| Books |

Get Lit: Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era, by "Cousin Brucie" Morrow with Rich Maloof

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Ah yes, doo wop. Perhaps no other genre is so closely identified with a specific era in time than the one that relied on majestic vocal harmonies to alternately offer pleading paeans to love and nonsensical shimmy-shimmy ko-ko-bops, all delivered by immaculately dressed (and mostly black) singers in uniform silk suits in the mid to late 1950s.

But as any PBS pledge-drive viewer will tell you, love for the music of groups like the Flamingos, Platters, Five Satins, Crests, Drifters, Spaniels and a host of acts with bird names (Cardinals, Ravens, Orioles, Falcons, Crows) is still healthy, even if its fans aren’t quite as medically sound.

Legendary New York DJ and current Sirius satellite radio host “Cousin Brucie” Morrow and co-author Maloof have produced a gorgeous coffee-table book here. And while a bit light in word count, it still manages to pack in a lot of detail about doo wop’s origins, development and performers. It’s alternately a nostalgic look back into the archives for veteran listeners, as well as kind of a CliffsNotes starting block for the curious.

In addition, the art direction and graphics are great, with eye-popping fonts and colors, group photos and plenty of album cover reproductions. Morrow, who spun platters all through the era, also shares plenty of memories about the time and includes short new interviews with some of the scenemakers.

But though the title clearly indicates the subject is not just the music, too many pages are spent creating a sort of ‘50s time capsule. Copious space is dedicated to the usual suspects of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, monster movies and cool cars, all pretty much pedestrian Wikipedia-type info. The latter portion, which tries to tie in the Vietnam War, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, also seems superfluous.

Morrow posits the theory that doo wop died an untimely and premature death because it was perhaps the genre with the shortest time span between its heyday and “revival.” While groups were still trickling out hits, compilations like the popular Oldies but Goodies record series made the music seem out of date and unhip. But the truth is, by the Beatles / Dylan / Stones period, music fans clearly wanted something different, be it stars with identifiable personalities (doo-woppers were almost famous for their anonymity), loud guitars or something that you could dance to besides slowly.

In addition, the notorious fluidity of group lineups, one-hit wonder status, and regional appeal in an era when the industry was moving toward a national mentality also contributed to doo wop’s decline on the music scene.

But the influence of those original vocal groups is there - if not always so obvious - in the musical catalogues of Motown (Temptations, Four Tops, Miracles), ‘70s soul (Chi-Lites, Stylistics, Spinners) even up to today’s boy bands – though Little Anthony could clearly sing rings around Justin Timberlake.

Doo wop fans looking for more meat should check out the books The Complete Book of Doo-Wop or They All Sang on the Corner and Rhino’s excellently annotated Doo Wop Box. Still, Cousin Brucie’s Doo Wop is a fine, fun celebration of all things rama-lama-ding-dong, shoo-bop-shoo-bop, or sha na na. – Bob Ruggiero

Doo Wop: The Music, The Times, The Era, by “Cousin Brucie” Morrow with Rich Maloof, $24.95, 352 pp., Sterling Publishing

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.