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Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry

Amos 26 Nov 08 - 11:43 AM
Cool Beans 26 Nov 08 - 12:08 PM
Amos 26 Nov 08 - 02:00 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 26 Nov 08 - 05:53 PM
Cluin 26 Nov 08 - 05:57 PM
The Villan 26 Nov 08 - 05:59 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 26 Nov 08 - 07:53 PM
The Villan 27 Nov 08 - 03:06 AM
Amos 27 Nov 08 - 03:58 AM
Cluin 27 Nov 08 - 04:02 AM
Amos 27 Nov 08 - 04:05 AM
Amos 27 Nov 08 - 04:16 AM
Amos 27 Nov 08 - 04:28 AM
The Villan 27 Nov 08 - 04:28 AM
Amos 27 Nov 08 - 09:11 PM
Amos 27 Nov 08 - 09:58 PM
M.Ted 27 Nov 08 - 11:37 PM
Piers Plowman 28 Nov 08 - 07:49 AM
Piers Plowman 28 Nov 08 - 07:51 AM
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Subject: HIstorical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 11:43 AM

Anyone who has played many DooWop tunes knows the classic DooWop Chord Circle--tonic, relative minor,. subdominant, dominant, and repeat. C, Am, F, G, for example, over and over, ad nauseam, forms the back bone of such all time greats as Dream, Teenager in Love, Donna, Sh-Boom!, Jo-Anne, Blue Moon, and many other sentimental ballads of the purest pubescent angst ever articulated in human musical history.

The oldest of these that I experienced personally, growing up in the 50's, was Sh-Boom.

What I am pondering is what the earliest antecedents are for this circle of chords being used repetitively as the skeleton of a song. I can imagine that it grew out of a merging of gospel roots and jazz/torch music in the post-war era, but I can't think of any earlier examples. The pattern does not appear, that I can recall, in English or American folk or popular music of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Does anyone have any earlier information on the use of this pattern? There are plenty of examples where an occasional voyage from the dominant to the relative minor occurs, such as Wild Goose Grasses. And there is even a hint of it in Waly, Waly (The Water is Wide), but it is a subdued hint.

Where did this sequence first come to the foreground in popular or folk music ion the American/English tradition?

Any ideas?


A


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Subject: RE: HIstorical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Cool Beans
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 12:08 PM

Dang, Amos, you may have answered your own question: "Blue Moon" is by Rodgers and Hart, written waaay before the dawn of doo-wop. And doesn't that old chestnut "Heart and Soul" fit the chord progression?


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 02:00 PM

Why, yes. And come to think of it, it became a commonplace amongst teenagers with access to pianos long before the advent of DooWop popular music. That's a good pointer.

Anything earlier?


A


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 05:53 PM

I've always thought that the 1 V1m 1V V7 progession was imposed on to a number of folksongs to "pretty them up".


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Cluin
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 05:57 PM

First lefthand progression you learn by accident on the piano.


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: The Villan
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 05:59 PM

I think that Jerry Rasmussen has one of the best backgrounds in DooWop that I know of. This could be a very interesting thread.


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 26 Nov 08 - 07:53 PM

Sorry I can't add much, though, Villan. I are a musical illiterut. As I was saying to Villan in a PM, you want to hear the roots of doo wop, go to a black church. I heard three groups at a concert last Saturday night and with the change of a word or two, they would have been singing doo wop. One of the lead singers who is a friend of mine has sung in the male chorus of the church for fifty years, taking him back into the '50's. He sang with many groups, the most famous of which was a pre-doo wop, but very influential group, the Ink Spots. He replaced the original lead singer and sang lead with the group for 16 or 17 years.

Listen to The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi sing Oh, Why? and you'll hear the sweetest, purest doo wop you've ever heard.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: The Villan
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 03:06 AM

No sooner said than done Jerry :-)

The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi Oh, Why


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 03:58 AM

The tight vocal construction, and the shift toward a jazzy lead singer and intricate following voices in harmony, were definitely a heritage handed down from the gospel groups of the 1930s and 1940s, of which the above Five Blind Boys recording is a classic example. Another group, slightly earlier, of similar elegance, were The Soul Stirrers.

I have not yet pinpointed, though, where the dominant chord cycle of DooWop came into play.

A


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Cluin
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 04:02 AM

Boom dee adda, boom dee adda, boom dee adda, boom dee adda.


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 04:05 AM

Right. HEre's another gospel cut that, except for the lyrics, could have been a teenie-bop doowop, by The Sensational Nightingales called "the Prodigal Song". It seems clearer than ever that this tight vocal construction is the direct forefather of "doowop".

Still looking for the Blue Moon Sequence and wondering how it came to be the single most widely used chord-sequence of the genre.


A


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 04:16 AM

here is a strong echo of the Blue Moon Sequence in Jerme Kern's "Just the Way You Look Tonight", from 1936. I wonder if the entire infection could have sprung from his pen! Here's a trailer from the movie Swing Time in which the song appeared.


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 04:28 AM

And here's one of the earliest archetypes of that sequence: Heart and Soul recorded here in 1939 by Bea Wain with the Larry Clinton orchestra.

This is the sound recording of the original 'Heart & Soul' in the 1938. The music was written by Hoagy Carmichael, the lyrics were written by Frank Loesser, the song was performed by Larry Clinton & his Orchestra.

This certainly establishes the chord sequence in the mainstream of American pop music. as mentioned above, and gives it a date. Unless something earlier appears.


A


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: The Villan
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 04:28 AM

Well here is an extract from the Doo-Wop Society

WHERE'D WE GET THE NAME DOO-WOP?

We know that thanks to deejay Alan Freed, the old blues term "rock and roll" became the official euphemism for marketing R&B to white kids in late 1954. We know that the term rockabilly, or rock-a-billy, a hybrid of rock and hillbilly, was coined by the music industry in 1956. But where did the term doo-wop come from, and how early was it used?

As far as we can tell (thanks to doo-wop fan Tim Lucy), the nonsense syllables "doo-wop" first appeared on wax in 1954 on a song called "Never" by a Los Angeles group called Carlyle Dundee & The Dundees (Space 201). The background group sings "doo-wop" in the the song's chorus. Members of The Dundees later became The Calvanes.

The first hit record showcasing "doo-wop" came in 1955 with The Turbans' Top 40 recording of "When You Dance" (Herald 458). The group chanted "doo-wop" several times, very plainly.

(Peter Bachelder reminds us that, though it wasn't released until 1960, Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters' 1953 recording of "Let The Boogie Woogie Roll" featured the group behind Clyde clearly repeating "doo-wop" again and again through the course of the song.)

In 1958 a group called The De Villes on Aladdin Records (3423) recorded a song called "Kiss Me Again and Again." The flipside was called "Do-Wop."

In 1961 The Velvets chanted "doo-wop" behind lead singer Virgil Johnson on their hit recording of "Tonight (Could Be the Night)" (Monument 441).

Several writers have credited the late New York deejay Gus Gossert for attaching the term to group harmony music in the late 1960s, but Gossert himself said more than once that "doo-wop(p)" was already being used to categorize the music in California, according to his friend Lou Rallo.

Early on, what we called doo-wop music embraced the grand tradition of nonsense lyrics. Taking their cue from Dizzy Gillespie's 1947 be-bop hit, "Oop Boop Sh'Bam," vocal groups sang "Sh-Boom," "Oop Shoop" and "Bip Bam," all using meaningless sounds to fill the beats and create background chants.

But perhaps the most common nonsense syllable was "doo," which has always been useful in popular songs. Nearly 150 years ago Stephen Foster used "doo-dah, doo-dah" to fill out the verses of his "De Camptown Races" (1850). A hundred years later a black vocal group called The Striders crooned "doo-doo-da-doo-doo" behind Savannah Churchill on her "When You Come Back to Me."

(According to veteran aficionado George Moonoogian, there was a black jive vocal/instrumental group, billed as The Song Fellows, who around 1930 recorded a version of Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing," on the Perfect label, that featured "a very strong 'boo-wop' as its background harmony [and] a full section has them just singing 'boo-wop, boo-wop, boo-wop'. It was most likely their simulation of the sound the horn section would have made in the instrumental of that song.")

At some point a vocal group realized that one good way to release the hard "doo" was to add a soft "wah." For example, there's the opening vocal chorus of "ooh-wah, ooh-wah, ooh wah" on Johnnie Ray's 1952 million-seller, "Cry." In 1955 The Spaniels recorded a song called "Do-Wah," named for its incessant background vocal chant, even though the title should've been called "Oh Baby Gee."

But by then the term "doo-wop" was already cast in wax, thanks to The Turbans.

Nowadays the term is generalizing into a catch-all word for '50s nostalgia and has been attached to what was formerly called "googie" architecture used for diners and coffee shops. Even the spelling--"Doo-Wop"--is beginning to become standardized.

So there you have it. If you know of an earlier record that has "doo-wop" in the lyrics, please let us know.

http://www.electricearl.com/dws/index.html


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 09:11 PM

THe Striders were in play from the early 40's on, as far as I can find.

I am still looking for an archetypal use of that chord sequence prior to Hoagy Carmichael.


A


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Amos
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 09:58 PM

From 1936, an echo can be found in Can't Help Lovin' That Man of Mine in 1936, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: M.Ted
Date: 27 Nov 08 - 11:37 PM

This is a positively ancient harmonic accompaniment, at least when compared to "The Turbans"--you can find it in Mozart, Hayden, and Bach--it doesn't sound quite the same, because the underlying pulse is different, but it's pretty much been with us since classical harmony appeared.


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:49 AM

This sequence of chords also appears in Hoagy Carmichael's "Two Sleepy People" and Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'". Waller used it quite a bit, in fact. It also appears in Charles Trenet's "La Mer" and Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone".

One can interpret it as just being a cadence, repeating over and over. Am7 has the same notes as C maj 6 and Am (with or without the minor seventh) can be interpreted as a "substitution" for a C major chord. F is the relative major of Dm, so one could play C Am Dm7 G (resolving to the next C in the cycle). Playing G7 emphasizes that it's the dominant. One could just play C instead of C Am or one could play C maj. 7 - Am7 Dm7 G7.

One can vary the pattern by using Em or Em7 to substitute for the G7 chord.

The trick is to notice which notes are shared among chords.

Other songs use the more simple cadence F G C or Dm7 G7 C maj. 7 (or C6 or Cm or Cm7, etc. ), a.k.a. "ii - V - I (or i)", repeatedly. Sometimes they will change key occasionally and there will be, say, Em7 A7 D maj (or D min).

The variations on the cadence are the most common idiom in Western popular music, followed by smaller or larger fragments of the circle of fourths. In fact, the cadence ii - V - I is a fragment of the circle of fourths (G is the fourth of D and C is the fourth of G).


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Subject: RE: Historical Roots of DooWop--An Enquiry
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 28 Nov 08 - 07:51 AM

"The variations on the cadence are the most common idiom in Western popular music [...]"

And not just popular music.


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