Kind of Blue Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown Elvis Presley Blue Train
In the Wee Small Hours The Genius of Ray Charles The Shape of Jazz to Come Time Out

More than one revolution happened in the 1950s. There was, of course, the birth of rock & roll, a revolution several years in the making prior to exploding in 1956 when Elvis Presley became a superstar. A few years earlier, there were other monumental developments, including Frank Sinatra beginning his remarkable run of concept albums at Capitol and Miles Davis' first classic quintet, who released many classic LPs that defined the contours of contemporary jazz. These iconic figures were hardly the only major artists of the '50s, nor did the decade only revolve around rock & roll, pop vocals, and jazz. Early in the decade, Hank Williams wrapped up his brilliant, groundbreaking career, his hardcore honky tonk finding a contrast later in the decade with the highly polished productions coming out of Nashville. There was swinging easy listening, jumping electrified blues, street corner doo wop -- music that laid the groundwork of modern music, music that still sounds alive and vital, music that is still easy to love.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine [Spotify]
If narrowing down a year into a list of 20 albums and 20 singles seemed a difficult task, that's nothing compared to a full decade, particularly a decade that contained as much great music as the '50s. It would've been possible to do an albums list that contained nothing but Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, a singles list consisting entirely of records released on Sun or Chess. While I love everything that appears on these two lists, they are by no means the only recordings I love and they might change if I assembled a list a month later (this is particularly true of the singles). A lot of spillover has wound up on my lengthy Spotify list, which will be added to and trimmed as time goes by.

Chuck Berry - One Dozen Berrys
Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
Buddy Holly & the Crickets - The "Chirping" Crickets
The Everly Brothers - The Everly Brothers
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Jerry Lee Lewis - Jerry Lee Lewis
Little Richard - Here's Little Richard
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
The Coasters - The Coasters
Chuck Berry - After School Session
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
John Coltrane - Blue Train
Frank Sinatra - Only the Lonely
Miles Davis - Milestones
Ray Charles - Ray Charles
Rick Nelson - Ricky Nelson
Gene Vincent - Bluejean Bop!
Hank Thompson - Songs for Rounders

Eddie Cochran - "Somethin' Else"
Buddy Holly - "Rave On"
The Coasters - "Searchin'"
Howlin' Wolf - "Fourty Four"
Everly Brothers - "Bye Bye Love"
Chuck Berry - "Thirty Days"
Professor Longhair - "Tipitina"
Fats Domino - "Blue Monday"
Lloyd Price - "Stagger Lee"
Jackie Brenston - "Rocket '88'"
Ricky Nelson - "Believe What You Say"
Charlie Walker - "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down"
Hank Williams - "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
Little Walter - "Juke"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Breathless"
Ray Price - "I'll Be There"
Johnny Cash - "Big River"
George Jones - "White Lightning"
The Hollywood Flames - "Buzz Buzz Buzz"
The Olympics - "Western Movies"

John Bush
When I found out we were going to do just one playlist for the entire decade of the 1950s (for the time being at least), I realized I was going to have to narrow it down or risk doing my head in -- so I turned to vocal jazz, which is one of my favorite genres and just happened to be at its peak during the '50s. (Hopefully, my co-editors will bail me out and include all my other favorite artists of the '50s, from Brenda Lee to Howlin' Wolf to Cortijo to Johnny Horton to Sonny Rollins, and many, many more.)

Why was vocal jazz so great in the '50s? For me, it was an entire generation of arrangers and singers and instrumentalists who had come of age in the war years and by the '50s found themselves free to follow their artistic whims with few (or at least fewer) needs to cater only to radio listeners. They had an excellent songbook to draw on, thanks to Berlin and Porter and the Gershwins and many more, plus bigger and better studios for jazz and vocal pop, and countless musicians who could add color to the material. And last of all, the advent of the long-player and more disposable income made it feasible for artists to stretch out -- either on a song or on a full program of 12 tracks.

Even keeping it to just vocal music, I had to winnow my list down from 60+ LPs and 50+ singles to 20 of each, which I did by mostly sticking with one album per artist (although you'll be able to find the giants in my book if they have two LPs listed). Also, I tried to include only singles from artists where I didn't have a favorite album listed, although I cheated there too.

Mel Tormé - Sings Fred Astaire
Mel Tormé & the Marty Paich Dek-tette - Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette
Chris Connor - Chris Connor
Chris Connor - This Is Chris
Anita O'Day - This Is Anita
Anita O'Day - Anita Sings the Most
Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours
Blossom Dearie - Blossom Dearie
Sarah Vaughan - Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown
Helen Merrill - Helen Merrill
Ella Fitzgerald - Sings the Cole Porter Song Book
Jeri Southern - Southern Breeze
Perry Como - We Get Letters
Bing Crosby - Bing with a Beat
Bobby Short - The Mad Twenties
Dinah Washington - Dinah Jams
Lee Wiley w/ Bobby Hackett and Joe Bushkin - Night in Manhattan
Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mandel & His Orchestra - Hoagy Sings Carmichael
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings

Mel Tormé - "Mountain Greenery" [Live]
Bing Crosby & Louis Armstrong - "Gone Fishin'" [Live]
Billie Holiday - "Nice Work If You Can Get It"
Count Basie & Joe Williams - "In the Evening (When the Sun Goes Down)"
Dean Martin - "Memories Are Made of This"
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - "Would You Like to Take a Walk?"
Julie London - "Cry Me a River"
Little Jimmy Scott - "Everybody's Somebody's Fool"
Nat King Cole - "Lush Life"
June Christy - "How High the Moon"
Eartha Kitt - "C'Est Si Bon (It's So Good)"
Louis Prima - "Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody"
Keely Smith - "That Old Black Magic"
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - "Twisted"
Al Hibbler - "After the Lights Go Down Low"
Matt Dennis - "My Blue Heaven"
Peggy Lee - "Alright, Okay, You Win"
Andy Williams - "Canadian Sunset"
Tony Bennett - "Stranger in Paradise"
Doris Day - "Secret Love"

Heather Phares
Chuck Berry - One Dozen Berrys
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
June Christy - Something Cool
The Coasters - The Coasters
Blossom Dearie - Blossom Dearie
Les Baxter - Space Escapade
Esquivel - Other Worlds Other Sounds
The Everly Brothers - The Everly Brothers
Ella Fitzgerald - Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book
Original Soundtrack - Forbidden Planet
Bernard Herrmann - Vertigo
Buddy Holly & the Crickets - The "Chirping" Crickets
Little Richard - Here's Little Richard
Peggy Lee - Black Coffee
Jerry Lee Lewis - Jerry Lee Lewis
Julie London - Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 1
Rick Nelson - Ricky Nelson
Ken Nordine - Word Jazz
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
Carl Perkins - Dance Album

Chuck Berry - "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
The Coasters - "Young Blood"
Eddie Cochran - "Somethin' Else"
Sam Cooke - "You Send Me"
The Drifters - "There Goes My Baby"
The Everly Brothers - "All I Have to Do Is Dream"
Tennessee Ernie Ford - "Sixteen Tons"
The Flamingos - "I Only Have Eyes for You"
The Fleetwoods - "Come Softly to Me"
Buddy Holly - "Words of Love"
Jerry Lee Lewis - "Breathless"
Little Richard - "Tutti Frutti"
Ricky Nelson - "Poor Little Fool"
Carl Perkins - "Blue Suede Shoes"
The Platters - "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
Elvis Presley - "All Shook Up"
Santo & Johnny - "Sleep Walk"
Gene Vincent - "Be-Bop-A-Lula"
Jackie Wilson - "Lonely Teardrops"

Tim Sendra
Pepper Adams - 10 to 4 at the Five Spot
Count Basie & His Orchestra - April in Paris
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Moanin'
Tina Brooks - Minor Move
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
Serge Chaloff - Blue Serge
June Christy - Something Cool
Buck Clayton - Complete CBS Buck Clayton Jam Sessions
Nat King Cole - After Midnight
John Coltrane - Blue Train
Blossom Dearie - Blossom Dearie
Lou Donaldson - Blues Walk
Kenny Dorham - Afro-Cuban
Johnny Griffin - A Blowin' Session
Cliff Jordan/John Gilmore - Blowing in from Chicago
Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots
Lee Morgan - Candy
Gerry Mulligan/Ben Webster - Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster
Jimmy Smith - The Sermon!
Various Artists - The Sound of Jazz

Matt Collar
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Chuck Berry - Chuck Berry Is on Top
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Moanin'
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - The Original Peacock Recordings
Clifford Brown - The EmArcy Master Takes, Vol. 2: The Singers Sessions
June Christy - Something Cool
Eddie Cochran - Rocks
Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come
John Coltrane - Blue Train
Miles Davis - The Musings of Miles
Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong - Ella and Louis
Dizzy Gillespie - The Champ
Tiny Grimes - 1951-1954
Bill Jennings - Stompin' with Bill
Peggy Lee - Black Coffee
Rick Nelson - Ricky Nelson
Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie - Bird and Diz
Little Richard - Here's Little Richard
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours
Johnny "Guitar" Watson - 1952-1955

Andy Kellman
Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else
Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come
John Coltrane - Blue Train
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Bill Evans Trio - Portrait in Jazz
Ahmad Jamal - Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing
Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um
Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners
Sonny Rollins - Way Out West
Sarah Vaughan - Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown

Chuck Berry - "Johnny B. Goode"
James Brown - "Please Please Please"
Ray Charles - "What'd I Say"
Bo Diddley - "Who Do You Love"
The Drifters - "There Goes My Baby"
The Five Satins - "In the Still of the Night"
The Flamingos - "I Only Have Eyes for You"
Clyde McPhatter - "A Lover's Question"
Big Joe Turner - "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
Dinah Washington - "What a Diff'rence a Day Makes"

James Christopher Monger
Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs
Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
Clancy Brothers/Tommy Makem - The Rising of the Moon: Irish Songs of Rebellion
Bo Diddley - Go Bo Diddley
Ella Fitzgerald/Louis Armstrong - Ella and Louis
Ken Nordine - Word Jazz
Jimmy Smith - New Sound New Star
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Little Richard - Here's Little Richard
Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out
Harry Belafonte - Calypso
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs - Foggy Mountain Jamboree
Moondog - Moondog
Ray Charles - The Genius of Ray Charles
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Jerry Lee Lewis - Jerry Lee Lewis
The Staple Singers - Uncloudy Day
Chuck Berry - One Dozen Berrys

Buddy Holly - "Everyday"
Clyde McPhatter - "A Lover's Question"
Huey "Piano" Smith - "Don't You Just Know It"
Dale Hawkins - "Susie Q"
Rosemary Clooney - "Come On-a My House"
Webb Pierce - "There Stands the Glass"
Little Walter - "Roller Coaster"
Tennessee Ernie Ford - "Sixteen Tons"
The Chordettes - "Mr. Sandman"
Jimmie Rodgers - "Honeycomb"
Les Paul & Mary Ford - "The World is Waiting for the Sunrise"
Johnny Cash - "I Walk the Line"
Tex Ritter - "High Noon"
The Everly Brothers - "Bye Bye Love"
Link Wray - "Rumble"
Patsy Cline - "Walkin' After Midnight"
The Mystics - "Hushabye"
Eddie Cochran - "C'mon Everybody"
Duane Eddy - "Rebel Rouser"
The Four Lads - "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"

James Wilkinson
After spending a large part of my life being pretty much obsessed with '60s music, I’ve gradually come to realize that a lot of the facets of sound from that decade which originally hooked me -- live-in-the-studio takes, slightly distorted and layered vocal parts, primitive studio experimentation, and generous helpings of cheese -- were all developing nicely, back in the 1950s. Rock & roll makes a regular appearance on my list below -- just as it usually dominates any account of the decade -- but there's also plenty of room for doo wop, rockabilly, country, Indian classical, the avant-garde, and jazz. It's both mind-blowing and reassuring to know that Three Ragas was released in the same year as "Heartbreak Hotel." I also still can't believe that Toni Fisher's eerie and effects-laden "The Big Hurt" was recorded in 1959. Finally, if I ever do get my own jukebox, without doubt, Santo & Johnny’s "Teardrop" would be the first disc I'd load into there...

Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley
The Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs of Life
Billie Holiday - Lady Sings the Blues
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings
Gene Vincent - Bluejean Bop!
Elvis Presley - Elvis
Big Bill Broonzy - Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs
Ravi Shankar - Three Ragas
Moondog - Moondog
Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar
Buddy Holly & the Crickets - The "Chirping" Crickets
Kenny Graham - Moondog and Suncat Suites
Miles Davis - Ascenseur Pour l'Échafaud
John Coltrane - Soultrane
Johnny Cash - The Fabulous Johnny Cash
The Everly Brothers - The Everly Brothers
Chuck Berry - One Dozen Berrys
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come
Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs

Hank Williams - "Cold Cold Heart"
Hank Williams - "(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle"
The Penguins - "Earth Angel"
Elvis Presley - "Heartbreak Hotel"
Little Richard - "Long Tall Sally"
Elvis Presley - "Don't Be Cruel"
Ray Charles - "Lonely Avenue"
The Five Satins - "In the Still of the Night"
Patsy Cline - "Walkin' After Midnight"
Dale Hawkins - "Suzie Q"
The Everly Brothers - "All I Have to Do Is Dream"
Link Wray - "Rumble"
The Teddy Bears - "To Know Him is to Love Him"
Don Gibson - "Oh Lonesome Me"
Marv Johnson - "Come To Me"
Barrett Strong - "Money (That's What I Want)"
Santo & Johnny - "Sleep Walk"
Miss Toni Fisher - "The Big Hurt"
The Flamingos - "I Only Have Eyes for You"
Santo & Johnny - "Teardrop"