"Hair today, gone tomorrow." -- Elvis Presley to reporters while getting his GI haircut at Fort Chaffee, Oklahoma on March 24th.
By 1958, rock and roll ruled the record industry. Half of Gilbert & Theroux’s Top 40 for 1958 were rock and roll records. And most of the others had a strong rock and roll influence. But there was still some room for the more traditional recordings. Dean Martin was back in the top 10 with “Return to Me.” Perry Como continued his success with “Catch a Falling Star” Pat Boone also continued to be a major star, contributing mostly ballads to the popular mix, such as “If Dreams Came True” and “It’s Too Soon to Know.” Boone also made a mark with the more gospel sounding “Wonderful Time Up There.” Laurie London also found success with “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.”

But even though popular music continued, as always, to be a mix of genres, the major successes came for rock and roll artists, many of whom had begun their careers with the first onslaught of rock and roll in 1956. Of course, the group was led by Elvis Presley. This is somewhat remarkable as Elvis was pretty much removed from public appearances in 1958 when he was drafted and entered the army in March. But he spent some major time in the recording studio before his induction and the plan was to release those songs during his army tenure. Elvis would lead the way in 1958 with two number one recordings and six in the top ten. On February 10, “Don’t” reached the number one spot. Elvis’s fourth movie, “King Creole” was released in June. Cut from the soundtrack of that movie, “Hard Headed Woman” rose to number one on July 1st.

The Everly Brothers didn’t falter after their initial success in 1957 and also had two number one recordings in 1958. The ballad, “All I Have to Do Is Dream” made its way to number one in May while the more rocking sound of “Bird Dog” was number one in September with its flip side “Devoted to You’” reaching number ten.

Others who were in the vanguard of the rock and roll movement, Chuck Berry (“Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode”), Jerry Lee Lewis ("Great Balls of Fire," “Breathless”), Buddy Holly (“Oh Boy”) and The Diamonds (“The Stroll”) would have top ten recordings in 1958. Ricky Nelson also continued to be a major contributor with five top ten recordings, led by his first number one, “Poor Little Fool.”

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Novelty songs (songs that have a gimmick as their central theme) were very big in 1958. Three such songs made it all the way to number one. Ross Bagdasarian (aka David Seville) was king of the 1958 novelty as he was responsible for two of those number ones. Part of the novelty of both recordings was Seville’s technique of recording voices at half speed and then playing them back at normal speed. The result and the catchy sound of “oo ee, oo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang” and this recording technique was “The Witch Doctor” which reached number one on April 28. It was good enough to keep Elvis’s “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” from reaching number one -- his first RCA recording not to have that distinction. By Christmas time, Bagdasarian had adapted his new sound to three fictional characters -- The Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon and Theodore). They recorded “The Christmas Song” and it was the final number one song of 1958. The recording success would have a follow-up in 1959 (“Alvin’s Harmonica”) and there would be several cartoon series. Sheb Wooley found similar success with “The Purple People Eater” which made #1 on June 9. Wooley also embarked on a successful television career at the same time, appearing in the series “Rawhide” as scout Pete Nolan. Other songs which depended at least partly on a gimmick in 1958: “Beep, Beep” by the Playmates which was centered on a joke concerning a driver that couldn’t get his Cadillac “out of second gear;” “Don’t You Just Know It” by Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns that was characterized by a lot of nonsensical shouting (“cooba cooba cooba cooba, ha, ha, ha, ha”); Frankie Avalon’s debut with “De De Dinah” (sung while holding his nose); and “Western Movies” by The Olympics (ricocheting bullets).

The biggest record of the year can almost be considered a novelty song as it was recorded in Italy, in Italian. Yet it became the consensus number one song for 1958. Domenico Mondugo won Italy’s San Remo Festival of Music with the recording of “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu).” Its subsequent release in the United State was accompanied by several English versions. Dean Martin had the most success, taking it to number 12. But none of the versions could compare to the popularity of Mondugo’s. It was the number one song for a week on August 18. It returned to the number one spot on September 1 and remained there for five more weeks. Billboard recognized it as the song of the year.

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Instrumentals continued a major presence on the pop charts in 1958. Led by the sound of Duane Eddy & the Rebels (“Rebel Rouser”), The Champs (“Tequila”) and Link Wray & the Wraymen (“Rumble”) the instrumentals tended to be more rock and roll oriented than in previous years. But more traditional instrumentals such as Perez Prado’s “Patricia,” “Sail Along Silvery Moon” by Billy Vaughn, and Tommy Dorsey’s “Tea For Two Cha Cha” also made the charts. Cozey Cole covered the middle ground with the jazzy, “Topsy, Part 2.”

The life blood of popular music remained the single “45” in 1958. The “battle of the speeds” that had begun in 1949 with Columbia touting 33 1/3 and RCA pushing the 45 had largely been resolved by each finding a market. The LP (33 1/3) was dominated more by Broadway shows and movie soundtracks. Gilbert & Theroux list “Music Man,” “South Pacific,” “My Fair Lady” and “Around the World in 80 Days” as top LP’s of 1958. But there was some technological advancement that had great portent for the future of the music industry. In May, RCA began releasing the first “stereo” LP recordings. Some viewed this as a passing fad, but it wouldn’t be long before “monaural” recordings would be viewed as second rate.

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Another change took place in May of 1958. The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences first met. This group would soon start the Grammy awards. The first awards would be given in 1959 for the recordings of 1958. “Volare” would be “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year” while Henry Mancini would take home the award for “Album of the Year” with “Music From Peter Gunn.”

One thread of rock and roll has always been a connection to teenagers. 1958 was no different. From Chuck Berry’s portrait of the girl collecting autographed pictures (“She’s just got to have about a half million framed autographs” to The Everly Brothers lament of teenage “Problems” (“Can’t keep the car my marks aint been so good”), the Coasters’ refrain of “Yakety Yak” (“just tell your hoodlum friend outside you aint got time to take a ride”) and Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” (“Well you can’t use the car ‘cause you didn’t work a lick.”); to Ricky Nelson’s “Stood Up” (“Why must I always be the one, left behind never havin’ any fun”). The songs were full of references to the teenager’s plight in life.

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Some of the songs celebrated the music itself. Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” told us how the kids were “rockin’ on Bandstand.” Danny & the Juniors’ “At the Hop” paid homage to the sock hop. And “Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay;” reminded us that rock and roll wasn’t going away “no matter what the people say.” Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” even painted a picture of a party that was so irresistible that you had to get out of the tub (“I went and put my dancin’ shoes on”) to take part.

And of course, along with the music came the dances. The dance craze of 1957 had been “The Stroll” with Chuck Willis’s “C. C. Rider” making him the “King of the Stroll.” Dick Clark encouraged The Diamonds to write and record a song specifically for the dance. The result was “The Stroll” which was re-released in January and eventually peaked at number 4. The dance was done with two lines, one girls and the other boys -- couples opposite each other. A slide step is done so as to advance down the line. When the couple becomes the first in line, they join in the middle and move between the two lines down to the end where they rejoin their respective lines.

Other notables in 1958:

• Johnny Mathis’s “Greatest Hits” album began what would be a ten year stay on the album charts.
• Jerry Lee Lewis has his concerts canceled in England when it is reported that he has married his 13-year-old cousin.
• Stax records was founded in Memphis.
• Don Kirschner opened offices at the Brill Building.

When Elvis entered the Army in 1958, he decided to do his tour of duty as a "regular soldier." Many thought he could have gotten special treatment working for the Army putting on benefit concerts.
Ricky Nelson's first #1, "Poor Little Fool" was also the first number one on the new Billboard list -- "The Hot 100."
Ross Bagdasarian was the creator of "The Chipmunks" and "The Witchdoctor."
Duane Eddy got his start in 1958 with "Rebel Rouser." His "twanging guitar" would become a mainstay of Elvis Era instrumentals.
RCA's first mass production of stereo recordings was hardly rock and roll.
1958's "Volare" was the first to earn a Grammy Award.
Johnny Mathis was the first to release a "Greatest Hits" album.
"The Stroll" became a popular dance step in 1958.