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While Dot capitalized on cover versions of songs, other independents such as Specialty issued the originals. A quick listen to Dot's Pat Boone "Tutti-Frutti" and then Specialty's Little Richard version demonstrates why the independent labels with the original versions were gaining in popularity.

In 1956, the five major labels were still dominant in the Billboard top twenty.  Over half the songs (56%) that made the top twenty were issued by the "majors".   Five of the top six spots both in terms of number of songs in the top twenty and power score* were occupied by the major labels with Dot being the only independent to disrupt the control of the majors.  However, the independent labels were finding a great deal of success on the pop chart with Era ("The Wayward Wind" by Gogi Grant) and Dot ("I Almost Lost My Mind" by Pat Boone and "The Green Door" by Jim Lowe) both having #1 ranked songs.   

The biggest reason for RCA's success in 1956 was the signing of Elvis Presley.  With seven songs making the top twenty and five of them reaching #1 ("Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel" were a two-sided hit with both assigned the #1 ranking) Presley accounted for a bulk of the RCA chart record.  The label also had a #1 with "The Rock and Roll Waltz" by Kay Starr.  Columbia came in number two for the year behind country/rock record "Singing the Blues" by Guy Mitchell which reached the top spot in the last week of the year and would continue there for another five weeks into 1957.  Although capitalizing on the new sound of rock and roll with Guy Mitchell, the label got most of its other success from more traditional recordings such as Doris Day's "Whatever Will Be, Will Be" (#2) and "No Not Much" by The Four Lads (#2).  Capitol for the most part shunned the new music trend of rock and roll and relied on the traditional crooning of Dean Martin ("Memories Are Made Of This" - #1) and instrumentals such as "Lisbon Antigua" by Nelson Riddle (#1) and "The Poor People of Paris" by Les Baxter (#1) for its chart success.  Mercury had one rock and roll act that kept it in the top five – the "doo-wop" sound of The Platters.  The vocal group scored two number one songs, "My Prayer" and "The Great Pretender" for the label and also reached number four with "Magic Touch."  Although Decca had been an early entry into the rock and roll scene with Bill Haley & The Comets, the rock pioneer had limited success in 1956 with "See You Later Alligator" (#6) being the only top twenty entry.

Dot's success on the charts was primarily due to cover songs.  Pat Boone had his initial success in 1955 by covering Fats Domino's "Aint That a Shame."  In 1956 he put six records into the top twenty including his cover versions of Little Richard's "Tutti-Frutti" (#12) and "Long Tall Sally" (#8) and Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind" (#1).  "Friendly Persuasion" (#5), "Chains of Love" (#10) and "I'll Be Home" (#4) were also top twenty hits.  Gale Storm also contributed significantly to Dot's success with her cover of Frankie Lymon's "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" (#8) and Smiley Lewis's "I Hear You Knocking" (#2).  The Fontane Sisters covered The Teen Queens' "Eddie My Love" (#11).  With Jim Lowe's "Green Door" added to the mix, Dot was the best of the independents in 1956.

While Dot was making hits with cover versions, some of the independents were scoring with the originals.  Specialty's Little Richard version of "Long Tall Sally" (#6) was actually able to outdo Pat Boone's cover, and "Rip It Up" reached #17 on the Best Seller List (#27 in the Top 100).  Little Richard was also successful with his version of "Tutti-Frutti" (#17 Juke Box; #21 Top 100).  Imperial did well with its Fats Domino originals as "Blueberry Hill" was a #1 R&B hit that made #4 in the Top 100 and "I'm In Love Again" was also #1 on the R&B chart and reached #3 in the Top 100.  The Gee label had a big hit with "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" by Frankie Lyman & The Teenagers.  It was  #1 on the R&B chart and peaked at #6 on the Top 100.  In this case, the Gee record's success was definitely stunted by cover versions, one by The Diamonds for Mercury (#16) and one by Gale Storm for Dot (#15).  Without that competition for record sales, Gee might very well have had a #1 pop record.

Other notable independent label successes:  Even with the loss of Elvis, Sam Phillips' Sun label was able to place two records in the top twenty, Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" (#17) and Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" (#2).  Luniverse scored a #3 hit with "The Flying Saucer," a novelty record by Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman that made use of clips from other popular songs of the day (which created some copyright issues for the label) while telling a story about an alien invasion – future similar efforts by Buchanan & Goodman wouldn't be nearly as successful, and the duo was the only success Luniverse had.  London's "Rock Island Line" (#) was a rare success for a British artist on the U.S. chart (that wouldn't change until 1964).  Atlantic only had one top twenty entry, "Since I Met You Baby" by Ivory Joe Hunter, but the label was very successful on the R&B chart, including Ray Charles' "Drown In My Own Tears" which was a #1 R&B hit.

While the major labels continued to have success in 1956 with more traditional forms of music, it was clear that the independents who had more experience in the R&B and country markets were building momentum.  And as the Little Richard version of "Long Tall Sally" had shown, the record buying public, especially the teenagers, was beginning to prefer the original to the cover versions.  And there was a distinct difference.  All one has to do is listen to the Pat Boone and Little Richard versions of "Tutti Frutti."  It becomes painfully evident that Boone doesn't have a clue as to what he is singing about but Little Richard did.  The fact that the ribald lyrics to the song were cleaned up considerably for the Specialty recording ("Tutti-Frutti, good booty" becomes "Tutti-Frutti, aw rooty") doesn't detract from the energetic Little Richard performance.  While many white teens could get by in 1956 with buying a record from the clean cut ("white") Pat Boone they would draw stern disapproval if they brought home the Little Richard version ("black").  But things were changing.  As Little Richard proclaimed, "A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom."

Click on the appropriate button above to view an historical acccount of the record labels for the year, a chart ranking the popularity of the labels in the Billboard top twenty for the year, or a list of the labels that had records in the top twenty for the year.
Purchasing Elvis Presley's recording contract from Sun records proved to be a wise move for RCA as he was the main reason for RCA being the top label of 1956.
Pat Boone and Gale Storm had a lot of success for the Dot label by covering records issued by other labels.
Era records had only one top twenty record in 1956, but "The Wayward Wind" made it all the way to the top.
Sun had lost Elvis Presley, but still had chart success with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.

London Records distributed records from British artists -- there weren't many that made the U.S. charts, but Lonnie Donegan was an exception. He would be the idol of many British "skiffle" bands that were emerging, including one in Liverpool known as The Quarrymen.