Elvis Presley Rock and Roll 6 Pieces of Silver Bluejean Bop!
Ella and Louis Birth of the Cool Tragic Songs of Life Songs for Swingin' Lovers!

"Don't Knock the Rock." Rock & roll was everywhere in 1956 -- eight of the Top Ten singles on the pop charts by October -- but, then again, so was criticism of it. The hybrid of rhythm, blues, and country had been a fixture on black radio for years, but the ascension of Elvis Presley early in the year with "Heartbreak Hotel," his first single for RCA Victor, focused mainstream attention and quickly made rock & roll Public Enemy Number One.

One columnist called rock & rollers "unspeakably untalented and vulgar," while a psychiatrist opined that rock & roll was "a communicable disease with music appealing to adolescent insecurity and driving teen-agers to do outlandish things." Radio stations smashed Elvis records over the air on a daily basis, and a car dealership offered to break 50 Elvis records in your presence if you bought a car. (Five buyers accepted the offer, no doubt leading to 250 additional record sales for the Presley machine.)

All this happened despite support for rock from many leading swing bandleaders, including Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, who saw Elvis mania as only the latest in a line of pop culture upheavals that stretched back to Frank Sinatra in the early '40s and even Eddie Cantor in the '20s. Unfortunately, music culture had an even harsher undercurrent in 1956; Nat King Cole was assaulted while on-stage in Birmingham, AL (although the offending parties, members of a white supremacist group, were arrested and Cole returned on-stage to an ovation).

On the recording front, 1956 featured a formidable roster of classic rock moments: Buddy Holly's first rock & roll sessions; a string of classic hits from Little Richard and Fats Domino and the Coasters; the professional recording debuts of James Brown, Gene Vincent, Bobby Darin, and the Everly Brothers; plus a host of famous sides for a pair of great labels: Sun Records out of Memphis (Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison) and the Chess/Checker Records family in Chicago (Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf).

But of course, rock & roll was hardly the only thing going on musically in 1956. Dozens of traditional pop vocalists were doing their best work in the mid-'50s, led by those in the cool school: Mel Tormé, Anita O'Day, Chris Connor, Chet Baker, Julie London, and June Christy. Also appearing was excellent material from three of the best female vocalists of the century: Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald (the latter of whom inaugurated her classic songbook series that year with a tribute to the music of Cole Porter). And in the world of jazz, Miles Davis recorded several albums' worth of classic material with his first great quintet (most of it not appearing until later), along with his debut for Columbia, 'Round About Midnight. And another famed young trumpeter, Clifford Brown, was tragically killed in an auto accident.

Elsewhere, street-corner harmony groups (later called doo wop) were enjoying one of their best years, with the organic groups of the past finally giving way to studio professionals like the Coasters and Olympics (but still permitting a few fresh-faced kids into the mix, like Frankie Lymon). The country charts weren't completely taken over by rock & roll; Ray Price and Jim Reeves, among others, continued developing the serene countrypolitan style that would rule Nashville for the next ten to 15 years. And the comparatively pricey album charts were ruled by soundtracks and cast recordings, including Oklahoma!, The King and I, Carousel, and My Fair Lady.

In the end, mainstream culture proved capable of taming even rock & roll. Despite Elvis being far and away the leading record-seller of the year, 1956 also saw Dick Clark debuting on Bandstand, Kay Starr hitting number one with the sedate "Rock and Roll Waltz," and Pat Boone out-charting Little Richard on "Tutti Frutti."

John Bush
Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette - Lulu's Back in Town
Mel Tormé - Sings Fred Astaire
Sonny Rollins Quartet - Sonny Rollins Plus 4
Chris Connor - Chris Connor
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Bing Crosby - Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings
Art Blakey - The Jazz Messengers
Hoagy Carmichael - Hoagy Sings Carmichael
Noel Coward - Noel Coward at Las Vegas
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Cal Tjader Mambo Quintet - Tjader Plays Mambo
Tito Puente - Puente in Percussion
Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Gospel Train
Hampton Hawes - All Night Session!, Vol. 1
The Stan Getz Quartet - The Steamer
Perez Prado - Havana 3 A.M.
June Christy - The Misty Miss Christy
Hal McKusick - In a Twentieth Century Drawing Room
Ella Fitzgerald - Sings the Cole Porter Song Book

Johnny Horton - "Honky-Tonk Man" (YouTube)
Johnny Burnette - "The Train Kept a Rollin'"
Gene Vincent - "Be-Bop-a-Lula"
Nervous Norvus - "Transfusion" (YouTube)
Perry Como - "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)"
Al Hibbler - "After the Lights Go Down Low"
Rusty Draper - "In the Middle of the House" (YouTube)
Andy Williams - "Canadian Sunset"
Jeri Southern - "Someone to Watch Over Me"
Nat King Cole - "Stardust"
Little Willie John - "Fever"
Howlin' Wolf - "Smokestack Lightnin'"
Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns - "Little Liza Jane"
Chuck Berry - "Too Much Monkey Business"
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - "I Put a Spell on You"
Bo Diddley - "Who Do You Love?"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
The Louvin Brothers - "Cash on the Barrel Head"
Brenda Lee - "Bigelow 6-200"
Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"

Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Any year that generates 'Round About Midnight and Songs for Swingin' Lovers! surely has its share of classic albums but for me 1956 is all about the singles. How could it not be when it was the year rock & roll exploded? Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and Carl Perkins all had multiple classics and there were plenty of one-shot wonders as well, not to mention scores of amazing blues and country singles. It was the golden age of the jukebox and radio, so it's hard to narrow down a list of favorites to a handful but here's my attempt: taking a cue from the year, I've whittled this down to a list of 56 of my favorite songs ever written and recorded.

Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Ray Price - "Crazy Arms"
Ray Charles - "Lonely Avenue"
The Cadets - "Stranded in the Jungle"
Elvis Presley - "My Baby Left Me"
Chuck Berry - "Roll Over Beethoven"
Little Richard - "Long Tall Sally"
Chuck Willis - "It's Too Late"
Elvis Presley - "Love Me"
Johnny Horton - "Honky-Tonk Man"
Billy Lee Riley - "Red Hot"
Bo Diddley - "Hey! Bo Diddley"
Howlin' Wolf - "Smokestack Lightnin'"
Warren Smith - "Rock N Roll Ruby"
Gene Vincent - "Race with the Devil"
Bo Diddley - "Who Do You Love?"
Ivory Joe Hunter - "Since I Met You Baby"
Ray Charles - "Hallelujah I Love Her So"
Chuck Berry - "Too Much Monkey Business"
Warren Smith - "Ubangi Stomp"
Bobby Charles - "Later Alligator"
The Cadillacs - "Speedoo"
Big Walter - "Pack Fair & Square"
Gene Vincent - "Be-Bop-A-Lula"
The Drifters - "Ruby Baby"
Little Richard - "Rip It Up"
Hank Snow - "I'm Moving On"
Fats Domino - "I'm in Love Again"
Ray Charles - "Drown in My Own Tears"
Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)"
Little Willie John - "Fever"
Muddy Waters - "Trouble, No More"
Jimmy Reed - "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby"
Chuck Berry - "No Money Down"
Johnny Horton - "I'm a One Woman Man"
Johnny Cash - "Get Rhythm"
Marty Robbins - "Singing the Blues"
Larry Williams - "Bony Maronie"
Elvis Presley - "Money Honey"
Screamin' Jay Hawkins - "I Put a Spell on You"
Shirley & Lee - "Let the Good Times Roll"
The Coasters - "Down in Mexico"
Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues"
Little Richard - "Slippin' and Slidin'"
Carl Perkins - "Blue Suede Shoes"
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers - "Why Do Fools Fall in Love"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
Roy Montrell - "That Mellow Saxophone"
Warren Smith - "Black Jack David"
Carl Perkins - "Dixie Fried"
B.B. King - "Sweet Little Angel"
Don Gibson - "Sweet Dreams"
The Louvin Brothers - "Cash on the Barrel Head"
George Jones - "What Am I Worth"
Otis Rush - "I Can't Quit You Baby"
Bobby Charles - "Take It Easy, Greasy"

Uncle Dave Lewis
1956 was the first full year of rock 'n' roll and the big story that year was Elvis Presley's debut LP on RCA Victor, released March 23rd. However, rock music in 1956 was still primarily a singles market and not one dominated by rock; listeners of today might be disappointed to learn that mainstream vocal hits like "The Wayward Wind" and "Singing the Blues" moved a lot more units than records like "Tutti Frutti," but that's the way it was in 1956. Classical music lost 36-year-old world class conductor Guido Cantelli in a plane crash in November, just days after he was named musical director of La Scala. The school of hard bop was dealt a critical blow with the loss of trumpeter Clifford Brown and pianist Richie Powell in separate car accidents on the same day (June 26), though otherwise the year had more than its fair share of monumental jazz albums such as Charles Mingus' Pithecanthropus Erectus and Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colussus. In classical music, Benny Goodman made waves with his landmark interpretations of Mozart at Tanglewood and CRI issued an intriguing collaboration between arch-experimental composer Henry Cowell and legendary sacred musician Daniel Pinkham (never issued on CD). However both opera and the Broadway stage enjoyed a banner year in 1956, with the debuts of The Ballad of Baby Doe, Candide, My Fair Lady, and The Most Happy Fella.

Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps - Bluejean Bop!
Original Soundtrack - The Girl Can't Help It
Charlie Shavers - The Complete Charlie Shavers with Maxine Sullivan (contains "Folk Songs")
Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band - Favorites!
Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet - Brown and Roach Incorporated
The Modern Jazz Quartet - Fontessa
Miles Davis - 'Round About Midnight
Bill Evans - New Jazz Conceptions
Toshiko Akiyoshi - Her Trio, Her Quartet
George Russell - The Jazz Workshop
Spike Jones - Dinner Music...for People Who Aren't Very Hungry!
Frank Sinatra - Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color
The Hi-Lo's - Listen!
Benny Goodman - Mozart at Tanglewood
Jascha Heifetz, Walter Hendl, Dallas Symphony Orchestra: Rozsa - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Victoria de los Angeles, Heitor Villa Lobos, ORTF National Orchestra - Villa-Lobos: Bachianas Brasileiras Nos. 1, 2, 5 & 9
Leonard Bernstein/Original Cast Recording - Candide
Original Soundtrack - The King and I

Chuck Berry - "Roll Over Beethoven"
The Cadets - "Stranded in the Jungle"
The Cadillacs - "Speedo"
Cathy Carr - "Ivory Tower"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
Doris Day - "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)"
The Crows - "Gee"
Bill Doggett - "Honky Tonk (Part 2)"
The Five Satins - "In the Still of the Night"
Gogi Grant - "The Wayward Wind"
Bill Haley and His Comets - "See You Later Alligator"
Little Willie John - "Fever"
Little Richard - "Tutti-Frutti"
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers - "Why Do Fools Fall in Love"
Jim Lowe - "Green Door"
Dean Martin - "Memories Are Made of This"
Mickey & Sylvia - "Love Is Strange"
Guy Mitchell - "Singing the Blues"
Carl Perkins - "Blue Suede Shoes"
Johnnie Ray - "Just Walkin' in the Rain"

Heather Phares
Les Baxter - Tamboo!
June Christy - The Misty Miss Christy
Chris Connor - Chris Connor
Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters - Rock and Roll
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong - Ella and Louis Together
Woody Guthrie - Songs to Grow on for Mother and Child
Bill Haley and His Comets - Rock Around the Clock
Peggy Lee - Black Coffee
Julie London - Lonely Girl
Marilyn Monroe - Some Like It Hot
Moondog - More Moondog
The Platters - The Platters
Elvis Presley - Elvis
Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Jimmy Smith - The Champ
Mel Tormé - Sings Fred Astaire
Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps - Bluejean Bop!
Dinah Washington - Dinah!
Hank Williams - I Saw the Light

Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Chuck Berry - "Roll Over Beethoven"
The Cadillacs - "Speedo"
Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
The Clovers - "Devil or Angel"
The Dells - "Oh What a Nite"
Fats Domino - "Blueberry Hill"
Fats Domino - "I'm in Love Again"
Lonnie Donegan - "Rock Island Line"
The Five Satins - "In the Still of the Night"
Ivory Joe Hunter - "Since I Met You Baby"
Little Richard - "Slippin' and Slidin' (Peepin' and Hidin')"
Little Richard - "Tutti-Frutti"
Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers - "Why Do Fools Fall in Love"
Carl Perkins - "Blue Suede Shoes"
The Platters - "The Great Pretender"
Elvis Presley - "Don't Be Cruel"
Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"
Gene Vincent - "Be-Bop-a-Lula"

James Christopher Monger
The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life
Paul Clayton - Whaling and Sailing Songs from the Days of Moby Dick
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Ella & Louis
Chet Atkins - Fingerstyle Guitar
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Odetta - Sings Ballads and Blues
Harry Belafonte - Calypso
The Charlie Mingus Jazz Workshop - Pithecanthropus Erectus
Ravi Shankar - Three Ragas
Marty Robbins - Rock'n Roll'n Robbins
Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Porter Wagoner & the Wagonmasters - Satisfied Mind
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Ed McCurdy - When Dalliance Was in Flower
Merle Travis - The Merle Travis Guitar
Rosemary Clooney - Blue Rose
Burl Ives - Down to the Sea in Ships
Ewan MacColl - English/Scottish Popular Ballads
Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters - Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters

James Wilkinson
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley - Elvis
The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps - Bluejean Bop!
Liam Clancy, Tommy Makem, Family & Friends - The Lark in the Morning
The Charlie Mingus Jazz Workshop - Pithecanthropus Erectus
Moondog - Moondog
Moondog - More Moondog
Big Bill Broonzy - Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs
Isla Cameron - Through Bushes and Briars and Other Songs of the British Isles
Original Soundtrack - Rock, Rock, Rock
Ravi Shankar - Three Ragas
Horace Silver Quintet - 6 Pieces of Silver
Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus
Sonny Rollins Quartet - Tenor Madness
Thelonious Monk - The Unique Thelonious Monk
Sun Ra - Jazz by Sun Ra
Stan Getz - More West Coast Jazz
B.B. King - Singin' the Blues

The Louvin Brothers - "You're Running Wild"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
Little Willie John - "I Need Your Love So Bad"
Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"
Ray Charles - "Drown in My Own Tears"
Ray Charles - "Lonely Avenue"
Little Richard - "Rip It Up"
Little Richard - "Long Tall Sally"
Bo Diddley - "Who Do You Love?"
The Five Satins - "In the Still of the Night"
Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Carl Perkins - "Honey Don't"
Elvis Presley - "Hound Dog"
Chuck Berry - "Too Much Monkey Business"
Charlie Feathers - "One Hand Loose"
Mickey & Sylvia - "Love Is Strange"
Roy Orbison - "Trying to Get to You"
Sanford Clark - "The Fool"
Elvis Presley - "Don't Be Cruel"
Johnny Cash - "Get Rhythm"

Sean Westergaard
The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life
Charles Mingus - Pithecanthropus Erectus
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Sun Ra - Jazz by Sun Ra
Sun Ra and His Arkestra - Super Sonic Jazz
Ravi Shankar - Three Ragas

Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
James Brown with the Famous Flames - "Please, Please, Please"
The Cadets - "Stranded in the Jungle"
The Cadillacs - "Speedo"
Johnny Cash - "Folsom Prison Blues"
The Chordettes - "Eddie My Love"
The Cleftones - "Little Girl of Mine"
The G-Clefs - "Ka-Ding-Dong"
Dickie Goodman - "The Flying Saucer (Parts 1 & 2)"
Howlin' Wolf - "Smoke Stack Lightning"
Howlin' Wolf - "I Asked for Water"
Little Willie John - "Fever"
B.B. King - "Sweet Little Angel"
Little Richard - "Ready Teddy"
Carl Perkins - "Dixie Fried"
Elvis Presley - "Mystery Train"
Otis Rush - "I Can't Quit You Baby"
Porter Wagoner - "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Tomorrow You'll Cry)"
Muddy Waters - "Don't Go No Farther"
Muddy Waters - "Forty Days & Forty Nights"

Matthew Garbutt
Chet Baker - Chet Baker & Crew
Ella Fitzgerald - Sings the Cole Porter Songbook
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps - Bluejean Bop!
Hank Mobley - Messages
Horace Silver Quintet - 6 Pieces of Silver
Jimmy Smith - At the Organ
Johnny Burnette - Rock 'n' Roll Trio
Kenny Burrell - Introducing
Max Roach - Max Roach + 4
Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
Moondog - Moondog
Original Soundtrack - My Fair Lady
Odetta - Sings Blues and Ballads
Paul Chambers Sextet - Whims of Chambers
Peggy Lee - Black Coffee
Ravi Shankar - Three Ragas
The Charlie Mingus Jazz Workshop - Pithecanthropus Erectus
The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life

Andy Starr - "Rockin' Rollin Stone"
Bo Diddley - "Who Do You Love?"
Carl Perkins - "Blue Suede Shoes"
Charlie Feathers - "Can't Hardly Stand It"
Chuck Berry - "Roll Over Beethoven"
Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"
Howlin' Wolf - "Smokestack Lightning"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
LaVern Baker - "Jim Dandy"
Little Richard - "Long Tall Sally"
Little Willie John - "Fever"
Mickey & Sylvia - "Love Is Strange"
Ray Charles - "Lonely Avenue"
Ruth Brown - "Sweet Baby of Mine"
Slim Rhodes - "Take and Give"
The Cadillacs - "Speedo"
The Cleftones - "Little Girl of Mine"
The Cliques - "The Girl in My Dreams"
The Five Satins - "In the Still of the Night"
The Platters - "The Great Pretender"

Previously
AllMusic Loves 1965
AllMusic Loves 1968

AllMusic Loves 1974
AllMusic Loves 1977
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AllMusic Loves 1990
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