Doowop

Doowop or Doo-wop is an Afro-American and Italian-American music style characterized by close harmony singing, usually by male choirs. It is influenced by Gospel Music, but less religious. Most doowop songs are love ballads, which suits the beautiful melodies perfectly. Due to the "Weird Al" Effect younger generations who hear other artists use the doowop singing sound may sometimes think musicians are playing it for laughs. The high pitched silly voices and greasy arrangements are nevertheless very typical of the style.

The genre originated in The Forties and The Fifties, alongside R&B, but its popularity faded away at the start of the 1960s in favor of Soul. Nevertheless doowop had an enormous impact on pop music. It was the Trope Namer for the Doowop Progression that is still in vogue today. David Bowie also likes using doowop in his music. "Saturday" from Aladdin Sane (1973) and "Golden Years" (1979) from Station To Station are sang in the style.

Frank Zappa adored the genre since teenagehood. His singers often sing in a harmony that is typical of the style. Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968), was a straight faced Homage to the genre that baffled a lot of his Avant-garde Music and Rock fans. The line "my ship of love is ready to attack" in "Dog Breath (In The Year Of The Plague)" from Uncle Meat (1969) is a reference to "Ship Of Love" by the Nutmegs. "Valerie", from Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1960) was a doowop cover, originally by Jackie & The Starlites. He namedropped "Sixteen Candles" by The Crests in "Eddie Are You Kidding?" from Just Another Band From L.A. (1973). Zappa quoted from "Nite Owl" by Tony Allen & The Champs (1954) during the Title Track of Joe's Garage and on that same album he also referenced "I'm The Japanese Sandman" by The Cellos. On Them or Us (1984) Zappa covered "The Closer You Are" by The Channels. "Cock-Suckers Ball" on Does Humor Belong In Music? (1986), was a cover by The Clovers. "No No Cherry" from "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore, Volume 4" (1991) is a cover of The Turbans. The yell "Lu-Ann" Zappa uses in a lot of his music from the 1980s on is a reference to "Lu-Ann" by Little Sunny Day & The Clouds.

Several films have used doowop on the soundtrack, including American Graffiti, Back to the Future,Goodfellas, Sixteen Candles, A Bronx Tale, usually as a period piece.

The genre makes uses of the following tropes:

  • A Cappella: A guitar, piano or soft drum can be used, but even with the voices alone it still sounds magnificent.
  • Animal Motifs: Many doowop bands named themselves after song birds: The Swallows, The Ravens, The Orioles, The Blue Jays and The Sky Larks. Some even choose birds that can't sing: The Penguins, The Crows, The Flamingos,...!
  • The Barber: Several doowop bands originated from barbershops.
  • Break Up Song: A recurring genre in a lot of these songs.
  • Call-and-Response Song: During slower ballads lead singer will sing, while the backing vocals repeat or reply.
  • Careful with That Axe: The voices are often very high pitched.
  • Doo Wop Progression: A chord progression consisting of the following: I vi IV V. If that didn't make sense to you, try playing the following chords: C major, A minor, F major, G major. Repeat.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Doowop bands enjoy ending on a literal high note while the music stops for a while then returns as the song starts slowly fading out.
  • Larynx Dissonance: Grown men sometimes sing in high pitched goofy voices.
  • One-Hit Wonder: Many doowop bands only scored one big hit and then vanished back into obscurity.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Despite the fact that there have been Italian-American and Hispanic doowop bands in pop culture all doowop bands will always be portrayed as Afro-American.
  • The Power of Love: The majority of the songs are love ballads or songs about break-ups.
  • Revolving Door Band: Most doowop bands work as a unity, without one lead singer getting all the credit. This makes it all the more easier for a band to go on for several years and just replace individual members while still performing under the same band name.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: The genre got its name from the typical scat sounds the singers make.
  • Scatting: A staple of the genre: "Sha na na" ("Get A Job" by The Silhouettes), "Shi-bop-shi-bop" ("I Only Have Eyes For You" by the Flamingos) and "Bom-ba-ba-bom bo-dang-be-dang ba-diggy-diggy-diggy dig bam-bom" ("Blue Moon" by the Marcels) are just three examples.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Band members always wear nice suits, bow-ties and neatly combed hair.
  • Silly Love Songs: Some doowop songs are sang in goofy sounding voices, which makes their love ballads sound a bit silly.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Doowop is sometimes spelled either as "doowop" or "doo-wop".
  • Spoken Word in Music: An example of doowop songs in this style would be "The Ten Commandments Of Love" by The Moonglows.

Lists of doowop artists

  • Richard Berry: The original artist who sang "Louie Louie" (1956), which would become a bigger hit thanks to the Kingsmen in 1963.
  • Hank Ballard and the Midnights: "Work With Me Annie" (1954) and "Annie Had A Baby (1954). He was also the first to record a song called "The Twist", which would later become a bigger hit thanks to Chubby Checker.
  • Big Daddy: A 1990s doowop band, known for redoing songs from the 1960s onwards in the style of specific other songs from the 1950s. Perhaps the epitome of this would be their 1992 CD Sgt. Pepper's, in which they completely recreate The Beatles' Sergeant Peppers in 1950s musical styles.
  • James Brown: His very early work with the Famous Flames: "Please Please Please" (1956), "Try Me" (1958) and "Bewildered" (1959)
  • The Cellos: They had a hit with their cover of "I'm The Japanese Sandman" (1957), which they dubbed "Rang Tang Ding Dong" to avoid copyright issues. Unfortunately many interested buyers failed to find this single because of it different title.
  • The Champs: Best known for "Nite Owl" (1955), sang together with Tony Allen.
  • The Charts: "Desiree" (1957)
  • The Channels: "The Closer You Are" (1956)
  • The Clovers: One of the few doowop bands to have a whole string of hits: "Don't You Know I Love You?" (1951), "One Mint Julep" (1951), "Fool, Fool, Fool" (1951) and "Love Potion #9" (1959). They are also notorious for a bawdy parody of "Darktown Strutter's Ball" called "Cock-Suckers' Ball" (1954).
  • The Coasters: Very notable for their comedic songs: "Yakety Yak", "Along Came Jones", "Charlie Brown" and "Poison Ivy".
  • The Crests: "Sixteen Candles" (1958).
  • Dion and the Belmonts: "I Wonder Why" (1958)
  • The Dreamlovers: "When We Get Married" (1961)
  • The El Dorados: "At My Front Door" (1955) and "I'll Be Forever Loving You" (1956).
  • The Feathers: "Johnny Darling" (1954)
  • The Five Campbells: "Morrine" (1956)
  • The Flamingos: Best remembered for "I Only Have Eyes For You", with the amazing "shi-bop-she-bop" echo effect, produced by the bands' close harmony.
  • Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers: "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?" (1956)
  • The Gaylarks: "Tell Me Darling" (1955)
  • Gene & Eunice: "Kokomo" (1954)
  • The Harptones: They never had a hit, but their best known recordings were "Sunday Kind of Love" (1953), "Why Should I Love You?" (1954), "Life is But a Dream" (1955), and "The Shrine of St. Cecilia" (1956).
  • The Hawks: "Joe the Grinder" and "Candy Girl" (1954).
  • The Ink Spots: 1930s and 1940s R&B band who were are precedent of the genre.
  • Jackie & The Starlites: "Valerie" (1960)
  • The Jewels: "Hearts Of Stone" (1954), which was later covered by The Charms as a much bigger hit.
  • Little Sunny Day & The Clouds: "Lu-Ann" (1961)
  • The Marcels: "Blue Moon" (1961)
  • The Medallions: "The Letter" and "Buick '59" (1954)
  • The Monotones: "The Book Of Love" (1958)
  • The Moonglows: "Sincerly" (1955) and "The Ten Commandments Of Love" (1958)
  • The Nutmegs: "Story Untold" (1955) and "Ship Of Love" (1956)
  • The Olympics: "Western Movies" (1958) and "Baby Hully Gully" (1961)
  • The Orchids: "Newly Wed" (1955)
  • The Orioles: "It's Too Soon To Know" (1948) and "Crying In The Chapel" (1953).
  • The Paragons: "Florence" (1957), "Let's Start All Over Again" (1957) and "Twilight" (1958).
  • The Penguins: "Earth Angel" (1954)
  • The Platters: Scored a monster hit with "The Great Pretender" (1955) and "Only You" (1956).
  • The Robins: "Riot In Cell Block #9" (1954)
  • Sha Na Na: A 1950s tribute band who were popular in the 1960s and even performed at Woodstock (1969) .
  • The Silhouettes: "Get A Job" (1958). The band Sha Na Na got their name from the lyrics of this song.
  • The Solitaires: "The Wedding" (1955), "The Angels Sang" (1956), and "Walking Along" (1957)
  • The Spaniels: "Baby It's You" (1953) and "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" (1954)
  • The Turbans: "When You Dance" (1955), the first song to use the syllable "doo-wop" in the refrain.
  • The Velours: "Can I Come Over Tonight?" (1957)
  • The Velvets: "I" (1954)
  • Frank Zappa: He incorporated doowop in his music, along with other musical styles, but he also released an entire doowop album: