Doles Dickens

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Bill Haley & His Comets are often credited with recording the first rock & roll tune, "Rock A'Beatin' Boogie," and disk jockey Alan Freed has been credited for coining the term, "rock & roll." Evidence…
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Bill Haley & His Comets are often credited with recording the first rock & roll tune, "Rock A'Beatin' Boogie," and disk jockey Alan Freed has been credited for coining the term, "rock & roll." Evidence exists, however, that Doles Dickens became the "true" originator of the term rock & roll when he chose an original tune, "Rock & Roll," as his debut single in June 1949. Active until the mid-'60s, Dickens recorded such additional rave-up rockers as "Find 'Em, Fool 'Em and Forget 'Em" and "Choo Choo Bop."

Chicago-born Dickens launched his career in the late-'30s. After sharpening his skills with bands led by trombonist/guitarist Eddie Durham and alto saxophonist Buster Smith, he made his recording debut as bass player for the Eddie South Orchestra in 1940.

Leaving South's orchestra in 1943, Dickens accepted an invitation to replace Richard Davis in vocal group the Four Toppers. With his arrival, the group changed its name to the Five Red Caps. Remaining with the band until 1946, he played on such tunes as "Boogie Woogie on a Saturday Night," "Lenox Avenue Jump" and "The Boogie Beat'll Getcha If You Don't. . ." He also recorded with vocalist George "Bon Bon" Tunnell and the Park Avenue Trio in 1945, featuring either fellow Five Red Cap members, Steve Gibson and Romaine Brown, or session musicians, Frank Signorelli, Andy Sannella, or Robert Michelson.

Leaving the Five Red Caps in 1946, Dickens formed his own jazz quartet with Herbie Scott, Reuben Cole, and Dickie Thompson. Although they recorded for the Superdisc, Continental, and Gotham labels, none of their releases charted.

Moving to New York in 1949, Dickens wasted no time in making his presence felt. He recorded the historically important, "Rock & Roll," on June 23, and played bass on sessions with boogie-woogie bluesman, Piano Red (born William Patterson). In 1954, he recorded with a new band, Doles Dickens & the Strangers.

Dickens' involvement with doo-wop singing group the Mello-Harps began when he arranged a tune, "Gumma Gumma," for a 1957 recording that featured King Curtis on saxophone. He continued to serve as the group's music director until 1964. In June 1960, Dickens temporarily replaced bassist Al Rappa during a Bill Haley & His Comets recording session that yielded two tunes, "Let the Good Times Roll Creole" and "So Right Tonight."

Dickens died in New Jersey on May 2, 1972.