Saturday, August 7, 2004

50 years ago: The Crew-Cuts Hit #1 with “Sh-Boom”


The Chords

Writer(s): William Edwards, Carl Feaster, Claude Feaster, James Keyes, Floyd McRae (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 3, 1954

Peak: 5 US, 3 HP, 17 CB, 2 RB, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 17.84 video, 93.02 streaming


The Crew Cuts

First Charted: July 10, 1954

Peak: 19 US, 3 HP, 17 CB, 3 HR, 12 UK, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 16.7 video, -- streaming

Awards (The Chords’ version):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (The Crew Cuts’ version):

About the Song:

“Doo-wop classic” JA “Sh-Boom” “seems fated to have been stumbled across on a street corner or in a subway station.” MA Member James Keyes destroys the myth, however, saying, “we never sang on the street corner, period. The Chords rehearsed at each other’s houses and over at P.S. 99 in the Bronx.” SJ

Still, in the history of doo-wop, The Chords, came closer than any other group to being discovered on a street corner. Joe Glaser, who worked with leading black talent agency Associated Booking, saw them harmonizing as they walked into a subway station. MA He gave them a card and when they came to his office, his associate, Oscar Cohen, took them over to Atlantic Records. SJ

Atlantic Records’ Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler “immediately snapped the group up, because its harmony style seemed tailor-made for the new style of R&B then finding a market among white teenagers.” MA The group had worked together several years MA and expressed a fondness for “any good singers,” SJ basing their sound on R&B harmony groups like the Ravens and the Orioles, but also on white jazz and swing groups like the Modernaires and Four Freshmen. SJ

The Crew-Cuts, “a white group with the closely cropped hair,” TY did their own sanitized version of the song, crafting what has been called “the first rock and roll number 1 hit.” JA It topped the Billboard Best Sellers, Disc Jockey Hits, and Jukebox Hits charts. At the time, it was common for white artists to remake popular songs originally recorded by R&B artists. However, proving their song still had an audience, The Chords’ original still went top 5 on the pop charts – an “unprecedented achievement.” SJ


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Chords
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Crew Cuts
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 171.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Pages 374-5.
  • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 170.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Page 160.

First posted 8/7/2011; last updated 10/23/2022.

1 comment:

  1. The Crew Cuts was a bad white copy of the classic Chords original. Crew Cuts version cannot even be considered Doo Wop.