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Rock and roll was the predominant sound of 1957 and the labels were competing heavily for the next great rock and roll artist, but sometimes success can be found in going in the opposite direction. That is what Columbia did with Johnny Mathis and the result was three big hits with his romantic ballads.

Rock and roll had invaded the Billboard chart in 1956 and the "fad" would continue to gain momentum in 1957.  The popularity of the new sound created opportunities for record labels.  In some cases it was opportunity seized and in some cases it was opportunity missed.  For the most part it was opportunity missed for the major labels.  The majors accounted for only 37.6% of the songs that reached the top twenty (down from 56% in 1956).  While the number of top twenty records remained fairly stable for RCA, Capitol, and Columbia, Mercury experienced a sharp decline from 19 top twenty records in 1956 to only 5 in 1957.  Decca dropped from 8 to only 3 top twenty entries.  For many independent labels it was opportunity seized, especially Dot which built on its 1956 success and climbed into the top spot in 1957 with twelve entries and a total of 2122 power points*.  Cadence also improved its standing significantly, doubling its power points and becoming the fifth ranked label for the year.

Dot's ascendency to the #1 ranked label was due to the continuing success of Pat Boone who contributed two number one songs in 1957:  "April Love" and "Love Letters in the Sand."  "The Green Door" by Jim Lowe, which had reached #1 in November of 1956, also added to Dot's point total as it spent the first three weeks of 1957 in the #2 position.  In addition to these leftovers from the previous year, Dot seized an opportunity when the label had a chance to buy the master of a record the Fee Bee label had released in December of 1956.  Pittsburgh disc jockey, Barry Kaye promoted the song and the group, The Dell Vikings and the record was getting a lot of local attention.  In January Dot released "Come Go With Me."  It spent fourteen weeks in the top twenty and was #5 on the Top 100 chart on May 13th and was a #1 R&B record.  Dot also mimed its 1956 cover success with Tab Hunter's "Young Love," a homogenized rendering of Sonny James' recording for Capital.  Both versions made the top ten with Tab Hunter's spending four weeks at #1.

RCA had seized its opportunity to capitalize on the new sound with the signing of Elvis Presley in 1956 and continued to benefit as he put six records in the top twenty, three of which ("All Shook Up," "Teddy Bear," and "Jailhouse Rock") were #1.  The six Presley records accounted for two thirds of RCA's 1957 power points.  But RCA wasn't just Elvis.  The old time crooner Perry Como was also still able to produce as "Round and Round" was a #1 record.  And the label also had Harry Belafonte who made the charts with his calypso beat "Banana Boat" (#5) and "Jamaica Farewell" (#14).

Columbia recognized that there was still a market for traditional vocalists, especially young ones, and maintained its "major" standing by recruiting an Olympic athlete.  Johnny Mathis was a student at San Francisco State University who had been invited to try out for the 1956 U.S. Olympic team (high jump).  But a Columbia talent scout had heard him sing at the Black Hawk night club and sent a telegram to the New York office:  "Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way.  Send blank contracts."  When Mathis was invited to New York for a recording session, he decided to forego his Olympic career.  His first album, "Johnny Mathis:  A New Sound In Popular Song" didn't do much, Mitch Miller took charge of producing his second album, "Wonderful, Wonderful" and turned Mathis toward the sound that would make him famous, his soft romantic ballads.  At the end of 1956, Mathis recorded two singles that were released in 1957:  "It's Not For Me To Say," (#5) and "Wonderful, Wonderful" (#14).  Just as "It's Not For Me To Say" was leaving the charts in September, "Chances Are" made its first appearance in the top twenty (#10) on September 30th and would stay in the top twenty for the final fourteen weeks of 1957, peaking at #5 on November 4th.  The song actually reached #1 on the Most Played by Disk Jockeys chart.

Capitol continued to eschew rock and roll sounds for the most part but did have the afore mentioned "Young Love" by Sonny James that made it to #1 on the Disk Jockey chart and spent fourteen weeks in the top twenty of the Top 100 chart, peaking at #3.  Most of Capitol's hits were from traditional vocalists such as Frank Sinatra who reached #2 on the Disk Jockey chart (#16 Top 100) with "All The Way" and "True Love" by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, which had risen to #5 on the last week of the year.  Along with a #6 offering from Nat King Cole, "Send For Me," Capitol was able to stay in the top five.

The other two majors, Mercury and Decca, suffered substantial declines in 1957.  Mercury only had five top twenty records but one of them was a classic rock and roll hit, "Little Darlin'" by The Diamonds.  Originally recorded as an R&B single by The Gladiolas, "Little Darlin'" peaked at #11 on the R&B chart in April.  The Diamonds were a white vocal group from Canada and their version was in the top twenty for seventeen weeks and was #2 on the Top 100 chart for six weeks.  The "Little Darlin'" megahit kept Mercury somewhat respectable, but The Platters who had been so big for the label in 1956 only produced one top twenty record in 1957, "I'm Sorry" which was only in the top twenty for two weeks.

Decca's fall in the rankings was even more precipitous.  But that was somewhat misleading.  The label only had three top twenty entries and only one, "My Special Angel" (#7) by Bobby Helms made the top ten.  The label did have a promising country star in Patsy Cline who's "Walkin' After Midnight" reached #2 on the Country chart and crossed over to a #12 position on the Top 100 chart.  Decca lost a big opportunity in 1957 when it let Buddy Holly get away (sort of).  In early 1956, Buddy Holly recorded some songs for Decca, but Holly was not happy with the results and none of the records issued by Decca that year were well received.  In January of 1957, Decca told Holly his contract would not be renewed so Holly and his band went to Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico where they recorded "That'll Be The Day."  The demo record was sent to Brunswick, a New York label (and a subsidiary of Decca) and the executives were so impressed that they immediately released the demo as a single.  When the producers realized that Holly was still under contract to Decca, the record was released by Brunswick and credited to The Crickets.  Subsequently, Petty and Holly reached an agreement with Decca and "Peggy Sue" was released later that year under another subsidiary of Decca, Coral.  "That'll Be The Day" was a #1 hit and "Peggy Sue" reached #2.  Had both of Holly's hits been issued by Decca, the label's performance ranking would have been much higher.  As it was, both Coral and Brunswick outscored Decca.  But of course Decca probably still made money by distributing the records.

Cadence's number five ranking in top twenty success was mostly the product of seizing the opportunity to sign The Everly Brothers.  The duo had been dropped by Columbia and then signed by Archie Bleyer for his Cadence label. He introduced them to song writers Felice and Boudleauz Bryant.  The result was a million dollar sound as their first release, "Bye-Bye Love" reached #2 and their second, "Wake Up Little Susie" was a #1 hit.  Andy Williams also contributed to the label's success with "I Like Your Kind of Love" (#8) and his #1 hit, "Butterfly."

Other notable independent label successes:  ABC-Paramount produced Paul Anka's #1 hit, "Diana" and would continue to benefit from his records for the next six years.  The Chicago blues label, Chess capitalized on the blending of blues and country that Chuck Berry brought to the studio and had a #3 hit with "School Day."  Atco, an Atlantic subsidiary began its catalogue of hits with The Coasters double sided hit, "Searchin'" (#3) and "Youngblood" (#8).

The success of rock and roll music in 1957 sent many labels frantically searching for their own Elvis, but was still regarded by some as a fad.  Imperial records had discovered Fats Domino's sound in New Orleans and had been releasing his hits since 1955.  So in a sense, rock and roll was nothing that new.  Domino himself commented, "Whether you call it rock and roll or rhythm and blues, I've been playing for fifteen years in New Orleans."  What was new was the vast appeal the new sound was having with white audiences; and one thing white audiences shared was television.  In 1957 one of the biggest television shows was "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet."  Ricky Nelson was a rock and roll fan and petitioned his father to let him sing on the show.  He performed Fats Domino's "I'm Walking" and the public response was so positive that a recording session was arranged with Verve records where he recorded "I'm Walking" (#4) and "A Teenager's Romance" (#2).  It became a double-sided hit in the summer of 1957.  Imperial records took notice, possibly due to receiving part of the royalties from "I'm Walking."  When it was discovered that Verve had only signed Nelson for the one session, Imperial stepped in (father Ozzie was unhappy about Verve's tardy royalty checks).  By the end of the year, "Be Bop Baby" (#3) was a hit for Imperial and Nelson would be a gold mine of hits for the next five years.  Imperial had heard the knock and seized the opportunity.  And Ricky sang, "Be bop baby, you're the one for me."

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.
Pat Boone made Dot the most popular record label of 1957 with two number one songs.
Elvis Presley wasn' the only reason for RCA's 1957 success -- Harry Belafonte had two top twenty records for the label.
"It's Not For Me To Say" was one of four Johnny Mathis songs to make the top twenty for Columbia in 1957.
Capitol got a #1 record from Sonny James -- enough to keep it in the top five for 1957.
The Diamonds' "Little Darlin'" gave Mercury records its biggest success in 1957.
Decca's only top twenty reccord was the country cross-over "My Special Angel."
Chess Records of Chicago had established itself in the market as a home for rhythm and blues artists. With Chuck Berry they achieved cross-over success into the pop market.
When Cadence records teamed The Everly Brothers with song writers Felice and Boudleaux Bryant they had enough hits to put the label in the top five in 1957.
Signing Ricky Nelson away from Verve records helped Imperial in 1957. "Be Bop Baby" was the second most successful single for the label, just behind Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill."