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50s R&B Artists

The music and artists of Fifties rhythm and blues, that postwar style of hard urban danceable blues that bridged the gap between traditional blues and the rock and roll styles of the future.
  1. Ray Charles (13)

In the Spotlight: Johnny Ace
Johnny Ace was rock's first tragedy, but he was also a musical pioneer, exploding onto the R&B scene with songs like "Pledging My Love," working a style and sound that would have made him a rock and roll icon, had his life not been cut tragically short. This profile is the latest in a series on music's most popular artists of the first top 40...

Big Joe Turner
He was a leading light on the Kansas City jazz scene, brought boogie-woogie to the masses, and rocked Carnegie Hall. But it was only much later, in his forties, that Big Joe Turner cut the jump blues sides that put the swing in what was to become known as "Rock and Roll." Learn more about the big belter behind "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "Flip, Flop and Fly" here.

Profile: Chuck Willis
All about Chuck Willis, the "What Am I Living For," "It's Too Late" and "C.C. Rider." This Chuck Willis profile is the latest in a series on music's most popular artists of the oldies era, written and compiled by your oldies Guide here at About.com.

Clyde McPhatter
Clyde McPhatter's era-defining stints as lead singer of the Drifters and with Billy Ward and the Dominoes was just the beginning of this proto-soulster's career, which also resulted in solo hits like "A Lover's Question."

Etta James
Etta James is best known for the wedding-day standard "At Last," but the hardwon (and sexy) joy in that song shines through the rest of her Fifties and Sixties R&B catalog in hits such as "Tell Mama," "A Sunday Kind Of Love," and "The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)."

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters were a crucial link between R&B and the development of rock and roll, charting with bawdy stompers like "Work With Me Annie" and more clean-cut fare like "Finger Poppin' Time," while also helping to invent the dance craze with their original version of "The Twist."

Jackie Wilson
The tragically short, wonderfully entertaining, and brutally real life of one of rock's greatest unsung heroes... the R&B legend "Mr. Excitement" of "Lonely Teardrops" fame who helped give birth to soul while keeping one foot in the pop mainstream.

LaVern Baker
When white pop artists made carbon copies of black R&B hits in the Fifties, LaVern Baker was the first to speak up... and her versions of "Tweedle Dee," "Jim Dandy," and "I Cried A Tear" are now the ones we remember most fondly. Yet an illness kept this groundbreaking rhythm and blues diva out of the country for two decades. Read more about LaVern, the original "Little Miss Sharecropper," here.

Lloyd Price
One of Fifties America's more successful black musical stars, this young entrepreneur rose up from a humble fish-fry shack to become one of R&B's biggest crossover successes... and, later, a successful promoter and businessman. Read my profile to see what "Mr. Personality" had to do with Muhammed Ali, murder, and a 19th-century legend!

Louis Jordan
Louis Jordan was the father of rhythm and blues, the man who took swing to a harder, funnier, jumpier place, scoring an uncommon number of smash hits and paving the way for rock and roll with "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby," "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie" and "Saturday Night Fish Fry."

Ruth Brown
Sitcom star, R&B belter, Broadway diva, radio host, and tireless advocate for her neglected musician peers... there's a lot more to Ruth Brown than the woman who helped the Atlantic label get its feet under it with songs like "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean." This profile details it all, along with the rest of "Miss Rhythm's" amazing tale.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins
For years he was known for only one hit, and a hit that never made the charts at that. So how does the legacy of this wild voodoo man of early rock and roll, including his notorious roar, his terrifying stage antics, his spooky-comic lyrics, and his freewheeling offstage antics, continue to endure?

In the Spotlight: Johnny Otis
Johnny Otis was the "Godfather of R&B," the bandleader and guitarist who ruled the early '50s R&B charts, produced, wrote and discovered tons of important artists, and had his own enduring hit with "Willie and the Hand Jive." This profile is the latest in a series on music's most popular artists of the oldies era, written and compiled by your oldies Guide here at About.com.

In the Spotlight: The "5" Royales
The story of the "5" Royales, the incredibly influential vocal group that helped birth doo-wop, soul, and more. This "5" Royales profile, which includes music, history, and trivia, is one of a series written and compiled by your oldies Guide at About.com.

Smiley Lewis: In the Spotlight
Smiley Lewis was a master of New Orleans R&B whose biggest hits unfortunately came through other artists' covers, but his influence is wide: he recorded the original versions of "I Hear You Knocking," "One Night," and "Blue Monday." This portrait of Smiley Lewis, including his history, chart hits, and trivia, is one of several bios on the most...

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