Instrumentals of the 50’s “The Lost Music”

 By Gary:

I have had this thought bouncing around in my head for two months.  I have talked to Russ and we both agree, that in some form or another, One Hit Wonders etc., some of this music already exists on our blog. 

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties (mid to late 50’s and early to mid 60’s) there was a form of music that appears to be totally extinct in today’s world of music.  It’s kind of sad as there were not a lot of songs, but they were great and I loved them.  The Music form I am talking about is called “Instrumentals”. 

Now my Father, Donald Graham Copeland, introduced me to music and specifically this particular type.  His of course was Big Band, Dixieland Jazz and Sweet Orchestra’s. 

I loved the Dixieland and Big Band Swing and now it started to rear it’s head in “my” Music, Rock and Roll.  These are the Instrumentals from my era that “I” remember.

PS: (I thought this would be a straight forward post, but I have been at it for weeks and I will now make it three posts, The Fifties and The Sixties in two parts and then Instrumentals pretty much ended.)
Now for me the first introduction to a Rock and Roll Instrumentals was in 1956 (I was 16 and dumb as a stump, but loved to dance) and the strange part was it came from an “Old” (by my standards, I’m only 16) Hammond Organ player who was a jazz man.
I was really into Rhythm and Blues and absolutely loved the guitar riff and Sax in Honky Tonk, Parts 1 & 2.
Bill Doggett
1978 / Nice, France /
1956 / Honky Tonk Parts I & II
By Instrumental standards another quiet year BUT another strange source for an instrumental.  He was “older” an accomplished musician and he also did all the arranging for Sun Records at it’s peak period, he was kind of the House Band.  Bill Justis, Raunchy and College man, I purchase both.  Sam pressed both records on his new “Phillips” label.
Bill Justis
1957 / Raunchy reached # 2 on the Pop Charts
1957 / College Man / reached # 42
1958 would be a better year for instrumentals, but the Genii was out of the bottle, it was a limited market, but a few Big Artists were about to take the Stage.
The first one would be the happy accident.  The A side was Dave Burgess song “Train to Nowhere” great song, I own it.  This from Wikipedia and this is how it happened

In 1957, Gene Autry‘s record labelChallenge Records, signed Dave Burgess (born 1934), a rockabilly singer-songwriter from California who often recorded under the name “Dave Dupree”. At the end of 1957, having produced no hits, Challenge Records looked to Burgess, who organized a recording session on December 23 in Hollywood. In the studio that day were Burgess on rhythm guitar, Cliff Hills on bass guitar, the Flores Trio (Danny Flores on saxophone and keyboards, Gene Alden on drums, and lead guitarist Buddy Bruce), and Huelyn Duvall contributing backing vocals.They gathered primarily to record “Train to Nowhere”, a song by Burgess, as well as “Night Beat” and “All Night Rock”.

The last tune recorded was “Tequila”, essentially just a jam by the Flores Trio. There were three takes, and Danny Flores, who wrote the song, was also the man who actually spoke the word “Tequila!”. Flores also played the trademark “dirty sax” solo. The song served as the B-side for “Train to Nowhere”, which was released by Challenge Records on January 15, 1958. Duvall recalls that the record initially found little success, but, after a DJ in Cleveland played the B-side, “Tequila” skyrocketed up the charts, reaching #1 on the Billboard chart on March 28, 1958.


The Champs

1958 / Dick Clark Beechnut Show (live) /


1958 / Tequila


and Train to Nowhere


The next would would be another strange one, a very famous Jazz drummer who played for a time with Louis Armstrong, but in 1958 he recorded Topsy Part I & II


Cozy Cole

1958 / Topsy Part I & II


The Power Chord and distortion was introduced by Link Wray and his Wraymen with “Rumble!  According to Wikipedia, this is how the first instrumental to be “Banned” in some markets came about.

At a live gig in Fredericksburg, Virginia, attempting to work up a backing for The Diamonds‘ “The Stroll,” Link Wray & His Ray Men came up with the stately, powerful instrumental “Rumble,” which they originally called “Oddball.” The instrumental was an instant hit with the live audience, which demanded four repeats that night.

Eventually the instrumental came to the attention of record producer Archie Bleyer of Cadence Records, who hated it, particularly after Wray poked holes in his amplifier’s speakers to make the recording sound more like the live version; however, Bleyer’s stepdaughter loved it and it was released despite his protest. Phil Everly heard it and suggested the title “Rumble”, as it had a rough sound and said it sounded like a street fight.

It was banned in several radio markets because the term rumble was a slang term for a gang fight, and it was feared that the piece’s harsh sound glorified “juvenile delinquency.” It became a hit, not only in the United States, where it climbed to number 16 on the charts in the summer of 1958, but also in Britain, where it has been cited as an influence on The Kinks and The Who, among others, although it failed to reach the UK charts.The Beau Brummels hit song “Just A Little” borrows the riff from this tune as well.Bob Dylan once referred to it as “the best instrumental ever. Instrumentals were far more common on the Top 40 in the 1950s and early 1960s than in later years. The Dave Clark Five covered it on their first U.S. studio album, Glad All Over, in 1964.


Link Wray

1996 / England / Rumble /


1959 / Dick Clark Beechnut Show / Rawhide /


1958/ Rumble


1959/ Rawhide


One of my favourite groups out of Dearborn Michigan was The Royaltones.  Great group with tons of problems, recording, royalties etc.  In 1958 the hit # 17 with Poor Boy/Wail and in 1960, my favourite, Flamingo Express went to # 82.


The Royaltones

1958 / Dick Clark Beechnut Show / Poor Boy /


1958 / Poor Boy / The Royaltones / # 17 BB


1958 / Wail The Royaltones / a double sided hit , the B side of “Poor Boy”


Dick Clark also gave us the Tune Rockers with Green Mosquito.


The Tune Rockers

1958 / American Bandstand / The Tune Rockers / The Green Mosquito /


1958 / The Tune Rocker / The Green Mosquito # 42 BB /


Then it happened, I was watching American Bandstand and Dick played a song by a very quiet guitar player from Corning New York, the song Movin’ N Groovin’ and I was hooked, because the next release was huge.


Duane Eddy

2009 / Nashville the great man with that Gorgeous Orange Gretsch /


1988 / Rebel Rouser / Ramrod with the great Jim Horn on Sax /


 1996 / Cannonball /


1958 / Movin’ N Groovin’  # 72 BB / Duane Eddy and the Rebels /


1958 / Rebel Rouser # 6 BB / Duane Eddy and the Rebels /


1958 / Ramrod # 27 BB / Duane Eddy and the Rebels /


1958 / Cannonball # 15 BB/ Duane Eddy and the Rebels /



The Genii was definitely out of the bottle, Duane Eddy continued on and was joined by another Detroit artists who would be huge, but many new one hit artists joined him.

A group from Philadelphia would reach #27 with Guitar Boogie Shuffle.


The Virtues

1959 / Guitar Boogie Shuffle / The Virtues


An Group from Richmond Virginia would reach # 16 with a very up tempo song Woo Hoo, The Rock-a-teens


The Rock-a-teens

1959 / Woo Hoo / Rock-a-teens # 16


Now this Brooklyn Duo would reach the Number 1 position, brothers who would get the idea at 2 am in the morning, Santo and Johnny


Santo and Johnny

1959 / Dick Clark Beechnut Show /


1959 / Sleepwalk / Santo and Johnny #1 BB /


A couple of drummers had hits in 1959, one with Bongos and one would become one of the best Rock and Roll Drummers in his time.

Preston Epps was from Southern California and would reach # 14 with Bongo Rock.


Preston Epps

1959 / Preston Epps / Bongo Rock # 14 /


The Next drummer would have a couple of hits but would continue doing studio work with some of the best Rock Artists.  Sandy Nelson would reach #4 with Teen Beat and # 7 with Let there be Drums.


Sandy Nelson

1959 / Teen Beat / Sandy Nelson / # 4 BB


1961 / Let there be drums / Sandy Nelson / # 7 BB


This group only made it to # 73, but I almost wore the 45 out.  Just a simple little trio, two brothers George and Augie Mitchell and drummer Joe Rebardo,  with a working title called “Fried Eggs”.  The B side was Jeffries Rock.


The Intruders

1959 / Fried Eggs / Jeffries Rock # 73 / The Intruders


This group from Tacoma Washington has been credited with being the “first” Garage Band.  They were originally 5 friends from High School and this is what happened:

In late 1958, the group recorded a demo of an instrumental written by Dangel, Morrill and Greek, which found its way to Clark Galehouse of New York based Golden Crest Records. He liked the track and had it re-recorded by the band in Lakewood in February 1959; its title “Tall Cool One” was apparently suggested by Morrill’s mother. Released as a single, it reached # 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and # 24 on the R&B chart. The band made the cross-country trip to New York to record an LP, The Fabulous Wailers, which was released in December 1959 and featured two vocals by Morrill as well as instrumentals. They also appeared on Dick Clark‘s nationally televised American Bandstand, and toured the east coast. A second instrumental from their first recording session, “Mau-Mau”, made # 68 on the Billboard pop chart, but their third single, “Wailin'”, failed to make the chart. 


The Wailers

1959 / Tall Cool One / The Wailers # 36 BB /


An R&B organ player from Detroit Michigan would reach # 1, using his stage name Dave “Baby” Cortez and the “Happy Organ”.  He would also reach the top ten again in 1962.


Dave “Baby” Cortez

1959 / David Cortez Clowney (Dave “Baby” Cortez / The Happy Organ / # 1 BB


In the Beginning, a phrase used many times, but for this artist it would be true.  In the beginning there was Elvis, Scotty (Moore) & Bill (Black) and later D.J.Fontana.  But Bill Black would re-surface in 1959 with the Bill Black Combo and reach # 17 BB with “Smokie” Pt. 2.  He would reach the top 50 charts in 60 and 61, but would die of a Brain Tumour in 1965 at the age of 39.


Bill Black’s Combo and Bill (bass player) with Elvis in 56

From the 1961 Movie “Teenage Millionaire” / Smokie Pt. 2 /


1959 / Smokie Pt. 2 / Bill Back’s Combo /


This group, well I own most of their recordings.  They recorded in Clovis NM at Norman Petty’s studio, where Buddy recorded.  I have in recent years, via the internet, become fairly well acquainted with founder and lead guitarist George Tomsco.  They would have two hits in 59, Torquay and Bulldog.


The Fireballs

2011 / Bulldog /


and 2007 /


2011 / Torquay /




1959 / Torquay / The Fireballs / # 39 BB


1959 / Bulldog / The Fireballs / # 24 BB


Late in 1958 Blake Edwards and NBC introduced us to a new TV Series “Peter Gunn”, which would last for only 3 years.  The significant part of the series (I loved it) was the cool jazz, Craig Stevens, Lola Albright and the 1959 Plymouth Fury Convertible.  Oh, yes and it’s theme song by Henri Mancini



Craig Stevens and Lola Albright


1959 Plymouth Fury

The theme song was great “until” Duane Eddy recorded it and then it was fantastic.  It was # 6 in Great Britain, but it was released late in 1959 and 1960 in North America and reached # 27 BB

2011 / Glastonbury / Peter Gunn /


2011 / 40 Miles of Bad Road / with Marty Stuart /


2013/ Yep / Summer Jamboree /



Duane Eddy

1959 / Forty Miles of Bad Road # 9 BB


1959 / Peter Gunn / # 6 Great Britain / # 27 BB


1959 / Some kind-A Earthquake / # 37 BB


1959 / The Lonely One / # 23 BB


I found this German TV production from 1975 with Duane Eddy, enjoy /



The last Instrumental group for the Great Year of 1959, would become one of my favourites.  This band would hail from Toledo Ohio and it’s leader, Johnny Paris  ( who left us in 2006) once said he believed that over 300 musicians had played in the Group over it’s 48 year existence.   Johnny Paris would die May 6, 2006, in Ann Arbour Michigan from a hospital borne infection after surgery.  I really enjoyed the way he played the sax.

Johnny and the Hurricanes

1997 / Reveille Rock Antwerp /


1997 / Buckeye (one of my favourites) Antwerp /


1959 / Crossfire # 23 BB


1959 / Red River Rock (my dad loved this) # 5 BB


1959 / Reveille Rock # 25 BB

Joe Scott Hill was a Texan who played a mean guitar.  The group had many names but the one I remember in 59, was the Strangers and a Haunting song called the “Caterpillar Crawl” backed by “Rockin’ Rebel”.   This group was very much Link Wray style.
The Strangers
1959 / Caterpillar Crawl 
and Rockin’ Rebel



3 responses to “Instrumentals of the 50’s “The Lost Music”

  1. Hugh “BABE” O’Donnell you two really know your music especially the great instrumentals that had many people at my dances in the 60’s pound the dance floor every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Thanks for the memories and great history that made us lively teenagers..

  2. Stick Shift, Church Key, Perfidia, Telstar and more when I can think of them. Oh yes…Mexico, Summer Place, Olatuni’s Drums Of Passion. Thank you for recognizing the Instrumentals as a big part of early rock n roll. I have my collection divided that way. You got most of them lol. Wailin’ by the Wailers was one of my favorites. Your article was so well written and compiled. Thank you.

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