White Doo Wop Sound
Most White doo-woopers made the R&B charts because R&B stations couldn't tell the color they really were. That's probably the best tribute that can be paid.

White Doo Wop Groups


Powerbass Soft Doo-Wop Pop Doo-Wop Rock 'n' Roll

White vocal groups of the Fifties embraced a variety of styles and sounds, ranging from adult pop groups (the Ames Brothers, the Four Aces, the Hilltoppers), through shameless pop-rockers who covered the R&B hits of the day (the Crewcuts, the McGuire Sisters, the Diamonds) to a vast army of teenage singing groups who naturally absorbed black vocal mannerisms

Some, like the Skyliners and the Belmonts, rivaled the best black harmony groups but, before the emergence of such quartets, white doo-wop was synonymous with plagiarism and what might be termed 'sham-rock'.

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(L-R) Ray Perkins, Rudi Maugeri, Pat Barnett, John Perkins

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(clockwise from top) Mike Douglas, Bill Reed, Dave Sommerville, Del Kowalski

The Crewcuts and the Diamonds, the two most successful doo-wop groups of the entire decade.  Originating from Toronto, the group had previously been known as the Canadaires and comprised: John Perkins (lead), Pat Barrett (tenor), Rudy Maugeri (baritone) and Ray Perkins (bass). The Crewcuts covered a variety of R&B hits including those by the Chords ('Sh-Boom'), the Queens ('Oop Shoop'), the Penguins ('Earth Angel'), Nappy Brown '(Don't Be Angry') and Clyde McPhatter ('Seven Days'). They notched up 11 Top Twenty hits in two years.

Like the Crewcuts, whose career they so closely followed, the Diamonds also came from Canada where Ted Kowalski (tenor), Phil Levitt (baritone) and Bill Reed (bass) attended the University of Toronto. In 1954 they auditioned for CBC-TV's Now Is Your Chance and met David Somerville, who joined them as lead singer. After a couple of flops on the Coral record label they moved Mercury and picked their songs, including the Teenagers' 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love'.

The Diamonds had a safe, successful formula from which they rarely strayed, with songs which had just broken onto the R&B chart, recording them quickly with a slicker production and selling millions of copies to people who had never heard the originals. Between 1956 and 1961 they recorded  R&B hits by the Willows ('Church Bells May Ring'), the Clovers ('Love Love Love'), the G-Clefs ('Ka Ding Dong'), the Heartbeats ('A Thousand Miles Away'), the Gladiolas ('Little Darlin") the Rays, the Solitaires and the Danleers

The Crewcuts and the Diamonds looked like rock'n'roll groups and, superficially, sounded like rock'n'roll groups. All they lacked was the feel and creativity of the black groups they squeezed off the pop charts. But while these cover versions suppressed black performers, they also brought royalties to black songwriters who preferred a million-selling pop hit to an R&B hit which reached less than 10 per cent of the record-buying public.

Most of the better white groups came from the Northeast — New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania where European  immigration was greatest and where the vocal tradition ran deepest. There was a depth to the East Coast vocal group tradition that the rest of the country lacked. The Orioles, a black group, enjoyed a string of Top Ten R&B hits between 1948 and 1953. Hugely popular in New York, they left a solid heritage to which kids of all races could aspire. Generally, the East Coast produced the best black vocal groups.

'On the East, they have such nice harmonies, musically, artistically … but dear friends like the Penguins, the Medallions and those other West Coast groups were horrible. I used to talk to my bassman and my trumpet player and we used to say, "There must be something here in the water that causes that".'
Johnny Otis, bandleader

The direct influence of these great black singing units was one reason why white groups on the East Coast were so good.

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Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers
(L-R) Jimmy Merchant, Herman Santiago, Joe Negroni, Sherman Gaines
Bottom: Frankie Lymon

White doo-wop's best exponents sprang from lower status minorities. By WASP standards, 'white' is really a misnomer since it was the Italian, Hispanic and Polish kids who took to the subways in search of the perfect echo. Many of the Puerto Ricans, next to the blacks the lowest on the social scale, were recruited from street gangs and black/Puerto Rican combinations, like Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, were not uncommon

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Three Chuckles
(L-R) Tommy Romano, Tony Randazzo, Tommy Gilberto

Of all these ethnic groups, the Italians were the most important. From New York, the Three Chuckles, led by Teddy Randazzo, brushed the charts with 'Runaround' (Number 20 in 1954), 'Two Times I Love You' (1955) and 'And The Angels Sing' (1956). In a similar vein, the Four Lovers from Newark, New Jersey, made the Hot Hundred with 'You're The Apple Of My Eye' (1956); some years later they re-emerged as the Four Seasons

White groups made almost no contributions to doo-wop music until 1958. One reason was because of Elvis Presley, many white artist aspired to be single artists rather than members of singing groups. While blacks had plenty of group models including  the Mills Brothers and Ink Spots, whites had few other except in pop/barbershop styling, those models were the Ames Brothers, Four Aces and Four Freshmen.

The reasons being most whites didn't hear the early black harmony sound until the schoolboy doo-wop in early 1956. White teens were more protected and less free to hang out on the street than blacks. Whites and blacks for the most part lived separately and there was slower cross-fertilization of musical ideas and styles between blacks and whites. Many black kids saw and heard blacks kids  singing everyday of there lives be it the schoolyard, on the corner while walking home from school, or even the hallways of the buildings they lived. White groups rarely heard or saw black groups, and the white groups they heard were fewer in number and probably less experienced, especially in the music of the early to the mid-50s

Music was more part of a black teenager's childhood, especially through the church than it was for a white teen. This is not to say that white boys didn't attend church service and sing in the choir, but the Latin-based music of the Latin church was much further from doo-wop music than  is the melimistic, call and response gospel that young blacks hear and participated in.

The Three Chuckles were the first first white group to appear on the pop charts in November 1954. This was the first white group that had any trace of  Doo-Wop or rhythm and blues in it.

"Their sound was as close to early Orioles as any white group ever got."
Jean-Charles Marion

In 1956, came the Diamonds, a white group from Canada that covered so many songs by Black artists. Rock 'n' Roll, rhythm and blues and Doo Wop were new to most teens, especially white teens. The sound of the Diamonds was progressive compared to what their parents were listening too. The Diamonds were much less a stretch for the parents because they were white, clear, and expressive. Being parent -friendly they allowed teens to hear music that would soon lead to more exciting stuff, while avoiding most parental objections. The best of their covers was "Little Darlin'".

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Eddie Cooley & the Dimples

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Three other white group sounds made the pop charts in 1956, Priscilla by Eddie Cooley and the Dimples, "City of Angels" by the Highlights and "Stranded In The Jungle" by the Gadabouts. In 1957 the only White group to chart was Danny & the Juniors with "At the Hop" in December which reached #1 for seven weeks

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Pat Cordell & the Crescents

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Chuck Alaimo Quartet

White groups that didn't chart included "The Stars Are Out Tonight" by The Teardrops in 1954, The Neon's "Angel Face" in 1956, Pat Cordell & the Crescents "Darling Comeback" in 1956. The Three Chuckles "Blanche". The Mello-Kings "Tonite Tonite" and Chuck Aliamo Quartet "How I Love You So" in 1957

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Bay Bops

In 1958 the Diamonds  charted (#4 pop, #5  R&B) with "The Stroll" that became the first rock 'n' roll dance, made popular on American Bandstand. In March Danny & the Juniors "Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay"   (#16 R&B, #19 pop) and "So Tough" by the Casuals (#6 R&B, #42 pop) and the Bay-Bops "Joanie" was on the charts before "I Wonder Why". The Bay-Bops represented the the new white sound.

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I Wonder Why" by Dion and the Belmonts, ten weeks on the charts reaching #22. in 1958. It was of such influence of so many groups that it established White Group Sound sub-category.

"I Wonder Why" introduced the catchy, bouncing bass which was to become  the most distinctive  element of white group harmony that was to follow."
Stephen M. Bennet

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Five Discs

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Thus, power bass was to became a signal of the doo-wop style through the end of the era. There were  Five Discs "I Remember" and "Never Let Go") the Quotations "Imaginations" and the Regents "Barbara Ann used the power bass to reach the charts.Additional elements which characterized the emerging sound was a young sound. The lead typically sang as if  his voice was under going pubescent change and tenors singing at the top of their range produced a "sweet" sound.

Another difference in leads between black and white singers was in the lead voice. Black leads frequently used melisma, hitting more than one note in a syllable , while singers tended to hold the note.

Background harmony usually revolved around some attention getting-device be it repetitive chant (ra-ta-ta) or successive notes (blong-blong-blong).

Never charting nationally, The Five Discs are considered by many as as the prototype sound, despite the fact they were an integrated group Starting in 1958 with "I Remember" and continuing  with "Adios"' "My Baby Loves Me"' and "Never Let You Go", all in 1961. The group combined powerbass, straining tenor and intricate background harmonies

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By now there were four somewhat separate sub-styles of white doo-wop sound.. There was the rock 'n' roll oriented of Danny & the Juniors, the hard doo-wop style of the powerbass ("I Wonder Why"), the soft doo-wop represented by Elegants' "Little Star", Capris'"There's A Moon Out Tonight and amalgamation doo-wop and pop music called "pop doo-wop".

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Bell Notes

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The Mystics and Passions with soft-doo-wop arrangments emerged from Brooklyn in 1959 the Mystics with "Hushabye" and the Passions "Just To Be With You". Other groups with hits in 1959 were the Bell Notes (I"ve Had It), the Impalas (Sorry, I Ran All The Way Home), the Eternals (Rockin' In The Jungle and Babalu's Wedding Day) and the Skyliners (Since I Don't Have You and This I Swear), the Fleetwoods (Come Softly To Me, Mr. Blue and Runaround).

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Dante & the Evergreens

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!960 saw the debut of Dante & the Evergreens (Alley Oop), the Innocents (Honest I Do), the Demensions (Over The Rainbow). 1961 saw Chimes with "Once In Awhile", The Classics in 1963 with "Til Then", the Duprees "You Belong To Me" and "Have You Heard". The Echoes Baby Blue was cross between Hushabye and Mr. Blue.

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1961 saw the debut of  the Chimes with "Once In Awhile" stage of the pop doo-wop sound to making it appealing to more people. In 1963 the Classics with "Till Then" and the Duprees with "You Belong To Me", "Have You Heard" continued the sound

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The Earls

The Regents used a powerbass to chart with "Barbara Ann", followed by "Runaround", and "Liar"all in 1961. An uptempo remake of the Harptones "Life Is But A Dream" by the Earls used long chains of nonsense syllables 9 such as da-duh-da-duh-bop-bop-duh-shoo-bop-duh-bop-bop.

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Nino and the Ebbtides

In 1961, the Dovells with "Bristol Stomp and No No No, records described as rock 'n' roll with a little doo wop. The Dovells were the link between Danny & the Juniors and the Orlons in Philadelphia. Nino and the Ebbtides recorded "Juke Box Saturday night in the rock 'n' roll doo-wop style too in 1961.

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Dion DiMucci

Dion Dimucci and the Belmonts split-up in 1960 and began recording separately. Together in 1958 they had "I Wonder Why" followed by a string of soft ballads. Separately the did uptempo, doo-wopish songs. Dion's first solo effort was "Lonely Teenager", followed by "Runaround Sue".

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The Belmonts had a more doo-wopish sound with "I Need Someone" and "Tell Me Why" in 1961 and "Come On Little Angel" and "Dum-De-Dum" in 1962

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The Tokens had big hits in 1961 with "Tonight I Fell In Love" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".

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Other White groups emerged as the doo-wop era came to a close, the Excellents with "Coney Island Baby", the Devotions with "Rip Van Winkle", and the Reflections "(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet"

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The English invasion halted white doo-wop overnight. Apart from the occasional throwback (for example, the Casinos who scored with 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' in 1967).

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