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The following are brief summaries of lectures presented on musical acts from the 50s.


Frank Sinatra: From Hoboken to Las Vegas

This program will journey with Frank Sinatra from his early days in Hoboken as he enters the swing era becoming the idol of the “bobby soxers”.  We will focus on his classic period (1953 - 1962) as a member of The Rat Pack, a successful Hollywood actor (“From Here to Eternity” to recording his quintessential “concept” albums for Capitol Records.  Our journey will continue to the founding of his own record label (Reprise Records) to his final Las Vegas performances.  We will also briefly explore his cordial relationship with the Mafia throughout his career.

Chuck Berry:  Hail Hail Rock n’ Roll

Without Chuck Berry we would not have rock n roll as we know it - he was the greatest rock writer, one of the greatest guitarist and one of its greatest performers of all time.  Elvis was the spark for that fueled rock n roll but Chuck Berry became its heartbeat.  We will travel with Chuck from his early days in St. Louis to his extraordinary recordings at Chess Records to his off-stage exploits with the law and finally to his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

John Lennon said it best “If you were going to give rock n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”

Little Richard:  Architect of Rock and Roll

Singer, pianist and songwriter Little Richard laid the foundation for rock and roll with his charismatic showmanship and dynamic music, characterized by frenetic piano playing, pounding back beat and powerful raspy vocals.  We will travel with Little Richard’s most celebrated work from the 50s as he influences many other music genres including rhythm and blues, rock, soul funk and hip hop.  From “Tutti Frutti” to “Long Tall Sally” to “Lucille”.  His songs were covered by many musical giants including:  Elvis, The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many others. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986) and The Songwriters Hall of Fame (2003).

“When I heard Little Richard I heard GOD!” - David Bowie


Another Date with The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers were one of the most important early rock and roll stars and are among the most influential rockers of any era.  They stand alone as the greatest two-part harmony rock group that combined the best elements of country and pop music.  We will journey with Phil and Don from their early days on their family radio show to their classic hits In the 50’s and 60’s into the touring years to their breakup and to their subsequent celebrated reunion.  The Everly Brothers were among the first 10 artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Rick Nelson: Teenage Idol

Rick Nelson was one of the very biggest of the 50’s teen idols, he was a rockabilly pioneer and crafted some of finest pop/rock recordings of his era.  Being featured on America’s favorite family situation comedies on a weekly basis enable Rick to sing his songs and reach out and introduce rock n’ roll to mainstream America.  We will journey with Rick from his top ten hits to the formation of one of the earliest country-rock groups, the Stone Canyon Band.  Nelson was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Dion: King of the New York Streets

We will travel back in time with Dion as he creates timeless recordings incorporating elements of doo-wop, rock, R&B and blues into his musical palette.   From his teen idol classics “Teenager in Love” and “Runaround Sue” to his more mature, contemplative, “Abraham, Martin and John”, we will follow him through his wide-ranging catalog from the 70s to the present, including songs and collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, and many others.  Dion was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

The Sun Records Story

This is where rock n’ roll was born - the independent record company founded by  producer Sam Phillips that launched the careers of  Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.  We will travel with Phillips through his early days with his Memphis Recording Service recording African-American musicians including B. B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Ike Turner.  From “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (Elvis) to “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (Jerry Lee Lewis), the music created at Sun Studio helped lay part of the foundation of the late 20th century rock and roll and influenced many musicians including The Beatles.


Elvis Presley is regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century and is often referred to as the "King of Rock 'n Roll".  We will travel with Elvis from his early days in Memphis and his trailblazing recordings with Sun Records, to his complete dominance of the music charts in the 50s.  His 50s success led him to a successful 60s Hollywood film career and on to his acclaimed television comeback, which opened the door to triumphant tours and a seven-year sold out concert residency at the International Hotel in Las Vegas.  Elvis has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame and still remains the best-selling solo artist of all time!

Roy Orbison: The Caruso of Rock

Singer-songwriter and musician Roy Orbison is known for his impassioned operatic singing style. His classic emotional ballads earned him the nickname of “The Caruso of Rock.”  We will travel with Roy from his early days in Texas, to signing with Sun Records, through his huge success with Monument Records.  We will survey many of his top ten hits including “Only the Lonely,” ‘In Dreams,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman.”  Our journey will include his personal tragedies and struggles, his comeback, as a member of the supergroup, The Traveling Wilburys. Roy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987), The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1987), The Songwriters Hall of Fame (1989) and the Musicians Hall of Fame, and Museum (2014).

The Brill Building Songwriters

The Brill Building is located at 1619 Broadway in New York City along with other neighborhood buildings that housed many composers and publishers in the late 50’s and 60’s and whose recordings have become known as the Brill Building Sound.  We will explore the many songwriters (including Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Neil Sedaka) who are responsible for creating the extraordinary soundtrack not only defined an era but whose influence endures five decades later. 


The Blues

This lecture will survey the beginning of “electric blues” starting with the early guitar pioneers T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters to the 60’s guitar heroes Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page.  In addition, we will explore the regional styles from Chicago to Memphis to London and the inception of the British Blues counterpart establishing blues rock (i.e. The Rolling Stones) thus widening the appeal of the blues to white American audiences.

“Red, white, black, brown or yellow, rich or poor, we all have the blues!” - B. B. King

Rock and Roll Pioneers

2 Part Program

This lecture will survey the artists that laid down the foundation that established the roots of rock n’ roll.  From early guitar heroes (Les Paul, Duane Eddy) to the rhythm and blues piano giants (Little Richard, Ray Charles) to soul music singer/composers (James Brown, Sam Cooke) and the early rockers (Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent).  Their influence on the 60’s was enormous and included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jeff Beck and many others.

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