Who Were the Top Musical Acts of the 1950s?

Music can improve one’s well-being by slowing heart rates, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, anxiety and depression improving motor function and providing pain relief.

This is aside from the fact that music is a great way to de-stress and reminisce, and stimulate memory.

Music in the 1950s

people attending a rock and roll concert

Music in the 1950s was dominated by the birth of rock and roll. Rock and roll was a powerful new form of music that combined elements of rhythm and blues (R&B), pop, blues, and hillbilly music to create a sound that truly shook America.

The sound of rock and roll was characterized by its use of electric guitars, bass, drums, and saxophones, as well as its distinctive backbeat.

Rock and roll took over popular music in the mid1950s and late 1950s, and it spread to almost all countries by the 1960s. It began as a mixture of rhythm and blues, gospel, and country and western music in the 1960s, as well as pop music and rhythm and blues.

As a result, Rock ‘n’ Roll, soul, Motown, and other genres were born. Rock music was a popular genre during the R&B era, and many of the songs that emerged from the fifties in the rhythm and blues style are similar to rock music.

How Did Music Affect Culture In The 1950s?

a man doing a rock and roll sign

In the 1950s, music had a huge impact on culture. It was the decade that saw the birth of rock and roll, which had a massive impact on both popular culture and the counterculture.

Rock and roll was a rebellious force that challenged the status quo and gave young people a new sense of freedom and identity. The music of the 1950s also had a big impact on fashion, with the rise of Elvis Presley and the popularity of rock and roll leading to a more casual and rebellious style of dress.

The sound of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s was distinct from that of jazz and blues during the previous decade. Teenagers were drawn to the style due to its ability to express anger and rebellion.

Teenagers were believed to be influenced by songs and artists, as opposed to parental influence. In 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis performed the song Great Balls of Fire, which was deemed sacrilegious due to its implication that the fire resembled the Holy Spirit. Teenagers rebelled against their parents, leading to Rock ‘n’ Roll delinquency and juvenile behavior.

Who Were the Top Musical Acts of the 1950s?

The Coasters: Famous African American Musicians

trading card photo of the coasters

The Coasters are one of those bands that don’t fit into a single category. Made up of some of the most revolutionary African American musicians of the decade, they’re known for R&B sounds, rock and roll music and their unique on-stage performances that combined music with comedy. Some of their most well-known hits include:

  • Yakety Yak
  • Charlie Brown
  • Red Run Red
  • Little Egypt
  • Along Came Jones

Their music became popular for two main reasons: their fun, R&B beats and their impactful, emotional lyrics. Many people felt a strong connection to the band, which explains why their music escalated on the pop charts.

The Crickets: Leading Rock & Roll Performers

trading card photo of the Crickets

Any fan of the Beatles would definitely appreciate The Crickets. This band, which was started by singer-songwriter Buddy Holly, is known for its exciting rock and roll songs, strong vocals and unique guitar and bass sounds. Not only did their music form the foundation for musical groups like the Beatles, but it also reached high on the Billboard Top 100 charts. Some of their leading songs include:

  • Maybe Baby
  • Teardrops Fall Like Rain
  • I’m Not A Bad Guy
  • Peggy Sue
  • Baby My Heart

While bandleader Buddy Holly sadly passed away just a couple of years after forming the musical group, The Crickets continued to dominate the charts for years to come.

Ray Charles: Country Music, Blues & Much More

ray charles in one of his classic poses at the piano

American singer, songwriter and pianist Ray Charles Robinson Sr., also known as “Brother Ray” and “the Genius,” is one of the most famous 1950s musicians. After suffering from glaucoma and blindness at a young age, Ray Charles quickly became an inspirational figure. He began to rise in popularity after World War II due to his soul music, which combines the following genres:

  • Blues
  • Jazz
  • Country
  • Gospel

Even if you haven’t heard of Ray Charles, you’ve probably heard of his songs — some of his hits include “Hit The Road Jack,” I Got A Woman” and “Georgia On My Mind.” However, it took another three decades before he was honored by the Grammys with a lifetime achievement award.

Bill Haley & His Comets: Fifties Rock

bill haley and his comets

After experimenting with country music, artist Bill Haley entered the rock scene in the early 1950s with his hit band, Bill Haley & His Comets. Mostly known for their rock music, the band also played around with country and R&B sounds. Their songs are still well-known today and include hits like:

  • Rock Around The Clock
  • See You Later Alligator
  • Rock The Joint
  • Razzle-Dazzle
  • Rock A Beatin’ Boogie

Many people consider the band to be revolutionary as their debut album introduced people around the world to rock music. In 1987, Bill Haley & His Comets were recognized for their contribution to the music world by getting inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Fats Domino

photo of fats domino

Fats Domino was renowned for his prowess at the piano and as a vocalist. He wrote some of the most pioneering songs of early rock and roll.

He was born to a French Creole family in New Orleans in 1928. His first single The Fat Man is often credited as the first rock and roll single in history. He topped the charts 11 times between 1955 and 1960. Domino’s work was vital to later artists, notably Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry circa 1958

The legendary Chuck Berry is often remembered as the “Father of Rock and Roll.” He earned this title for his irreplaceable role in refining R&B themes into the new genre.

A string of hits from 1955 to 1958, including Maybellene and Johnny B. Goode, set him immediately apart. He was renowned for his incredible performance style and stellar guitar solos.

Etta Jones

american jazz singer etta jones in Paris, France

Etta Jones is famous for her fantastic work in blues, gospel, rock and roll, jazz, soul, and more. She began her career in 1954 with powerful hits like Tell Mama and At Last.

Her voice was rich, deep, and stirring, and her performances gained her dozens of prominent awards. She is often listed as one of the 100 best singers and artists of all time. She even made a strong comeback in the late 1980s, leading to her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

The Everly Brothers

the everly brothers featured on the cover of cash box magazine, 13 July 1957

The Everly Brothers were a rock duo whose steel-string acoustic guitar and close harmonic singing made them infamous. Their music brought together influences from pop, country, and rock and roll, giving birth to the country rock genre.

These two brothers gained notoriety in Nashville while still in high school, achieving their first hit song in 1957 with Bye Bye Love. Their act influenced Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Bee Gees, and even The Beatles.

Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock Music & More

publicity photo of jerry lee lewis

Rock icon Jerry Lee Lewis is probably best known for bringing piano music to the rock scene. After releasing his unique pop and rock single, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” he quickly became one of the most popular musicians in the United States. Other well-known Lewis songs include:

  • Great Balls of Fire
  • Middle Age Crazy
  • High School Confidential
  • You Win Again
  • Crazy Arms

What really made Jerry Lee Lewis stand out during the 1950s was his showmanship — people drove out to his concerts just to watch his flamboyant piano playing and dance moves. In addition to being a popular rock artist, he dominated pop, country and R&B charts.

And at the top of the list is the king itself:

Elvis Presley: The King of Rock & Roll

promotional photograph of elvis presley, taken in 1954

You can’t talk about 1950s music without mentioning Elvis Presley. Although he’s mostly known for his iconic electric guitar and rock and roll hits, Elvis Presley worked with many genres, including:

  • Country music
  • Rhythm & blues
  • Dance & electronic

Elvis’s music also soared on the pop charts as he entered the world of mainstream popular music. While his songs might sound a little different from the traditional pop music we hear today, they still revolutionized the music scene — people across the globe bonded over his hits.

Some favorites include:

  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Hound Dog
  • Love Me Tender

Presley had the highest number of hits at the top of the Billboard number-one singles chart between January 1950 until August 1958 (10 songs) in addition, Presley remained the longest at the top of the Billboard number-one singles chart between January 1950 until August 1958 (57 weeks).