British Pop during 1955, pretended to be aloof from the shame of rock’n’roll, and on the face of it she was. Dickie Valentine, Ruby Murray, trumpeter Eddie Calvert and the Stargazers topped the polls, and only the entry of “Rock Around The Clock” into the British charts blemished the facade. But, in 1956, resistance cracked and Britain entered the rock race in the only way she knew how: by studying and copying the American model. Consequently, Britain’s first rock’n’roll band were Tony Crombie (a jazz drummer) and The Rockets, doppelgängers of Bill Haley and The Comets, and by the end of the year, Britain’s rock contingent consisted of Crombie, the Dallas Boys, Lonnie Donegan and a blond version of Elvis Presley named Tommy Steele.
Lonnie Donegan -Cumberland Gap
In 1957, reinforcements began to arrive and first on the scene were lisping balladeer Ross Hamilton, bluegrass singer Johnny Duncan (a genuine American), fast-singing Donegan, 6.5 Special discovery Jim Dale, and former child wonders, the King Brothers. Failures included Terry Mayne, Tommy Steele’s brother Colin Hicks, and the Lanza-inspired Toni Dalli, while the briefly popular Terry Dene was better known for his unhappy relationship with the Army. The discovery of 13-year-old Laurie London, who went on to become the first Briton to top the American hit parade, resulted in an invasion of singing children including Sandra Alfred and kilted Jackie Dennis, who had a big hit with “La Dee Dab”. Gimmicks also assisted blue-rinsed Larry Page, Olympic swimmer Peter Elliott, Frankie Vaughan’s sister-in- law Joyce Shock and one of the better rock’n’rollers, Wee Willie Harris.
Billi Fury – Once upon a dream
A little glory came to a well-behaved trio, the Mudlarks, and to the stars of TV’s Oh Boy!, many of whom (Vince Eager, Billy Fury, Johnny Gentle, Duffy Power, Dickie Pride and Marty Wilde) had been re-christened by the first entrepreneur of British pop, Larry Pames.Others making good on TV included Mike Preston, South African organist Cherry Warner, former Los Angeles heavy Vince Taylor and, in 1959, a family of Italians, Little Tony and His Brothers. 1959 sounded the death knell for the golden age of rock’n’roll.
The years most popular arrival, Joe Brown, had some personality. Other newcomers -Craig Douglas, Rikki Price, Gerry Dorsey (who re-emerged in the Seventies as Engelbert Humperdinck), Michael Cox hadn’t. In 1960 flashes-in-the-pan included Emile Ford and growling Tommy Bruce. Johnny Kidd was a lone hard rocker, un-representative of popular taste, the top male singer was Cliff Richard, the top female, Shirley Bassey. and the top group, the King Brothers.
Shirley Bassey – I Who Have Nothing
Nice tunes prevailed in 1961 with trad jazz the dominant force and bland songsters like Eden Kane and 14-year-old Helen Shapiro making headway. Actors Jess Conrad, John Leyton and Hayley Mills looked chartwards – Leyton with great success. The Allisons and the Brook Brothers were more than vaguely reminiscent of the Everlys, Mark Wynter covered everything in sight; and among the one-hit wonders were Ricky Valance, Mike Berry and Shane Fenton.1n 1962, during the calm before the storm, Frank Ifield and Jimmy Justice warbled and looked smart, while instrumentalists thrived and an influx of ‘teenage’ girls (Susan Maughan, Julie Grant etc.) tried to grab a piece of Miss Shapiro’s action. Their stock in trade was, as always, the cover version. But the end of this practice was nigh.
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