On May 5th, 1956, Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” went to Number 1 on the Billboard top 100 chart. So, what was the competition that he was dealing with? Many times, people denigrate the popular music of the mid-50s claiming that every song was a variation of “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”. Well, this 4 disc set puts an end to that ugly rumor, as while there were no Beatles, Dylan or Rolling Stones in this pre-British Invasion era of America, there was still an incredible amount of rocking tonight, as well as a healthy dose of doo wop, swing, crooners and canaries that gave The Pelvis some competition.
As far as fellow proto-rockers, you have to look no further than fellow Southerner Carl Perkins, who contributed “Blue Suede Shoes” while Bill Haley was riding the high tide with arguably his best song “See You Later, Alligator.” R&Bish rock was presented by Little Richard with “Long Tall Sally” and “Slippin’ and Slidin’” and Fats Domino was rollicking with “My Blue Heaven.” Pat Boone delivers vanilla versions of “Tuttie Frutti,” and Elvis himself has about 3 other spots in the charts including his own “Blue Suede Shoes” and “I Was the One.”
The joyful street symphonies of doo wop are in rich display here as well. Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers’ classic “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” The Platters’ “The Magic Touch” and “Eddie My Love” by the Chordettes” are gloriously nostalgic. For crooners, Perry Como is wonderfully casual on “Hot Diggity” and Vic Damone is mellifluous during “On the Street Where You Live” with Nat King Cole glowing on “Too Young to Go Steady” and Dean Martin as relaxed as all get out on “Memories Are Made of This.” Even some pop jazz got airplay, with pianist Dick Hyman hitting paydirt with the Caribbean “Moritat” and Louis Armstrong growling out the prototypical take of “Mack the Knife.” How many Billboard charts could boast such an entourage? Que Paso’?