The Doo Wop Sound
A form of R&B based harmony vocalizing using phonetic or nonsense
syllables (like a repeated "doo-wop") for rhythm and intricate harmonic
The Evolution of Doo Wop
1948 - 1951 Vocal groups were jazz or rhythm and blues oriented.
Nonsense syllables and falsetto were used. Adult themes
1952 The birth of the vocal arrangement and over all feel of
rhythm and blues. Blow harmonies and nonsense syllables, use of falsetto to run over tenor
leads. suggestive in up tempo innocent love.
1954 Influenced by existing groups. Harmonies are tight and sweet,
lead singers not as smooth. Leads alternate between tenor and "falsetto" run
above in song ballads and trail off in jump tunes. Bass is given more voice then just
background harmony. Nonsense syllables in most songs, but subdued in ballads. Themes are
young and of young love. Suggestive lyrics are rare.
Characteristics of Doo Wop
Vocal Group Harmony
Wide Range of Voices (lead, first tenor (falsetto), second tenor,
Simple Beat and Light Instrumentation
Simple Music and Lyrics
1954 was a year of transition of the vocal sound, from the adult oriented
rhythm and blues to "amateurish" street corner doo wop.
Doo Wop was an urban North sound that has been romanticized as having been born on the
street corner. The truth is that these teenagers first musical experiences were in the
home and\or black church Most of the these groups began during high school and were of
bonding experience. The members were typical teenagers, socially awkward and shy, trying
to impress the girls. They formed groups consisting of 4-6 individuals where each
knew their role and part within the group
Like teenagers they were carefree, into what made them happy at the moment and often
irresponsible. Knowing very little about the world around them and the groups were easily
led and ended up making these mistakes:
- They overly trusted their contacts to the record company.
- Believed labels owner that told them his name would be listed as the composer
because it would be more recognizable to the deejays. This caused the lost of mechanical
- Agreed to be paid by session rather then by number of records.
- Money would come from tours. The fact was they were paid very little.
- signed contracts that allowed record companies to pay studio and promotional costs out
of artists royalties.
- Gave the companies rights to the original songs.
- Split 50\50 with their managers
- Did big rock shows for free.
- Groups often paid to be on big TV shows
Later this practice would be stopped and the acts received per union scale. Many
times they were required to give the check back before the performance and one the one
received after was much smaller. Little Joey and the Flips, recounted how this had
happened to them 1958 and 1962 when they appeared on "American Bandstand"
It is ironic that the little companies, that had much to gain by their success, were
the villains. Many of these groups would have survived if they hadn't been cheated
of mechanical and performance rights.
Doo Wop Jukebox
Doo Wop Nation
The Doo Wop Cafe
The Doo Wop Society
Vocal Harmony Lives
Where did the name Doo Wop come
Doo Wop: Definition
of a genre