These songs are just as good (many think better) than the popular EASY-POP recordings, but are comparatively unknown.
These recordings represent outstanding, quintessential fifties singers, songs, and sounds that are virtually unknown. Some may be vaguely familiar, some you might recall when you hear them, but some are guaranteed to be absolute gems that you’ve never heard before.
The popularity of EASY-POP music peaked before its creative style peaked—rock ‘n’ roll was beginning to dominate the popularity charts. Perfected sound and outstanding arrangements of the late fifties EASY-POP era produced amazing recordings but they were not always popular successes. There are probably as many reasons for a recording’s limited popularity as there are songs, sometimes it was just a matter of unfavorable timing of the record’s release, sometimes a recording was relegated to the ‘B’ side of the 45rpm record where it got lost, maybe the A&R men were pushing something else, or another recording or event eclipsed it.
The underappreciated gems described here were culled from collections of old 45s and researched in obscure publications. Recordings were discovered on new CD compilations, which include a complete discography of every recording from a particular vocalist.
In the fifties, singers recorded huge catalogs of songs. During her recording career at Columbia records, Doris Day recorded more than 500 songs. Frank Sinatra recorded 400 at Capitol, and still more at Bluebird, Columbia, and Reprise—many estimate his total at more than 1300 recordings. Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, and Perry Como also recorded hundreds of songs. Only a very small percentage of these recordings became #1 hits.
Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett are instantly recognizable around the world, but even these singers released EASY-POP records that weren’t major hits. A handful of other popular male singers in the fifties, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Sam Cooke, Vic Damone, Bobby Darin, Eddie Fisher, Buddy Holly, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, Elvis Presley, Johnnie Ray, and Andy Williams contributed to this list of all-but-forgotten, should-have-been-hits.
The list also includes less well known singers that never made the top of the charts—Tommy Edwards, Jerry Keller, and Julius LaRosa—and a couple of outstanding recordings are from male singers that never even managed to become one-hit-wonders—Garry Miles, Garry Mills, Nick Nobel, and Don Rondo.
Doris Day was the most popular box-office movie star of the early fifties. Teresa Brewer, Joni James, Jaye P. Morgan, Kay Starr, and Patti Page had dozens of #1 hit songs in the fifties. These girl singers recorded scores of songs and on occasion an outstanding song failed to become a hit.
Some of the girl singers are less well known—Pearl Bailey, Eydie Gorme, Eartha Kitt, Jane Morgan, Debbie Reynolds, June Valli, and Sarah Vaughan. They did release hit songs, but it is their less-well-known recordings that are described here. Many of the girl singers and their songs may be totally unfamiliar—Toni Arden, Gale Storm, Betty Johnson, Peggy King, and Margie Rayburn—but they did record fascinating songs that contributed to this list of all-but-forgotten, should-have-been-hits.
Duets flourished in the fifties. Brothers like the Kalin twins and sisters like Patience & Prudence and Rosemary & Betty Clooney released great records during the decade. In addition, almost every studio had their popular singers like Guy Mitchell & Mindy Carson and Tony Martin & Dinah Shore pair up to double the appeal of their releases. Many duets were successful, but some should-have-been-hit recordings never reached the top-ten.
Audiences loved the freshly pressed, starched, and smiling trios and quartets. Vocal groups who recorded all-but-forgotten songs were very popular—the Ames Brothers, the Chordettes, the Crew-Cuts, the Four Aces, the Four Lads, the Mills Brothers, and the McGuire Sisters. Less well-known groups like the Four Preps, the Poni-Tails, and the Teen Queens and virtual unknowns like the Play-Mates all recorded should-have-been-hits too.