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Nat “King” Cole (Born: 17 March 1917  Died: 15 February 1965)

Alabama-born Nathaniel Adams Coles started out as a jazz pianist before becoming one of the world’s most noted and best loved ballad singers. Musically inspired by Earl Hines, from the late 1940s Cole produced hit after hit making his record company very wealthy indeed. It is said that the Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles was referred to wryly as The House That Nat Built. His warm, smooth voice enraptured audiences and his interpretation of many of the songs he recorded, remain the gold standard versions. Here you can discover such timeless classics as Unforgettable, A Blossom Fell, When I Fall In Love, Smile, Somewhere Along the Way and Mona Lisa. Unbelievably, Mona Lisa is the only song of Cole’s to be included in the Recording Industry of America’s Songs of the Century list. While seemingly at odds with the youth revolution sweeping America, Cole resisted the temptation to follow the crowd throughout his career famously saying: “Mr Cole will not rock and roll”. Cole influenced many artists including Sonny James and Ray Charles. Chuck Berry gave him the ultimate accolade: “If I had only one artist to listen to through eternity, it would be Nat Cole.”

Perry Como (Born: 18 May 1912  Died: 12 May 2001)

Perry Como was born Pierino Como in Pennsylvania. Affectionately known as Mr C, the child of an Italian immigrant family, he was encouraged to enter the family business of barbering and was poised to open his own barber shop when he decided to pursue a career in music and joined the Ted Weems Orchestra. When Como decided to leave the band to go solo, Frank Sinatra was inspired to do the same and left Tommy Dorsey’s outfit. Described by Bing Crosby as “the man who invented casual”, Como’s effortless, laid back style belied his meticulous preparation when recording and performing. Songs like Magic Moments, Catch A Falling Star, and Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes – all included in this section – are warm, easy listening Como at his very best. Married to his wife Rosella for 65 years until her death, Como was considered to be a true gentleman of show business. So much so that when he died in 2001, his former record label RCA Records took out a full page ad in Billboard magazine paying tribute. It said: “Fifty years of music and a life well lived. An example to us all.”

Doris Day (Born: 3 April 1924)

Born Doris Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Day’s career has spanned film, music and television. She has excelled in them all. Day began her career as a big band singer but went solo in 1945 when she signed to Columbia Records where she stayed for next 20 years. Day was the top grossing female box office star of the 1950s and many of her most popular and enduring songs include hits from these films, including Secret Love from the film Calamity Jane, Ready, Willing And Able from Young at Heart and Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be) from the Hitchcock movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much. All three of these songs are featured in this collection. Que Sera Sera is included in the Recording Industry of America’s Songs of the Century list. Day’s wholesome, all-American appeal was directed at a more mature audience and stood in stark contrast to the emerging rock and roll culture. But the purity of her singing voice and her life-long concern for animal welfare make Day a living American legend.

Rosemary Clooney (Born: 23 May 1928  Died: 29 June 2002)

Rosemary Clooney’s claim to fame in the 21st century might now be as George Clooney’s aunt, but in the fifties, she was a major star in popular music, film and in the burgeoning medium of television in America. Born in Kentucky, Clooney began singing with her sister Betty and together they joined Tony Pastor’s Big Band Orchestra. Launching her solo career in 1949 when Clooney signed to Columbia, her warm, playful voice enabled her to rack up thirteen top ten hits in the States between 1951 and 1954 including Hey There, Mambo Italiano and This Ole House – all appearing in this selection. Arguably, her most notable performance as an actress is in her role with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the movie, White Christmas. Clooney also had her own variety show on television at the height of her fame. Mental illness forced Clooney to retreat from her career and she was eventually diagnosed with bi polar disorder. Both Art Tatum and Billie Holiday were fans of Clooney’s music.

The Platters

The forerunners of Doo Wop, The Platters formed in 1952 in Los Angeles. The original line up consisted of Cornel Gunter, David Lynch, Gaynel Hodge, Alex Hodge, Joe Jefferson and Herbert Reed. Tony Williams replaced Gunter in 1953, while Zola Taylor was added to the mix in 1954 giving the group a novel appeal as mixed gender vocal groups were rare.  Paul Robi later joined them in 1954. The Platters were also the first black group to top the US charts in the fifties and were managed by vocal coach Sam ‘Buck’ Ram who penned their first number 1 hit, Only You and the later international hit, The Great Pretender – both are included in this fine selection. The Platters famously appeared in the first rock and roll film, Rock Around The Clock and were the most successful of the Doo Wop groups, influencing most groups that followed in that genre, selling in excess of 53 million records worldwide.

Fats Domino (Born: 26 February 1928)

Antoine “Fats” Domino was born in Louisiana and was one of the biggest rock and roll stars of the fifties. Cited by Bob Marley as his first musical influence, Domino was given his name by Billy Diamond when he joined his Solid Senders in 1947 because Diamond said he reminded him of Fats Waller. Domino went solo in 1947. His music had wide crossover appeal both in terms of the racial mix of his audiences and the generic mix of his music, successfully bridging the gap between rock and roll, rhythm and blues and pop. A talented singer, pianist and band leader, he enjoyed smash hits including Blueberry Hill, Aint That A Shame and Whole Lotta Lovin. Blueberry Hill is included in the Recording Industry of America’s Song of the century list. Domino influenced many artists, including The Beatles, and Justin Hinds of Justin Hinds and the Dominos. He established the early template for rock and roll music but he did much more, as his biographer Rick Coleman asserts, “His unfettered exuberance was the message that young people wanted to hear: things will get better.”

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