The Thesis

Years that end in “7” are all the best years for music in each decade over the last 60 years.

The Data

Classic Albums

Albums weren’t really an artform at this point in popular music history.  People bought 45’s more than they bought full albums of material.  So instead of classic albums let’s just focus on the names.

The Names

  • Elvis Presley
  • Buddy Holly & the Crickets
  • Little Richard
  • Chuck Berry
  • Fats Domino
  • Carl Perkins
  • Ray Charles
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • The Everly Brothers
  • The Coasters
  • The Platters
  • Sam Cooke
  • Sarah Vaughan
  • Johnny Cash
  • George Jones
  • Patsy Cline
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Miles Davis
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Billie Holiday
  • Harry Belafonte

Rock and Roll Music Breaks Through to the Mainstream

1956 was the breakthrough year for rock and roll, as Elvis Presley broke onto the scene to join Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino on the charts.  Of course, that imposter, Pat Boone, had been covering R&B songs and topping the charts since 1955, but the true rock and rollers were beginning to take over.  True, 1956, saw Elvis take over the charts, but it was 1957 when rock and roll really took over mainstream popular music.  Every music label was looking for the next Elvis, and with that came Jerry Lee Lewis, Ricky Nelson, The Everly Brothers, and the true game changer – Buddy Holly, with his Crickets.  Of course, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino saw continued success, but with more white faces for white consumers to identify with – rock and roll had forever changed the popular music landscape.  The largest sign of this was when American Bandstand went national on broadcast television in 1957.

Rhythm & Blues & Jazz

For the last couple of years, The Platters had seen chart success not only on the R&B charts but on the pop chart as well.  In 1957, they would be joined by Sam Cooke.  Historically, though, the arrival of The Coasters and The Del-Vikings increased R&B’s staying power.  By 1957, Miles Davis had become a bonafide star.  Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet was the first in a series of recordings that would establish them as the greatest quintet in jazz at the moment.  Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday saw continued success as it would be several more years before jazz would see a significant decline in popular culture.

In Conclusion (the Case for…)

As I’ve already stated, 1956 was a historic year because of the chart-topping success of Elvis.  But, 1957 truly saw everything collide at once.  Huge hits, huge stars from every genre.  The single greatest year for popular music in the 1950s.  It would never be the same after that year.  True, 1958 saw continued success for many of the folks previously mentioned, but with teen idols like The Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Bobby Darin, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, and Connie Francis, the purity of rock and roll and rhythm and blues was fading.  “Pop” music was starting to takeover.  In 1959, Elvis enlisted in the army and then the tragic Day the Music Died happened – marking the end of an era.

The Playlist