1954: On The Eve Of An Explosion

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Bill Haley photo by James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Photo: James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

We’ve heard plenty this year already, with more to come, about the so-called 60th birthday of rock ‘n’ roll, of it being threescore years since the 1954 recording of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley and his Comets, then the imminent 60th birthday of Elvis’ first commercial single, ‘That’s All Right.’

Those of us who like to delve a bit deeper into music history — in which of course we include you, the discerning uDiscover reader and listener — know that rock ‘n’ roll goes back a lot further than 1954, to the likes of Jackie Brenston, Big Joe Turner and many others. But that argument is for another day.

Interesting things were also happening in R&B (by Ray Charles, Hank Ballard, the Clovers, Ruth Brown and a host of others), and with the country stylings of Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, Marty Robbins et al. But we thought it might be fun to take a snapshot of some of the things that mainstream pop audiences were listening to during that pivotal year of ’54, just before rock ‘n’ roll really took a grip on youngsters around the world. Here’s a hand-picked playlist of some of the pop hits of the year, both in terms of record sales and sheet music.

This was still the world of the crooners, of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Al Martino; on the female side, of Patti Page, Kay Starr and Kitty Kallen, and vocal groups like the Four Aces and the Crew Cuts. Guitar effects pioneer Les Paul was giving an adventurous edge to his recordings with Mary Ford, but the technicolour explosion was still yet to happen. Within the next two years, the world would become a very different place.

Format: Union Jack flagUK English


  1. David Zaide

    June 28, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    The year 1954 was musically bombastic in the sense that all songs are so beautiful, excellent never dies compare with the present trend.

  2. Mario Robles

    July 31, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    Many today scoff at the music of the early 1950s and somehow have latched onto an erroneous tenet that somehow rock and roll “saved us”. The mellow sounds of the early 50s were a magnificent and beautiful world of pop standards where a voice and a the words to as song still mattered. My favorite years for pop music were from 1948 – 1956…At home, I listen to my shellacs and vinyls from this fabulous era!

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