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The Crew Cuts

On most informed lists of rock & roll villains, the Crew Cuts would have to rank near the top. They weren't rock & rollers in the first place: their clean-cut white harmony glee club approach was really in the style of early- and mid-'50s groups such as the Four Aces, the Four Lads, and the Four Freshmen. The Canadian quartet differed from those acts, however, in their concentration upon covers of songs originally recorded by R&B/doo wop vocal groups. Their cover of the Chords' "Sh-Boom" set the pattern, going to number one in 1954 and setting the stage for their other commercially successful pop treatments of R&B hits by the Penguins, Gene & Eunice, Otis Williams & the Charms, the Robins, the Spaniels, the Nutmegs, and others.

The Toronto foursome already had a Top Ten hit under their belts with their first major label single, "Crazy 'Bout Ya Baby," before tackling "Sh-Boom"; what's more, their first hit had been a group original, not an R&B cover. When the Crew Cuts got a hold of "Sh-Boom," they gave the song a far more standard, whiter pop treatment than the Chords had, complete with big-band type orchestration. Although the original Chords version still became one of the first Top Ten rock & roll hits, the Crew Cuts' cover outsold it by a wide margin, finding a far easier entrance into established radio formats and mainstream white audiences.

The Crew Cuts were regular visitors to the Top 20 over the next couple of years, repeating the "Sh-Boom" syndrome with songs like "Earth Angel," their second-biggest hit at number three (though nobody remembers the Crew Cuts' version today, the Penguins' original having long established supremacy with audiences and on oldies stations). Their strategy of foraging for sources among black R&B vocal singles was widely imitated throughout the industry, by Pat Boone, the McGuire Sisters, Georgia Gibbs, and numerous others. Many rock historians point out -- with a great deal of justification -- that this amounted to an attempt by the music establishment to buck the oncoming threatening storm of the rock era by watering it down into a much more palatable and conventional form that in reality had little to do with rock at all. For a while, it worked -- the white covers frequently outsold the black R&B originals throughout 1954-1956. But after Elvis, Chuck Berry, and others had staked their own claim on superstardom, it became increasingly obvious that teenagers preferred the real article, and that the entrenchment of authentic rock & roll was inevitable.

Some revisionists have claimed, dubiously, that the Crew Cuts actually helped pave the way for the acceptance of rock in the mainstream by giving all those doo wop songs a far greater audience than they could have found if they were ghettoized in the R&B community. After a while, however, the Crew Cuts themselves were being widely outsold by their sources; "Young Love" (a cover, of course, although this time of the country classic by Sonny James) was their last Top 20 hit in early 1957. Their Mercury hits are far more properly classified as pop vocal outings than rock & roll, owing much more to pre-rock harmony and band arrangements. By 1958, they'd left Mercury for stints with RCA and other labels; they broke up in 1964. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Comments

The Dick Panthers are better.
Route 66
I like Sh Boom. I can't decide which one is best out of the people I have heard perform it. They do a pretty good job.
Agreed
ljhanczyk
Agreed
Chords do a better job on Sh-Boom - right D K ?
Lee Ving was also in Flashdance and Dudes, probably more. Let's make this thread about the films of Lee Ving, rather than this crew cut b.s.
Who got here from fallout new vegas lol
garicksr6
How about elvis? Yes he's popular, but he stoled a lot of songs from black legends!
you know what else is featured in the movie Clue? Lee Ving from the punk band FEAR. onetwothreef o u r o n e t w o t h r e e f o u r ! ! ! ! ! ! !
I love all versions of this song
Love this music.
Awesomeness in 2 minutes
Lol this is all old and geto
I sort of agree with the character assassinatio n . . b i g g e s t villain was Tab Hunter..thes e guys stole bread from the table. On the other hand my mother and father did let me listen a bit more when they thought the singers were white bread. Check out Wiki on Young Love..first recorded by the Jiva-Tones in Nov 1956 with no results..it got covered by Tab Hunter, Sonny James (himself) and The CrewCuts and ALL hit Billboard charts in Jan 1957 within 3 weeks of each other. Great songs will out!
mcneill_dave
Wow, what a harsh bio! Villains? Because they covered someone else's songs? That makes pretty much everyone since the second guy who rhythmically clonked two rocks together a villain. Classical composers wrote things like Air upon a theme of so-and-so (some other composer)... Every pop act of the last 40 years has covered the Beatles' Yesterday, it seems. Are all these people villains, too? Reality is calling, Mr. Unterberger. . . shall I take a message, or are you ready to return to it?
uou missed a lot if you coiuld see the A Band stand
Does anybody get crew cuts any more?
I love this song :)
if only I grew up during this time ..
a wonderful song sung by a great group!!!
@wark.icewin d - It's not negative though. It's truthful. The 1950's, as much as we..me included, all romanticize it, was a very repressive era. They didn't make RocknRoll more accessible. They just jumped in front of a Tsunami and tried to say It's ok..don't worry. It's just guys like us. Enter Jerry Lee Lewis and his Great Balls of Fire.
sirlance2
I wish I would get the chance to live in the 50's. That would be nice...
love the version from cars
I lovee this song . ' :D
Yes we did. Do you think they will change that? Probably not.
tsuyoshi98
Does anyone notice that Marvin Gaye is shown not the crew cuts
wark.icewind
Wow. What a heavily negative article. Purists may argue, but making music more accessible socially is hardly a crime. Villains?

How about the crud that my (and current) generations call music? This, at least, is enjoyable.
berniceville g a s 8 9
<3
mariehope91
mgaeta861: Me toooo
brg1124
i hate new music too
Sh-Boom is featured heavily in the 1980's movie 'Clue'. I love both versions of Sh Boom -- theirs and the original Chords version. Great song!
I love this music. I wish I was alive in this area. I hate the new music they play today.
nice Kay...I agree with you....great comment..
Iv always felt Sh-Boom was the 1St rock & roll hit
robertg958
I love anything from this era, I think that it has way more... for loss of a better word, quality than a lot of the music people listen to today
They're not bad, but listening to their version of Earth Angel, it just seems kind of quiet and slow. At least to me.

Not trying to hate, hah, just my opinion.
Love music from the 50's! I think I was born in the wrong era. I was born too late.
love them all
haffeye
I love this kind of music.

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