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 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 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” DJ “Sh-Boom” “seems fated to have been stumbled across on a street corner or in a subway station.” DM 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. DM 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.” DM The group had worked together several years DM 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

Still, when it came to “Sh-Boom,” everyone at Atlantic reportedly hated the song. AH It was only recorded at the insistence of the Chords and released as a B-side. Then it started to hit with DJ’s. It’s hard to imagine now that the record company didn’t embrace the song at first. “Sh-Boom” “is, in many ways, an absolutely typical doo-wop song.” AH The genre “was basically an extension of the Ink Spots’ style. You have at least four singers, one of whom is a very prominent bass vcaolist who sings nonsense words like ‘doo wop’ or ‘bom bom da bom,’ another of whom is a high tenor who takes most of the leads, and the rest sing harmonies in the middle.” AH

The genre was significant for introducing black artists to white audiences in the early days of rock and roll. However, in a time when racism was prevalent on the charts, record companies typically turned to white artists to produce sanitized versions of the original songs that were “appropriate” for the pop charts. In the case of “Sh-Boom,” the Crew-Cuts, “a white group with the closely cropped hair,” TY1 were the offenders, even getting credited with “the first rock and roll number 1 hit.” DJ It topped the Billboard Best Sellers, Disc Jockey Hits, and Jukebox Hits charts.

However, the Chords’ original could not be denied. It still went top 5 on the pop charts – an “unprecedented achievement.” SJ In fact, it was the first R&B record by a black artist or group to reach the Billboard pop charts’ top 10. AH


First posted 8/7/2011; last updated 4/1/2023.

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.