Just as young women with hopes of breaking into the movie biz in the 1950’s daydreamed of big-time producers sweeping them off their stools at Schwab’s Drugstore in Hollywood, young doo woppers in New York City envisioned talent scouts plucking them from street corner obscurity mid-song, harmonizing all the way to the studio.
For The Chords, five hopefuls from the Bronx, this dream became reality when they were discovered singing in a subway station, and the next thing they knew, found themselves recording a single for a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, one of the hottest indie labels around.
Jerry Wexler, producer extraordinaire for Atlantic, asked the group to cover an existing hit for the A-side (standard practice for the day, hoping to piggyback on the success of what already worked), and, since no one gave much thought to B-sides anyway, allowed The Chords to record an original, a novelty song full of nonsensical sounds, for the flip side.
The novelty worked. The A-side went nowhere, but radio DJs loved anything unique and fun, and they played “Sh-Boom” endlessly in the spring of 1954. The single was so popular that it managed to go Top 5 on both the R&B and Pop charts, a virtually unheard of occurrence at the time.
In the summer of 1954, another young vocal group, The Crew Cuts, hoped to achieve what The Chords could not when they, too, covered a recent hit single for their next A-side. Hoping to hop on the coattails of “Sh-Boom,” The Crew Cuts recorded their own version, slowing the tempo down, giving it a jaunty and polite arrangement rather than the breathless rush of the original. It proved to be an even bigger hit, reaching #1 and staying at the top of the charts for nine weeks.
The Crew Cuts had many more (now mostly forgotten) hits over the next few years, while The Chords faded away quickly. Both of their “Sh-Boom”s, however, fared well with history and are now considered classics of the doo wop and early rock & roll eras.
So open up your aural pathways and let these gentlemen tell you how… life could be a dream, sweetheart…
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