Some early R&B vocal harmony group cross-over hits of the 1950s


See also the related pages:


Sh-Boom (aka “Life Could Be a Dream”) was first recorded by The Chords for Cat Records on 15 March 1954. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard R&B charts and #9 on the pop charts.

From Wikipedia:

It was written by James Keyes, Claude Feaster, Carl Feaster, Floyd F. McRae, and James Edwards, members of the R&B vocal group The Chords and published in 1954. It was a U.S. top ten hit that year for both The Chords (who first recorded the song) and The Crew-Cuts.

The Chords — recorded on 15 March 1954; issued in June 1954 on Cat 45-104, b/w “Little Maiden”


“Sh-Boom” is usually considered one of the earliest R&B hits to “cross over” and become a pop hit as well. Much earlier, however, the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots had each scored numerous pop hits, many of which were also hits on charts which preceded Billboard’s earliest R&B chart (1949), such as the following:

  • The Harlem Hit Parade: October 1942 – February 1945
  • Race Records: February 1945 – June 1949


In 1954 [R&B vocal harmony] groups played a significant role in ushering in the rock and roll era when two big rhythm and blues hits by vocal harmony groups, “Gee” by The Crows and “Sh-Boom” by The Chords crossed over onto the pop music charts. Quickly other R&B vocal groups began entering the pop charts, particularly in 1955, which saw such cross-over [vocal harmony group] hits as “Sincerely” by The Moonglows, “Earth Angel” by The Penguins, and “Only You” by The Platters. — Wikipedia


“Gee,” with songwriting credited to William Davis and Viola Watkins, was recorded in New York City in February 1953 by the vocal harmony group The Crows on the independent label, Rama Records. The record didn’t chart until April 1954. It was the first recording session for Rama, and the first for The Crows as well. William Davis was the group’s baritone who, according to Wikipedia, citing the 1992 book What Was the Rirst Rock ’n’ Roll Record?, by Jim Dawson & Steve Propes, pp. 124-127, “put the song together in a few minutes.” According to her bio at, Viola Watkins also played piano on the hit recording of Gee, and co-arranged it (with Davis I presume).

Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) — words and music by Curtis Williams, recorded by The Penguins, 1954

Originally released in 1954 by The Penguins as the B-side to Hey Señorita. Citing Dawson & Propes (1992), Wikipedia says that Earth Angel was “first recorded as a demo at Ted Brinson’s garage studio in South Los Angeles in October 1954,”[1]


Sincerely (Harvey Fuqua and Alan Freed)

Co-songwriter Harvey Fuqua was the founder and lead singer of the vocal harmony group The Moonglows, the group that made the original recording of the song. The 1954 recording by the Moonglows topped the Billboard R&B chart for two weeks beginning in late January 1955. A cover by the McGuire Sisters was also extremely successful in early 1955.



Platters 1a

Only You (And You Alone) – w.m. Buck Ram

The Platters — recorded on 26 April 1955; issued in June 1955 on the single Mercury 70633X45, b/w “Bark, Battle and Ball”

From Wikipedia:

The Platters first recorded the song for Federal Records on May 20, 1954, but the recording was not released. In 1955, after moving to Mercury Records, the band re-recorded the song (on April 26) and it scored a major hit when it was released in May. In November that year, Federal Records released the original recording as a single (B-side – “You Made Me Cry”) which sold poorly.[3]

The Platters appeared in the 1956 film Rock Around the Clock, the first major motion picture focused on rock and roll, in which they performed both Only You and The Great Pretender.

“Only You” in Rock Around the Clock


The Great Pretender (Buck Ram)

The Platters – issued 3 November 1955 on the single Mercury 70753X45, b/w “I’m Just a Dancing Partner” — The Platters recording of “The Great Pretender” topped three of the four Billboard pop singles charts in February 1956, becoming the first #1 hit for the group. It was also a #1 R&B hit for eleven weeks in 1956.

“The Great Pretender” in Rock Around the Clock


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robert Silvestri
    Dec 21, 2019 @ 13:31:55

    What a great addition. This has taken me through my grammar school years. Fond memories. Thanks, Doc. Merry Christmas and a Happy and Musical New Year.

    Liked by 1 person


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