Top Oldies of 1957

This list was compiled by me, your Oldies Guide at About.com, from various sources -- chart positions, sales figures from time of release to the present day, critical standing, and historical importance. Only 45 rpm singles that peaked on the pop Top 40 in 1957 are eligible; artists are only allowed one entry per year in order to give a more balanced view of the cultural landscape. (Click on "compare prices" to hear a sample of each song, compare prices on its CD, and buy it if you like!)
01
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"Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," Jerry Lee Lewis

galleryhip.com
Sun 267 (27 May 1957) b/w "It'll Be Me"
recorded 15 March 1957, Memphis, TN

Cut in one take as an afterthought, this pounding number announced The Killer's arrival on the rock and roll scene -- a parents' nightmare who learned boogie-woogie at the feet of the masters. This hillbilly stomp had roots that stretched back to the birth of the blues, but as with everything else, Jerry Lee put his own individual stamp all over it. For more on how the song was created, visit the Jerry Lee Lewis FAQ.

02
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"Jailhouse Rock," Elvis Presley

RCA 47-7035 (September 1957) b/w "Treat Me Nice"
recorded 30 April 1957, New York, NY

Elvis Presley on vocals, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller behind the pen, the Jordanaires filling in the blanks. All three (not to mention the King's band) are in ferocious top form here, a sure sign that rock was getting bolder. Lieber-Stoller's song was typically, winkingly subversive, almost a novelty (criminals are rocking! in PRISON!), but all is well -- they're having too much fun to consider escaping.

03
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"Peggy Sue," Buddy Holly

Coral 9-61885 (30 September 1957) b/w "Everyday"
recorded 29 June 1957, Clovis, NM

His first hit, "That'll Be The Day," was released in '57, but this song is the one most identifiable with Buddy Holly, perhaps because it contains more of his trademark innocence (a fact bolstered by the flip side, which is by now equally revered). The story behind this tribal-yet-sweet bit of rockabilly is practically an urban legend by now; you can read the true story of the song at the Buddy Holly FAQ.

04
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"You Send Me," Sam Cooke

Keen 4013 (September 1957) b/w "Summertime"
recorded 1 June 1957, Los Angeles, CA

This self-penned debut for one of rock's greatest crooners was urbane and sophisticated, almost pop in a year filled with crazed hillbillies and novelty doo-wop. But its influence stands. It was so urbane it miffed Specialty's Art Rupe, who couldn't see the crossover potential of having a white choral group back up a Nat King Cole-style crooner. His near-loss was rock's (and pop's, and eventually soul's) gain.

05
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"Come Go With Me," The Del-Vikings

Fee Bee 205 (December 1956), Dot 15538 (16 February 1957) b/w "How Can I Find True Love"
recorded November 1956, Pittsburgh, PA

Another example of a hit that shouldn't have been; this integrated group of Air Force buddies recorded this classic, written by their bass vocalist, as the b-side. One of the rare doo-wop records from this era that incorporates the feel of a real rock and roll band, it led to two more hits -- rather, two more hits for members using the group name. (It's complicated.)

06
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"School Day," Chuck Berry

Chess 1653 (March 1957) b/w "Deep Feeling"
recorded 21 January 1957, Chicago, IL

The Master had found his niche by early 1957, and was working it with a vengeance -- who else would record a song about a day in the life of a student? And what other rock songwriter would be able to set things like "American History, Practical Math" to a R&B beat? There's a happy ending for all those "studyin' hard and hopin' to pass," though: girls and music at the local juke joint. Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!

07
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"Lucille," Little Richard

Specialty 598 (March 1957) b/w "Send Me Some Lovin'"
recorded 16 January 1957, New Orleans, LA

It's hard to believe now, but the body of work that makes up the Georgia Peach's legacy was recorded in just eighteen months -- and this classic showcased him at the height of his power. Originally a ballad entitled "Directly From My Heart To You," it was sped up by Richard; as usual, this hit has a seamy backstory, originally having been written about a female impersonator in Macon named Queen Sonya!

08
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"Little Darlin'," The Diamonds

Mercury 71060 (February 1957) b/w "Faithful And True"
recorded February 1957, Chicago, IL

When is a parody not a parody? This white quartet (Canadians, no less!) takes a lot of heat to this day for covering the (black) Gladiolas' original and then inserting a silly spoken-word bridge. But if it's just a joke, then why is it such an improvement, right down to those immortal opening castanets? Writer Maurice Williams went on to front the Zodiacs ("Stay") and the Diamonds went on to "The Stroll."

09
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"Blue Monday," Fats Domino

Imperial 5417 (23 December 1956) b/w "What's The Reason I'm Not Pleasing You"
recorded 30 March 1955, New Orleans, LA

Written in 1954, recorded in 1955, and not heard until Fats debuted it late in 1956 during the film The Girl Can't Help It, this melancholy stroll -- perhaps the best depiction of the workaday blues in rock history -- nonetheless belongs in the class of '57. Fats' Creole delivery never suited a song better, and that goes double for his stuttering, uplifting attack on the bridge.

10
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"Wake Up Little Susie," The Everly Brothers

Cadence 1337 (2 September 1957) b/w "Maybe Tomorrow"
recorded 16 August 1957, Nashville, TN

"Bye Bye Love" had already made them stars earlier in the year, but Phil and Don perfected their vocal blend and instrumental attack on this near-novelty. The very idea that the couple in question accidentally stayed out past curfew didn't mollify censors, who, like the singer's friends, obviously thought "ooh-la-la" when Susie came home very late from her date. A cute story or a brilliant excuse?

Have information on these songs?

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