with "Blue Moon" that year, a style they copied from the 1957 recording, "Zoom Zoom Zoom" by THE COLLEGIANS.
Whereas the names of early groups were often taken from the names of such things as birds (The Flamingoes, The Penguins, The Crows, The Wrens, The Robins, The Cardinals, The Ravens, even The Feathers) and cars (The Cadillacs, The Impalas, The Bonnevilles), the names of especially earlier 1960s groups sounded free-flowing: examples include The Excellents, The Imaginations, The Devotions, The Reflections, Vito & The Salutations, The Fascinators. You could almost tell by the name of the group that it was a doowop group!
The term "DOO-WOP" (also spelled without the hyphen) was never used for this genre of music during its initial deyday. The actual terminology, "DOOWOP", evolved slowly during the 1970s and 1980s, and became an accepted term only about 1990 to describe this type of music. A name had to evolve to distinguish this music from, say, blues or jazz, because this music does have a distinct format and sound.
It is impossible to list the thousands of groups that have added to our enjoyment of doowop music. We can say that from the 1940s through the 1960s, there were approximately 18,000 doowop songs recorded and released on record, not counting flip-sides. Many are outstanding, many others are quite good, and some are junk (as you would expect in all types of music), but at least every one contributed to the doowop history. Now, with a renewed interest in doowop music, and with new recordings being made, the number of available doowop songs for our enjoyment is growing, and who knows?...maybe with a concerted drive, doowop music will someday once again regain its prominence in contemporary American music.
FAMOUS SINGERS COME OUT OF DOO-WOP GROUPS!
Over the years of doo-wop music, many of the groups had their lead singers go on to become big singing stars on their own, and to often achieve even greater fame than did the groups they left behind.
One of the biggest late-1950s/early-1960s groups was Dion and The Belmonts, who had the top song for the year 1958 with "I WONDER WHY", which has since become the "Doo-wop National Anthem". The lead singer, Dion DiMucci, left the group and had a string of big hits on his own, with the beiggest being "RUNAROUND SUE" in 1961 and "DONNA, THE PRIMA DONNA" in 1963.
Clyde McPhatter was the original lead singer of the Dominoes in the early 1950s, and then became the lead singer of the Drifters in 1954. He later left The Drifters to become a big recording star in the late 1950s. McPhatter's biggest hit was "A LOVER'S QUESTION". In 1959, a young 19-year old Ben E. King took over as lead singer of The Drifters, debuting with "THERE GOES MY BABY". King left the group in 1961 and had two smash hits that year, "SPANISH HARLEM" and "STAND BY ME".
John Mastrangelo was lead singer of The Crests, a group he formed in 1957. Their biggest hit, a number 1 nationwide sensation, came in 1959 with "SIXTEEN CANDLES". John shortened his name to Johnny Maestro and had minor success as a solo, but when he formed a new group out of The Del-Satins and called them The Brooklyn Bridge, they had a big late 1960s hit, "THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN".
Gene Pitney left his doo-wop group, The Embers, that he formed in 1959 in Hartaford, Connecticutt, and became a major recording star, but soon left recording doo-wop to do pop. As a soloist, he did have a doo-wop hit with a group backing him, the song being a top ten one in 1961, "EVERY BREATH I TAKE".
A singer who shortened his name to Frankie Valli formed Cereno and The Bow-ties in 1956 and then formed The Four Lovers, who had a few minor hits. In 1962, the group changed their name to The Four Seasons and recorded a song called "BERMUDA" for the Gone record label. Then they recorded for Vee-Jay and did "SHERRY" in 1962, which led to years of top ten monster hits. Valli then had two solo hits in the 1970s, but they were not doo-wop.
The Dovells, out of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, formed in 1960 with their lead singer, Leonard Borisoff. Their first recording, "NO, NO, NO" in 1960 was a minor hit, but their second recording, "THE BRISTOL STOMP" in 1961, was a major hit, leading to a series of big hits. Borisoff left the group a few years later and changed his stage name to Len Barry, and had two hits, one of which, "A, B, C...1, 2, 3", "how elementary can it be", was a to pten hit, but was not doo-wop.
The late Bobby Bloom, who had a smash hit with "MONTEGO BAY", was originally a singer in a hard-core doo-wop group,
The Imaginations. The Imaginations had two solid doo-wop hits in 1961, "GOODNIGHT BABY" and "HEY YOU".
The list goes on and on. Sometimes just members...not necessarily the lead singers...of groups became stars on their own later on, such as, for example, Jackie Wilson, who also came out of The Dominoes. Jackie's "LONELY TEARDROPS" in 1959 was quasi-doo-wop and a top ten nationwide hit.
The lead singers who made it as soloists had very distinguishable voices. Consider the high falsetto of Frankie Valli of The Four Seasons, for example.
Thus, this is all part of our musical heritage.
Cheers, Pete Chaston